(477) Cinclus cinclus cashmeriensis Gould.
THE KASHMIR, or WHITE-BREASTED, ASIATIC DIPPER.
Cinclus cinclus cashmeriensis, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 2.
The Kashmir Dipper, of which Cinclus sordidus is only a dimorphic form, is found breeding over the whole of Kashmir, all along the Himalayas from the Afghan Frontier, through the Murree Hills, Simla States, Garhwal, Nepal, Sikkim and the Himalayas North of Assam as far East as the Dibong or the Brahmapootra, though we do not yet know which of these, or even the Dihong, forms the Eastern boundary. It apparently also breeds over a great part of S.E. Turkestan.
It breeds from comparatively low levels up to at least 12,500 feet and, possibly, up to 14,000 feet, at which elevation it is not uncommon even in Winter, having been recorded by Walton up to 15,000 feet in that season and up to 16,000 feet in Summer in Ladak by Ludlow, Osmaston and Meinertzhagen, and up to 17,000 feet by Wollaston. Whitehead found it breeding at 12,000 feet on the North-West Frontier and Whymper took nests at the same elevation in Garhwal.
How low down this Dipper breeds is not known, as it has not yet been ascertained whether, like the Brown Dipper, it has a Winter breeding season at low levels as well as a Summer breeding season at higher levels. Meinertzhagen merely says that my belief that it breeds in the low valleys of Kashmir is incorrect, but gives no evidence either for or against this supposition. The lowest level from which I have received eggs is about 5,000 feet, a nest taken in Kashmir on the 5th April. The highest elevations from which I have nests are one from Guttadar, Khagan Valley, and two from Sheikhwas, Kashmir, taken at 12,000, 11,500 and 12,000 feet respectively, which were found on the 30th June and the 16th and 17th July.
It is still quite possible that the nests will be found in Winter at very low levels.
The nests are always placed on the banks of, or in the beds of, streams but the positions vary considerably. Very often they are placed on some small pile of rocks forming a tiny islet in a rushing stream ; sometimes they are perched on the top of a stranded log, in among the debris which had collected there when the stream was higher, and looking very much like part of the same debris. Occasionally it is built on quite a bare part of the log, just kept in its place by the remains of some branch still adhering to the parent trunk. Often it is placed on or between rocks and boulders by the riverside or on some shelf of rock overlooking the stream. Sometimes it is built under a waterfall, every visit of the parent birds entailing a plunge through the falling cascade.
According to Osmaston they sometimes build their nests in crevices of rocks or under overhanging banks by streams.
The nest is a glorified and far from neat Wren’s nest, a huge ball, sometimes round but generally Rugby-football-shaped. The materials vary considerably but the general effect is “rubbish.” Some nests are made chiefly of moss mixed with grass, leaves and such various oddments as the Dippers can retrieve from land or water. In other nests there is no moss at all and grass and leaves form the major part of the nest, held together with creeper-stems and long roots. The nests taken by Osmaston in Ladak were “composed of dry grass and weed-stalks” and were, as are nine out of ten nests, lined with dry dead leaves and dry grass.
One of the nests taken by Ward is described as made of grass, moss, roots and rushes.
No attempt seems to be made at concealment nor, really, is this necessary, as in most instances the nests look just like wind- and tide-swept rubbish caught by boulder or snag and, to the un-initiated, these are passed by time after time until some day a little brown bird is seen to dart out and either fly away or dive through the water into safety.
Whitehead, speaking of the nests he took on the North-West Frontier, says they are conspicuous when you know what they are but, until then, most inconspicuous. Of two nests found close together he writes in his notebook :—“ This and last year’s nests looked like lumps of dead turf. They were the size and shape of a football, rather flat, very solid, a felted mass of roots and moss lined with grass.” Of another he writes :—“Guttadar, 12,000 feet. Nest big, conspicuous and grass-domed, on a sod outlier of small islet.”
Although, apparently, so roughly made, the nests withstand a lot of water, and some which are quite soaked outwardly are still dry and warm in the egg-cavities.
The breeding season lasts from early April to late July, earlier at the lower levels, later at the highest. The full clutch of eggs is four or five and I have never seen or heard of a six of this species.
Like all Cinclus eggs, they are a pure white, chalky rather than china-white, with a soft, smooth, though not glossy, surface rather like the eggs of sortie Barbets, but without the sheen of these eggs.
Fifty eggs average 25.9 x 18.5 mm. : maxima 27.1 x 18.9 and 26.3 x 19.5 mm. ; minima 22.8 X ? and ? x 16.4 mm. (these are Hume’s measurements). Osmaston gives the average of his eight eggs as 26.1 x 18.8 mm. ; these are now in my collection and are included in the above fifty.
477. Cinclus cinclus cashmeriensis
(477) Cinclus cinclus cashmeriensis Gould.