Adventures in the birding paradise that is Co. Offaly, Ireland...

Monday, January 31, 2011


I have seen a name for us. It is "Cinclophiles". Personally, I don't like it very much - its too long and fancy. "I am a Cinclophile". It sounds like I should either be investigated by the authorities or in some kind of self-help group (which, I'm not going to argue, may be appropriate, but I digress). It doesn't help that what us Cinclophiles do, in winter, is done under the cover of darkness. In waders (prefarbly chest-high, although thigh-high will do). Using nets. I also prefer to work in pairs, but maybe that's just me. No! I prefer the idea that I go "Dippering". It sounds like fun (which it can be). It sounds mischevious (which it probably isn't). It sounds healthy and wholseome and outdoorsey. It sounds like a lot of things that a Cinclophile would probably never do.
(the Cinclophile's obsession)
So, What is it? Dippering can be done at any time of the year, and involves the very simple study of Dippers. In winter, we study the roosting birds - catching (with all the appropriate licenses and permissions) and ageing them to see how they are surviving. With the recent very cold weather, snow and full rivers, we might expect these little birds to struggle. However, they are strudy wee things, and they seem to be able to cope quite well with the winter weather. Dippers in Ireland are an endemic subspecies - marginally larger than their cousins in Britain, darker above and duller below, with a slightly smaller brown breast-band (although to tell the difference, you'd probably need to see them both together which, given the sedentary nature of these birds (part of the reason that they are prone to sub-specific variation) is rather unlikely).

Cinclus cinclus hibernicus
(a big Dipper)
One word of warning, however, for anyone out there thinking of taking up Dippering: it is addictive! In fairness, spending seven hours on a freezing night wading about in freezing rivers to catch these birds (or, in the case of my Dippering partner, largely not catching them) probably means that it has to be addictive for anyone to do it more than once. Perhaps a self-help group is need for us Cinclophiles after all.

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