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american dipper nesting survery

Results of Spring 2003 Nesting Survey

In April and May of 2003 twenty-one biologists and volunteers searched Black Hills streams for dippers and dipper nests. The Spearfish Creek watershed, the watershed with the largest dipper population in the Black Hills, including Iron Creek, Squaw Creek, Annie Creek, East Fork and Little Spearfish Creek were thoroughly searched. Whitewood Creek was also thoroughly covered. Rapid Creek and French Creek, streams that historically had large dipper populations, were extensively searched. Only one nest could be found on Rapid Creek and no nests or dippers were found on French Creek. Bear Butte Creek, Elk Creek, Little Elk Creek, and Boxelder Creek were searched in selected areas of suitable habitat but no dippers and no sign of dippers was found. Sand Creek in Wyoming was also checked with negative results.

We confirmed around 35-37 active nests going into the early breeding season indicating a breeding population of ~ 70-74 dippers. There is some evidence of polygyny on Spearfish Creek so that drops the number down a few, but we probably missed a few nests somewhere, too. However, it is unlikely that there are many nests that were missed. There may be some non-breeding dippers roaming around. It is impossible to take an exact count of all dippers in the Black Hills. The bottom line is that outside of Spearfish Creek and Whitewood Creek, there are few dippers, even on large streams like Rapid Creek, which once was and still should be capable of supporting a large dipper population. A conservative estimate of the spring Black Hills dipper population appears to be <100 birds.

Spearfish Creek Watershed

Rimrock Lodge Segment- Found one active nest 4/26/2003 and checked again on 5/11/2003 with the same results.

Spearfish Creek- Found 18 active nests from the lowest diversion dam upstream to Cheyenne Crossing on April 28. Another nest was verified earlier. Thirty dippers seen, including a number of the color banded dippers. 19 active nests on this segment.

Little Spearfish (Roughlock Falls) and Iron Creek- Confirmed one and found one probable nest. Probably 2 active nests on these streams.

East Fork Spearfish Creek (Hanna Creek)- Two active nests, possibly 3. 5/12/2003

Spearfish Creek from Cheyenne Crossing along Hwy 85- Found one active nest, 6 dippers, and four nests that didn't appear to be active (5/8/2003 and 5/13/2003). Dippers were seen at two nests so these nests may prove to be active nests later in the spring. One, possibly 3 nests on this stream segment.

Squaw Creek- Found one active nest and four dippers (5/15/2003).

Annie Creek- Found three old nests (5/6/2003). No dippers. One dipper near the confluence with Spearfish Creek, this dipper flew to Spearfish and probably was only feeding on Annie Creek (5/14/2003). No active nests this year. Surveyor reported the stream running very muddy.

Total active nests-26, possibly 28.

Sand Creek, Wyoming

Checked the stream and saw no dippers. The surveyor has been birding this area for years and has never seen a dipper here. 5/4/2003

Whitewood Creek

Checked all of Whitewood Creek on April 28 and 29. Eight active nests were found and 22 dippers seen. Total of eight active nests found, there may be a couple more that couldn't be accessed. One banded dipper was found on Whitewood Creek, banded on Spearfish Creek in the summer of 2002.

Bear Butte Creek

Checked Bear Butte Creek on 4/28/2003 from the sinkholes upstream to the Double Rainbow Mine. No dippers, 3 old nests. No active nests on this stream, but evidence of previous use.

Boxelder Creek

Checked this stream on April 29. All bridges and potential cliff nest sites that were accessible were checked from Benchmark downstream to the swallow zone were checked. No dippers were seen and no sign of old or new nests were found.

No active nests found on this stream. No evidence that dippers occupy Boxelder Creek. Same results as in past surveys.

Elk Creek

Walked the lower canyon area where dippers have been seen in winter. Found one old nest but no dippers. 5/22/2003

Little Elk Creek

Checked the area and found no sign of dippers or old dipper nests.

Rapid Creek

Thoroughly checked the creek from Dark Canyon upstream to Hisega, the Thunderhead Falls area, and from Canyon City to Silver City. One active nest with five eggs was found on April 29 and this nest was still active on May 15th, chicks were in the nest. Despite availability of many good nest sites there appears to be only one pair of dippers on the stream. There was no sign of old nests at the many apparently suitable nest sites that were checked except at Thunderhead Falls. The owners of Thunderhead Falls reported that dippers did not nest there last year or this year, but a dipper nest is visible just inside the tunnel. The tunnel was gated when we checked on April 29, preventing access to the site by dippers.

Spring Creek

Surveyed a large portion of Spring Creek, above and below Sheridan Lake, downstream to the Storm Mountain area, 5/10/2003. No dippers or evidence of dipper nests reported, same results as past surveys.

French Creek

French Creek from Hazelrodt Picnic Ground to the Horse Camp in Custer State Park on May 4th. Saturday May 10,2003 - 11:30 to 4:00. On May 10 French Creek within the French Creek Natural Area of Custer State Park from French Creek Horse Camp downstream to trail #1 alternate that leaves the South side of the natural area and comes out at CSP road #2 ("Fisherman's Flat" on many Custer State Park maps.) An estimated 7 miles of creek. Walked with in 20 ft. of the creek at all times. No dippers, no sign of new or old nests. On May 17, covered French Creek from Fisherman's Flat area out to the east side of the Primitive Area.

No evidence that dippers occupy French Creek. Same results as previous surveys.

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