Sorrows and Joys

Dear Jane and Other Nature Lovers,

My blog voice has been silent for about a month now – first my computer crashed,  then a vertebrae in my spine compressed,  and finally the worldwide pandemic came to our  town – all three within the same month.  Grappling with the enormity of the pandemic on top of everything else momentarily overwhelmed me.

But here I am today, at my repaired computer, finally sitting up, and praying that the osteoporotic curve in my back and the pandemic curve of COVID-19 will both flatten and that all of us and our loved ones will come through this. Let’s hope this tragic time leads to inner and outer transformation throughout the world.

I loved reading about your hummingbird nest discovery, Jane.   It once again reminds me that the river is not only an eating and resting place for birds, but a place where birds  give birth.  The corollary is that it is a place we must protect as a wildlife refuge and not as a recreational area. That is the goal we set  when we conceived this blog more than five years ago, and  the one we still hold to.  PROTECT WILDLIFE.

Rufous Hummingbird, google image

Speaking of hummingbirds, I was thrilled to see two  migrant RUFOUS HUMMMINGBIRDS darting madly in and out of the huge Mexican honeysuckle bush in my neighbor Bob’s yard.  I always feel a little ambivalent when the Allen’s and Rufous hummingbirds arrive each spring from their winter home south of the border.  It is exciting to see these beautiful birds, especially the male Rufous with his orange-tinted coppery feathers and iridescent red throat.  But I always feel a little ambivalent as well, knowing that our less belligerent and year-round ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRDS will probably have their well-established territories, and maybe even their nests, usurped by the two pushy selasphorus species.

Allen’s Hummingbird, September 28, 2017, El Rio MHP, Mexican Honeysuckle, Photo by B. Riverwoman

My neighbors on the other side,  Michael Levy and Batya Kagan,  both birders,  have been discussing with me  at some length if the bird we are seeing is a Rufous or an Allen’s.  The Allen’s mostly have a green back and rufous colored belly and flanks, while the entire back, belly and breast of the Rufous is pretty much  an orange-tinted coppery color.  The throat (gorget) of the Rufous in good light is a stunning iridescent red color, while the Allen’s is more orangish.  There are exceptions but we finally agreed that what we were seeing was the Rufous.  It had to be a migrant passing through, since this species breeds mostly in Oregon, Washington, Canada and Alaska.  The Allen’s, on the other  hand, have a much more limited breeding area, confined basically to a thin strip along the coast of California. So, it was a privilege to catch a glimpse of the Rufous on its 3900 mile-long journey from Mexico to southern Alaska.

I read a little more about the  Rufous and discovered this species has the longest flight of any hummingbird in the world, and the northernmost breeding range of any hummingbird in the world. Such accomplishments may explaiin why it is also extremely aggressive, having been reported to chase chipmunks from their nests. They trace a counter-clockwise movement during their migration, flying up the Pacific coast in the spring and returning in the fall via the Rocky Mountains.  So now is the time to get a look at them.  If you miss them now, you will have to wait until next spring.  If you see a coppery hummingbird later in the  summer you can be  pretty sure it is a nesting Allen’s you are seeing.

The SCRUB JAYS have been very actively courting in my backyard, pecking each others’ beaks quite energetically as they prepare to mate.   I think the highpoint of my backyard birding during the last month has been the sight of a male scrub jay just two days ago flying towards his lady love with a big red Mexican honeysuckle flower in his beak (see photo of honeysuckle bush above).  He landed right next to her in my apple tree, brought the flower to her beak, she promptly accepted the gift and swallowed it. How I wish I had a photo of that for all of you. You’ll just have to imagine it!

Before I was laid low by a collapsed vertebrae, I caught this intriguing photo of a RED-TAILED HAWK on the levee. I knew that owls had incredibly flexible necks, but I did a double take before I could figure out that this was a red-tailed hawk whose head had  turned 180 degrees in the opposite direction. He certainly has it on me in terms of bone flexibility.

Red-tailed Hawk looking backwards, April 4, 2020, Riverine stretch, San Lorenzo River, Photo by B. Riverwoman
Same hawk, about to take flight from willows in same area. Photo by B. Riverwoman
Roadway dotted with privet berry poop, March 17, 2020, El Rio MHP, Photo by B. Riverwoman

Also, before my double confinement, my neighbor Batya showed me a huge flock of about 150 CEDAR WAXWINGS congregating on a tall sycamore tree, chattering excitedly in their high-pitched, thin voices that I almost can’t hear.  They had been feasting for days on the purple berries of a Privet tree nearby and had  created a purple polka-dotted roadway to memorialize their visit. Errhh, thanks guys.

Part of a flock of 150 Cedar Waxwings in a sycamore tree, El Rio MHP, March 17, 2020, Photo by B. Riverwoman

Batya pointed out to me that these birds are among the few that exist primarily on fruits. I began to wonder how they could find enough fruits, and also began to wonder why we either saw huge flocks of them, or otherwise none.  We did a little research and discovered that their fruit-eating ways are connected to their nomadic ways.  They have to cover huge stretches of territory, gorge on the fruits in season, and then move on to a new area where fruits are just coming in.

Jane, I loved your spelling of COVID-19 as CORVID-19.  Maybe a Freudian slip, suggesting your displeasure at certain crow behaviors?  Or was it the helpful/unhelpful work of Microsoft Word?

Here’s a bonus photo of a bushtit nest that was discovered on the ground near the Chinatown Bridge way back in 2015 on a Bird Club  walk with our beloved and deceased  bird guru Steve Gerow who identified the empty nest for us.

Empty bushtit nest discovered on the ground in San Lorenzo Park, May 16, 2015, Photo by B. Riverwoman

Be well, everyone.  Stay connected to Nature, our great teacher. We are going through something BIG together.

Barbara

 

 

 

 

 

 

the rhythm of life…

Dear Barbara and fortunate Nature Lovers,

NORTHERN ROUGH-winged SWALLOW cleaning off the migratory dust…

Barbara, I hope you got your computer fixed. I sure missed reading your post last week and hope you’ll be back in the blog saddle with your next river report. Did no computer and cancelled meetings allow for lots of time outside?
Aren’t we lucky that our passion is Nature as we are facing times when we are asked to adjust to a ‘new norm’ and deal with uncertainties on so many levels. I do feel badly for my fellow humans, whose passions are confined in the ‘stay safe’ cage such as Team Sports. It’s easy for us to keep the CORVID-19 required social distance when we visit Nature. Never has it felt so endearing to be outside, enjoying the buds explode into enchanting beauties, watch the future bird parents flit through the scenery, looking for the perfect nesting material, listen to the bumblebees’ buzz as they stumble from one blossom to the next, welcoming the NORTHERN ROUGH-winged SWALLOWS back. Being in Nature is a wonderful reminder that life wants to live and that in all this chaos the rhythm of life continues to hum.

ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRD fledglings dozing in the sun….

There was a fair amount of river event adjustments to deal with in the last 2 weeks. I have this restoration project rule that our volunteer work should not disturb any breeders during nesting season. Therefore I had asked a biologist to check for active bird nests in the area for the big volunteer event. Serendipity worked its magic when that event was cancelled within hours that I found out that there was an active ANNA’S Hummingbird nest right smack in the middle of that site.

getting crowded in that nest….

We would have roped off the nest kingdom, minimized sound and activities, but, let’s face it, so many volunteers close by would not be a bird’s mother dream come true. Instead the nestlings were allowed to enjoy an unbothered chick-hood. They must have fledged because the nest was empty 2 days ago.

empty nest…

Since 2 volunteer planting events were cancelled over a hundred donated plants got stranded on my friend’s truck bed and in my garden. It was a daunting sight that made me instantly tired. I started to plant a few a day, but that didn’t seem to decrease the truck bed load. Fortunately the plants are being housed and 1 day I’ll tell you how…
Now I am on a mission to locate the elusive BUSHTIT nest, because I have been seeing a future parent hunting for the perfect nesting goodies.
Sending you all good health river-greetings, jane

River relationships weave their magic…

A pleasant Good Morning to you, Barbara, and all you Nature Devotees,

I’ll miss the AmeriCorps & DST crew…

It has been a while since my last meandering river saunter. I have I been frequently to the river~ just in a different format as you might recall from my previous disclosure. Last Thursday was the grand finale of the AmeriCorps & DST members working together for 6 weeks. The members did a fabulous job of completing our goal and our accomplishment looks spectacular~ okay…since I might be a little bias, you should go and check it out for yourself. I admit that I got melancholic as I watched them walk away, because during the 6 weeks we got to know each other quite well and built relationships. I will miss each one of them and our good collaboration as a crew.
So this morning was my first-in-a-long time river visit. It was so superb to slide into my familiar river mode, which always bathes me in peaceful joy. Well, actually I splashed into my bliss when I spotted the juv. RED-tailed HAWK in the Trestle trees, watching me cross the street. Having watched the youngster hunt for some time I can attest that its skills have greatly improved due to lots of practice. It’s a relief to observe that the juvenile is mastering the food supply issue, because starvation is one of the causes that many juvenile HAWKS don’t survive their first year.

introduction to bliss…

Then the BUFFLEHEADS & COMMON GOLDENEYES captured my attention, because their behavior shows that they are preparing to migrate up north for breeding. Both species were clustered in large, head bobbing groups, no longer intermingling nor dotting the river with small batches. It’s intriguing to watch the males’ heads bob up and down, then perform their vertical beak stretch. From my perspective the movement sequence is arbitrary, then again the 2 species might find that assessment clueless to the finer nuances mating conduct. Then there is that quirky male BUFFLEHEAD behavior: males spend a mighty amount of time and energy on fighting over a female, who keeps distancing herself from them and who they have to chase all over the place. They ignore several perfectly suitable females in the flock, who seem to be willing and able to enter a relationship.

BUFFLEHEADS getting ready to migrate…

As previously reported: we have been using rice straw for mulching and I have been keeping my eyes open for critters in the straw section. Lately ground foraging birds are pecking in the straw, an indicator that insects are present, which is good sign for birds and insects~ considering that the insect population dropped 40% and we lost 1 in 4 birds in last 40 years. The weeds are either absent or minimal in the straw mulched soil. Interestingly enough our wood chip places are absent of ground foraging birds as well as snakes and lizards. It will be great if the declining ground feeders such as TOWHEES, JUNCOS, ROBINS, BLACKBIRDS, migratory SPARROWS will benefit from the straw mulching.

Calif. Lilac snuggled into rice straw…

We like to invite you to join us for our habitat restoration work. The Estuary Project will meet Saturday, the 21st from 9am-11am and click here for details. It will be great to welcome you.
My intent starring at the gulls made a levee promenader curious what I was watching. I told him I wasn’t sure if I had spotted a rare gull or a common one, changing its feather decor for its next year cycle. We ended up having a great conversation that entailed him going down the steep bank to pull a jump bike out of the river after I meowed about the bike battery in the water. He instantly became a Hero in my river book and he proved my point: the river invites us to meet good hearted people. River magic greetings to you from jane

ground feeding BREWER’S BLACKBIRDS…

Speak Their Names and They Will Appear

Dear Jane and Fellow Nature Lovers,

Slowed down by a “slippery and wiry” pulse this week (I’m intrigued by the language of acupuncture), my birding has been mostly confined to a few sunny hours in my backyard.  Fortunately, my backyard is immediately adjacent to the levee and river, just upsteam from the Water St. Bridge.  A pretty wide array of  birds fly in from the river for their steady stream of dependable treats.

This last Saturday, my neighbor Batya, who serves as my good-luck charm in birding, appeared with her binoculars, declaring that she was looking for a Savannah Sparrow, hopefully hidden among the four other species of sparrows that hang out here.  I told her that I was longing to see a LINCOLN’S SPARROW, and that I would happily join her far-fetched effort. I had never seen a Lincoln’s Sparrow on the river, much less my backyard.

Lincoln’s Sparrow, Backyard near San Lorenzo River, Feb. 29, 2020,  awaiting turn at millet bird feeder. Photo by B. Riverwoman

Within two minutes of sitting down, we noticed a movement in a nearby Japanese maple tree. A bird hopped out onto a branch, making  itself very visible. It was cautiously eyeing the hopper bird feeder filled with millet. At first glance, It looked like another SONG SPARROW, pretty common in my backyard these days.   But wait! It had

Feb.29, 2020 Lincoln’s Sparrow at hopper feeded, backyard, El Rio

those telltale crisp stripes on its breast. .  Batya and I didn’t move a muscle, not wanting this prize to fly away.  We carefully went over every detail. The heads of the two species are almost exactly the same – same crown, same eyebrow, same auricular, same whisker.  But then you get to  the throat and  the breast.  The cosmic designer of this close, but more delicate, cousin of a song sparrow must have used a long, thin and finely bristled brush to paint the more delicate streaks on the throat and the buffy breast.  Convinced that we were looking at a Lincoln’s, I risked taking a photo.  Batya went for the books.  We triumphantly confirmed the identity. Yes, it was!   A LINCOLN’S SPARROW.  My first!  And in my backyard! Unlike the ubiquitous Song Sparrow, whose year-round range covers almost the entire United States, this far less common cousin breeds in the Sierras, Canada, and Alaska, and turns up here in Santa Cruz only in winter.  Furthermore, it’s winter range is very limited – mostly along the California, Oregon and Washington coast in the U.S. and then south of the border.  A special visitor!  Next time you see a “song sparrow” look again.  It may be a Lincoln’s.  Or if you are in a grassy field, you could be looking at a Savannah’s, also a winter guest.  Be sure to tell Batya.  She was a good sport about the Lincoln’s, in fact as excited as I was.  But I’m sure she is still dreaming of a Savannah’s.

For Comparison, Song Sparrow, Backyard near San Lorenzo River,  December, 2019  millet on post, Photo by B. Riverwoman

The day after our sparrow success, I was bundling door hangers for the election and talking about birds with Sandra and Peter Nichols, two other bird enthusiasts and river walkers.  I told them about the Lincoln’s and Sandra got a smile on her face and told me a somewhat similar story of prescience that happened quite recently.   Here’s the story as I remember Sandra telling it:

Belted Kingfisher, San Lorenzo River, Photo by B. Riverwoman, October 23, 2015

“I especially love the BELTED KINGFISHER, the Wood Ducks and the Hooded Mergansers.  I can’t stand it if I don’t see these birds at least once a year. Recently, Peter and I were walking along the river and thnking that we hadn’t seen our special kingfisher perched on her special spot on a wire just upstream from the Riverside Bridge.  I began to worry that the City had for some reason removed the wire and inadvertently gotten rid of one of the kingfishers’ favorite fishing perches.  We had passed the spot when I thought about this so I wanted to make sure to check it on the way back.  I had a really positive attitude, feeling somehow that I was going to see the kingfisher. And, yes, it was there, perched on the wire that we had been looking for and missed. The wire was there, the female kingfisher was there, and we were happy.”

Sandra’s face was wreathed in smiles as she told me this story and described how beautiful the Belted Kingfisher is, especially the female.  She said mischievously, “the female has two beautiful necklaces, not just one like the male.  And one of the necklaces is a beautiful russet color. I just love this bird.”

And I just love hearing stories like this.  How did Sandra know she was going to see this bird?  They are  not that common on the river. My only photo dates back to 2015 and doesn’t do this handsome bird justice.   I agree that it is a magical bird and in fact have a watercolor painting of a female kingfisher in my living room.

It is almost equinox so I was not surprised to get an e-mail this week from Alex Rinkert saying that, “Spring is just around the corner so the time has come to begin Year 4 of the Santa Cruz County Breeding Bird Atlas II…this will be the penultimate year of field work. Nearly 100 atlasers have contributed observations to the project over the years. We have maintained a large contingent of regulars but are still hoping to attract new atlasers and re-interest former atlasers.”

If you are a birder but have never done atlasing before, there will be two trainings this year, March 22nd and 28th from 9-11.  Please contact Alex at arinkert12@comcast.net to register for the free training.  I took it two years ago and learned a lot about how to look for evidence of breeding that I had never really thought of.  CLICK HERE to go to the Santa Cruz Bird Club website for more information on the project.  I especially recommend opening the document called “ Breeding Codes” which will give you a clearer sense of what the training includes.

Just after writing this, I looked out my window and saw a SCRUB JAY with the temerity to

Scrub Jay, San Lorenzo River,  Riverine Reach,  Oct. 26, 2019, Photo by B. Riverwoman

actually break off a small branch of my Japanese maple and fly away with it.  I guess that will be the first entry in my breeding bird report this year, i.e. CN-carrying nest material. I may report my indignation but also my sincere hope that she nests nearby and that her family flourish

 

I created a little altar for my mail-in ballot this year.  May people who love our natural environment be elected to office, up and down the ballot.

Barbara


 

 

 

 

 

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San Lorenzo River keeps us busy…

Good Morning Barbara and all you Nature Lovers,

RED-throated LOON stretch
RED-throated LOON stretch

Our RED-throated LOON treated me to a rare sight: practicing the famous LOON stretch~ at least I think that is what it was doing. During mating season the well skilled divers raise their bodies straight out of the water and flap their wings wildly. You can’t mistake it for a take-off attempt, because waterfowl leans forward for that action. The RED-throated LOON kept at its maneuvers until finally the whole body was above the water, only the feet were below the river surface and after a few encores, it was serious preening time. Watching this scene I was reminded of my GOLDEN-crowned backyard SPARROW, who has been working on his song that just doesn’t come out right. He keeps getting stuck in this one section that silences him for a couple of minutes and then needs to be repeated with same result. I hope one day my backyard Sparrow gets to experience the same satisfaction as the RED-throated LOON.

P1180311
working on the perfect stretch…

Well, it looks like the river mouth Culvert needs further detail adjustments before it goes to the City Council. It’s a tricky construction: putting long pipes along the cliffs to the ocean. Of course I wonder how the sediment deposit plays into that, because the huge amounts of sand that are moved from the Main Beach to build the summer berms, wash into the river, creating extended shorelines and raising the riverbed. The storms didn’t make a dent into diminishing the sediment build-up and the river channel has gotten so narrow that people can cross the river to the other side. The culvert is intended to keep the river water level at 5’5” to prevent flooding during summer lagoon season.

P1180095
narrowed river channel…

I am not sure what was up with the two WHITE-crowned SPARROWS~ they really didn’t like the harmless little CHICKADEE, who was minding his on bug business, flitting through the Cottonwood tree. The two torpedoes came out of nowhere and zeroed in on the petite insect eater and let their torpedo beaks hammer out the message:” We want you to leave immediately!!”. The CHICKADEE, being no dummy, raced off. It crossed my mind that the SPARROWS were defending a nest, but they are winter migratory birds, who breed up north, so I have no clue what triggered their unfriendly behavior.

20200220_101800
here is what we achieved last Thursday….

The last 4 Thursday mornings have been so rewarding and filled with awe. “Why”, you ask?  Because I have been working with the AmeriCorps & Downtown Street Team(DST) members on the river levee restoration. It is a heart opening experience ~ all of us working together on the same goal at the Mike Fox Park ~ improving habitat and to feel so supported by our tools, plants, mulch donors and to have Linda Skeff’s AmeriCorps Team in the urban river stretch.  The Team is from the Valley Women’s Club ‘s ‘SLV Native Habitat Restoration Program’. It is so great to see ‘my’ DST members becoming skilled restoration-ers. Together we have accomplished clearing bermuda grass, spread Jackson Landscape’s famous mulch over that area, planted many of our native plants that were donated by the Elkhorn Nursery. And BTW let me tell you: only the people who have wrestled with bermuda grass removal know that we deserve medals for our achievement! So if you see us working the next 2 Thursday mornings by the Riverside Ave. give the Team members an approval wave/honk and please don’t let us hold you back from dropping off yummies between 8am-10am:)

Cheers and Chirps to you all, jane

20200220_101722
BIG THANK YOU to the awesome AmeriCorps & Downtown Street Team members…

 

With a Little Help From My Friends

Hello Jane and Fellow Celebrants of the Natural World,

In spite of the heart-breaking destruction of the natural world, there is still so  much to see and love.  Perhaps the ghosts of extinct insects that I never learned to celebrate will feel some bitterness at that remark.  But we all live in our severely blinkered worlds and do our best to celebrate what comes our way.

The river has offered us some exciting new sightings this last week, none of them discovered by me due to a  few ill advised  moves that provoked my back into rebellion.   But thanks to friends and eBird I still managed to keep abreast of some of the mysterious comings and goings on the river.

The biggest news in terms of a rarity was Alex Rinkert’s sighting February 17 of a female BARROW’S GOLDENEYE just upstream of the trestle bridge near

 Female Barrow’s Goldeneye, San Lorenzo River estuary, February 17, 2020, alone and later with group of Common Goldeneyes. Sighting and Photo by Alex Rinkert.

the mouth of the river.. According to Alex, the Barrow’s Goldeneye has not been seen in the entire County since winter 2009-10. a full decade.   Only a birding expert like Alex could have made the identification since it is almost indistinguishable from the Common Goldeneye that we see all the time at this time of year. Below is a photo of a female COMMON GOLDENEYE  for comparison:

Female Common Goldeneye, MaCaulay Library, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology  photo

: The discovery has stirred up quite a bit of excitement among local bird aficionados as they confirm the identifiation. Here is Alex’ amazing description, providing an illuminating  peek into the world of birding experts using all their skills to observe and record every obscure detail of a bird’s anatomy and plumage to assure correct identification of a rare sighting. Can you tell them apart, especially the head shape and the size of the beak?  I think you have a better future as a serious birder than I do.  Below is the description that Alex made in eBird.

Alex Rinkert Feb. 17, 2020, 9:40 a.m. “Female actively diving and preening just upstream of the trestle. Head and bill shape were typical of Barrow’s. The head was peaked at the forehead when loafing (i.e., not preening or diving). The bill was noticeably curved up at the base and toward the tip, and the contrasting dark nail at the tip of the bill seemed wide. The bill color and pattern was not the typical bright orange often associated with Barrow’s but is apparently within the range of variability in this species. The basal third or half of the bill was blackish and the distal end was a pale flesh-orange. The amount of color visible on the bill depended on the direction the bird was facing. Often the bill looked almost entirely dark but when in a profile view or straight on, the color was evident as it is in many of the photos. During our long observation we were able to directly compare the body size of this bird to numerous female Commons and this bird appeared slightly larger, but the difference in size was not noticeable except when they were side by side. Photos reveal six fully white secondaries and possibly a seventh that is partially white, as well as no white bar on the lesser covs. The pale yellow iris and the scattered white feathers on the lesser coverts suggest this is an adult female.”

“Common Goldeneyes can have an extensively yellow bill, but these aberrant individuals tend to have a completely yellow bill instead of a broad flesh-orange tip with a dark nail, and the bill and head shape is unlike Common. A hybrid was carefully considered in light of the somewhat darker bill color, but the bill shape and head (especially for an ad female) was typical of Barrow’s, as was the wing pattern.”

Here are two responses from Monterey Bay Birds listserv where rarities are often reported.

Liam Murphy February 17, 2020 7:37 pm  “I refound the Barrow’s this evening about 1 hour before sunset. It had moved upstream a bit, just above the first sweeping bend, but still below the Riverside Ave Bridge. Alex’s notes are spot on.  The color in the bill is not obvious from a distance.  There is more color on the bill than on some of the Commons, but it’s a duller orange with a hint of pink (some of the Commons have a limited bright orange bill tip).  The small size of the bill is really what stands out from a distance.”

Alexander  Gauguine Feb. 18 5:19 pm  Female Barrow’s Goldeneye now present just downstream of Trestle Bridge San Lorenzo with 4 female Commons. (Many more Common’s further upstream.)

It’s quite a blessing to have so much birding expertise in our community.

I did a little research and found out that the Common Goldeneye can be found during the winter in all 48 lower states and Alaska, but breeds almost solely in Canada and Alaska.  Much less common, the Barrows are only found along the west coast from southern California up to Alaska during the winter. During breeding season, this species leaves the states almost entirely and moves inland in Canada and Alaska.

The discovery  of the Barrow’s upstaged another wonderful discovery on  February 15 by friends Michael Levy and Batya Kagan. They saw  a pair of

Male Hooded Merganser with crest fully extended, behind Tannery above Highway 1, discovered by Michael Levy and Batya Kagan, photo by Batya Kagan.

HOODED MERGANSERS swimming just upstream of Highway 1 Bridge behind the Tannery. Above is Batya’s photo of the male Hooded Merganser with his elegant crest extended in full breeding display.  I was thrilled to hear about this.  I have been waiting for another glimpse of these gorgeous winter migrants for five years now.  Below are three photos I caught five years ago in 2015  at almost the same time of year, and in the exact same area.   I was lucky enough to catch the male in both full display mode and with his crest pulled in, and the female with her beautiful chestnut hairdo fully poofed out. I wonder if they take turns displaying their charms to each other. They don’t breed here but they clearly start courting early and before they reach their breeding site. I think I would also stretch out the courting season if I were this beautiful.

Hooded Merganser pair, February 25, 2015, behind Tannery,  male on left in full breeding display with crest fully extended  Photo by B. Riverwoman
Hooded Merganser pair, February 25 2015, behind Tannery, female on right with crest in full display, male with crest lowered. Photo by B. Riverwoman

I liked learning on the Cornell website that baby Hooded Mergansers leap from their nests, when they are only one day old.  Bold babies!  Or pushy moms?  “Their mother checks the area around the nest,  then calls to the nestlings from ground level. From inside the nest, the little fluffballs scramble up to the entrance hole and then flutter to the ground, which may be 50 feet or more below them. In some cases they have to walk half a mile or more with their mother to the nearest body of water.”

And as another gift to me in my semi-homebound state, Batya also found a RING-NECKED DUCK in the same area behind the Tannery. I’ve seen this duck only occasionally in the Duck Pond and  never behind the Tannery in a natural setting. Thanks again, Batya!   .

Ring-necked Duck, San Lorenzo River above Highway1 behind Tannery, February 17, 2020, Photo by Batya Kagan.

Save yourself the trouble of looking for the ringed neck that gives this bird its name.  It’s almost impossible to see.  Apparently there is a chestnut collar on the bird’s black neck that 19th century biologists used to describe the species.  The speciments were dead which I guess made it easier to see the brown ring.  The best field marks are the pointed head and the white ring on the bill. We in Santa Cruz get to see both the Ring-necked Duck and the Hooded Merganser as they over-winter along the west coast of the U.S and Canada.  Both species  fly north to Canada during breeding season but like the Hooded Mergansers and a lot of our winter water fowl, they are in breeding plumage during most of the time they are with us.

I met Yosi Almog several weeks ago who is building an owl house on his property.  The Cornell Lab is encouraging people to create more nesting boxes for local birds as natural nesting sites continue to shrink.  CLICK HERE to see expert advice from the Cornell Lab’s website  on how to build them.    I’d love to hear about any successes you have. Good luck, Yosi.

With best wishes to all our local breeding birds, many of whom are busy scouting out nesting sites, building nests and even incubating (some hummingbirds).

“Teach us to walk the soft earth as relatives to all that live.”  from a Sioux prayer

With gratitude for all that is “natural, wild and free” (from Aldo Leopold, Sand County Almanac)

Barbara

 

 

visitor surprises…

Good Morning Barbara and Nature Enjoyers,

dawn visitor…

The other morning the moist shore sand bore witness of night and dawn beach visitors. According to the left behind paw and bird feet prints lots had been going on while I was sleeping. I love trying to decipher what animal belongs to what print. My favorite scenario is to compare several imprints of the same species and try to figure how many individuals had been present, because~ just like us~ each animal has their unique walk. A great chewy food source for the imagination are the prints that just disappear into the no-where, because the ‘what-happened?’ plots are fun to play with.

testimony of busy MALLARD palaver…

Yes, Barbara, you are right: the Canada Geese are right on schedule for the February 1st through September 15 nesting season. For about a week I have been seeing them circle back and forth over the river, honking to high heaven and I wondered about their behavior. I think I discovered the reason for their restless river flights during my ride-along with Erica, who is on the Park & Rec. maintenance crew,. Remember last year’s CANDA GOOSE nest on the river island across the Benchland and Trader Joe’s parking lot that fit the bill( or eggs for that matter) for a safe nesting spot? Well, the CANADA GEESE parents obviously questioned the potential nest safety requirements, because the island is occupied with sprawled out camp sites. I watched one C. GOOSE land on the previous year breeding spot, crane its neck for a better look at the campers, walk back and forth and fly off. Personally I agree with the CANDA GEESE couple assessment of this situation: the island is not the right place for campers to be. I hope that the feather couple will locate a safe nesting ground.

last year’s river nesting result…

I was starring off into space, working out the logistics for various Estuary Project volunteer groups, not really paying attention to the birds flying above me. But for whatever reason I turned around and looked up, right at the OSPREY, who was hovering over the water, eyeing its future meal. She plummeted into the water, came up empty beaked and dashed off into the sky to have a discussion with a RED-shouldered HAWK, who was rocking gently in a wind current above the river. They circled each other for a while and then they both flew to the Trestle trees. The OSPREY landed on its favorite bare branch while the RED-shouldered HAWK snuggled into the foliage, where its undetectable. That wonderful interruption blew my brain fog away and if you want to see the logistic result then come and join us on Feb.15 from 9am-11am down by the Boardwalk/Trestle path. Here is more info. 

I want to leave you with a video that will make you smile and no! I won’t tell you why. So enjoy and cherish your Nature moments with gusto, jane

OSPREY getting ready for RED-shoulder HAWK discussion…

 

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