Birding round Durham & Sunderland 2012

Birdwatching in & around Houghton-le-Spring, Sunderland, County Durham.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Dipper Fieldwork in North East Durham.

A few quick notes on 3 interesting bits of  Dipper behaviour this Month and an insight into some of the amateur Studies & Conservation we carry out as Durham Bird Club Members.

Dusk Dipper cutting off 1.8km in overland flight
18th March 2017
Dipper flew 60' above water, rose further over road & farmhouse on a flightline that cut off 1.8km from his waterway route. Using OS maps I have worked out the bird was well in excess of 100' above the waterway as he crossed overland.
High flying & cutting corners appear par for the course , but this seems an extreme shortcut. A close inspection reveals a large railway tunnel - I presume the bird was heading here to roost for the night as there was very little cover on the stretch he left out on his detour.

Dipper dispute - pair chasing 1km from stream, high over fields.
19th March 2017
Bizarre Dipper interaction the following day in a different 10km square.

I was startled by a loud warbling song moving quickly through the garden of The Manor House - the penny dropped Dipper !
The songster was aggressively pursuing a second bird 6 to 8 feet above it.
The pursuer was relentless & matched every twist & turn - it sped up to block the fleeing bird each time it tried to lose height.
The birds continued over open sheep fields over the A1 Motorway !
& field on the north side until they were 1km away from the stream
(at 1Km+ when lost to view) they rose to a tremendous height (100'+)
It was clear the songster was driving the other bird off, it appeared very aggressive.
What was strange was I made my way down to the stream almost immediately - a downhill walk of about 100metres. I could hear a singing Dipper clearly & a pair were sat close together.
I think the population is now so buoyant that birds are possibly struggling to find space for a territory here resulting in such a bizarre chase.

Double Dipper nest: Pair building, with 2 nests 6' apart
29th March 2017
I visited a very well known & regular nest site - mainly to keep out of the rain ! to see a Dipper pair nest building. The birds were building in regular spot in gaps in the brickwork.
It soon became clear that they were taking materials to 2 separate holes & building in both. 
Each bird was not tied to a particular cavity.
Chesterbirder knows this beat & has suggested it may well be a polygamous male, as he has noted 3 birds here.
Certainly one to follow up on.
Two nests being built only 6 feet apart

General Dipper Info
21st March 2017
Our local birds have been breeding about a decade - the status before this is sketchy. The burn has been a black toxic sewer in its time - before the industrial era it may well have bred on the lower stretches - lack of bridges will have limited nesting opportunities....?
Nesting not synchronised at all
First birds now sitting,
others yet to start building.

Nice fresh clutch - birds generally prefer Beech leaves to line nest - this contains Oak & Iris leaves.

A Local nest expert tells me its important to get boxes in situ early during the winter....
We Installed a GreyWag box on 21st April & it had full Dipper clutch 4 wks later
A purpose built Dipper box put up at same time stood empty on the opposite wall !

23rd March 2017
What a great job Northumbrian Water have done. Local waterways very healthy nowadays.
Dipper in picture feeding at their final effluent outfall. (Sedgeletch). The Otter, though only rarely seen, is another species to have come on leaps & bounds locally.

A couple of images of 2015-2016 Dipper nests

An unusual nest in a vertical soil bank - more suited to Kingfisher than Dipper. I walked past this in the beck - the nest was belly height - I was called back on the telephone by the Mrs.... She had clocked it after watching the bird.... This nest fledged 4 young.

Typical open topped box under a bridge - a little too open this one & predated  by Magpies

Dippers now a familiar sight on our Beck.... sorry Burn
Handful of nestboxes enabled them to establish a toe hold & now a healthy  population
This 1 went up 8 year ago & has fledged them each season

Dippers, an interesting bird to watch year round.

The Browney & Deerness have decent Dipper populations too - yet seem seldom visited by birdwatchers....

Please feel free to comment or leave a question on here or Email stevieevans1 AT

Durham Bird Club is a registered charity involved in Studying & Conserving the wild birds in the Watsonian Vice County of Durham (the old County between the Tyne & Tees )


  1. Really good blog Steve, enjoy reading it - follow you on twitter also. Keep up the good work


  2. Hello hello hello. I think your Twitter acc is eggselent m8 ;-)