Today there were more surprises. The dippers of Ashland Creek are like a good TV series; each episode leaves you dangling,eager for the next one.
8:30 Eric, Frank Gwyneth and I met at Bluebird Park where nothing was happening. But within a few minutes an adult flew fast from downstream to the nest that has been empty for a week. It flew downstream and was back fast with pine needles, usually used to line the nest. We could not see bands as it was not landing on a rock before flying up to the nest, but assumed it was the female. We split up with Frank and Gwyneth going down and Eric and I up the creek. Frank checked the nest they were building last week and found it less then half done and looking abandoned. Upstream we saw an adult fly under the Winburn bridge and on upstream. Eric found the unbanded male with a fledgling way up beyond the amphitheater but not as far as bridge 10. Frank went on up and saw another fledgling at the pool with the Marston bench on the east and the tennis courts on the west. We didn’t find more fledglings and there could be 4 if the last one finally left the nest.
9:40 At 3rd bridge an unbanded adult was feeding at the nest frequently, the banded female there was not in evidence. But she finally flew from upstream and stood on the rock close to the bridge where the males often land. She preened a bit and then the male arrived with food, stopped briefly on the same rock, then flew up to the nest. Down on the rock again and next to the female who was wing-fluttering. He was interested and did a little wing fluttering himself, but they did not copulate and he flew off downstream to get more food for the chicks.
This amazed us, as Frank only saw this male yesterday when he was also feeding the chicks. Before that she fed the chicks regularly after Mr. Green disappeared two weeks ago. The female has apparently stopped feeding and he has taken over. This is a very unusual situation. We have not seen a lone dipper on the stream for weeks, and can’t imagine where he has been and how he found out that there was an un-partnered female feeding chicks. (I’ve read one paper which reported a possible takeover by a male ousting another while chicks were in the nest, and building another nest with the female. He did not feed the chicks and the first nest failed but the second was successful.) It is surprising to see a male feed the chicks of another male. And from the female’s behavior it looks like they may nest again themselves. They might use the nestin the box or in a new one that Eric put under the bridge in March when we didn’t know if the pair would use either of the two nests from last year. This nest bears close watching and I will try to go tomorrow and Frank on Sunday. So far the behavior of the pair is similar to last year’s with the male doing all the feeding. Will he feed the fledglings while his mate builds or refurbishes another nest? We should be ready for anything.
10:20 At 1st bridge there was no sign of the adults. Frank took the dead chick from the nest and it looked very young. No tail feathers and the wings only a little erupted from the pins. It was crawling with maggots and appeared to have been dead for awhile. No sign of the two chicks I saw last week. I took it home and froze and called John. He or Pepper can probably estimate its age. To me it looked about a week old, which means it died in the nest two weeks ago.