The river Dearne rushes, meanders and struggles its way for 20 miles or so through West and South Yorkshire, eventually meeting the river Don as it leaves the city of Sheffield. Something good is happening to the water in this once polluted river – salmon have returned after 150 years.
Although only a short stretch of water it has a strong personality and needs respect – just ask folk who got caught up in the flooding of 2007. Much of it is managed but there are quieter, wilder spots where thick willow and reed and inaccessible banks mean less hassle for wildlife.
It’s here, in the shallower, stony stretches that you’ll find the dipper (Cinclus cinclus), an excellent small bird the size of a song thrush. With dark brown plumage and a white bib the dipper isn’t that conspicuous; what gives it away is its behaviour : there’s tail twitching and lots of head bobs as it busies itself preparing to plunge into the water from a small rock or stone.
Once under it searches for insect larvae amongst the weed and silt, using its wings to fight against the currents. It also searches for insects on land but more often than not you’ll see it on a rock or flitting around above water. It spends most of its life near water and is sometimes known to next under small waterfalls and close to rushing tumbling water on a bankside.