Thursday, December 5, 2013
North Santiam Raptor Route
Once a month from November through March, Johnny and I drive a raptor route more or less bordering the North Santiam River. We start on the Marion County side, switch to the Linn County side at Mehama, then cross back over at Gates to Marion county and return to our starting point via various back roads. Although we are always fairly close to the river, we seldom catch a glimpse of it. Ours is one of hundreds of routes throughout Oregon that monitor wintering raptors.
To our surprise last raptor route season, we found a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks hanging out in the Lyons City Park/John Neal Park area bordering the North Santiam River on the Linn County side. These lovely hawks, more common in California and southern Oregon, seem to be moving steadily northward.
On our November trek this fall, I hiked around the parks looking for the hawks while Johnny kept vigil by the ponds at the road. I did find one Red-shoulder, but it flew before I could get a photo. A cell phone call from Johnny shortly after told me that it had landed with another in his view across the pond. He took photos. Here is the habitat. They were perched in a tree directly across the water in about the center of the photo (but good look seeing them).
And here are the hawks as Johnny photographed them from his vantage point.
This month, December, we were hopeful of finding these lovely birds again. But they were elusive. I hiked all the way around the many ponds and paths before seeing one perched in the shadows.
I had a very short window to zoom it in before it flew.
Although the Red-shoulders seem to be regulars on our route now, we saw another raptor this December that is not a regular during the winter months. In fact, we were quite surprised to see it sitting in a tall tree in the middle of a field at least a mile from the river. This osprey should have been way south by now, but there it was far from water on a cold day in northern Oregon.
Before we continued on our route, the bird flew over and past us, heading more or less in the direction of the North Santiam River. We did not expect to see it again.
But we did. Four hours later, on our return trip, there it was, perched in the same tree in the middle of the field near Stayton. This time, it was munching a fish.
If it stays all winter, I hope it finds enough open water with enough fish. The temperature dropped into the teens that night. The North Santiam River does not freeze over, so maybe this bird has a chance.
Although we do not see the hordes of raptors on this canyon route that flatlanders see, we never know what surprises will be thrown our way.