Dear Jane and Santa Cruz nature lovers,

Thanks, Jane, for your ‘breaking’ (and concerning) inside story of the most recent breach of the sand bar.  Good to have your bright eyes, and the bright eyes of your friends, on the river!

I took my first leisurely walk along the River for the first time in many weeks, soaking in the peacefulness of the slow-moving river, and falling into a very dreamy state myself. The sand bar must be back in place since the river is still very high up on my end.  As I walked along, I could feel my body relax into almost perfect resonance with the smooth, gray silence of this becalmed river.  It seemed a perfect emblem of my newly found protection from the roiling waters of the election season.

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron, San Lorenzo River, November 12, 2018, Photo by B. Riverwoman

As always, I marveled at the self-control and patience of a GREAT BLUE HERON, standing motionless and utterly concentrated, waiting for the moment to strike.  I wish I could have mustered this kind of contained power during the last few months.

As I ambled south on the River, wondering where all the MALLARDS had gone, I reached the Duck Pond and almost stumbled back as a huge flock of these highly sociable creatures came flapping and honking right in front of me, lowering their landing gear to create a huge splash in a small pond.  They quickly settled into a calmer state, just like me.

Mallard in Duck Pond, November 12, 2018

I had wondered whether I would see any difference in bird life because of the terrible fires up north. I saw nothing that might be suspicious. The familiar birds were all there.  I did a Google search and found an interesting article on the Audubon Society website about the effect of wildfires on birds.  Not so surprising, birds are also susceptible to lung damage from smoke inhalation or polluted air as well as exhaustion while trying to escape. But they clearly are not as vulnerable as humans – with all our physical encumbrances and our major flaw,  the inability to fly away.   Indeed, many new feeding possibilities open up for some birds after a fire.   Click here  if you are interested in reading more.

Which brings me to the possible discovery of a protected snake species next door to my house.    I found my friend and neighbor, Batya, anxiously protecting a small snake from two troublesome cats, and waiting for another neighbor to bring a container.

San Francisco Garter Snake, federally endangered, google image

After scooping the terrified and frozen snake into a can and hurriedly returning it to the levee, she consulted a reptile field guide and realized belatedly that the patterning was much closer to the federally endangered San Francisco Garter Snake than the more common Red-sided Garter Snake she had imagined before releasing it.  We ran out to the levee to try to get a photo, but it had moved on.  So no photo documentation of what could have been a big find. But here is the Google image in case you are looking for snakes as you walk the River.  I almost never see snakes except after a major disturbance like the vegetation removal each year.  The San Francisco Garter Snake’s normal habitat is limited almost entirely to San Mateo County so it would be very unusual to find it in Santa Cruz.

It’s sad to walk through San Lorenzo Park these days.  Chain link fences surround almost all the green areas where Santa Cruzans, including the homeless, used to find temporary respite.

New fencing just south of the Chinatown Bridge, river on the right, November 12, 2018, Photo by B. Riverwoman

The erection of the fences happened simultaneously with the closing of the Homeless River Street Camp on October 30th, turning 50 campers back onto the City streets with nowhere to go. It was especially maddening to have the City tell us that the fences were coincidental, and that they are simply there to allow for routine maintenance.  I scratch my head when I read the words ‘focused maintenance’ on the signs!  What, pray tell, is that.  C’mon folks! Let’s at least call a spade a spade. I have lived in Santa Cruz for 39 years and never seen so much fencing.

“Focused Maintenance, Public Safety” sign on the Benchlands.  So different from last year when the homeless were offered secure campsites in this spot with portapotties and sinks.  

I did manage to smile when I saw the controversial pump track, the Rotary Club’s solution to homeless camping, itself surrounded by the chain fence.  Ironic, isn’t it?

pump track
Pump Track entrapped by chain link fence

If anyone wants the City to find a better way to address the homeless situation than pump tracks or chain link fences, you can join a protest at the Santa Cruz City Post Office at 4 pm this Thursday, November 15.   Bring tents, sleeping bags, blankets and tarps if you want to spend the night in solidarity with the homeless.

Later on Thursday, starting at 6:30 p.m., there will be a wonderful opportunity to hear a specialist talk about her research on the GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW, a common  winter bird here in Santa Cruz but one that exists only on the west coast.  Theodora Block,a PhD student at UC Santa Cruz who is studying how individual behavior impacts the social structure of these sparrows, will be the speaker at the monthly Bird Club Meeting at the Museum of Natural History. For more information go to the Santa Cruz Bird Club website.  I’m including a link, click here,  to an article written this last summer by the same team of researchers studying dominance patterns among Golden-crowned Sparrows.

And here is my eBird report from two days ago.  Click here

Muir Quote of the Week: “The forests, too, seem kindly familiar, and the lakes and meadow and glad singing streams.  I should like to dwell with them forever.  Here with bread and water I should be content.”

It’s so good to have a river in one’s life.




putting on the ‘observation cap’…

Good Morning Barbara & Fellow Nature Adorers,

The other morning I returned to the Fox Park trees, because the day before the trees had been humming with bird rustles and chirps but it was overcast & gloomy. This condition is hideous for me, because everything turns gray and flat. For the world of me, I can’t tell if I am looking at a leaf or a bird unless the bird sits right in front of me. My return was greeted by a sunny bird poor scenery. I decided to leave the bird barren Fox Park and head upstream. There were a few migratory LESSER GOLDFINCHES harvesting the tule seeds and the ground feeding WHITE- and GOLDEN-crowned SPARROWS were out-doing themselves with their hilarious soil-scratch dance, hopping around on their pink translucent legs.


I caught sight of a group of sleeping birds on the river with their heads partially hidden underneath their wings. Their perky tails gave them instantly away as RUDDY DUCKS. They are one of our many winter guest species: a small, diving DUCK, who feeds at night and sleep-floats during the day. They come from the inland of Canada and some prefer to winter in Mexico. The sleepy drifters kept their heads tucked in, but would open one eye, look at me, close their eye again and return to Morpheus arms. The nosey AMERICAN COOTS just had to satisfy their curiosity and swam right into the middle of the clustered newcomers. The RUDDY DUCKS raised their heads, stared intently at the white beaked intruders, who realized they were not welcome and quickly rowed away. Then I focused on the trees, but they weren’t hosting any birds. Later on I told my birding friend about this experience and he said that his fall walks are filled with bird feast or famine presence. Have you encountered that same ‘Where are they?” sensation?

thinning berm…

My long time friend visited me and I schlepped her to the river outlook on Thursday, because I wanted to check on the old river mouth where the day before a bulldozer had moved sand to the side. We saw a real narrow berm that begged to be breached. And indeed: when we returned on Friday the river was drained. Together we stared at the changed scenery, the HEERMANN’S gulls and wondered what had happened.

HEERMANN”S gulls..

A few days later I found out what had happened from a river compadres: Friday morning the berm was a sliver and a group of people discussed how easy it would be to breach it. A surfer couldn’t take the temptation any longer, went down to the river mouth, dug a channel with his hands through the thin berm, the water couldn’t resist the offer to flow and thus the river was drained…Now this part stunned me: supposedly a City employee left when the surfer started digging, because he couldn’t watch it and nobody reported the illegal, broad daylight breaching.

old river mouth opened up…

Last week was just stuffed with campaign buzz and frenzy as you well know. I admire your élan, vim and vigor that you apply to the causes and candidates, dear and important to your heart and soul. In our current political situation voting is a necessity to save our moral sanity, the environment and a balanced future. Thank haven I can go to the river and visit that old time friend, who gifts me zany surprises and links me back into the present moment. I slip off the ‘worrying coat, slip on the ‘observation cap’ and smile once again at the Bufflehead’s quirky landing.
And now I am off to VOTE! and wishing birds could VOTE too… jane

who would the birds vote for?

Soras: Heard But Not Seen

Hi Jane and Birding Aficionados,

One week left to the election and I am still donning my canvassing hat more often than my birding hat. Hopefully my next blog will be based on some serious birding.

I can only report that I read with a twinge of jealousy Shantanu Phukan’s eBird report this week about once again hearing (but not seeing) a SORA,  the sound emerging from among the tules down by the  Laurel Street Bridge.  I bustled down there this morning at about the same hour that Shantanu heard this elusive creature – but no luck.

google hi res
Sora, photo by Google

So here I am again – borrowing from Google a photo of this shy and solitary member of the rail family, so different than it’s gregarious and social cousin, the common American Coot who is also reappearing in large numbers on the River these days.  Here’s a photo that I took of a Sora in 2015, in its most typical, hidden-from-view, spot.

Sora hiding
Sora., San Lorenzo River, north of Laurel Bridge, 2015, photo by B. Riverwoman

Soras breed as far north as the Yukon and Northwest Territories of Canada, then fly back along the California Coast about this time of year on their way to Mexico and points south.  The Central Coast of California is the only spot in the entire U.S. where Soras are reported to also dwell year-round.  I wonder if Shantanu’s Sora is a migrant or a regular.  I suspect the former since she is being reported during the fall migratory season and is rarely seen at other times.

Here, for comparison,  are the Sora’s cousins, the highly visible and gregarious  AMERICAN COOTS .

American coots
Flock of American Coots, San Lorenzo River, 2015, photo by B. Riverwoman

Also in the heard but not seen category was a  GREAT-HORNED OWL heard from the direction of the River last Friday night as I was sitting around a campfire here at El Rio..  So good to know they are out there.

Great Horned Owl, Google image, 

And shortly afterwards we heard the almost nightly cries of coyotes coyotewho are rumored to be parading down the riverwalk and even wandering into the mobile home park.  My friend Batya says she often hears the coyotes responding to the sirens of the ambulances at night.    I love it when nature begins to encroach on civilization.


Quote of the Week:

“Contemplating the lace-like fabric of streams outspread over the mountains, we are reminded that everything is flowing, going somewhere, animals and so-called lifeless rocks as well as water. Rocks flow from volcanoes like water from springs, while the stars go streaming through space pulsed on and on forever like blood globules in Nature’s warm heart.”  John Muir

May we  vote for those people and measures that we judge best suited to nourish the flow of life on our amazing planet.





shore discoveries…

Good Morning Barbara & Fellow Nature Ramblers,

male RUDDY DUCK’s summer outfit admired by AMERICAN COOT…

My recent state makes me sympathetic for the sailor’s spouse, who walks the shores and scans the horizon for the returning boat of her beloved. My eyes hope to detect the returning black and white migratory river fowl on the waters. It’s getting towards the end of October and our winter guests will begin to drizzle in. The EARED GREBE is usually the first to show up, but this year that tradition was interrupted by a male RUDDY DUCK, who decorated the river scene with his summer outfit.

dismantled pipe…

The river mouth is closed, the useless pipe has been removed from the Main Beach, the water is rising and the Benchland grass area is closed off for maintenance reasons and the algae is forming cluster islands. These are much cherished for different reasons by the MALLARDS, AMERICAN COOTS and PIED-billed GREBES: the MALLARDS & AMERICAN COOTS mumph away on the algae and the PIED-billed GREBES anchor themselves in the greenery, which prevents that unwanted drifting. In the early mornings there will be up to 7 moored sleepers in the islands while the other 2 species gently nibble the edges away. Last week several PIED-billed GREBES shared their berth arrangement with 3 NORTHERN SHOVELERS. Obviously this time of year is pretty exciting, because you just don’t know who is parading around on our river.


And while I walk the shores I keep my eyes wide open for my beloved BUFFLEHEADS…waiting eagerly for their annual return…and on Sunday morning my anticipation ended: 2 birders told me that they had spotted 2 Buffleheads north of the Riverside Ave. bridge. After refraining from thank-you-kissing them for the great news, I rushed off to welcome ‘my‘ BUFFLEHEADS back. My heart yodeled with joy when I located them swimming on our river.


As I was walking the Trestle path the OSPREY was flying in with a fish in its talons and I instantly wished that Junko Yoshida was there to see this.

San Lorenzo River OSPREY enjoying her catch…

I had met her a few days earlier in the same location, because she had hoped to photograph the OSPREY catching fish. Ever since reading “Why the OSPREY?” she has been on the lookout for our white and black river fisher. She didn’t know she had a passion for raptors until she left the shores of Japan and saw them here.

Junko Yoshida’s took this photo of the San Lorenzo River RED-shouldered HAWK…

Junko showed me the results of her passion, which were various exquisite big bird photos. Her river RED-shouldered HAWK pics are stunning. I just had to ask if I could post them on the blog so you all could enjoy them too. So here they are including her charming story:
“Hi Jane,
It was very nice to meet you in person yesterday! Here are some red-shouldered hawk photos I took on my riverwalk last week.
At first I saw a pair of red-shouldered hawks perched on a street light pole near Pearl Street. Soon after I photographed them, a female just flew away. Typical reaction by hawks. But the male hawk just flew for 50 feet, perched on the chainlink right on the river path. A jogger passed by him really close, then another walker passed by. He just stayed there.

RED-Shouldered HAWK photographed by Junko Yoshida…

He did not seem to be afraid of people, not typical behavior for hawks. I point my camera and photographed him. He just looked right back at me. Got his really close face shot. I felt grateful he let me do so. He flew again for another 60 feet, then perched on another light pole. I could photograph him there, too.”
Happy BUFFLEHEAD greetings & here is to YES! on Measure M, jane

Measure M for Birds and Humans

Hi Jane and all,

As I think I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I have been spending most of my time these days trying to protect some habitat for my own species. I’ve saved all of my bird walking energy for canvassing the neighborhoods for Measure M, the rent control ballot measure.  At 80 years old I have to measure out my walking time carefully.

It’s funny how protecting human habitat and bird habitat in Santa Cruz kind of amounts to the same thing. Birds and people in Santa Cruz are being driven out primarily due to commercial and recreational development for financial gain. Some people think, and even say, ‘well, if birds get driven out of the San Lorenzo River (or people out of Santa Cruz),  they can always go somewhere else’.  That’s just plain wrong for animals and just as wrong for humans.  Animals establish their territories for specific reasons (safety, food and water availability,  nesting habitat, etc.  They do this at considerable expense, and depend on that habitat to survive.  With humans, we also move into a place for specific reasons – family, friends, nearby schools, services, quiet, the neighborhood, the cost. We want to stay there for these reasons. Our homes aren’t interchangeable for  homes anywhere.  Measure M would protect the 5500 humans that now live in their rented homes and would be covered by Measure M, but will be vulnerable to eviction the day Measure M loses.   Let’s not let that happen.  Let’s keep birds and humans safe in their homes!

two close crows
Two American Crows, talking things over – perhaps.  Photo by B. Riverwoman

I did take one walk where I captured some photos that made me smile, especially these two crows either schmoozing, begging, or perhaps plotting an assault on a hapless  hawk; and this row of very well behaved pigeons in perfect formation.

pigeons in a row
14 pigeons, San Lorenzo River, Photo by B. Riverwoman

I sometimes think that pigeons would make good candidates for military school. They are impressive in both their flight formations and their battlement line-ups!



There are many new signs of ongoing efforts  by the Public Works Department to control our River.  Here’s a photo of the surface of the riverbed that has been ploughed into furrows in hopes that a fast flowing stream will carry away some of the excess sediment that will otherwise have to be dredged. I hope it works.

roughing up
Flood Control, San Lorenzo River, October 14, 2018, Photo by B. Riverwoman

I was surprised to see this unfamiliar little creature which I am guessing is a juvenile CALIFORNIA TOWHEE. Also a late breeder.

towhee juv
Juvenile California Towhee, October 14, 2018, San Lorenzo River, Photo by B. Riverwoman

I also stepped back with surprise at my first sight of a hammock on the Riverwalk, hung skillfully between a redwood tree and the exercise station.  A fashionable new trend for the unhoused?

Hammocking on the River, October 14, 2018, Photo by B.Riverwoman,

Finally, stealing a moment to take a short walk at twilight, I was happily drawn into the magic of a solitary Pied-billed Grebe outlined against the silky, sunlight-infused  surface of the River.

grebe in sunset
Pied-billed Grebe at sunset, San Lorenzo River, October 12, 2018, Photo by B. Riverwoman

Here’s a quote from John Muir about why you and I, Jane, go back again and again to the same place – even though the urban river isn’t exactly pure wilderness:

“So abundant and novel are the objects of interest in a pure wilderness …it matters little where you go or how often to the same place.  Wherever you chance to be always seems at the moment of all places the best; and you feel that there can be no happiness in this world, or in any other, for those who may not be happy here.”  John Muir

May we all find happiness wherever we find ourselves.












the river keeps us in the moment…

Good Morning Barbara and Fellow Naturaphiles,

SPOTTED SANDPIPER & KILLDEER foraging breached shore…

That’s chirpy news that one of our 4 river SPOTTED SANDPIPERS introduced its dipping self to you. I think you are right that it was so far up river since the lagoon condition down here has left the little shore bird with limited foraging opportunity. But a week ago on Sunday morning the drained river presented its breach look: low water level exposing the banks and the river shores. The dark, water-soaked rocks and muddy brown river bed were the perfect backdrop for the sparkling white SNOWY EGRETS, who preferred teetering on the rocks. Obviously they were reluctant to get their bright yellow feet mucky. The USGS water graph showed that the river mouth opened early Sunday morning between 2-3 am at a 3.6’ high tide. It’s interesting that this low wave tide achieved to open the river berm, which had looked fairly high and wide the previous day. On my walk several of my river compadres voiced their disappointment about the underachieving plastic pipe. It was supposed to regulate the water level, thus evade the quick, uncontrolled river drains, which cause the slower fish to strand on the rocks and the bigger fish to wash out to the ocean before they are ready. This week the river mouth closed again and the lagoon water is rising. I wonder if these fluctuations of the water temperature and heights are affecting the fish and the feathered water dwellers. For the City the repeated, drastic river drains are gentle on their purse strings, because they eliminate the expensive, wildlife expert controlled breaches.

breached river…

Do keep us informed about your stunning 6000 truck loads news. The fact is that our river is facing quite a few upcoming projects: the Trestle bridge path widening, the installation of the river mouth culvert, the bankfull project, the Front St. development on the river side and the Hyw.1 bridge widening.

upstream view from the pedestrian bridge…

On early Friday my friend and I started our river walk at the San Lorenzo Park pedestrian bridge, which offers a rich river visual with its willows and big trees along the shore. The birds were lazy that morning and showed up in the middle of our walk. They hijacked my conversation skills in the middle of our talking, because I got sidetracked with pointing out the bird activities all around us: the 2 KINGFISHERS were having a their usual heated discussion about their ongoing territory issues, the GREEN HERON was flushed upriver, voicing loudly its displeasure about being displacement, the WHITE-crowned SPARROWS silently watched us walk by, the WESTERN KINGBIRD was chasing the KINGFISHER away from its beloved dead tree, the AMERICAN COOTS were munching on their favorite algae, the mystical red dragonflies hovering over the water and a PIED-billed GREBE forced down its breakfast fish. I invited my friend to join our ongoing Estuary Restoration Project on Oct. 20th from 9-11am at Mike Fox Skateboard Park and of course you all are invited as well.

WESTERN KINGBIRD in its beloved dead tree…

This Sunday morning I got misty walking down the Trestle path under the Eucalyptus trees, because the recently removed undergrowth has robbed the familiar local and migratory land birds of their relished food source. Gone are their conversational chirps, their little dashing bodies through the foliage, the cheery colored bodies of the WILSON and TOWNSEND’S migratory WARBLERS. Now silence reigns there, which turned me inward until one falling ‘leaf’ snapped me out of my reverie: it was oddly shaped and descended slowly, floatingly. A second look unveiled the ‘leaf’ to be a small feather. Feathers flow off the tress here and there from the preening CORMORANTS, but this feather snow was coming from a localized spot, indicating that a HAWK was having breakfast. It took some time to spot the juv. COOPER HAWK, sitting high up on a bare branch, watching me while feasting as my “Bon appetite” stoke in my throat.
River moments greeting to you all, jane

our river juv. COOPER HAWK…

Cigars All Around!

Dear Jane and Fellow Bird Travelers,

It happened!  As I glanced down at the river from the Water St. Bridge, there it was, the sight I had been waiting for all summer.  As I stared with amazement at this very, very late-arriving juvenile,  I felt as if I were back in Bible times, experiencing the avian equivalent of Sarah’s miraculous motherhood.  Just like Sarah, through some combination of sheer determination and blind faith, the modest little grebes hung in through multiple nest failures, finally producing one solitary baby.  I immediately named the young grebe Isaac.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the latest breeding Pied-billed Grebe family  in Santa Cruz County history!  What a will to survive.

best PBG
Juvenile Pied-billed Grebe with parent, still with distinct black and white breeding colors in bill.  September 28, 2018, San Lorenzo River just north of Water St. Bridge.  Photo by B. Riverwoman

I watched the mom for a long time.   She wasn’t diving, presumably  digesting her last fishy meal until she could regurgitate the indigestible bones and spiny parts and begin to fish again.   It was very cute how the juvenile kept pressing up close to the parent as if wanting more food.  Then suddenly there was some unexpected drama.

PBG excited
Pied-billed Grebe rises out of water.  September 28, 2018, San Lorenzo River, Photo by B. Riverwoman

First, the adult grebe rose up out of the water with an energetic flapping of wings; then a second adult apeared out of nowhere, triggering all three to lift themselves laboriously out of the water (no small feat for a Pied-billed Grebe) and ‘patter-fly’ upstream for a short sprint, half flying, half walking on the water.  This was also a first for me.  I had never seen a PBG try to fly, much less three in a row.    According to BNA, what is referred to as ‘patter-flying’  is typical aggressive behavior for these grebes.  Was Sarah exasperated with Abraham for some reason?  Or vice-versa?

As most of you  know, I have had a special place in my heart for Pied-billed Grebes ever since I discovered a nest in 2015, monitoring the little family anxiously until I saw the lone offspring become independent.  Click here for the full story.

I really appreciated, Jane, your much more thorough discussion last week  of the river dredging project that we may be facing in 2019.  I’ve been doing a little more research and am in a state of shock.  At the City Council meeting I heard Mark Dettle, the Public Works Director, say that the operation will require the removal of  75,000 cubic yards of riverbed soil.  Did I really hear that?  Just now I asked Google to explain to me how much 75,000 cubic yards was.   Unless I got my math wrong, I think it amounts to  6000 dump trucks full!!  Is that possible?   That’s way beyond anything that is tolerable in a wildlife setting.  Will there be any birds or mammals or frogs or insects left after such an operation?.  The more I think about it the more I shudder.  And for what?  To achieve FEMA certification in order to  save the downtown businesses the cost of flood insurance?  Our City planners should be thinking about moving the City off the flood plain, especially now that we are almost definitely assured that sea level rise will push river levels beyond the level acceptable to FEMA– with or without dredging!   I think it is time for us birders to sit down with Public Works and have a heart to heart talk!  I hope my math is wrong.

Is this what we can expect in 2019 on the Riverwalk?  6000 dump trucks filled with riverbed dirt?  Google Image. 

Your  bewildered reflections in your last post about the OSPREY and the AMERICAN CROW were very to the point.  This was brought home to me yesterday when my neighbor called to alert me to an OSPREY perched on the tip of the redwood tree directly across the river from my house.  I ran to my back window and, sure enough, there was the Osprey and it was still being pursued by the constant – and unwelcome –companion, an American Crow !  Perhaps the Osprey vainly hoped that it might shake the pesky crow if it just moved upstream from the river mouth.  But a determined crow with a serious grudge apparently doesn’t give up that easily.

Osprey and crow
Osprey being harassed by an American Crow, October 1, 2018, San Lorenzo River between Water and Felker Bridges, photo by B. Riverwoman

I spotted one of those well–camouflaged  SPOTTED SANDPIPER that eluded me for so long – much further north than I have ever seen one before.  Was the water level too high down on your end of the river to provide sufficient sand bar areas for this solitary shorebird to satisfy his appetite? These inconspicuous little birds keep so busy, excitedly bobbing their heads up and down the entire time they are foraging.

I’m so happy to have the GOLDEN-CROWNED and WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS back from their summer haunts – extending as far north as the Bering Sea.  When they first arrive they sing and sing, making sure that any passer-bys understand that there are no vacancies down below.

WC sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow, San Lorenzo River, September 28, 2018, Photo by B. Riverwoman

After about a month, once they’ve solved their housing problems, the non-stop singing ends and they can concentrate on eating my sunflower seeds.  I just noticed for the first time that although the winter range of the White-crowned Sparrows covers the whole U.S., the Golden-crowned Sparrows inhabit a far more limited range from Washington through California. They are rarities to everyone except those of us lucky to live on the west coast.  Maybe that is why rents are so high in Santa Cruz!

Quote of the Week:

One of my favorite gifts for nature lovers is a very long essay by John Muir, dedicated entirely to his most beloved bird, the Water Ouzel.  I think the bird is a soul-mate of Muir.  This bird is common in the cold rapids of the Sierras, but has actually been reported as well  on some more swiftly flowing rapids further north of the urban San Lorenzo River. Here is a brief quote from Muir’s essay:

“How romantic and beautiful is the life of this brave little singer on the wild mountain streams, building his round bossy nest of moss by the side of a rapid or fall, where it is sprinkled and kept fresh and green by the spray!  No wonder he sings well, since all the air about him is music; every breath he draws is part of a song, and he gets his first music lessons before he is born; for the eggs vibrate in time with the tones of the waterfall. Bird and stream are inseparable, songful and wild, gentle and strong, the bird ever in danger in the midst of the stream’s mad whirlppols, yet seemingly immortal.”

May you all have a wild and songful week!