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Me and a Dipper

I came down to the valley to sketch the monolith El Capitain but instead I stopped at the banks of the Merced River, Bridelveil Falls falling silencing across the valley and I sketched a dipper.

It says a lot about the American dipper that John Muir devoted an entire chapter of The Mountains of California to this small, drab bird. The water-ouzel, as the dipper was known then, rewards the observer with the amount of time put in by simply sitting down on the river bank and watching.

The dipper is seldom still, making sketching a challenging yet exhilarating experience. Just when you start one sketch you stop and restart because the dipper has disappeared under the river, appearing again, perched on a submerged rock, making the bird appear to be standing on water. And the dipper never just perches. Like it’s name implies, it it constantly dipping it’s body up and down.

As so I passed part of my morning in Yosemite Valley, with my back facing the largest chunk of granite in the world but my eyes focused on one of the most captivating creatures to be found in any National Park: the American dipper.

And as Muir wrote about the dipper, “Among all the mountain birds, none has cheered me so much in my lonely wanderings, -none so unfailingly.” And I couldn’t agree with John Muir more.