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

more San Lorenzo River rarities…

Good Morning Dear Rain Receivers,

TOWHEE in freshly rain laundered feather coat…

Wasn’t that rain just perfect? Mama Nature cleaned her creations with small rain  drops, which came down slow and steady, achieving a long needed, thorough rubdown. The day after the rain the critters’ and vegetation’s colors were shining brighter, unveiling the nuanced details of their life forms. The TOWEE’s scrubbed feather coat had me mesmerized with its freshly laundered looks.

LONG-tailed DUCK in the early morning…

The last time I told you about the migratory river winter rarity, the WHITE WAGTAIL. To-day I am introducing you to an other San Lorenzo River migratory rarity: 2 LONG-tailed DUCKS. You’ll find them sleeping and diving between the river mouth and Trestle bridge. They are not explorers like their cousins, the BUFFLEHEADS and COMMON GOLDENEYES, who are checking out every nook and cranny along the river. Sight-seeing is a low priority for the LONG-tailed DUCKS, because they spend their lives 4 times more underwater than on the surface. Their underwater activity is strenuous, so the LONG-tailed DUCKS uses the water surface as their bedroom. As you know, for diving DUCKS use their feet to propel themselves forward, but the LONG-tailed DUCKS employs its wings for that purpose. This DUCK species is the only one that you’ll see out in the open sea. Usually they winter at the Bering Sea, Hudson Bay and Great Lakes. Rarely do they migrate to California. So allow yourself to take a Holiday river stroll that will greet you with the sight of 2 rare San Lorenzo River guests: The LONG-tailed DUCKS.

REALLY…!?

And then there was this rare Duck of a man, balancing on the top of the Trestle structure. It was scary to watch him walking on the beam while his friends cheered him as they ‘safely’ stood on the rail tracks that have gapping holes. There is something about the Trestle bridge that makes men perform dare devil actions like the driver, who tried to navigate his car across the bridge on the railroad tracks. He got stuck and needed to be rescued…

safe bird distance versus perfect pic. closeness…

I was watching a RED-tailed HAWK hunt along the river cliffs and land on a rock outcrop above a location that is well populated with ground squirrels. Clearly the HAWK was positing its perch, getting ready for a nourishing meal. The RED-tailed HAWK’s hope was doomed, because 2 people thought the HAWK had positioned itself for their picture taking pleasure, which required to get as close as possible to the majestic beauty for that perfect, close-up photo. One of the people just had to sneak closer and closer until the HAWK flushed and abandoned its hunting perch. I hope the person didn’t think:”WOW! it really was tame and let me get that close.”, because big birds are reluctant to spend their energy resource on taking flight unless it’s for prey. Most people don’t know that taking flight costs the bird a high ratio of its energy, which needs to be replenished with food and rest. Therefore big birds wait to the last minute to gage if they really need to escape. Unfortunately I was too far away to offer my suggestion: How about gifting the bird a safe distance to avoid the drain of its energy resource? How about gifting the bird your thoughtful, joyous appreciation by respecting its comfort level? I almost forgot to mention that a migratory SNOW GOOSE has befriended the big flock of CANADA GEESE, that frequents the river mouth shore. You can’t miss the SNOW GOOSE in the midst of the CANADA GEESE crowd, because of its all dressed up in brilliant white feathers.

migratory SNOW GOOSE with CANADA GOOSE friend…

As a Season cheer I like to leave you with a good read that explores why seeing birds make us happy. I wish you a very Happy Christmas that nourishes your soul~ jane

White Wagtail visits the San Lorenzo River

Good Morning dear Nature Cheerers,

White Wagtail(googled)

Have you heard that the WHITE WAGTAIL has been visiting the San Lorenzo River mouth?If you never heard that name and have no clue what that bird looks like then you are in good company. Most local birders didn’t either until it was spotted at Corcoran Lagoon 3 weeks ago. Now every avid, local bird watchers has either seen it and/or studied its picture and background. Why is this 7 inch long tailed bird able to send the Santa Cruz birder community in a twitter, drop whatever they were doing and dash off when the Monterey Bay Birds(MBB) posts its latest location? In case you want to join MBB then use the Santa Cruz Bird Club link to subscribe to the MBBirdsgooglegroup: https://santacruzbirdclub.org/birding-listservers/  Now back to why this migratory WHITE WAGTAIL is receiving so much attention in the Santa Cruz County: this species breeds in Europe, Asia, Africa and has a ‘claw-hold’ in Alaska. The Northern American WAGTAIL population winters in tropical Asia. There have been very few of  reports of them in California since this bird hardly ever strays into the ‘New World’. So this little bird somehow ended up here. It seems to like this area, because it hasn’t continued on its migratory journey. So far I haven’t seen it and I am happy that Michael Levy did, because he has a soft spot for the river wildlife. It’s nice to know that the WHITE WAGTAIL and I share the same point of view: the Santa Lorenzo River is a great place to hangout.

Russell Brutsche: art of a “developed” car-centric downtown

 Mentioning Michael reminds me that a while back I met up with him and Batya as they were enjoying their morning levee ride. We had a wonderful conversation that covered the various river topics that included the fascinating wildlife, the City’s approach to the river’s habitats and our bird observations. Michael brought up that the California Coastal Commission had submitted a letter for the City Council meeting, in which the approval of the 7 story Front St Project was to be addressed. The California Coastal Commission’s objection to that monster Project ruffled the feathers of some City Council members while I confess~ the news of that letter was music in my ears~ because the river deserves better than a massively oversized development. Shelley Hatch and Ron Pomerantz wrote a vivid, descriptive  Sentinel Guest Commentary on what happened in that City Council meeting. It’s worth reading, so click here.

Great Blue Heron hanging out with Snowy Egrets…

I always tell you about our river OSPREY and I thought you might enjoy what somebody else has to say about this beauty. This OSPREY article and its wonderful photos will increase your appreciation for this species. Seraphina Landgrebe’s report ‘Osprey the Fish Hawk’ was published by the Monterey Bay Birding Festival, an organization well worth your investigation. 

River greetings sprinkled with Nature’s sparkles~ jane

celebrating returns~finding magic…

Good Morning Dear Fellow Nature Celebrators,

the SPOTTED SANDPIPER returned…

There is nothing like days away from the river to revive my passion for it. I had been laid flat for 5 days by my dental anti-anxiety med. that had taken its job obviously extremely serious. Finally strolling along the levee again I felt like I had come home and was visiting with all the dear, familiar friends: the OSPREY announced her presence with that high pitch call. The KINGFISHER counter her with its agitated alarm racket, because the OSPREY is an unwelcome fish meal competitor.
Now that the algae has strongly subsided the OSPREY is becoming once again a regular Trestle tree percher and river fish hunter. For months the algae cover was very thick and at times covered the entire water surface. That made it impossible for the OSPREY to locate fish, which is its main food source. I love looking up into the trees and see the white shape perched on its favorite branch and hear that her call is being answered by an other OSPREY in the distance.

our river female OSPREY is back!

The new plants were thriving thanks to the rain. The established Mugwort and Gumplant have their fall look now that makes any tidy landscaper’s weed-whacker fingers itch: brown, overgrown, straggly, collapsing into every direction and loaded with seeds. The plants that had escaped the weed-whacker had their seeds eagerly harvested by the LESSER GOLDFINCHES and the TOWNSEND’S WARBLERS, our winter migratory birds. Over the years the mowing and weed-whacking has become less intrusive as the levee crew and I have learned to respect each other’s tasks needs. I like to believe that it has been a mutually beneficial experience.

migratory LESSER GOLDFINCH harvesting Mugwort seeds…

The migratory winter fowl flocks have grown to a remarkable size. As every year the COMMON GOLDENEYES claimed the Trestle area as their gathering place and the BUFFLEHEADS sill prefer the stretch between the Riverside Ave. and Crescent bridge. The LESSER and GREATER SCAUP agree with the RUDDY DUCKS that the area by the east side pump-station is very desirable hang-out place. The COOTS are beside themselves with the new winter guests and flock around them. The newcomers seem to feel overwhelmed by all that attention and try to escape the white beaked pursuers by diving continuously. The COOTS see no reason to stop their friendship efforts and dive after the winter guests. COOTS don’t really dive all that much, but right now they are spending a lot of time under water with their elusive ‘friends’. Knowing that COMMON GOLDENEYES and BUFFLEHEADS dive deeper than COOTS, I suspect the black residents are harvesting the plant material and invertebrates that the visitors are stirring up. So it’s no wonder that the COOTS are happily greeting their food suppliers.

‘our’ new magic San Lorenzo River dragon…

A couple of weeks ago my friend and I took a river walk and we passed by the County building pedestrian bridge. We arrived at the right time: the workers were cleaning up after the dragon sculpture had been mounted on the arch. Several bystanders commented that the new San Lorenzo River dragon looked just how they pictured ‘Puff, the Magic Dragon’ as a kid. We all agree that the sculpture had magical quality as the sun was glittering across its surface. Somebody started singing the song and we all enthusiastically chimed in. At the end of the tune we laughed together for breaking out singing and waved good-bye to each other. I celebrate that ‘our’ river dragon magically united us with joyfully singing a childhood memory melody.
Come to the river where magic is waiting for you~ jane

soaking up river calmness on election day…

Good Morning Nature Seekers,

BROWN PELICANS fly by…

To-day I’ll go for an extended river walk, because I want my eyes to feed my mind beauty on this dicey election day. My ballot was cast on the day Santa Cruz had rally in of honor of Ruth Ginsburg, because I wanted to dedicate my vote to her. I am sure that all of you’ll have voted by 8pm today.

WHITE-crowned SPARROW stretching its beak jaw…

The other day I heard a bird utter a few subdued notes in intervals. It sounded like the bird was exercising its song. Finally I located the owner of the sound. It was a migratory WHITE-crowned SPARROW, sitting on the top of a Coyote bush, watching me. Once it decided that I was harmless, it opened and closed its beak repeatedly. Then a few ethereal notes were set free, followed by silence, which was used for further beak stretching. Watching this behavior, I was reminded that my friend, a professional singer, did exactly the same vocal cords exercise: stretch her jaw, sing a few tones, stretch the jaw some more. This went on for a while until the WHITE-crowned SPARROW felt ready to deliver its entire song that was delightful. Who knew that birds prime their vocal cords like professional opera singers?

setting its song free…

Sometimes the river hosts an unfamiliar guest. When that happens my mind races through various possibilities: is this an unusual migratory bird that got blown off its route, is it an inland bird that got displaced or…? After examining this DUCK, I figured that it was the frolic outcome of its domestic Duck and MALLARD parents. A COOT was quite taken by the nicely pattern newcomer. It stayed close to its side and charged at any other approaching relatives. This attitude kept the black torpedo very busy since the river features over 100 COOTS. The unusual Duck paid no attention to its ‘friend’s’ activity since algae eating dominated its time.

unusual river DUCK visitor….

Well, that was a good reminder! My friend & I took a bird watching walk along the river. I got absorbed with watching a COOT walk on top of the algae as if it was solid ground. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a smaller bird walk on the algae. I dismissed it as a BREWER’S BLACKBIRD, who frequent algae surfaces. My friend paid better attention to that bird and greatly pleased identified it as a shy, elusive SORA, who harvest floating vegetation. Obviously I was due to be reminded: never dismiss a bird with a brief glimpse, thinking that I identified it correctly. We were both elated to discover the secretive waterbird! We also saw the BUFFLEHEADS and RUDDY DUCKS, whose return I had celebrated the evening before. You can check our e-bird list to find out, who else we saw.

SORA-credit: National Audubon Society

The other morning approx. 40 CANADA GEESE rounded the river bend, slowed down, took a look at the BUFFLEHEAD flock, lined up in a formation and swam at a fast clip towards the white and black dots on the water. The BUFFLEHEADS stopped in their water tracks and watched the approach of the formidable flotilla. 2 BUFFLEHEAD males peeled away from the group and slowly swam towards the GEESE, who slowed down. Encouraged by that result the males picked up speed, causing the big group to start turning around. Obviously the brave newbies were satisfied with their success, because they watched the GEESE ensemble depart while leisurely treading water.

Sending you all river calmness on this election day~ jane

2 male BUFFLEHEADS watching CANADA GEESE depart…

allowing to be…

Dear River Friends,

RED-tailed HAWK

I was down by the Riverside Ave. bridge, trying to ignore the CROWS’ ‘attack-the-Hawk’ calls. That is quite difficult, because those sounds are annoyingly penetrating since they are meant to reach all CROWS far and wide. The screeches are action announcement to stop any activity and hurry on over to menacingly bomb dive a RAPTOR until it leaves. The sounds were coming closer. I looked up just as a RED-tailed HAWK flew in my direction. I expected it to head for the telephone pole below the bank. So it surprised me when it decided on a tricky crash-landing into the tree next to me. After chasing the CROWS away with my owl hiss I looked at the HAWK, who was jammed into the thick tree foliage in an ‘eagle spread’ position. The branch jungle didn’t provide enough open space for the folding of the wide wings. The HAWK dealt with vulnerable situation by twisting and turning until the wings were properly tucked down. Then it was time to take a thorough survey of my exterior and interior being. It felt like it was seeing things I don’t even know about myself. Whatever the RED-tailed HAWK saw put it at ease, so I sat down slowly and enjoyed our peaceful time together…

AMERICAN COOT taking a levee walk…

To-day my visit with you is short, because I want to allow myself time to go through the grieving process of losing the Ranger Program. It was eliminated at the City Council’s budget meeting by the City Police Department. This means that the Parks and Open Spaces will be without their guardians, who stood up to assure environment and human safety. I’ll be back in 2 weeks with a soothed heart, ready to share my river tales with you. Until then be sure to visit the river, because it loves your company~ jane