Ghost Dipper

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Feb 26, 2011 | by Kevin Loughlin

Looking through my image catalogs this week I came upon the above shot. It was taken during one of our Glacier National Park, Montana Photo Safaris. This week-long photo workshop offers great opportunities to photograph lots of birds and other wildlife plus some great scenery, including many waterfalls.

Many of the rivers, which are glacier-fed… for now… have the curious American Dipper living and nesting along their banks. Dippers, formerly known as “Water Ouzels,” actually feed underwater finding insect larvae under the rocks. Now, a bird that does not have webbed feet feeding underwater is interesting enough, but to add that they prefer fast moving water — white water — is even more amazing. Especially when you include the fact that their average weight is only about 2 ounces! How do they not get swept down stream?

The image above was obviously a long exposure since the water is well blurred into a veil. The camera’s shutter was open for 2 seconds as I photographed the water flowing over and around the rocks. During that two second exposure the Dipper landed on the rock and posed for about one second before taking flight again. That’s the reason the bird is more of a ghostly figure and you can see the water flowing behind it.

Long exposures are fun… you never know what might happen as you wait for the shutter to close again!

photo and text © Kevin Loughlin

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