What’s This? No. 18


What’s This? No. 18 should be self-evident. The winner of this challenge, however, will name the species that left its mark on this rock (which I suspect is Shinumo quartzite). I photographed this on Phantom Creek in Grand Canyon National Park on March 4, 2014. For extra credit name the other “dropping” in this image.

Added March 17: We have a winner! 


Well, we have many winners. But Mark Council was first to identify this as the footprints and droppings of American Dipper. Mark’s answer came in to the blog a mere three minutes before our second-place winner, Sue Cloutier, who is the Ken Jennings of What’s This? Also check out some of the more creative answers in the comments below.

American Dipper is our only aquatic songbird; those footprints do indeed suggest the feet of a “perching bird” (in the order Passeriformes) rather than webbed feet. Dippers nest along streams across the western US and Canada. Water does truly roll off this bird’s back; it swims and walks underwater on stream beds, where it feeds on aquatic insects. Meanwhile, the eco-astute Audrey Clark noted the Fremont cottonwood (Populus fremontii) leaf on the boulder, which also helps with scale in this image, and the yellowish duckweed gathered in the eddy.

Find the entire suite of What’s This? challenges here.


  1. water ouzel ? The poplar leaf imprint is a clue as to scale

  2. That would be American Dipper. The Polish Dipper’s super duper rare here…

  3. These are sacred pictographs of the Havasupai tribe commemorating a finger shadow play about the battle between Rabbit and Rooster. Whatever species pooped on it should be ashamed of itself. . .and afraid. Very afraid.

  4. Melted cookies-and-cream ice cream

  5. How about American Dipper droppings (and a birch leaf?)

  6. Isn’t it rock snot (aquatic alga Didymosphenia geminata)? My second guess is Mileyl Cyrus’s tongue.

  7. American dipper

  8. It is the rarely seen face of shinimo

  9. Dipper?

  10. Dipper poo

  11. Shinumo quartzite? Looks like a sweet potato. A sweet potato with bird poop on it.

  12. Dipper? Wet footprints?

    • And a cottonwood leaf.

  13. Dipper

  14. Since there’s nothing as a scale reference, I have to guess as Dipper guano. Tell me I’m right…


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