A Tenacious Dipper

The weather has been very kind to us in Edinburgh of late. Just last week the local newspaper was telling us that we were in for a ‘warm spell – hotter than Madrid, Spain’. It was to hit the dizzying heights of 14 degrees Celsius (57 degrees Fahrenheit) when it is usually 4 oC (39 oF). Very nice, but ignoring the fact that Madrid is not especially warm at this time of year in any case, so no big deal.

But it gave me the opportunity to walk down by Edinburgh’s main river – aptly known as the Silver Ribbon in the Green – the Water of Leith from Dean Village to Inverleith Park.

Dean Village was an industrial area until not too long ago, and was noted for it’s flour mills in a Royal Proclamation by King David I in the early 12th Century and for it’s noxious smelling tannery’s. Though a lovely place to live now being in the City Centre, these industries along with others helped to kill off much of the life of the river. But the Water of Leith has been recovering in the last 30 years and the walkway adjacent is a pleasant place to take exercise.

On reaching the very popular Stockbridge area which has a relaxed and arty – maybe even bohemian – air, I took the steps by the bridge to go down to the waterside again.

I was especially looking for two creatures that keep me coming back to this spot regularly. One: there have been sightings of an otter on this city centre site. I spoke to someone who saw it crossing the road from one part of the river to reach another. Then I saw a short video of the otter splashing around. But no success today. Two: my favourite bird, The Dipper.

The Dipper is a small, stout little bird with mainly brown and dark plumage and a white breast. As the name suggests it dips whilst standing on the riverbank, looking for its prey. It then goes into the flowing water of a river, goes below and walks on the riverbed against the flow, whilst looking for insect larvae and freshwater shrimp. A fearsome hunter that comes out of the water, then dispatches its catch. And so today, I was successful in spotting a Dipper.

It was sitting on a manmade ledge by a drainpipe only inches from the fast flowing water. The Dipper then jumped into the water and went under. Due to the cleanliness of the water you could just see its white breast moving upstream against the flow, in search for its prey. Up it would come, float downstream, then back in again. Over and over again. What a fantastic sight. (I did manage to get a short video of this, but due to my lack of computer skills can’t get it to load here. Look at my Twitter feed @edinburgh_walks to see it. Sorry!)

Next time you are down in this area – or as part of one of our guided walks with www.edinburghwalks.com – stop by the Water of Leith and have a look for this small, tenacious bird.