A pleasant Good Morning Barbara & Nature Aficionados,

BALD EAGLE in Trestle trees…

Last Sunday morning I heard the Peregrine shrieking its displeasure for all to hear as I approached the river. When I got closer I saw the Falcon popping off a new Eucalyptus tree spot, fly towards its old favorite branch, return briefly and repeat its agitated behavior. I am familiar with this ticked off action. It’s triggered by a HAWK or the OSPREY occupying the PEREGRINE’s beloved site. So I started scanning for the known transgressors and my monocular landed on a huge bird. At first I couldn’t compute who I was looking at and then I almost levitated with the realization: It’s a BALD EAGLE sitting on the PEREGRINE’s branch. Since the white head indicated that the raptor had reached the 4-5 year breeding stage, I wondered if the visitor had already found a life mate. Was the branch guest on the look out for a high tree to start building their huge nest? Of course I wanted to show every passerby this incredible sight when the PEREGRINE carried out an other one of its speedy bomb dives. The BALD EAGLE decided ‘enough was enough’ and flew off with the PEREGRINE tailing right behind in hot pursuit. This visual demonstrated their size difference: the Falcon looked like a STARLING chasing a HAWK. On one hand I was sad to see the powerful bird leave, on the other hand I was glad for our river OSPREY, because BALD EAGLES steal fish from them.
This was my first live BALD EAGLE sighting and I have to tell you: pics just can’t do justice to the breathtaking live appearance of this powerful and vibrant Accipitridae species!! You might like to know that there have been reports that a BALD EAGLE has been present at Swann Lake, so the ‘small’ but mighty PEREGRINE succeeded with its territorial branch claim. Wait! Maybe not? Yesterday morning I heard the FALCON’S irritated call again and saw it perched high in the tree. Just as I took a pic. of PEREGRINE and CORMORANT perched neighborly to each other, a huge bird flew off the Eucalyptus tree. Again the PEREGRINE chased after it and the size difference made me wonder: Had the BALD EAGLE returned? This chase flurry was watched by the blasé OSPREY from a safe tree perch.

neighborly PEREGRINE & DBL. -crested CORMORANT

I was stepping closer to the bank to get a better look at the preening RED-throated LOON when out of the corner of my eye I caught a slight movement in the grass. It was a windless day, so I suspected a small critter caused the grass shiver. I turned into a statue in the hope of discovering the ‘who had done it’ imp. Within a few seconds the grass quiver resumed and a beautiful, healthy looking Santa Cruz Aquatic Garter Snake slithered over to the neighboring grass patch, where it vanished without a trace. The little ones amuse me with their ‘now you see me, now you don’t’ speed. Did you know that 18-28 inches long Garter Snakes go hunting in the water for frogs, their life expectancy is 10 years and that they don’t lay eggs? These snakes are viviparous, meaning that they birth live young ones, who developed inside of the parent’s body. I always consider a snake encounter a treat, because I regard them as a sign of a well balanced ecosystem and so I elatedly I continued my walk.

SANTA CRUZ GARTER SNAKE(googled:californiaherps)

Be sure to check out these 2 upcoming San Lorenzo River ventures:
1.The Estuary Project is happening on Sat. March 17th. Click here for info. details.
2. Jeff Kaplan, the Director of The Common Language Program, is leading a bilingual river bird walk on 3/24. How great is that? Click here to get more info. details. Don’t miss it: he is a fine birder with great knowledge and a good sense of humor.
Happy river greetings to all of you, jane

rainy river morning…

River Olympics

Dear Jane and Other Devotees of Nature,

As  usual, I missed the Olympics and Oscars , but happily caught a glimpse right here on the San Lorenzo River of some pretty outstanding  performances by the mating COMMON GOLDENEYES – carried out without benefit of celebrities and trophies.  Or I guess you could say that  the gleaming trophies will be the baby Goldeneyes, born sometime this summer in Canada or Alaska. Common Goldeneyes are known to bird lovers as  having the most dramatic courtship displays among all waterfowl.  And it’s all  happening right here, right now,  on the urban stretch of the San Lorenzo River!

I went out walking along the river last Sunday about 3 pm, poking along as usual, hoping to find some mating Goldeneyes which I had never seen in person.  My first sighting was a glorious OSPREY circling high  over the Water St. Bridge where I began my walk.  I was pleased to have see 27 different species (click here)  during the next two hours.    But I hadn’t seen Goldeneyes,  the Olympic performance I was most hoping to see.  Then, just as I was about to leave the river, there   they were, 15 of them– right under the Water St. Bridge.  I was lucky.  I learned only later that dawn and dusk  are the best times of day  to witness this event that takes place every year beginning about this time – in early or mid- march.   There were 2 males and 9 females swimming peacefully off to one side while 2 other males and 2 other females held center stage about 30 feet from their non-active  clan.

Goldeneye Mating 29
9 females and 2 males, floating peacefully off to the side of the main stage.  
Four finalists
The four leading actors, two male and two female.   See below.  

I have just been learning a little  about the Goldeneyes for the last couple of weeks, and loved the wonderful photo that you posted last week, Jane.  But this was my first experience of actually seeing them live in HD.  Fortunately, ornithologists have been paying close attention to the complex and dramatic displays of this waterfowl for a long time!   The detailed reports in Birds of North America, the largest compilation of recent research on birds, is always  a huge help in figuring out the complexity of the mysterious behaviors of birds.  The end-of-day lighting was not the greatest for taking photost, but the subject was stellar! I clicked away as fast as I could.  Then I came home and tried to figure out what I had recorded.  The following is my somewhat dubious efforts to put together my photos with all the information in BNA.

BNA identifies fourteen different postures or series of postures of the male Goldeneye, each with a separate name: head-throw, slow head-throw-kick, fast head-throw-kick, bowsprit, head-throw-bowsprit, nodding, masthead, ticking, head–flick, head-forward, head–up, head-up-pumping, head-back, and head back –bowsprit..    Since I only this year became aware of this annual show, I’m not at all sure what I’m seeing in each  of the photos below.  But I’m going to make a wild guess based on some descriptions I found in BNS- and maybe a reader will correct me if I get it wrong.  The rest of my blog piece is all photos, with captions trying to guess at what I am seeing.

Goldeneye Mating 23
This could be part of ‘Nodding’ where a ‘male stretches and withdraws his head at about a 45 degree angle, tracing an elliptical path with his  bill.”  Normally one doesn’t see any white on the neck of a male Goldeneye. The 2 females seem interested.
Goldeneye Mating 18
Might this have been  part of ‘Masthead’ , a series of postures where the drake first stretches his head parallel to water and then quickly jerks his head upright pointing bill vertically, then snaps his head back down to water lever and holds it there while paddling.’  In any case the female seems disinterested. or perhaps playing  hard to get.  
Goldeneye Mating 22
Here the male does the famous Head-throw  which seems to appeal to   the two females.  
Two followers2
The 2 females maybe decide they have a winner and stay close behind?


Goldeneye Mating 32
BNA doesn’t mention lifting oneself high out of the water.  
Goldeneye Mating 26
A second male doing a Head-throw – to keep up with the competitor?
Goldeneye Mating 10
BNA says  that in copulation, which averages 8.3 seconds, the “male overlies female, then holds nape of her neck, at which point she is nearly submerged.  I can’t tell what is going on here.  
Goldeneye Mating 5
There was  a lot of diving, kicking and splashing going on – to what end it was unclear. Do they snack while they court?
Goldeneye Mating 17
Two males and one female.  Clearly I needed a video to watch the sequencing and complexity of all this.
P1050619 2.jpg
I was really puzzled by this photo.  Could it be what BNA describes as a ‘copulatory display’ in which the drake ‘turns on one side and stretches out wing and leg” He seems to be holding onto something (a submerged female? )with his leg.  I would be thrilled if I captured this display.  
Goldeneye Mating4
BNA describes some ritual female displays during copulation, including ‘ritualized drinking.”   Is the female doing that here?  


Well, we wander through life missing so much that is right under our noses.  It took me 3 years to notice the mating Goldeneyes.  What wonders still await?

Happy birding to all, and to all a good night!




Look Out For River Nesters…

Good Morning Barbara & all you river-y Nature Lovers,

COMMON GOLDENEYE mating ceremony…

The buzzing wildlife proves that the February 1st date is correct as the official start for the breeding/nesting season. The river life is vibrating with high promises of future generations. Our migratory visitors, the COMMON GOLDENEYE and the BUFFLEHEADS, are gathering in big groups to present themselves as desirable mates. Now is prime time to visit the river to see their grande partnering performance. The land birds are flitting through the air, sitting in the trees and bushes, singing their heart out in the hope for a potential partner. For some birds the search has borne fruit and they are already occupied with building nests, such as the MALLARDS. Birds build nests in various locations along the river: rocky levee banks, grassland, underneath bushes, tree holes, tree branches, ground burrows, tule, gravel and sand. The breeding/nesting season is the head-up time for us humans to respect our fellow critters plunge into parenthood by staying clear of nests, avoid removing trees, bushes, brambles, grassland. I know, how difficult that is for us humans, because spring channels /triggers our inner ‘Spic and Span’ voice to include Nature, who dreads our zealous activities.

CINNAMON TEAL…not an ‘odd duck’

Coming across the Trestle bridge last week, I noticed an odd ‘Duck’ absorbed in foraging amongst AMERICAN COOTS. As I got closer the odd ‘Duck’ remodeled my perception and became a gorgeous CINNAMON TEAL. The sun was doing an epic job of highlighting the ravishing feather colors. This rust colored dabbler belongs to the Duck/Geese family, prefers short distance migration to marshes and ponds. Getting bored with its company, the Cinnamon Teal decided to meander over to the MALLARD crowd. As the beauty approached the females‘ heads snapped up, took a second look at the stunning approacher and determined this visit clearly had to be discouraged. Three Females lower their necks and charged at the Cinnamon Teal, who casually changed directions and took up foraging. On my way back, I saw the Cinnamon Teal had unearthed a friendlier MALLARD assembly that allowed her presence.

SONG SPARROW hoping for a mate…

The 17 SNOWY EGRETS along the river shore were debating who could be close to whom. There was lots of raised head feathers, jumping at each other, splashing water and crackling calls. Then they would calm down, stalking through the shallow water until one of them made a wrong move, provoking the next flurry fluster. In the meantime a SONG SPARROW was sweetening the air with a mating song in a nearby bush, a CANADA GOOSE couple was bathing amicably together, establishing that different methods can reach the same goal.

Downtown Streets Team hearing about river nesters…

On Jan. 16th I introduced you to Downtown Streets Team and over the last few months I have been exchanging bird observations with some members. Their interest and questions birthed the idea of introducing all the levee cleaning Teams to the river bird world. Their Director, Greg Pensinger, graciously arrange for our tour last Thursday. The breeding season was the perfect chance to talk about the various ground nesters since the Teams are likely to encounter them such as SONG SPARROW, JUNCO, TOWHEE, MEADOWLARK, KILLDEER, SPOTTED SANDPIPER, PIED-billed GREBE, MALLARDS. I acquainted them with the bird nest alarm systems they might witness along the levee: bomb diving, luring potential predators away from nest by faking injury, sharp, high pitch, repetitive agitated calls, bird bursting off the ground and bushes, back and forth flying above a location. It turned out to be a wonderful, interactive walk that fostered great questions, creative ideas, interesting observations, knowledge exchange and inspiring feedbacks. So many offered great, insightful remarks, that demonstrated they cared and” We need to protect the environment” was a repeated statement. A member’s shy reflection” They are just like us!” snuggled into my heart. I felt so fortunate to share my time with all of them. Their eagerness and willingness to learn about environment showed that they are definitely a part of the river stewardship Team. I proudly welcome them aboard with open arms!!!

Downtown Streets Team on the tour…

The other day I was checking on the Estuary Project by the Riverside Ave. bridge and discovered a RED-throated LOON preening itself meticulously on the sandbank. It felt like déjà vu, because months ago my last RED-throated LOON sighting had been in the same area. Of course I hope to see it again, but migratory visits are often fleetingly brief..                     Nesting greetings to you all, jane

RED-throated LOON visit…


Where Have All The Rivers Gone?

Dear Jane and Friends of the River,

I just turned 80! I’m so grateful to have been allowed to hang out on this amazing planet long enough to get to know the San Lorenzo River so much better.  Along with a fine celebration,

Sandra Postel
Sandra Postel on a research trip

I received a very interesting new book (2017) called Replenish, the Virtuous Cycle of Water and Prosperity.  ReplenishAmong a long list of writings and accomplishments, the author, Sandra Postel, won the 2017 Water Prize for restoring billions of gallons of water to depleted rivers and wetlands. Each chapter in the book tells a detail-rich and hopeful story of successful efforts around the world to reverse the ecological, economic and social damage created by the levees, dams, diversions, and other 20th century feats of engineering.  These are inspiring stories and I highly recommend the book.

Sadly, Postel’s last chapter asks the question:

On balance, are rivers getting healthier, aquifers being recharged, floodplains being rejuvenated and wetlands being expanded?  Are we becoming more resilient to droughts, floods and fire? Is the water cycle being replenished and repaired?  So far the answer is no.  At best, it’s one step forward, two steps back. “

This book inspires me to redouble our efforts to protect our little corner of the world and not to be part of any ‘two steps back’!   The local Desal Alternatives led a model citizens’ initiative  here in Santa Cruz by successfully blocking the city’s ecologically and economically costly desalinization plant and at the same time providing a far more creative and planet-friendly solution to water security than offered by the City.   The solution promoted by Desal Alternatives was to recharge our county’s depleted aquifers with re-directed San Lorenzo River water that would otherwise just run into the ocean.  After a long struggle, which required a ballot measure, this solution finally won City approval.  Postel unfortunately doesn’t mention our inspiring local story, but she gives high praise to the equivalent David vs. Goliath battle in Rockland County,  New York, where another  local citizens’ coalition was able to fend off a multinational  corporation from building a desalting plant.

There are powerful  commercial and recreational interests in Santa Cruz that exert undue pressures on our local government and that do not take into account the protection of our natural resources.  We need to stay alert to any efforts that discount the ecological importance of areas like the San Lorenzo River and its overbuilt delta, Jessie St. Marsh – as well as Pogonip, DeLaveaga Park, Lighthouse Field, and other natural treasures.

Jessie St. Marsh
Jessie St. Marsh dried up and cut down.  The City reports that it has plans to restore the freshwater portion of the original saltwater lagoon.  Let’s strongly support this positive direction! September 22, 2014.  Photo by B. Riverwoman

I haven’t spent much time outside in the last 20 days because of a skin condition on my face – it’s being treated and the doctor has forbidden me to be in the sun for thirty days.  I’m so eager to get back on the River. In the meantime, I have had  to rely on other lovers of the San Lorenzo River birdlife for this week’s river news.

My neighbor and good bird scout, Batya Kagan, keeps a special eye out for my good friends, including the PIED-BILLED GREBES.  I mentioned in my last post that I hadn’t seen any Pied-billed Grebes with the telltale bright black ring on bright white bills, a sign that they are ready to mate.  But the most recent news flash from Batya is that the birds, both sexes (!), are now decked out and ready to start their families.  They are late starters, and also tend to be the last nesters of breeding season on the river.  Good luck to them!

Pied-billed Grebe best copy
PIed-billed Grebe, August 1, 2015, San Lorenzo River, photo by B. Riverwoman

And speaking of mating, a faithful observer of birds  on the San Lorenzo River, Shantanu Phukan, reported on eBird on February 12 that he saw “two pairs of  COMMON GOLDENEYES with the males repeatedly displaying with the head flexed back.”

common goldeneye
Displaying male Common Goldeneye, Google image

Did it look like this photo from Google Images, Shantanu? I have never seen this.  I wonder if  the Goldeneyes mate here before they travel north in March and April to nest in Canada and Alaska?  Come to think of it –   depending on the gestation period – that might make sense.  The timing could be tricky, though.

Did I already mention in one of my earlier posts that local birder Randy Wardle publishes a monthly list on the Monterey Bay Birds website letting us know what to watch for in the upcoming month.  Here’s what he says about the birds that will likely appear in Santa Cruz in the month of February, birds we are likely to find on the river:

“ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRDS and BUSHTITS are nesting now, and the first DARK-EYED JUNCO and other cavity-nesters may begin nest building this month as well.  ALLEN’S HUMMINGBIRD numbers continue to grow and RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRDS begin to arrive toward the end of the month….  TREE SWALLOWS are the first migrant swallows to appear, joining the wintering population.  VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS start coming mid-February, followed by NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOWS and then CLIFF SWALLOWS and BARN SWALLOWS.  Among warblers…, in February ….YELLOW-RUMPED and TOWNSEND’S are still common, ORANGE-CROWNEDS will continue to be sparse in the lowlands until numbers start swelling toward the end of the month with the arrival of spring migrants.  And finally, “February can sometimes be a stormy month, so continue to watch the weather forecast and be ready to search for any rarities that might get blown ashore.  This is also a good time to clean your feeders to help prevent the spread of diseases among bird species.

Bushtit nest,Google image

I remember several years ago joining a bird walk with Steve Gerow when one of our group sadly found a Bushtit’s nest like this one that had fallen onto the ground.  It was empty by the time we found it.

According to a staff report at the last City Council meeting on February 13, the Benchlands homeless campground will be shut down on February 28th and moved to 1220 River St.  The City Council unanimously approved a three-phase plan to replace the current encampment with a more structured program with more services.  It’s been tried here before –  and failed, says homeless activist Brent Adams.

Benchlands Encampment, February 6, 2018 Photo by B. Riverwoman

Let’s hope it will work this time. I have actually enjoyed the brightly colored and orderly cluster of tents along the river, knowing that at least 50 or more people had minimal shelter and the comfort of sleeping legally.  I think the provision of porta-potties and washing stations has provided better protection for the river than campers hiding much closer to  the river without any services.

Quote of the day: “The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land” Luna Leopold

Wishing you all lots of bird friends and happy walks in nature.







my crowing & river walk harvest

Good Morning Barabara & Nature Lovers,

spring greetings to you from the river levee…

Your last post reminded me of our previous CROW discussion. I had mentioned the steady City increase of CROWS over the last few years, which seemed to coincide with the plastic sheets covering of nearby farms. As you mentioned the CROWS like open area and they used to forage on agriculture land, but now I rarely see them there anymore since the soil is buried under sun heated plastic. CROWS live in groups and their City population explosion caused my bird bias watcher dilemma after watching them hacking ‘my’ songbird fledglings to pieces. Mind you: I am not falling out of my ‘Nature love’ tree over wildlife feeding itself. It’s just their presence can severely decrease the smaller bird flocks as I have witnessed in my neighborhood. CROWS are scavengers and definietly no dummies. So people’s sloppy litter habits are CROWS’ fast food dreams come true: the fishermen leave and the CROWS arrive, picking over the left behind bait and unfinished snacks. The tourists come and the CROWS join them, rumaging through their trash. The Benchland camps litter arrived, welcomed by an ever increasing amount of CROWS. My Westside friend told me that the CROWS arrive by the hundreds in the evening to roost close to Meder Park.
Last week my levee walks harvested these anecdotes and photos for you:

a sparrowed tree…

SATURDAY: On this early morning only 3 other levee walkers had the critters enjoying their tranquil habitat. Unhindered by human traffic they calmly foraged in the grass, bushes and along the shoreline. A sun bathed WHITE-crowned SPARROW was feeding on a Gumplant seed pod on a dried out stalk, ignoring the pods on the ground. Again I didn’t see any Golden-crowned SPARROWS nor did I hear them. They have been sparse along the levee this winter season and rarely have I heard their distinct call. An unknown bird call from the big Cypress trees by the Kaiser Stadium had me cranning my neck, trying to locate the bird in the thick branch clusters. A HAWK, dashing into the tree, helpfully pinpointed the mystery bird, who crashed out of the branches, pursued by the RED-shouldered HAWK. Seeing them fly, the escapee clearly was a FALCON, because of the long narrow tail and smaller body size. The chaser returned to the Cypress, was joined by an other RED-shouldered Hawk. After a brief discussion they headed over to the Jessie St Marsh trees.

getting ready for mouse hunt…

SUNDAY: I arrived at the Mike Fox Re-Vegetation project to water the donated plants from the generous Elkhorn Nursery. The RED-shouldered HAWK eyed me alertly from a nearby tree. It flew over to a pole, triggering a short lived CROW attack. Suddenly the HAWK’s body tensed, shot off its perch, zipped down to the river, returned to the pole and ate its mouse catch, smacking its beak while watching me water, got bored and flew off. A GREEN HERON startled me, when it practically landed right next to me by the Riverside Ave. bridge. A young woman came up and asked me what bird I was watching. I loaned her my monocular and she was so excited to see the GREEN HERON at the waterline that she made my day.

GREEN HERON delights young woman….

TUESDAY: Saw my levee friends on the Trestle path and had a wonderful schmooze about river birds. She brought up that he had heard the OSPREY call above their Seabright area homes. Running outside he saw 2 OSPREY circle above him, calling to each other before heading North. It turned out that only a few streets over I had heard that their call at the same time. Just like him, I had run outside to see 2 OSPREYS and a HAWK circling above me and then heading North. We had to marvel about that coincidence and cherish our neighborly river connection.

AMERICAN COOT showing off ‘ready to breed’ dot on top of beak…

THURSDAY: My daughter asked me what I thought about Benchland campers’ tents right by the river waterline. I was unaware of that and went to check it out. Turns out the usual campsite had been cleared for cleaning. This meant that campers had moved their tents down to the river and were using the tree branches for their clothes lines, were washing clothes in the river and their trash was piling up right next to the water. Looking around I didn’t see any birds. I talked briefly to the Rangers, who were busy containing the campers activities as best as they could. The City is working on finding an agreeable location that will have less environmental impact. It looks like the achievement will be accomplished by the beginning of March.
Chirpy cheers to you all, jane

Where Are You Going, Crows?

Hello Jane and All Other Bird Lovers,

Lately I’ve been stumped when people ask me ‘What’s with all the crows these days?”  Like me, they are astonished and mystified at the huge numbers of these darksome creatures that sometimes, especially at sunset, seem to be taking over the skies here in Santa Cruz.  (Spoiler alert: It turns out that crow populations are not increasing nationwide nor is a Hitchcock nightmare about to descend upon us.)

10 crows in tree
Crows gathering in pre-roosting site,  February 4, 2018, photo by B. Riverwoman

I decided I had better do a little online research and also pay closer attention to the actual crows around me!  Here’s what I discovered when I googled ‘Why are there so many crows?’  First of all, the huge concentrations of crows  is a five-month winter phenomenon, starting sometime in November and ending in March when the crows disperse to their individual territories to start building their nests and raising their young.   Add to this the fact that large flocks of crows head south each year from Canada for the more hospitable  winter climate of the states, adding large numbers to the ranks of local crows.   Further add to this the fact that crows are wonderfully communal creatures, mating for life, and even depending on first and second year non-breeding siblings to help raise their new broods.  During breeding season they are isolated from the rest of their clan .  But once the kids are raised,  I like to imagine,  the crowd-loving crows all get together in  raucous celebration of their temporary freedom  from childcare responsibilities and in joy at hanging out with the rest of their  huge clan that they don’t get to see for nine months.  Whatever the true motivations and feelings are,  these intrepid socialists gather in the hundreds, the thousands and even – in at least one documented case in Oklahoma – in the millions  – with the purpose of all sleeping in a few trees together!  It’s called roosting.  Why do they do this?  Primarily for safety say the experts.  During the long winter nights, they are especially vulnerable to nighttime predators like  Great-horned Owls.  Roosting in large groups gives them more protection.

Crow entering tree
Another crow flies in to pre-roosting site, February 4, 2018, Photo by B. Riverwoman

In the process of reading about crows, I also discovered that crows  were originally drawn to agricultural lands outside of cities.  But they were unwelcome guests –– driven off by guns, firecrackers and furious farmers who didn’t appreciate their fine brains.  So over time the crows  have congregated more and more in urban areas like ours – another reason that we see so many of them.  They are mostly ground foragers preferring open spaces with just enough nearby trees for cover.  They are never found in  densely vegetated areas like forests.  Being undiscriminating omnivores, they will eat just about anything – from wild plants and seeds to carrion and human garbage.  This is another reason we city dwellers see so many of them.  We have so much garbage lying around.

The one thing that I wasn’t able to find out from the online literature was more about their roosting.   Close to sundown, I got to witness first hand  large flocks of crows (about 250)   flying in from all directions and assembling on some sycamores and cottonwoods along the river. They never stopped emitting their strident chatter,  creating a huge, cacophonous racket that never stopped.   Some of them hopped into the river for a very splashy bath, others  got a drink of water, others gathered bedtime snacks along the sandbars and most of them settled into an already crowded tree for the night.  I assumed they had found their night time roosting spot and were settling in for the night. I seems I was wrong.

drinking crow
Crow getting a drink of water near pre-roosting site. February 4, 2018, photo by B. Riverwoman
crows - flock of 270
Crows bathing together in river north of Water St. Bridge, near pre-roosting site, anuary, 2018, photo by B. Riverwoman

The second time I watched the scene, I again saw them all settling into  the cottonwoods along the Benchlands.  But I hung around longer this time.  After about 30 minutes it slowly dawned on me that they were peeling off alone or in groups of 2 or 3 , leaving the tree I was photographing more and more empty – until it was entirely bare.  Now I saw dark shapes slipping silently downstream in the twilight, no longer a loud chorus of wildly chattering birds.

two crows flying
Crows leaving pre-roosting site, heading off downstream, February 4, 2018, Photo by B. Riverwoman

Were the sycamores that I had been watching  only a way station?   It suddenly made sense to me that the wily crows might not have wanted to advertise their actual sleeping place with so much drama.  It was as if they had chosen their first place as a site where they could  greet each other,  pass on messages of the day, bathe, snack, and maybe talk about where they would go next.  But perhaps haunted by memories of furious farmers with guns, or of Great Horned Owls (crows have prodigious memories), they understandably did not want to advertise where they actually planned to spend the night.   I tried to follow them.  I crossed the bridge, followed them downstream in the direction they were all going and peered out into the distance.  But no sounds and no flocks.  They had given me the slip!   I went home and started reading and discovered the term ‘pre-roosting site’.   Ah!  That was the concept I needed to understand what I had just seen.   I am now seriously on the trail of a final roosting site!  I’m wondering how many birds might be found there.  I wish I could tell them I carry only a camera and a loving heart, not a gun.  Nor do I want to eat them.  I’m a vegan.

While in pursuit of the departing crows I saw 10 CANADA GEESE AND 2 GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE,  calmly nibbling away on the grassy lawns near the Duck Pond.  This was only my second sighting of the latter less common goose, bringing my total goose species to three this year – including the much rarer Snow Goose I wrote about several months ago.  The orange legs, white forehead shield and pinkish beak of the Greater White-fronted Goose give her quite a fanciful look, don’t you think?

Greater White-fronted Goose.jpg
Greater White-fronted Goose, February 4, 2018, grassy lawn near Duck Pond, photo by B. Riverwoman

Bad as the world can seem some days under the new Trump regime, there is still lots to crow about, isn’t there!  At least in the world of birds. Let’s keep cawing loudly about these wonderful birds on our river!

My best to all lovers of nature.






river watching…

Good Afternoon Barbara & Nature Lovers,

HAPPY, CHIRPY, CHEERY BIRTHDAY wishes to you, Barbara. As you mentioned, you celebrated your 80 times circling around the sun and now have many new adventures ahead of you. I know that your vim and vigor will allow you to sail right into life’s amazing fullness and bring you joy.

‘old’ river mouth

Will our ‘old’ San Lorenzo River mouth ever return? Or has the high & wide berm established itself permanently there? Even last week’s high tide waves weren’t able to put a dent into the berm. Remember that last year Coastal Commission granted Public Works request to build a berm by the Main Beach to prevent flooding due to summer lagoon and channelize the river mouth towards the Wharf? The ‘new’ river mouth closed only a few times last year thus creating lagoon condition. From my lay-person observations, the new berm seems to have allowed more sand build up in front of the ‘old’ river mouth. Has the added Main Beach berm added to the widening of the Main and Seabright Beaches? The ‘new‘ river mouth is flatter, from which the grateful seals benefit since catching fish is easier in shallow water. And of course I curious if that will effect the steelhead count…

current ‘old’ river mouth

Last Saturday Nature offered me a rare, exquisite treat: our river female OSPREY was taking a bath across from the Trestle trees. Usually the OSPREY couple prefers bathing behind the Mike Fox skateboard park, but that was occupied by 2 fishermen. So she had to make do with this new cleaning location, which required a lengthy security check of her surroundings. Once she deemed herself safe she drank some water (was she checking the water quality?), then she dipped her head in, decided she wanted more depth, waded into deeper water, dunked head and neck several times, shook the water off and rechecked her surrounding carefully. Safety concluded, she waded in further & plunged her whole body under water, surfaced, shook her wings to send the water drops flying. This bathing ceremony lasted quite a while, then she took to the air while shaking off the water and landed on a Trestle tree branch to let the sun dry her. I wished all of you could have witnessed this spectacular event, because it was magnificently impressive: the strength of her body was visibly vibrating with a majestic life force and her strong flapping wings illustrated her undeniable powerful mastery of the sky. The rest of my day was soaked with joy that I saw the OSPREY’s bathing ritual.

take off…

Frankly I don’t recall seeing such a steady, big presence of COMMON GOLDENEYE on the San Lorenzo River as this winter season. There have been large flocks in previous years, but they haven’t stayed for any length of time. This year the average beak count has been in the forties on the lower section. The BUFFLEHEAD flocks on the other hand have been fairly small and more skittish this season. They keep diving and surfacing at any perceived threat: a COOT gets too close to the flock and down they go, a gull comes in for the landing and down they go. Their skittish behavior uses up their energy, which they have to replenish with food and rest, but that is difficult due to their jittery conduct. The BUFFLEHEAD crowd clears their favorite area below and above the Riverside Ave. bridge when the anglers show up for 3 days a week. Overall the anglers have been disappointed by their steelhead catches, which were have been small in body size and quantity.


May Nature’s beauty kiss your eyes and soul, jane