Merced River, winter, Yosemite, California
I am reminded by this photograph of a little gray bird I once saw diving most heartily into the 32-degree water of the snowlined Merced River, in winter, here in Yosemite Valley. It was an ouzel, also known as a water ouzel or a dipper. This amazing little submarine of a bird is widely distributed throughout mountainous and other regions of the United States, Europe and Asia and exploits a most curious niche. It eats aquatic insects, which it picks off the bottom of streams, in which it "flies" or walks with impunity. This slate-colored, short-tailed wonder is known as a dipper, because, as it stands on rocks beside the water, it turns its upper body from side to side and does a little curtsy with each turn. It nests as close to the water as it can and flies very rapidly up and down its home creek barely above the surface of the water, as if it couldn't bear to ever be more than a few inches from its beloved H20.