Monday, September 19, 2011

NAMC: Polk County

On Sunday, birding friend Marilyn joined me for half a day of mostly wet birding. My assignment was to "find Coast Range birds", whatever that means, for the Polk County count. For me it usually means counting Band-tailed Pigeons at a mineral lick I discovered some years ago a few miles from our farm. Sunday, we only found twelve of them perched out in the open. The rest of the hundred or so I've seen in the past were no doubt perched under cover, which is where we wished we were. It was pouring rain.

The best birding, naturally, was on waterways. Seventy Mallards on the Grand Ronde sewage ponds did not mind the rain at all. (Sewage ponds are hot spots for birders. There's even a field guide to sewage ponds in Oregon.) The three Hooded Mergansers that we found on a more scenic waterway, the South Yamhill River, didn't mind the weather either.

But at most stops the only birds out and about were a few jillion Barn Swallows. We, not having the same enthusiasm for wet skies as swallows, elected to go to a park I seldom visit, since it is a few miles farther east, in hopes the rain would be less in that direction. Happily, it was. And Mill Creek Park is a lovely place. Someone has built rock pagodas all up and down the creek bed. They won't last through the winter's high water but they are interesting to see now. In this rocky creek we found an American Dipper, which made me happy. (Have I mentioned before that I love Dippers?)

Our last stop was the Fort Yamhill historical site just a few miles from home. Although we did not see as many birds as usual, the rain had quit completely and we had a nice hike around the park, enjoying the wild blackberries that a bear had obviously also enjoyed. His seed-filled scats were all along our path. Fortunately, he was not. (That's Marilyn picking from the wall of blackberries.)

Part of the path goes through a lovely woods. And so I ended my birding weekend the way it was begun, in a forest of beauty. I didn't find any spectacular birds but I found relaxation and, as Marilyn put it, the restorative power of woodlands. ...And a total of six American Dippers for the weekend: a sure way to make me happy.

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