[Tweeters] On the River

jeff gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Thu Oct 24 08:24:43 PDT 2013



Yesterday, as I often do, I was tooling down the Snohomish River Road, just outside the Everett city limits, and stopped at a favorite spot to check out the scene. Four (silent) Western Grebes were still about on the river. The population had swelled to Six (silent) grebes the day before. In the silence of the foggy day, I wondered how much the long neck on a Western Grebe contributes to the volume of its call. Think Canada Goose (the really big honkin' ones) or Great Blue Heron, Sandhill Cranes, Trumpeter Swan - all got long necks, and really belt out that tune. Of course the short necked Caspian Tern has no volume problem. I'll have to look that up that neck length/volume thing I guess - I'm no ornithologist.

Anyway, it was nice to see the Grebes again. They were joined on the river by a bright male Bufflehead, the first I've seen this fall.

Seeing the head of a swimming creature in the water, I thought seal at first (they'd been here before) but it turned out to be the hump of a big Humpback salmon cruising at the surface. I saw several more Humpies swimming at the surface, looking for some place to die, their emergent dorsal fins immediately bringing the "shark theme" from the "Jaws" soundtrack to mind.

The river is full of dead and dying Humpies this year. I wondered why there weren't a bunch of Bald Eagles around, scoring on this bounty, when I saw one adult just down the road. I was thinking that maybe the lack of Eagle feeding frenzy here was because of the tides - the lower Snohomish being tidal, makes the shoreline accessible sporadically, unlike the middle Skagit. I suppose Eagles got better pickings elsewhere right now.

That brought to mind Benjamin Franklin, who was lobbying for the Wild Turkey as a National Bird. Admiring the shy, crafty, and sensitive Turkey, he didn't think much of the scavenging, and klepto- parasitic Bald Eagle. I'm thinking that history has shown the choice of Bald Eagle to be the more accurate reflection of our nations character.

On the other hand, as a Columbus Day follow-up, an American Indian quipping about Columbus getting lost in America - "we're just thankful he was looking for India, and not Turkey".

Jeff Gibson
Everett Wa


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