Linn County, Oregon prides itself on being the Grass Seed Capital of the World. While birding the county on Saturday, we found that the area has much more to offer than nasty allergy attacks.
Linn County stretches from the floor of the Willamette River east to the crest of the Cascade Mountains. Our plan for the day was to bird our way from the valley floor wetlands up into the forest and back.
Our first stop was Talking Waters Gardens in Albany. The gardens are a series of water treatment ponds surrounded by a nice trail system and a lot of wetland vegetation. Here we got the day off to a momentous start when Sarah spotted a small rail just off the trail.
It was a Sora. This is a species we've heard calling plenty of times but had never actually seen and there it was right in front of us!
After leaving Albany, we drove past Sweet Home and visited the South Santiam River at Cascadia State Park and River Bend County Park. We enjoyed the scenery and spent a lot of time chasing birdsong so we could add a Black-throated Gray Warbler to our list.
With that accomplished, we returned to the valley floor near Brownsville for another avian milestone.
In a restored grassland, we found at least four Western Meadowlarks singing away. This was the first time we've heard our state bird's rich bubbly song in the Willamette Valley, where breeding populations have become quite rare. Vesper Sparrows and Grasshopper Sparrows nest here as well, but we'll have to find them on another trip.
Linn County: Come for the Grass Seed, Stay for the Grassland Birds!