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Watching the salmon run


The salmon run is one of the most amazing things to see. I'm lucky because at this time of year  you can watch the salmon migrating back up the river that flows through my village. But how can you see salmon swimming up a river ? Because they jump right out of the water to climb up waterfalls !

I was busy for a lot of last week (the second week of my half term) so I didn't get to go up the river to look for them until Saturday. There had been heavy rain the night before, and the current in the river was much higher than normal, and this is what I found when Dad and I walked up.

I know the river quite well, because I walk or cycle the route around the castle in the village every day, and in the summer I swim in a spot called the salmon hole which is further downstream. About a mile from my house is a spot where there are a series of waterfalls as the river comes downhill. This is me by one of the main ones.

I have only seen salmon leaping once or twice in my life, so I was really keen to see them. Before we even sat down, a pair of heron flew along the river. This was a good sign, even though salmon would be too big for a heron to catch.

After watching the bottom waterfall for a while, I moved along the bank to the next spot up. Here the waterfall was much smaller, but the water was so strong it seemed impossible that a salmon could swim up it.

At the side of the bank there was something lying in the water. I climbed down the bank to get a closer look:

At first, I did not know what it was, but then I figured out that it was a salmon, somehow staying steady in the slower water. It looked like it was anchored by its head, with its body moving in the current behind.

Now we waited. After about five minutes,out of the corner of my eye, I saw the first salmon leap ! I was really happy.

By this time second salmon was clinging on to the rock next to the first and I went right up to the waters edge. This is me signalling to Dad on the bank above that there were now two salmon.

In the meantime, more salmon were leaping up, trying to get over the cascading white water from the waterfall.

These salmon would have swum about 50 miles upstream from the sea to get here. That would have been tough for anyone to do. I can't imagine the energy that it would take for a fish to throw themselves out the water like this over and over. Here is just one jump:

And often the fish would just end up getting thrown downstream again by the current:

So why do salmon swim upstream ?

Although salmon don't have much in common with the red deer I watched rutting the week before, the answer is almost the same.

Salmon are born in rivers, swim out to sea when older, then when it is time for them to spawn (have children), they swim back up the same river to the same spot they were born.  The whole thing is quite strange, especially since the salmon have to change themselves to adapt between freshwater (rivers) and salt water (the sea). No-one seems quite sure why they do this, or how they find the original river. 

So why is this like the red deer rut ? Because it is a way of making sure that the next lot of young salmon come from the fittest and strongest parents. With red deer, only the most mature, strong, best-fighting stags will mate with the hinds. With salmon, only the biggest, strongest and most determined salmon will survive the journey back up the river, and their children will inherit their strength.

By the time we left, a third has joined the other two, each lying side by side, facing up the river. If you were a poacher you could easily have just picked them up out the water.

By the time I had left, I thought I had probably seen six or seven different salmon, and none had made it up the small waterfall.Since then we have had more rain, so it must be getting more and more difficult for them.

Half-way home I saw this red legged partridge by the side of the road. Its leg was at a funny angle. When dad wrapped it in his jacket, it did not struggle, so we knew it was sick.

We decided that was would talk it home and call the SSPCA, but by the time we had got home, it had already died, which was very sad. I put it under a plant pot for it to decompose, ad I'll write about it again in the spring.

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Mel said...

How cool! I have never seen it but this makes me want to see the salmon run even more! Looks amazing!

Daisy Debs said...

Great write up (as usual ). Watching leaping salmon is on my list of things to see . Great photographs !

Jake said...

It's brilliant to watch them.

Jake said...

Thanks !

Kippei said...

Hi Jake,
I love the pictures you shot of the jumping salmon. I wish I could take at least one picture of a jumping salmon.

I think I will save image of all the pictures you shot( expect the one with you in it because it's a private pictures)

I have one question.
Do you like to eat salmon? I like to eat salmon. The ones on sushi!


Molly said...

Dear Jake

I think that you are very knowledgeable about salamanders. I have a question how did you find all this information?
Lately I was in a group learning about amphibians and salamanders are part of amphibians.

Love Molly

Jake said...

Yes, I do like salmon, especially smoked.

Jake said...

I'm not quite an expert on salamanders. I don't think I have ever blogged about them.

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