The American Dipper, Cinclus mexicanus
in the Black Hills of South Dakota: Past and Present
by Doug Backlund
SD Dept. of Game Fish and Parks
Although the American dipper has been known to occur in the Black Hills of South Dakota since the species was first reported by George Bird Grinnell in 1874 (Ludlow, 1975), very little has actually been written about this isolated population. We can only speculate on how long this population has been isolated in the Black Hills, whether there is any genetic exchange between the nearest population in the Big Horn Mountains, or how the dipper arrived in the Black Hills to begin with. Like other species of dippers, the American dipper is not migratory (only local migration reported, usually to lower elevations) and rarely wanders from water.
Currently there are no water connections to dipper populations to the west of the Black Hills. At one time there were water connections to the Big Horn Mountains (Rubey, 1927). Dippers may have followed the water connections eastward. The Powder River has since eroded south and removed any possible western water connections to the Black Hills. The Black Hills is now drained entirely to the east by the Cheyenne River, which flows to the Missouri River in central South Dakota. The geological process of stream capture is readily seen at the point where the Belle Fourche River (actually the northern fork of the Cheyenne River that encircles the northern Black Hills) changes sharply from a northeast flow to a southeast flow near Colony, Wyoming. This is the point where the rapidly eroding Belle Fourche River captured the headwaters of the Little Missouri River, thus allowing the fish fauna of the Little Missouri River to enter the Black Hills region (Bailey and Allum, 1962). Bailey and Allum speculated that the stock of longnose dace (Rhinichthys cataractae) in the Black Hills had its origins in the headwaters of the Missouri River. Huntsman et al. (1999) speculated on how the Plecoptera fauna of the Black Hills came to be dominated by western species. Twenty-one of twenty-seven species of stoneflies in the Black Hills are disjunct, Rocky Mountain species. Huntsman et al. (1999) discussed the possibility that the Plecopteran faunal composition originated from water connections to the Rocky Mountain area and provided additional evidence for such water connections.
Trout are not native to the streams of the Black Hills (Ludlow, 1875; Bailey and Allum, 1962), even though excellent trout habitat exists in the Black Hills. The lack of native trout in the Black Hills provides another clue to the prehistoric dispersal of aquatic species to this region. The only trout species native to Wyoming, the cutthroat trout, would have been the only species of trout that could have colonized the Black Hills when the prehistoric water connections existed. The historic accounts of fish species in the Powder River basin do not list any native trout (Dufek, et al., 1999; Behnke, 1992). The absence of trout from the current Powder River drainage and from the Black Hills further supports the hypothesis that water connections from the Bighorn Mountains did allow the dispersal of certain species, but not trout, into the Black Hills region before the stream piracy events. If these hypotheses are correct, then the waterways of this geologic time period could have provided a route for dipper colonization of the Black Hills as well.
It is also possible that the Black Hills dipper population is the result of an ongoing event, the result of dispersing dippers finding their way to the Black Hills across nearly 100 miles of grassland and sagebrush from the Bighorns Mountains or possibly other mountain ranges in the west. However, this seems very unlikely. Dippers are rarely seen outside of their preferred habitat of high gradient streams. Extralimital records of dippers are rare (Kingery, 1996). Perhaps a genetic analysis of the Black Hills dippers and other populations to the west could answer this question of how and when dippers arrived in the Black Hills. How and when dippers arrived in the Black Hills may be speculative, but the fact that the population is declining is not. The species was listed as state threatened in 1996.
Dippers are unique passerine birds highly adapted morphologically, physiologically and behaviorally to cold, mountain streams, where they dive and forage for aquatic insects. Possessing more contour feathers than other passerines of comparable size and a heavy layer of down, dippers are able to maintain normal body temperatures in very cold air temperatures. Dippers have a low tolerance for heat. Air temperatures above 97 F. are fatal unless dippers have access to cold water or cool shelter. The uninsulated legs and feet allow body heat to be dissipated into the water. Dippers have a relatively large uropygial gland or preen gland to maintain waterproof feathers. Dippers also have higher concentrations of hemoglobin in the blood than other passerine birds, hence a greater capacity to store oxygen while diving. Other adaptations for an aquatic life include nasal flaps and highly developed muscles in the iris of the eye that allow the curvature of the lens to change, accommodating differing refractive conditions. Similar muscles of the iris are also found in cormorants and marine turtles (Tyler and Ormerod, 1994).
Dippers are rarely seen away from water. Even during flight along streams, dippers follow every bend in the stream and avoid flying over land. However, dippers do disperse across land to adjacent watersheds. This event has been physically witnessed only a few times, but recaptures of banded birds provide proof of this dispersion. In a Colorado study, about 10% of 558 banded dippers moved to a different stream, up to 75 km from the banding area (Price and Bock, 1983).
Every study on diet of the American dipper reports that aquatic insects are the major prey. Larval caddisflies and mayflies are preferentially selected over other aquatic insects. Dippers will also prey on small fish, small larval amphibians, fish eggs, and a variety of aquatic insects. Foraging behaviors include dive-plunge, swim-plunge, fly-plunge, surface-pick, gleaning, and rarely flycatching and hover-pick (Kingery, 1996).
Population size is largely dependent on food supply, available nest sites, and winter habitat that does not freeze up (Price and Bock, 1983). Available nest sites are an important factor that can limit dipper populations. Natural nest sites are found at streamside rock cliffs or waterfalls or on large rocks in midstream. Dippers will readily nest on artificial structures such as bridges. Dippers nest over water, building a domed nest of moss. The female lines the nest with grass or pine needles. In the Black Hills, four to five eggs are laid in March or April. Following two weeks of incubation and about four weeks to fledging, some pairs will begin a second brood in May or June (Lovett, 2004). Only the female incubates but the male often helps to build the nest and usually feeds the female and young birds. Dippers are usually monogamous but may be polygynous if nest sites are limited and concentrated. Very little is known about the availability of winter habitat or winter survival in the Black Hills. Highest mortality occurs in winter and is related to availability of ice-free stream required for foraging (Price and Bock, 1983). Heavy spring flooding can have a significant effect on dippers that have survived a severe winter.
Sedimentation and pollution destroy the habitat of most aquatic insects and therefore, of dippers. Streams that have a heavy sediment load are not suitable dipper habitat. An adult dipper may survive on these streams, at least for a short time, but such streams are not capable of supporting a breeding dipper population. Cattle can cause extreme damage to streams by trampling the stream banks and destroying the riparian vegetation, thus increasing sedimentation and warming of stream water. Road building along streams has a severe effect due to the increased sedimentation. Dippers are indicators of water quality of mountain streams.
Dams have many effects on streams, depending on the type of dam. Even small dams allow the water to warm thus changing the stream characteristics and aquatic insect fauna. In the Black Hills, Stockade Lake Dam and Pactola Dam may have had severe impacts on the dippers of French Creek and Rapid Creek.
"Healthy dipper populations on upland rivers throughout the world indicate healthy river ecosystems" (Tyler and Ormerod, 1994: 201). If this premise is accepted, then many Black Hills streams are not healthy
HISTORICAL AND CURRENT STATUS ON BLACK HILLS STREAMS
Dippers once thrived on French Creek. F. A. Patton reported finding six nests, four with young, in a one mile section of stream in early June (Patton, 1924). This is a very high density for nesting dippers and indicates that French Creek was a very different stream than it is now. Recent efforts to document the presence of dippers in the French Creek watershed have all been negative (Backlund, 1994; Hays et al., 1996; Hays and Hays, 1997b; Draeger and Johnson, 2001). The author also checked The Narrows in 1999 with no success (1999 monitoring report). Probable causes for the loss of a breeding population of dippers is pollution, construction of the Stockade Lake Dam, heavy sedimentation, and the presence of many small rock dams. Stockade Lake has a history of being highly eutrophic (Froiland, 1978).
The Rapid Creek watershed is the largest watershed in the Black Hills both in terms of watershed size and stream flows (Stewart and Thilenius, 1964). The American dipper was once common on Rapid Creek in Dark Canyon and in the Pactola area. There are many reports of dippers in South Dakota Bird Notes (see Appendix 1). Dippers were regularly seen on Rapid City Christmas Bird Counts until 1985. The author has interviewed numerous people who remember seeing dippers on Rapid Creek in the past but very few people have seen dippers in recent years. Hays found no dippers and no evidence of nesting (Hays et al. 1996 and Hays and Hays 1997b). Hays did report that one resident had seen a dipper briefly on April 28, 1996. No evidence of nesting has been reported in recent years with a few exceptions. A partially built dipper nest was found in a nest box in the spring of 2001 (Michael Melius, personal communication). Panjabi found no dippers on Rapid Creek during a breeding bird survey of the riparian habitat in 2001 (Arvind Panjabi, personal communication). R. Draeger and L. Johnson were contracted by SD Dept. of Game Fish and Parks during the summer of 2001 to survey several Black Hills streams for dippers, including Rapid Creek. They found no dippers but they found old dipper nests at Thunderhead Falls and talked to the owners of this tourist attraction. According to the owners, dippers nest every year at the falls. This may be the only site left on Rapid Creek that provides suitable winter habitat. Low, steady winter flows out of Pactola Dam and sometimes erratic flows during the rest of the year may have eliminated dippers from most of the stream. Draeger and Johnson found abundant and apparently suitable habitat in Dark Canyon but no dippers and no evidence of dipper nests with the exception of the Thunderhead Falls site (Draeger and Johnson, 2001). Occasional sightings of dippers on Rapid Creek are known but numbers of nesting pairs remains very low, one or two pairs at best, despite the presence of numerous potential nest sites at bridges and cliffs.
An additional threat to dippers and the entire aquatic ecosystem of Rapid Creek is the excessive growth of a naturally occurring diatom, Didymosphenia geminata.The abnormal growth of this diatom was first reported in 2002 and in recent years it has formed large mats from Pactola Dam downstream to Hisega.
Box Elder Creek
American dippers have rarely been reported from Box Elder Creek. A nesting pair was discovered in the summer of 1993 (Terri Hildebrand, personal communication) but surveys in 1996 and 1997 by Tom Hays and in 2001 by Draeger and Johnson had negative results. Hays reports that the stream is heavily silted in many areas and currently provides poor habitat despite the fact that there are many good natural nest sites (Hays et al., 1996; Hays and Hays, 1997b).
George Bird Grinnell made the first report of American dippers in the Black Hills in 1874 based on an observation made on Elk Creek (Ludlow, 1875). Today, Elk Creek is poor dipper habitat. Dippers are occasionally seen on Elk Creek (Michael Melius, personal communication) but Hays reported serious problems with sediment and low flows (Hays and Hays, 1996) as did Draeger and Johnson in 2001 (personal communication). Like Box Elder Creek and Rapid Creek, Elk Creek has probably become a population sink for dippers.
Bear Butte Creek
Dippers were not historically reported from Bear Butte Creek. Hays and Hays (1997b) surveyed the stream from Highway 385 to the town of Galena and found no dippers. Hays found good habitat and felt that the stream had potential for nesting dippers. Draeger and Johnson did locate 2 nests and at least one dipper, possibly 2 dippers, in the summer of 2001, downstream from the town of Galena. One nest had a lining but no eggs and the other had no lining and some dried fecal sacs on a nearby ledge. The latter may have been a successful nest. Shelly Deisch (SD Game Fish and Parks) reported dippers on the creek several times in 2000. Bear Butte Creek is impacted by mining pollution from old mining operations and from the current problems with the Brohm Mine (May, et al., 2001; Sorenson, 1998). Sediment is also a problem. However, this stream has the potential to hold a small breeding population of dippers. There are no major dams and much of the lower section is in undeveloped Forest Service land.
Historically, much of Whitewood Creek downstream of Lead/Deadwood was dry by late summer. Mining activities by the Homestake Mining Company and other smaller mines have resulted in many changes to this stream. Homestake diverts water from Rapid Creek, Elk Creek, and Spearfish Creek for mining operations. For many years, this water was then discharged, untreated, directly in Whitewood Creek. City sewage was also discharged untreated. Whitewood Creek was a dead stream, heavily polluted with city sewage, fine mine tailings, heavy metals, arsenic, and mercury. Gradually, pressured by the Environmental Protection Agency, the State of South Dakota, and many private interests, the stream was cleaned up. By 1984, Homestake had taken care of the most serious problems resulting from mining. City sewage was now being treated. The first report of dippers using Whitewood Creek came in 1985.
The mine tailings have over the years filled in the
swallow zones of the streambed and now the stream runs year-round with the additional
water from the diversions. Mine tailings, laden with arsenic and heavy metals, remain in
heavy deposits along Whitewood Creek to the Belle Fourche River and even downstream on the
Belle Fourche and the Cheyenne River for a considerable distance. Arsenic concentrations
in sediments range from 417 m g/g of dry sediment near Gold Run
Creek up to concentrations of 1,083 m g/g on the plains north
of the Black Hills. EPA Ecotox threshold for arsenic is 8.2 m g/g. Mercury concentrations in the sediments of Whitewood Creek are 3 to 6 times the EPA Ecotox threshold of 0.15 m g/g (May, et al., 2001). The stream
is extremely muddy after heavy rains and during spring snow melt. Dippers nest and winter
along Whitewood Creek in small numbers. Despite the environmental problems, in
2004 nesting success on Whitewood Creek was higher than nesting success on
Spearfish Creek. Homestake Mining Company placed dipper nest boxes under three
Whitewood Creek in 2000.These nest boxes, other bridges
with suitable ledges, and natural cliff sites are used by as many 12 pairs of
A dipper that was banded on Whitewood Creek as a juvenile in July of 2003 was found dead in Deadwood on April 5, 2004. This dipper had a normal bill when banded but the bill was deformed when recovered in 2004. The carcass was sent to the USGS National Wildlife Health Center for diagnosis. It was discovered that selenium levels in the kidney and liver were in the toxic range, at 21.2 ppm wet weight in the kidney and 34.5 ppm wet weight in the liver.
Deformed bill of American Dipper found dead
in Deadwood near Whitewood Creek.
History of Whitewood Creek Pollution
- In 1965, the SD Department of Game, Fish and Parks concluded that aquatic bottom organisms were absent in Whitewood Creek downstream from the waste discharge sites.
- Use of mercury amalgamation was discontinued in 1971.
- Since 1977, no mine tailings have been discharged into Whitewood Creek.
- In 1984, a water treatment plant went into operation to remove cyanide from mine water discharge.
- First report of dippers on Whitewood Creek is in 1985.
Spearfish Creek supports the largest dipper population remaining in the Black Hills. During the 2004 nesting season, there were 31 known nesting attempts on Spearfish Creek (Lovett, 2004). As many as 38 young were observed in nests classified as a first brood and 21 fledglings were observed. A total of 11 young were observed in nests classified as a second brood with three fledglings found. Twenty-four young dippers are known to have fledged in 2004. The highest count for adults observed totaled approximately 49.
OTHER BLACK HILLS STREAMS
No verifiable reports of nesting dippers are known for Spring Creek, Battle Creek, Iron Creek in the southern hills, or Beaver Creek in the southern hills. In 2001 Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory conducted breeding bird surveys on 35 transects in riparian habitat of Black Hills streams. Counts were conducted at 433 points on the transects. One-hundred and seven species were recorded but no dippers were observed (Panjabi, 2001). Panjabi speculated that the lack of dipper observations was due to the species biology and scarcity. Brad Phillips (Wildlife Biologist, USFS, personal communication) reported a dipper sighting on Beaver Creek in the west-central hills. This is the Beaver Creek that flows west into Wyoming and into Stockade-Beaver Creek. There are numerous small streams in the Black Hills that dippers undoubtedly visit periodically in their search for new territories during the post-breeding dispersal period. Dippers have been seen on Spring Creek, Sand Creek in Wyoming, and on Crow Creek near McNenny Fish Hatchery in recent years. Most of these birds probably perish during winter or they may return to their natal stream.
Sedimentation of streams is a serious threat to this species. Sedimentation destroys the habitat of most aquatic insects; including caddisflies, stoneflies, and mayflies; the major prey of dippers and the primary food for young dippers during the nesting season (Kingery, 1996). Feck and Hall (2004) proved that dippers are indicators of low fine sediment in streams in the Wind River mountains of Wyoming. Streams with low fine sediment had high abundance of the aquatic insects dippers rely on for food. Sedimentation increases due to excessive livestock use of streams, building of roads along streams, and excessive logging of steep slopes adjacent to streams. Many Black Hills streams suffer from excess sedimentation (Stewart and Thilenius, 1964). The author has witnessed dipper nesting attempts on sections of Spearfish Creek that are heavily silted. The result is nest failure. The young dippers die at a few days of age, probably due to lack of food. Nest sites on heavily silted streams are rarely used and always fail to produce young. Stream sections with high gradients are less impacted by deposition of sediment but even small amounts of silt can smother the aquatic organisms that dippers rely on to feed young birds.
Livestock use of streams and riparian areas has a severe negative impact on most aquatic species of plants and animals (Waters, 1995). Livestock trample the stream banks, causing streams to widen and become shallower. Livestock use also reduces riparian vegetation and shading of streams . Both of these changes increase water temperatures in streams and reduce the food supply of dippers. Sedimentation also increases (Waters, 1995). Osborn reported that dippers were rare or absent on streams that flowed through areas of high livestock use (Osborn, 1999).
On certain streams, dams have had serious impacts. Periods of no flow; erratic releases during high runoff; and steady, low releases in winter are probably responsible for the near extirpation of the dipper from Rapid Creek below Pactola Dam, an area that was once the best dipper habitat on Rapid Creek. Even short periods of low flows in winter months could eliminate the dipper population if the stream freezes and no areas of open water remain. Stockade Lake probably exacerbates the effects of pollution on French Creek by allowing the water to warm and become highly eutrophic.
Pollution at some level, whether from mining, septic tanks, or other sources, is detrimental to the food supply of dippers. French Creek has a history of pollution from city sewage (Froiland, 1978; Stewart and Thilenius, 1964) and in combination with other factors, has certainly contributed to the loss of the dipper population. Whitewood Creek was once heavily polluted and still suffers from periodic release of arsenic and heavy metals when high flows wash out old tailings. Strawberry Creek, a tributary of Bear Butte Creek is seriously polluted by mining activities, both historic and recent.
Loss of water flows in streams is an important threat. Although this threat can be
attributed to dams in some cases, often it is a result of diversion for other uses or a
general loss of runoff and groundwater in the watershed due to the increasing abundance of
pine in the uplands (Stewart and Thilenius, 1964; Froiland, 1978).
Ice cover on Rapid Creek near Hisega
Photo by Jeff Shearer
An additional threat to dippers and the entire aquatic ecosystem of Black Hills streams is the excessive growth of a naturally occurring diatom, Didymosphenia geminata.The abnormal growth of this diatom was first reported in 2002 and in recent years it has formed large mats from Pactola Dam downstream to Hisega.
Disturbance of nesting areas is another factor but not nearly as important a threat as the previously listed threats. A good example of disturbance was at Roughlock Falls on Little Spearfish Creek, one of the few nest sites on this tributary of Spearfish Creek. This is an excellent nest site but an increasingly high number of people visiting the site was disrupting dipper foraging and feeding of young. Trampling of stream banks was causing severe erosion. Development of the site by building new hiking trails and foot bridges was contributing to the problem. The Spearfish Canyon Foundation and Land Trust worked with Homestake Mining to control access to the falls and this has resulted in improved dipper nesting habitat at this site. SD Dept. of Game Fish and Parks now owns this property and has taken additional steps to control access.
Backlund, D., 1994. Nest Sites of the American Dipper in the Black Hills. South Dakota Bird Notes 46(1):6-9.
Bailey, R. M and M. O. Allum. 1962. Fishes of South Dakota. Misc. Publications, Museum of Zoology, Univ. of Mich., No. 119.
Behnke, R. J. 1992. Native Trout of Western North America. American Fisheries Society, Monograph 6. 275 pp.
Draeger, R. and L. Johnson. 2001. Summer 2001 Survey of the Status of the American Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus) on its Historic Range in the Black Hills, South Dakota. Report to SD Dept. of Game Fish and Parks, Wildlife Diversity Small Grants Program.
Dufek, D., Johnson, K., Kiefling, J., McDowell, B., McKnight, R., Roth, S., and Yekel, S. 1999. Status and Management of Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout Oncorhynchus clarki bouvieri.Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
Feck, J. and R. O. Hall Jr. 2004. Response of American Dippers (Cinclus
mexicanus) to variation in stream water quality. Freshwater
Froiland, S. G. 1978. Natural History of the Black Hills. Center for Western Studies, Augustana College, Sioux Falls, S.D.
Hays, T., N. Hays and S. Hays. 1996. Status of the American Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus) in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Report to South Dakota Dept. of Game, Fish and Parks.
Hays, T. and N. Hays. 1997a. Winter Status of the American Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus) in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Report to the South Dakota Dept. of Game, Fish and Parks.
Hays, T. and N. Hays. 1997b. Summer 1997 Update on the Status of the American Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus) in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Report to the South Dakota Dept. of Game, Fish and Parks.
Hays, T. and N. Hays. 1998. A Summary of 1998 American Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus) Surveys in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Report to the South Dakota Dept. of Game, Fish and Parks.
Huntsman, B. O., R. W. Baumann, and B. C. Kondratieff. 1999. Stoneflies (Plecoptera) of the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming, USA: Distribution and Zoogeographic Affinities. The Great Basin Naturalist 59(1):1-17.
Kingery, H. E. 1996. American Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus).In The Birds of North America, No. 229 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
Lovett, K. 2004. American Dipper 2004 Nest Monitoring Whitewood Creek and Spearfish Creek Watershed. Report to SD Dept. of Game, Fish and Parks.
Ludlow, W. 1875. Report of a Reconnaissance of the Black Hills of Dakota Made in the Summer of 1874. Engr. Dept. U.S. Army, Washington, D.C.
May, T. W., R. H. Wiedmeyer, J. Gober, and S. Larson. 2001. Influence of Mining-Related Activities on Concentrations of Metals in Water and Sediment from Streams of the Black Hills, South Dakota. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 40:1-9.
Osborn, S. A. H. 1999. Factors Affecting the Distribution and Productivity of the American Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus) in Western Montana: Does Streamside Development Play a Role? M. S. Thesis, Univ. of Montana, Missoula.
Panjabi, Arvind. 2001. Monitoring the Birds of the Black Hills: Year 1. Prepared by Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory for Black Hills National Forest.
Patton, F. A. 1924. Birds of the Foothills: Nesting of the Water Ouzel. The Oologist 41:147.
Price, F. E. and C. E. Bock. 1983. Population Ecology of the Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus) in the Front Range of Colorado. Stud. Avian Bio. 7.
Rubey, W.W. 1927. Stream Piracy in Northeastern Wyoming. Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences 17(5): 120
Sorenson, J. L. 1998. Water Quality and Benthic Macroinvertebrate Assessments of the Bear Butte Creek Watershed, Black Hills, South Dakota. MS Thesis, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Rapid City, S.D.
Stewart, R. K. and C. A. Thilenius. 1964. Stream and Lake Inventory and Classification in the Black Hills of South Dakota. South Dakota Dept. of Game, Fish and Parks.
Tyler, S. J. and S. J. Ormerod. 1994. The Dippers. T &AD Poyser, London.
Waters, T. F. 1995. Sediment in Streams: Sources, Biological Effects and Control. American Fisheries Society Monograph 7. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, Maryland.
SDBN 2(3):36-38. Sept. 1950. Cecil Haight reported two feeding in Spearfish Canyon on June 10. Also, Cecil reported that a local Forest Ranger stated the Water Ouzel was a resident of Spearfish Canyon.
SDBN 3(3):45. Sept. 1951. Drs. Frank and Mary Roberts, Spirit Lake, Iowa reported a pair of Water Ouzels nested and raised a brood under the bridge between Spearfish Canyon and Spearfish Canyon Camp. Three were also seen further down the canyon near the Homestake Power Plant, two were fighting, later an abandoned nest was found here.
SDBN 3(4):54. December 1951. Cecil Haight writes a long paragraph on the Water Ouzel. Described as "a permanent resident here and can be seen along streams any month in the year."
SDBN 4(2):28. June 1952. R.L. Mixter, Wheaton College, Wheaton, Ill., reports a list of birds seen in Rapid Canyon from 1939-1951. Water Ouzel is listed.
SDBN 5(2):26-28. June 1953. In a guide to birding hotspots in SD, O.S. Pettingill writes that dippers are to be found along Rapid Creek in both South Canyon and Dark Canyon. He writes that along Spearfish Creek "nearly every bridge crossed has a pair of Dippers nesting beneath it." Also, Pettingill states of the Roughlock Falls "It is almost a certainty that a pair of Dippers will have a nest behind this 30-foot drop of water and will be searching for food in the series of cascades below."
SDBN 6(1):18. March 1954. A letter to SDOU from Mrs. G.W. Robertson states that "the friendly water ouzel usually shows up and we watch it snatching food in the water and listen to its clear, sweet song." The location is Rapid Creek west of Rapid City along Rimrock Highway.
SDBN 6(2):31. June 1954. A report on the fifth annual meeting says "the Water Ouzels which had intrigued Dr. F.N. Matteson on many fishing trips helped him put on a perfect show with the dippers doing their calisthenics, walking underwater, flying through spray, and with nests empty and with young. Every person on the trip could add this interesting bird to his life list." This is at Roughlock Falls and Spearfish Canyon.
SDBN 7(2): 31. June 1955. A Catalog of Eggs, an article by N.R. Whitney, lists eggs in a collection at SD School of Mines and Technology. Dipper eggs were in this collection:
Collection 1-July 5, 1926. On Rapid Creek under wagon bridge between hogback and Bear Gulch above Pactola. Set of 4 eggs, collected when last egg was perhaps only 1 or two days old. A.C. McIntosh, collector.
Collection 2-N. Dark Canyon, Rapid City. June 15, 1928. Nest 4 feet above the surface of pool 4 feet deep on wall of overhanging rock. Incubated, parent on nest. Henry E. Lee, collector.
SDBN 6(4): 60-61. December 1954. 1954 Rapid City CBC reported one Ouzel.
SDBN 8(1): 10-11. March 1956. 1955 Christmas Bird Count reported 2 Ouzels at Rapid City.
SDBN 8(4):60-61. December 1956. CBC reported one Dipper at Rapid City.
SDBN 10(1):78-79. March 1958. In article "Birding in the Black Hills" by Whitney and Karen Eastman, both Rapid Creek and Spearfish Creek are recommended as places to find dippers.
SDBN (10):3: 36. Sept. 1958. Summer Records from the Black Hills, by Daniel L. Carter. On July 20, the author reported finding the expected dippers at Roughlock Falls, three were seen.
Also in this issue, dippers are reported as occurring on the Rapid City CBC on 3 out of
the 5 counts conducted up to that time.
SDBN 14(1):10 March 1962. A group of young naturalists see their first water ouzle, near Hisega, on Rapid Creek.
SDBN 16(3):72. Sept. 1964. One dipper reported on Rapid City 1963 CBC.
SDBN 19(2):34. June 1967. 1966 CBC, one dipper at Rapid City.
SDBN 28(2):41. June 1971. In 1971 Winter Season Report one dipper was reported wintering on Rapid Creek in Rapid City.
SDBN 28(4):94. December 1971. South Dakota Nesting Season Report (1971). Dipper nest under bridge at Thunderhead Falls on 7-18 and 7-25. Esther Serr and Doris Knecht.
SDBN 24(3):56. Nesting Season Report 1972. Tom Hays reported seeing six dippers in a 15 m (mile or minute?) drive ride in Spearfish Canyon on June 6, also one nest. Willis Hall reported two at Roughlock Falls on June 7, one carrying food.
SDBN 27(1):11. Two dippers reported on Rapid City 1974 CBC.
SDBN 27(3): 49. Sept. 1975. Dippers reported in 1975 Summer Report: One in Lawrence County on 7-18, by Jocie Mortimer. Two in Pennington County on 7-19 by Rich Hill.
SDBN 27(4):75. December 1975. Aug, 17, seven adults and immatures in Spearfish Canyon, Nat Whitney. One adult and one immature reported 9-10 to 11-30 by Leighton and Ruth Palmerton, almost daily (I assume this is another Rapid Creek report, but location is not given).
SDBN 28(3):51. Sept. 1976. One dipper reported in Spring Migration Report, singing at dusk near Rapid City, on March 2. Leighton and Ruth Palmerton.
SDBN 29(1):13. March 1977. One dipper reported on Rapid City 1976 CBC. Also, page 20, Fall Migration Report, dipper reported on Rapid Creek on Nov. 22 by Leighton and Ruth Palmerton.
SDBN 29(2):34. June 1977. 1976-77 winter report, one dipper seen almost daily throughout the period, Rim Rock Highway west of Rapid City, Leighton and Ruth Palmerton.
SDBN 29(3): 60. Sept. 1977. One dipper seen about twice a week from 3-1 to 5-26 near Rapid City by Leighton and Ruth Palmerton.
SDBN 29(4):80. December 1977. 1977 Nesting Season Report. Dippers reported: Seven in Custer County!, on July 2, by Rich Hill and 2 in Pennington County on July 6, by Gertrude Bachman.
SDBN 30(1):14. March 1978. Three dippers seen in Spearfish Canyon on 8/13 by Nat Whitney.
SDBN 30(2):36. June 1978. 1977-1978 Winter Report. Dec. 5, One dipper seen about twice a week west of Rapid City, Leighton and Ruth Palmerton. Also, dipper reported in Lawrence County Feb. 3, by Jocie Mortimer.
SDBN 31(2):30-31. June 1979. One dipper seen at Spearfish on 1978 CBC.
SDBN 31(4):70. December 1979. 1979 Nesting Season Report-Dipper nest with 4 eggs on June 14 in Spearfish Canyon, Dan L. Bjerke.
SDBN 33(4): 87. December 1981. 1981 breeding season report, 2 nests reported in Lawrence Co. on 23 May, N.R. Whitney.
SDBN 35(2):28-29. June 1983. Two dippers on Rapid City 1982 CBC.
SDBN 36(2):34. June 1984. Two dippers reported on Spearfish 1983 CBC.
SDBN 36(4):83. December 1984. In 1984 Breeding Season Report, 4 dipper nests are reported in Lawrence County, by Willis Hall.
SDBN 37(2):41. June 1985. One dipper reported on Rapid City CBC and two on Spearfish CBC for 1984.
SDBN 39(2):50. June 1987. One dipper reported on 1986 Spearfish CBC.
SDBN 40(2): 60. June 1988. 1987-88 Winter Season Report, dipper reported 10 January, in Pennington County, by Michael Melius. Also, one dipper report on Spearfish CBC for 1987 on page 64.
SDBN 41(4):63. December 1989. American Dippers in Spearfish Canyon. Doug Backlund. Notes on sightings and nests of dippers in 1989.
SDBN 46(1):6-9. March 1994. Nest Sites of the American Dipper in the Black Hills. Doug Backlund. Notes on dipper nests in the northern Black Hills and historical nesting on French Creek.
SDBN 48(2):46. June 1996. 1995-96 Winter Season Report. Todd Jensen reported dipper(s) in Lawrence County, no further information.
SDBN 48(3):32. Sept. 1996. 1996 Spring Season Report. One nest on Whitewood Creek April 10, Tom Chapman; 24 May Spearfish Creek, 2 nests, Doug Backlund.
SDBN 48(4):108. December 1996. 1996 Summer Season Report. Confirmed Breeding: 12 July Lawrence County, fledged young, George Prisbe; 14 July , Lawrence County, nest with young, George Prisbe.