But at the first bridge, I found something I wasn't expecting. Dead salmon. Lots of them. There is a fairly new program in Oregon (and other west coast states) to place dead salmon from hatcheries, fish that would otherwise go to landfills, into coastal rivers to replenish nutrients. In spite of years of efforts to restore salmon stocks, they have not bounced back. It is hoped that giving back some of the nutrients that the thousands of dead spawned-out salmon would have historically returned to the river each fall will help the wild stocks recover. (Both male and female salmon die after spawning.)
The rest of our Tillamook county trip was fish-less and Dipper-full. Here is one of the bridges near where I found a Dipper. They nest under bridges and then declare their territory to be about one-half mile upstream and one-half mile downstream of their nest. And they defend those territories noisily against other Dippers. We witnessed one such chase along the stream on this count day.
Dippers are such cool birds. They are the only songbirds that swim. They also walk on the bottom of fast-moving streams. But mostly they stand on rocks or wade, looking for tiny water creatures to eat, then go underwater to catch them. They are very efficient hunters.
To keep their feathers water repellent, they spend a lot of time preening.
Since I spent most of my time under bridges while Joy, on her first birding outing, stayed near the car scanning the sky, we found a total of only 13 species. But Joy saw her first American Dipper, which she had never even heard of before, plus a beautiful adult Bald Eagle and some mighty pretty scenery.
After returning to the Grand Ronde area, we drove into Polk county and stopped at a few sites to find birds. We didn't spend much time searching but we did find a couple species that I knew the rest of the county might not find: White-tailed Kites and a Rough-legged Hawk, both birds that Joy had never heard of before, much less seen. But I took no photos in Polk county that day.
However, on Monday, the Polk county coordinator put out a plea for count week birds that were missed on Count Day. That list included American Dippers. I'll use any excuse to go looking for Dippers... and I did. On the way to pick up Johnny at the Amtrak station in Salem on Tuesday, I drove up Mill Creek Rd. and stopped at every access point to scramble down the bank and look for Dippers. Finally, at the end of the public portion of the road, I found this one...
Since there was still time before the train arrived, I drove through Baskett Slough to see what might be there. I had no idea what birds were still needed for the Polk county count (and still don't) but I thought this Greater Yellowlegs deserved a photo... along with his tall pal...
Then two White Pelicans flew in. Cool!
The train was due in shortly so I hurried onward to Salem and the Amtrak station. Turned out the train was late and I had plenty of time to stroll back and forth beside the tracks. I noticed a bird in a distant bare branched tree. With binoculars, it turned into an Osprey... with a fish in talons.
|Amtrak station and parking lot with bare tree housing Osprey in center of photo.|
Not as odd as it seems because a large creek runs through town just on the other side of the station. I have no idea if Marion County "needed" an Osprey for its count week but here was one.
Johnny and train finally arrived and we headed home... but he spotted a large black bird alongside the highway... on the Polk County side of the Willamette River. A Bald Eagle! We spotted another eagle on the Marion County side of the river.
Soon Polk County flew to join Marion County and we drove on.
The North American Migration Count is such a nice excuse to go birding. The addition of "Count Week" birds makes the fun last even longer. It is only a matter of time before migration counts everywhere join Oregon in spreading out the fun for a whole week.