let’s river schmooze…

Good Morning Dear Nature Compadres,

the CLIFF SWALLOWS returned…

Since our last river schmooze I have been busy watching the return of the migratory CLIFF SWALLOWS and taming the weedy growth fiesta along the Estuary stretch. This entails cutting a 2 foot circle around the native plants then cuddling them into rice straw nests. Trial and error taught me that this method gives a clear message to the invaders: smothering the domestic flora is not an option. The TOWHEES and other ground feeding birds wait for me to leave so that they can spread the straw nests apart to search for their delicious food treasures.

TOWHEE frolicking in the straw nest…

When I see Mugwort stems bend their tops after their neighbor was cut back, I wondered if plants grieve…You have to come for a river visit and see the graceful California State grass on the steep East Laurel St. bridge bank. This big patch of Purple Needle grass is a successful testimony how joint efforts create remarkable results: two years ago I discovered a few clumps of this State protected grass on the site and asked the Field-supervisor if it was possible to mow that section after the grass seeded. We repeated that approach last year with the result that the rich seed bank spread and now the native Purple Needle gently veils most of the steep bank. You’ll be charmed by this purplish bank mantle that sways elegantly in the breeze.

Purple Needle grass~ protected Calif. State grass…

I confess that my river ducklings search continues. Two friends saw a Mama MALLARD with 6 chicks at the Crescent bridge on the same day, but that little family has never been seen again. In the meantime the MALLARD couples are spending a lot of leisure time together, which is not off-spring promising. And what is with that birder’s video of a MALLRD Mama taking her brood out to the ocean!? What is she thinking? That observation is ultra unusual since MALLARDS don’t favor open ocean excursions. Hopefully the closed river mouth will prevent the river MALLARD Mamas from such duckling unfriendly behavior.  Watch the video and tell me what you think.

is their leisure time interfering with breeding?

I just have to tell you about this engaging board game that a levee crew member introduced me to. It made my Nature heart flutter, because it asks the players to find the right habitat and food for their birds. The game is called Wingspan and this Bird magazine article gives it a raving review.

camera shy juv. MEW gull …

A while ago I promised to get back to you with an id for the camera shy gull. It  turns out that it was a 1 cycle migratory MEW gull, whose claim to fame is that it perches in trees and is not a garbage-can rummager. I am familiar with the gentle look of the adult MEW gull so this juvenile swam right under my gull id radar…

Is it coincidence that the RED-shouldered HAWK pretty regularly lands close by while I am working at the levee? It perches on the riverwalk signs, in the trees, on the lamp polls to keep an eye me. It is not bothered by any of my activities unless I pull out the camera! No other object I use results in an instant fly off.  So I don’t let myself get tempted anymore to take the most perfect RED-shouldered HAWK pic. Instead we just hang out together as I think of Lira’s grandfather’s relationship with a HAWK and Jen’s search for the HAWK’ nest. In that spirit I send you gentle river greetings~ jane

Lupine rewards aphid rescue with vim & vigor blooming…

sharing river greetings…

Good Morning Dear River Friends,

RED-Shouldered HAWK greeting you…

The sky above the river is dotted with the returned migratory SWALLOWS, so be sure to take a minute to watch their delightful, zippy, zig-zack flights. The mornings and later afternoons are the best times to catch them chasing after their insect food-source. The NORTHERN ROUGHED-winged and VIOLET-green SWALLOW species have come back and still missing on the scene are the BANK, TREE and CLIFF SWALLOWS. Once they arrive our spring messenger crew is assembled along the river, where the different species have their favorite spots: CLIFF and BANK SWALLOWS frequent the lower river bridges, VIOLET-green SWALLOWS love the stretch between the HYW 1 and Water St., NORTHERN ROUGHED-winged flit along the entire urban river reach. It always amuses me how birds and humans share the habit of returning to their preferred ‘restaurants’. The RUBY-crowned KINGLET definitely aims for very specific breakfast trees and bushes, skipping right over the same vegetation to land on its morning plate. The BUFFLEHEADS and COMMON GOLDENEYES adhere to that pattern as well. There are certain spots in the river where they always forage, ignoring other places.

rescued Lupine…

These observations are of great interest to me, because working on the levee restoration it is important to know how the birds and critters respond to the new ‘restaurant’ in their habitat. Birds don’t take new 1gal trees and bushes seriously and snub them vehemently~ not that I blame them, because the young plants are of little use for food, perching or sheltering. It takes on an average of 2 years before birds start testing the flora as a valid part of their lives. The juice sucking insects, on the other hand, are ready to explore any new plant instantly, which makes it hard to get the plants through the important 1st year. If the thirsty munchers can be controlled then the plant can establish itself solidly and is not prey to that kind of insect invasion anymore. My prime example is the yellow Lupine that I rescued from an Aphid infestation in the beginning of this year and is now in full beautiful bloom. This shows there is always room to do better for the river as our Sentinel Op-Ed suggests.

Last Saturday we had our Estuary Project work day, which was a special occasion. The Downtown Street Team(DST) planted 3 buckeyes in memory of the members, who they lost last year. Together the DST members dug the big holes, planted the trees, put straw nests around them and watered them with their messages written on water-soluble paper. Community and DST members gathered and shared time to say good-bye and know that the trees will grow in memory of these DST members.

Blue remembering his lost DST friends…

Yesterday I watched the diminished winter migratory flock of the BUFFLEHEADS and COMMON GOLDENEYES. There are about 4 female and male BUFFLEHEADS left, who seem quite content on the river. The 6 female COMMON GOLDENEYES appear unperturbed that the males already took off to the boreal breeding grounds. Isn’t it curious that the female GOLDENEYES are the first to arrive and the last winter guest to leave? BTW: the COMMON GOLDENEYE species nests in tree cavities just like the COMMON MERGANSER. This breeding behavior requires mature trees close to the chosen waterbody. This time of year the summer and winter migratory birds overlap, which generates a lot of “Welcome back!” and “Farewell ’till late fall” greetings. And yes, I am still waiting to greet the adorable river ducklings…hopefully soon. Chirpy River cheer to you~ jane

winter guest still here~ female COMMON GOLDENEYE…

San Lorenzo River missing ducklings…

Good Morning Dear River Comrades,

NORTHERN ROUGH-winged SWALLOWS…

In the last week one of our the spring messengers arrived at Riverside Ave. bridge. The migratory NORTHERN ROUGH-winged SWALLOWS have been flitting around the area, scoping out possible nesting cavities~ their preferred breeding places. This SWALLOW species is drawn to the ceiling light fixtures underneath the bridge, which were retired when the brighter bridge lights were installed. It’s pretty much impossible to catch a good view of their cavity entries and exits, because it happens so quickly. I invite to come down to the bridge and find out we share the same response: do you find yourself holding your breath as they speed towards a small opening, but suddenly execute a breakneck turn to enter an unexpected cavity? If this behavior is meant to confuse the potential predators then I am proof that their maneuvers are successful. The NORTHERN ROUGH-winged SWALLOWS differ from their other restless cousins, who hardly ever take a landing break. You can find  these new spring greetings perching on the branches and wires that are close to the water. There they take care of their meticulous preening ritual, followed by a brief, well-deserved snooze. Maybe the tiny hooks on the leading edge of their primary feathers require the intense cleaning efforts? If you see a SWALLOW shape fly extremely close over the water surface then you are watching a NORTHERN ROUGH-winged SWALLOWS on their famous dare-devil flight. And no~ they never collide with the water.

last year’s MALLARD MAMA’s pride & joy…

I just have to ask you again: who of you has seen any adorable ducklings decorating the San Lorenzo River? I have been pestering all my river friends if they have seen any and get the response: “Now that you mention it~ no, I haven’t.” Nor have I observed any nesting activity that assure us charming ducklings are on our river horizon. To this date no birder has recorded any ducklings on their e-bird ‘San Lorenzo River’ list. The CANADA GEESE are present on the river and no nest building is taking place nor has anybody mentioned goslings. In previous years we used to see ducklings arrive by middle of February. We witnessed the CANDA GEESE sitting on their nests by now. So by this date many of us had been treated for over a month by the little feather-puffs scurrying after their MALLARD Mama, because they got waylaid snagging that last quick food nibble. It’s interested to observe my reaction to the duckling, gosling absence: At first I figured I was impatient. That was replaced by telling myself I was at the wrong place, time to spot them, which didn’t hold up based on my river friends and e-bird reports. Then I was irritated that nature denied me one of my cheerful spring delights. And now I am hanging out in the deep waters of worrying of ‘what is going on with the MALLARD, CANADA GEESE breeding season?’. Frankly I can’t (nor do I want) imagine our river without these small enchanting spring thrills.

goslings from previous year…

It’s a joy to see our newly planted native greenery doing well. The last two weeks have been warm and at times windy. That weather condition mandated for the tedious hand watering to keep the plants thriving. Maybe my hopeful wish for more much needed rain will come true. After all some other hopeful wishes were fulfilled: the very busy levee maintenance crew found time to install a rope fence at the busy tourist Trestle site and filled the sink hole at the Mike Fox Park site. As mentioned before: I am so grateful for the Park & Rec. Dept. crew, who are always willing to walk that extra 500 miles to make the impossible possible to take care of our Parks and Open Spaces.

sink hole is now filled thanks to levee crew…

And now I am going to the river, because I am curious if I’ll be able to report to you that the CLIFF SWALLOWS migrated back to our river bridges…in the meantime be sure to keep an eye out for our river duckling ~ jane

San Lorenzo River cures my blues…

Good Morning Dear Nature Compadres,

Killdeer…not rocks

Several days ago I was looking down the bank by the Riverside Ave. bridge and 2 ‘pretty’ rocks caught me eye. Taking a closer look the rocks turned into 2 snoozing KILLDEER. It was a joy to see them, because the familiar KILLDEER had been absent for quite some time. Usually I don’t stare at sleeping birds, because it wakes them up, but it was hard to resist admiring their beautiful markings, shimmering in the afternoon sun. I did leave when their eyes popped open and stared right at me. Our Estuary Project volunteer group got to watch how several of us got carried away by our birding passion: we heard the KILLDEER calls, dashed instantly to the river bank, trying to locate them, which we did. Then we had to tell the others why it was so exciting to see them: KILLDEER had previously nested at the Riverside Ave. site, that their chicks looked like cotton-balls on sticks and that they had no fear of nesting on a roof slopes or busy parking lots.

GREAT-blue HERON soothes my blues…

So did you hear me wail Friday, the 12th? That was the day the California Coastal Commission voted against the Riverfront Appeal and turned the bulldozers loose to achieve the 81 feet Project’s mission of changing our Santa Cruz Downtown forever. I really got a bad case of the blues listening to one Coastal Commissioners basing her Appeal rejection on her decades old UCSC time when the San Lorenzo River was in its most neglected phase. I deeply regretted that she hadn’t been back to observe the OSPREY hunting along the river, the RED-shoulder and RED-tailed HAWK gliding over the levee banks, the native bees and butterflies enjoying their increased food sources of native plants. After the Appeal rejection I went to the river to ease my blues. The weeding calmed me down and then the calls of 2 KINGFISHER intrigued me. Of course I had to find out where the second one was perched since KINGFISHERS prefer solitude. Both of them were sitting on the Riverside Ave. wire at safe distance from each other. This wasn’t bird safety COVID distancing, but probably a timid tip-clawing of ‘Should we or shouldn’t we think about parenting?’. Their chasing each other up and down the river was partnered with their incessant, trilling calls. Every time they returned to the wire, they snuck a little closer to each other until they were only inches apart. There they sat side by side, starring off into the distance until one got bored with that and flew into a willow bush. From there it let loose a sharp call that tore the other KINGFISHER off the wire, diving into the same bush and then there was silence~ I respected their privacy and left.

KINGFISHER listening to the willow bush call…

You might be interested in to-day’s City Council agenda #23, proposing to expand the Downtown Plan south of Laurel Street in the hope of creating more height and density to the Washington, Center, Pacific, Front streets without public input process. Personally I am leery of this direction, because it re-designs a brand new Downtown that excludes the public voices.

the San Lorenzo River is the OSPREY’s home…

Today I like to introduce you to Rachel’s Nature appreciation: “I write as a bird and native plant lover and someone who cares about preserving diversity of all creatures including humans like me. Without a healthy earth, we are not healthy. Birds and plants need homes too and this project will disrupt local and migratory breeding areas and eliminate native plants that feed the insects that feed the birds that add to our overall health, not to mention delighting us. Plus, they were here before we were here… we share this town with many creatures who cannot write to you. May my voice be multiplied by theirs, egrets, willows, herons, yarrow, sparrows, California fuchsia,  bees, mugwort, butterflies, alders, flies, coast live oaks, and moths to name a few.” And these 2 volunteers elves send you special river greetings and so do I~ jane

San Lorenzo River is important to us…

A melodic Good Morning to you San Lorenzo River Lovers,

male HOUSEFINCH…

Have you been bathing yourself in the spring sounds? Isn’t this season a listening symphony? Our river visits are serenaded by the birds. Their their hoped-for-wedding announcements surround us from the trees and bushes. It’s truly amazing that their little chests and throats send such a volume of sound to their future mates. Watching them sing you can see that their chests serve as bellows to create the enchanting notes. It takes physical strength and calls for short rests paired with a little nibble on the fresh, juicy spring leaves. In the spring time the shy SONG SPARROW braves the top of a small or medium sized bush to publicize his hopes. Usually you find our SONG SPARROWS in the underbrush of the inside riverbank close to the Riverside Ave. and Laurel St. bridge. The male HOUSE FINCH isn’t familiar with shyness or holding back: he finds a tree branch that sticks way out, perches towards the tip of it, turns loose the most melodious song while his red markings catch our eyes. How fortunate we are to be part of their lives that feed our senses such splendid treats.

shy SONG SPARROW singing his tunes…

This grateful awareness was reflected in your Calif. Coastal Commission letters in support of the Riverfront Project Appeal. Reading through all the correspondence I was moved by your passionate, caring, thoughtful river protection comments. It was exquisite to read how much the San Lorenzo River means and matters to you!! My humongous thanks floats to you on behalf of the river critters and their habitats. My recent interactions in combination with your comments made me realize how many people care for the river and Nature, yet few of us know that. So in the future I’ll introduce you to other wonderful river lovers. I believe it will be an enriching adventure to share our river/Nature connections.

we are having a good time working…

Last Friday I got together with 5 friends at our Trestle site to plant new native residents and do some restoration maintenance. We have worked together for a while and specialize in diving straight into our work momentum. While we work hard, we laugh, talk, are silent, share our joy over healthy plants, mourn the deceased or trampled ones, worry over the anemic sweeties, invent protections for plants, remember the people, who helped plant at the Trestle site and solve our’s and the world’s problems. At the end of our 2.5 hrs flourish we had housed 15 new native plants, removed some ice plant and weeded around the other ones that are establishing themselves nicely. I have been starting to work with small groups again and if you like to join then leave me a blog comment and I’ll get back to you with details.

camera shy gull…

Otherwise I have been busy with allowing gulls to drive me crazy. Specifically the one that would sink its head under water every time I clicked the camera. It caught my attention, because of its light color, dark beak and small size. This gull took offense to the AMERICAN COOT foraging right ‘next door’ and kept chasing it away, although it didn’t mind a big fellow gull on its other side. The small gull became my birder nemesis, because I can’t id it from any of my bird books. Hopefully a savvy gull expert will ease the suspense. Then I had to baffle about the flat, dying tule section right under the Crescent bridge. This occurred over a very short period. The other tule areas are not effected that way. So what happened to this section? It was a favored hang out for MALLARDS, EGRETS, GREEN HERON.

flattened tule patch by Crescent bridge

It was surprising to see a group of 10 female COMMON GOLDENEYES with only 1 male~ that’s quite a sizable harem to attend to. Did the other males already migrate? And talking about migration that reminds me to tell you: The previous President’s policy that weakened wild bird protections is revoked!!! There are still some issues that need to be ironed out, but the main thrust got yanked. With this good news I wish you chirpy well until we connect again~ jane

San Lorenzo River has me zooming…

Good Morning Dear River Friends,

SNOWY EGRETS and GREAT BLUE HERON adorning the San Lorenzo River…

Spring is decorating the river flora with a wide variety of green hues. Nature has this magic touch of making sure that the perfect green appears to emphasize the plant’s blossom color. In the last 10 days my river visits have been sparse, because various San Lorenzo River topics were Zoom flowing through my life. Although I miss my physical river big time I take heart that I was still engaged with the river. You probably you have heard about the proposed Ordinance Amendment for regulating temporary Outdoor Living. It is on to-day’s City Council agenda. As you know I strongly care for the houseless Downtown Street Team(DST) members and the river ecosystems. And since I interact with both I have a different perspective than the people, who are barely familiar with either houseless individuals or the river vegetation.

Serena, a DST member, transplanting seedlings….

The one thing I learned is that the houseless population is as diverse as any other human group. Unfortunately the bad apples catch our attention and become the yard stick for the rest. It’s a fact that I have confrontations with houseless campers, who have destroyed newly housed native plants and/or cut tree branches. The other fact is that I also have had those interactions with neighbors over illegally removing mature trees during nesting season. I have worked with DST members, who knew more about the river habitats than some of my dear friends. I do know that a safe setting takes a lot of anxiety out of a houseless person’s life and that the bad apples do irreparable environment damage. So my wish is that the City and County can find a solution for a safe location that prevents environment damages.

BLACK PHOEBES welcome any promising perch…

And then there was the levee lights topic with its potential night light pollution impact. It was very informative to share a meeting with the Santa Cruz Group of International Dark-sky Association(IDA). My main concern was to get the best wildlife friendly lighting, because artificial night light impacts the hunting of the nocturnal owls and bats, including the raptors, who are twilight hunters. There is this additional topic of interest: The CA Coastal Commission received an Appeal for the proposed 81 feet high Front Street/Riverfront project. You can e-mail your comments with the subject line A-3-STC-21-0013  Riverfront Mixed-Use Building to the CA Coastal Commission by March 5th 2021 at CentralCoast@coastal.ca.gov

the dynamite volunteer DST crew…

It was especially wonderful to work with DST crew and my friend at the Mike Fox Park. It was a welcome highlight during my river visit drought. The City’s COVID guidelines require that our volunteer groups remain small. That group size reduction didn’t hold us back from having a good time planting 16 native plants in less than 2 hours. If you would watch us work together then you would notice the easy flow of our camaraderie. Who knows maybe one day you join us~

unusual shallow water at the Riverside Ave. bridge…

Previously I have mentioned that the river water level is so low. Nothing has changed. Now you can watch the waterfowl walk across the river to reach the swimming depths. There are a few stretches that allow the Mallards to swim and dive for their food goodies. I see the OSPREY circling over the river and refraining from diving, knowing full well that the shallow water would break her neck. The KINGFISHER’s hunting perches are now reduced to a small set of willows that hang over a deeper water section. Mary, a DST member, was telling me that she kept her eyes open for the KILLDEERS, who favor wide shoreline areas. Actually I have been expecting to see more shoreline birds along the low water line. Maybe they will arrive when I return to my usual river walking…In the meantime my eyes are feasting on the great number of picturesque SNOWY EGRETS, who are adorning the banks. Sending you happy spring chirps~ jane 

San Lorenzo River rewards my change of plans…

Good Morning Dear Nature Visitors,

sediment build up at San Lorenzo River mouth…

Yesterday I had plans to briefly check the river point and then have a serious removal talk with a few, feisty weeds at the Mike Fox Park restoration site. It became obvious that my intentions were on shifty grounds when my pace slowed down to watch a woman weed along the cliff at the Seabright Beach restoration project. To be honest, I was hoping that she was the keeper of a magic weeding secret. Her bent back, tool in one hand pulling grass out with the other was proof that there are no magic, secret methods~ only tedious, yet therapeutic labor gets the job done.

woman weeding at the Seabright Beach restoration site…

I got further waylaid by noting the shocking disappearing cliff above the Seabright Beach. The last storm and rains didn’t just nibble on the slopes. They had a royal  erosion feast, which narrowed the spine of the ridge conspicuously. Walking to the river overlook, I was taken back by the sediment build up in the riverbed and the shores. This development wasn’t visible, because for months we had a high water level until the storm breached the sandbar. Or did the 2 trench diggers succeed with their breach deed the day before the storm? We had a very short exchange when they came back up, because I wasn’t interested in listening to the guy raving how ‘cool it was to watch the water gush out’  and they weren’t interested in hearing that the fish population suffers from the rapid drop of the water level. …now  back to the current water level, which is very low and the flow is slow. After the rains the mountain water usually keeps draining into the river, elevating the water height with its strong flow. So this present situation is surprising, because the river resembles the late summer conditions when the winter water supply gets exhausted. I had enough with flustering surprises and looked for something familiar. The river residing PEREGRINE in the Trestle trees fulfilled my wish and required a closer view from the Trestle bridge. My walk towards the river was escorted by an  amazing amount of SNOWY EGRETS, lining the shores and the water. One of them caught my attention, because it kept hopping around on the Trestle rocks. Upon closer observation it became obvious that the white rascal was chasing a harassed bird, who would fly off and come back.

SNOWY EGRET chasing the WHITE WAGTAIL…

They were far away so I couldn’t identify the bird and guessed the SNOWY EGRET was after the poor SPOTTED SANDPIPER. Then, just before its last take off, I saw the white belly for a split second. I played with the thought that it was the WHITE WAGTAIL, who- much to my regret- I still hadn’t sighted at the San Lorenzo River. Suddenly the man across the cliff started pointing his camera at the rocks. I suspected that the little bird had returned and that it was the WHITE WAGTAIL. Instantly I pilgrimaged towards the hoped for  sight of the river rarity. Once closer I saw that it was indeed the WHITE WAGTAIL. The photographer was very patient with my lengthly outpour of happiness over my lucky WHITE WAGTAIL moment. Coming from England he is used to seeing lots of them on the British shores and wondered if the little traveller was lonely. We 2 immigrants watched ‘our migrant comrade’ busily foraging and noticed that it behaved quite at ease and it actually seemed content to be free of its species’ food competition. Since the photographer was the youngest of 9 kids, he decided that the WHITE WAGTAIL was thanking its luck stars to roam on its own. After I enjoyed 2 dawdling hours that blew my plans to smithereens I opted out of visiting the feisty weeds. I know they don’t mind waiting…

my 1st sighting of WHITE WAGTAIL at the San Lorenzo River…

I am leaving you with this good news: Hurray for President Biden! He delayed the previous administration rule to gut the  Migratory Bird Treat Act, which had been announced on the National Bird Day

BARROW’S GOLDENEYE- photo credit ‘allaboutbirds.org’

.We had an other rarity on the river: a BARROW’S GOLDENEYE, who has a more sloppy head than the COMMON GOLDENEYE. Since they prefer lakes and shallow water, we hardly ever see them in the river. They breed in remote upper Canada, making it difficult to estimate their population.

My wish for you is that Nature visits you~ jane 

the storm is coming and so is Spring…

Good Morning dear Nature-awed Readers,

bulldozer is back & so are blossoms…

Ever since the Inauguration day I have greeted the mornings with more ease. It’s soothing to know that I can read the morning news without dreading that the environment took an other legislative hit. Last Saturday morning I planned to treat my new mood to a quiet meander along the river while others were prepping for their day. Plans and reality didn’t match up, because there was already a bulldozer zipping back and forth by the river mouth sandbar. It was moving sand towards the Main Beach, lowering the height of the berm that has been building up over time. One of my surfer friends told me that the City was hoping that the reduced sandbar would allow the waves to break the river mouth open. That did happen around midnight from Saturday to Sunday, but the river water level rose quickly again. So Monday morning the bulldozer was back with the mission to ease the very anxious nerves of the San Lorenzo River communities. Their nerves are raw, because Tuesday night high winds and heavy rains are expected, which could cause heavy debris flow due to the CZU Mountain fires and an open river mouth promises the water won’t back up. Some of my San Lorenzo Valley friends have been already asked to evacuate. I am hoping that the joint efforts of the waves and the bulldozer achieve an open river mouth. The bulldozer wasn’t the City’s only attempt to prepare for the storm. The firemen were involved training for river rescues along the levee. The river birds didn’t take kindly to the life lines being thrown in their direction and they flew off.

firemen training for river rescue…

I was getting blasé with people watching and allowed myself to let Nature drape her spell on me. My eyes landed on the ready- to-burst open Buckeye bud. I almost bent down to greet it with a kiss. It looked so healthy and strong! It is one of the native trees that Kirsten grew from a seed and we planted it last year. This species has a really hard time establishing itself in its first year, so if you can coax it through its start-up phase then there is a good chance you have a winner. I was thrilled to see that two more Buckeye had set buds and couldn’t wait to tell my co-volunteers about the marvelous news. Spring is the time that lets us know which restoration plants are celebrating either a re-seeding or succeeded establishing roots. I admit my close bond with our planted river vegetation created a keen, protective interest in their lives. This tends to make my spring levee walks an emotional rollercoaster: joy when they made through an other year, grief that life took a tool. The good news is that our restoration survival rate is high. So now you know why you might see kissing a plant…

Buckeye bud~ ready to burst open…

On the way home I stopped to watch the fisherman amble towards the bulldozer when my river compadres walked up to tell me they had a HUMMINGBIRD nest right outside their window. The story got interrupted by the OSPREY’s darting out of the Trestle trees, aiming straight at a GOLDENEYE, who quickly dove under water. We were all flabbergasted by this unusual surprise attack, because none of us had ever seen an OSPREY choose waterfowl over fish. The black and white beauty kept circling above us and our eyes feasted on her glorious sight thanks to her slow, majestic glide. When we parted we agreed to celebrate the sight as a good omen for our day.
My best wishes are flowing to the San Lorenzo Valley community that they be safe during the storm days~ jane

sign of the future: 2 flocks getting along mighty fine…

river Cupid nibbles, WAGTAIL and what matters…

Good Morning Dear Nature Schmoozers,

these days of leisure are over…

I am here to tell you that spring is nibbling on our feathered river friends. Why am I saying that? Because in the last week the bird Cupid has been busily darting across the water, through the trees and bushes, spreading the rumor: ” Mating makes you happy!”. At first hardly any birds tested that message and now many doubters have turned into convinced believers. Take the MALLARDS: Two weeks ago there were either no or just a few MALLARDS on the lower river stretch. Back then they calmly rested, foraged alone or with their sidekicks along the shoreline. That scene changed dramatically within a week. Now the water surface is housing up to forty MALLARDS, who are fevered up thanks to Cupid’s arrows. The males are treading water as fast as they can when they sight a female, ready to convince her that they are the perfect one. They don’t bother to notice that she has another male in tow, who of course is deeply insulted for being overlooked. So the quacking discussions start and often they end up in feather ruffle brawls. The females will add her two cents worth of quacks, watch for a while and then start foraging. She won’t be enjoying that for long before a third and sometimes forth male arrives to remind her the season for pecking daintily at the Tule is over. Presently the females keep popping up from underneath males. A clear indicator that sweet little ducklings will decorate our river and make us tweet with delight. The SONG SPARROW is throwing his head in the air, opens his beak to practice his luring tunes. Admittedly they still need some fine tuning before his song becomes the aria she just can’t resist. And then there is the male HOUSE-FINCH, who is following his Cupid choice through the bushes. Obviously she is immune to the Roman god’s memo, because she pays him no attention and keeps flying off. He might have better luck if he resorted to the beautiful melody his species is well known for. Most of us think that songbirds just have to open their beak and these enchanting mating songs flutter out. I fancy that the songbirds wished that was the case, because it takes patient practice to release the song that convinces her that Cupid’s rumor is true.

SPOTTED SANDPIPER shaking off after bathing…

Well, I finally got to see the WHITE WAGTAIL. And no! I didn’t see the rarity at the river mouth as I had hoped. The white and black enchanter has frequented the river cliff area less, because the high water level has devoured the shoreline. My friend and I spotted the WHITE WAGTAIL feasting on the seaweed at Cowell beach. The delicate, elegant body was surprisingly small, about the size of a SPOTTED SANDPIPER. We had just detected the migrant when we watched in horror a beachgoer heading towards our long awaited find. We were worried that our joy would be cut short, because the elusive bird would be chased away by the beachgoer. We watched with amazement how the WHITE WAGTAIL kept flying a few feet in front of him and start foraging again. The man turned back without ever being aware how close he was to a rare bird, who attracted birders from far away such as the bird visitors we met in the parking lot and the photographer of the ‘Strutting WAGTAIL’ pic….

Mark J. Rauzon’s pic. of WHITE WAGTAIL strutting along the San Lorenzo River

I was soothing my nerves over to-day’s painful City Council agenda item #13 by pulling weeds around the native plants. The various permits for the 7-story Front St project will addressed. As you know that development brings me either to my knees or sends me straight through the roof, because of its river habitat impact. Suddenly a big flock of BUSHTITS dashed into the bush close to me. I forgot about the agenda item, because I got absorbed watching their branch acrobatics. These tiny feather balls will scour the branches in every which direction- even if it entails hanging upside down and insects shiver when they arrive. I love listening to their incessant chitchat that is delivered with chirpy trills. The flock did what BUSHTITS are famous for: they all departed simultaneously in one flash to the next bush that promised them an other tasty meal. I returned to my work, knowing that the river habitat deserves and needs more than what I was doing. Yet I see that even little improvements make a difference and that is what matters to the critters and me.
Sending you all my wish that Nature soothes everybody’s nerves for the next 8 days~ jane

river hope is eternal…

Good Morning to you Nature Solace Seekers,

                                                                      GREEN LACEWING

A reader’s comment reminded me what a great adventure it is to walk through the door of discovery. I remember how I fell in love with water bodies and how I slowly unwrapped their treasures. Looking back I am grateful for stumbling through that door, which resulted in decades of opening San Lorenzo River gifts that I didn’t know wanted to learn about~ Hydrology?~ really?! Sediment build-up? isn’t that for engineers?!. The amazing part is that these topics actually turned out to be fascinating. The plants and critters have always charmed me and then I discovered that each had their own, big universe story to tell such as the GREEN LACEWING. Who would suspect that this insect with its incredible textured, delicate wings and oversized eyes starts out as a larva that is nick-named ‘the Aphid Lion’. This little beast is able to satisfy that ferocious aphid appetite with its strong jaws and a handy paralyzing venom supply. Once I discovered that fact it made sense that the GREEN LACEWING was hanging out next to the aphid invested Evening Primroses.

                                                                               PEREGRINE

Of course I first checked to see if the PEREGRINE was on its Trestle perch throne before attending to the Buckeye trees. Satisfied that it was present, I turned my mother-hen scrutiny on the recently planted Buckeyes. Right now these trees are in the limbo phase, testing their new home if it is worthwhile to put down roots. I happened to look up at the Peregrine and was surprised to see its previously relaxed body tensed in high alert, starring upstream. Scoping the sky and the river I didn’t find anything to explain the PEREGRINE’s body language, so I turned back to my task. A few minutes later I saw a big bird moving towards the Trestle. Behind me the PEREGRINE let loose a penetrating shriek. As the shape came closer these alarm calls increased in frequency and volume. The new arrival was the OSPREY, who was planning to land on one of her favorite bare branches. That attempt was greeting with the PEREGRINE’s high speed plunge, aiming straight at the OSPREY, who managed to land anyway, dodging the unfriendly welcome. The obviously ticked off PEREGRINE kept trying to dislodge the fish eater from every possible direction while the pestered OSPREY flattened her body, swiveling her head, avoiding the fury loaded attacks. Obviously the usual peaceful tree sharing had come to a screeching halt. Maybe the PEREGRINE is already feeling its mating itch~ after all a safe, raptor free territory could prove to be very appealing to the bride-to-be. Maybe the OSPREY and the PEREGRINE actually share the same tingling, because the OSPREY has been calling from her perch and far off ‘somebody’ is answering her lure. Raptors and Falcon are early nesters, which requires laying timely claim on enticing ‘homes’ and a smart mate plans ahead…

DST Members & Tommy restoring river habitat…

Finally we managed to arrange an Estuary Project work day again! After an extended break the DST Members have joined the restoration efforts twice now. It was good to work together again and pick up a familiar ‘normal’, because as a houseless community they have faced an extra hard COVID road. As you know we have restored native habitat together for the last 2 years, which has been a rewarding experience. It was so astounding to see all of us fall right back into our work rhythm and watch the various restoration skills flow right out of their fingertips. We managed to click off all our section goals: pruning bushes, planting native Black Sage, dead heading natives plants and spreading their seeds plus some weeding. And here is my confession list: I admit I am enamored with our camaraderie that creates an open atmosphere of learning, teaching, talking, laughing with each other. I confess I delight in hearing people compliment their work. I wish that my hope bears results. My hope is that City/County/State agencies hire ‘my’ DST Members for the needed restoration work in the fire locations. It would be such a win-win solution, because they already have the skills, the focus, the know-how for this type of work and the agencies create jobs for  the DST Members. So I invite you to join my Happy New Year wish for all of us~ MAY HOPE BECOME REALITY~jane