Waterside Birds, Part III: the River-Ousel or Dipper
by Nobuyuki Yuasa (Sosui)
Another waterbird that wears a monk’s robe is the river-ousel, or dipper. It is a small bird the size of a sparrow. This bird lives only in the upper parts of rivers, where water is clean and cold. Like cormorants, river-ousels are good divers, but they do not catch fish. What they catch is the small insects that live on the river beds. It is a wonder to me that they can dive into a fast-flowing stream without being swept down. They fly low at surprising speed, and dive into the foaming water; but, unlike cormorants, it seems they cannot stay underwater very long. You will soon see them emerging from the water, only to fly away between the rocks and dive again. They are always active and seem to need no rest. They are solitary birds, too, having nothing to do with human beings; not even with the trout fishermen nearby. Their short sharp cries also sound aloof. Such headwaters, where river-ousels live, are indeed sanctuaries. Alas, each year some of these sanctuaries disappear. Yet in my mind, they will never cease to exist.
… A river-ousel flies
… Askance the dashing river —
… The foaming shallows.