Skye bird guide to dipper – resident of upland streams

Dipper is by no mean a Skye specialist bird but the fast flowing streams on the island provide the perfect habitat for this brave and determined little bird which seems to spend half its time partially submerged, often in freezing water, to feed. This Skye bird guide provides information about the birds and where to find them.

The part of the south Skye where our letting cottage is, in Elgol on the Strathaird peninsular, has several very reliable sites for dipper and, because the birds never stray far from their territories, there is a good chance of seeing them at any time of the year.

Dipper at Kilmarie

Dipper at Kilmarie

Both the Kilmarie River and the Camasunary River have resident pairs of dipper. Follow the links for information about how to get to the sites on walks around and about Springbank Cottage.

To see dipper you need a degree of patience as they work up and down the streams to find food.  A nice little cascade is ideal and the birds usually put in appearance before too long. You can always keep scanning round the hill tops for birds of prey as the whole of the Skye Cuillins are a special protection area for golden eagles.

Camasunary River - classic habitat for dipper

Camasunary River – classic habitat for dipper

You will probably notice Dipper bobbing up and down on prominent rocks. This helps them spot small invertebrates in the water and when they see something interesting they tend to plunge dive into the water and will walk along the bottom, partially submerged, trying to find food.

It is quite likely that you will accidentally disturb a bird and then you will notice it as it flies fast and direct, low above the water to another patch.  Watch where it lands and try to stalk up on it for a really good view.  Be careful of getting too close in late summer and early autumn as the birds are in moult and may be flightless for a period.

The birds start nest building in February and breeding is usually finished by June so spring is certainly a good time to watch for them as they are extremely active foraging for food for their youngsters.

There are maps, guides, telescope and binoculars at Spingbank for our guests to use and our environmental activities room has plenty of resources for all wildlife watching  that will help you get more out of your visit to Skye.