river love confessions…

Good Morning Barbara and all you Nature lovers,

spell casting SPOTTED SANDPIPER…

I love the spell a bird can cast on me and charm me as the SPOTTED SANDPIPER did. It started a couple of winters ago, when I caught sight of a small, white chested shorebird across the river, bobbing along a narrow sand bank and then it disappeared and I was left with: ‘who was that?’. Then one morning I saw a little bobbing bird on the rocks by the Trestle bridge, same size, same yellow legs as the previous shorebird, but it had a spotted chest… so was I looking at a different shorebird species? I found out that it was a SPOTTED SANDPIPER, who announces ‘ready to breed-yahoo!’ with brown spots on chest and ‘not-breeding…thank you very much’ with a virgin white chest. It enjoys long, thorough baths that call for a redefinition of cleanliness. It’s really hard to tell the sexes apart, because they look very similar. The female chest spots are supposed to be bigger and you need the male next to her to compare the difference. The female is the one, who chooses and initiates the courtship with her desirable feathered prince and entitles him with the task to incubate their eggs. Last summer I learned the river resident was a female SPOTTED SANDPIPER, because she chased unfit males away. Then one day two SPOTTED SANDPIPERS were facing each other and bobbing vigorously up and down. From then on the two foraged peacefully together on the rocks. I missed them when they disappeared for about 3 weeks and was beside myself with joy when I spotted 2 adults and 4 chicks foraging on the rocks. After some family time the male faded out of the picture and Mama instructed the chicks to find their own foraging terrain. Now the 4 ‘chicks’ are spread out along the Laurel St. and river-mouth section and looking mighty fine.

spots on chest announce: ready to breed!

I love standing on the river bridges! The height allows me to gaze into the water as well as an extended view up and down the river. But my Wednesday morning view from the Trestle bridge gave me a severe case of the ‘Blues’.  The evening before the City Council had rubber-stamped the Planning Department’s 70’-85’ building height request along Front St., making developers giddy with joy. I stared towards the downtown, knowing that one day 70’ buildings will line the river that are higher than any recently built downtown buildings and 20’ lower than the Palomar. There is no doubt in my mind that this high density building mass will effect the riparian corridor and its wildlife! The heavy, intense, lengthly construction alone, necessary to support such building mass, will create havoc for the river environment. Plus there are three more river projects in the pipeline… our poor river is facing some tough times…

a view slated to change…

I love those spontaneous connections with other river walkers. On Sunday morning a RED-Shouldered HAWK by the Trestle bridge triggered such an encounter with 2 fellow observers. We exchanged one river bird story after an other, discovered that we have walked the levee for years, that we couldn’t believe we had not met before, that Bob’s neighbor’s Redwood tree gets visited by an EAGLE. Bob mentioned that he had never seen an OSPREY along the river and asked if I had. Just as I launched into my river OSPREY story, he said: “I can’t believe it!” as he looked upriver. I turned to check what he meant and faced the incredible river magic: the OSPREY was flying low towards us with a fish in its talons and pulled up to land in the Trestle tree. We were giddy with the OSPREY’s perfect timing, tried to guess its unusual call and yodeled about Ann and Bob first San Lorenzo River OSPREY sighting. We parted, hoping to meet again to continue our cheery connection.I continued my walk, stopped to watch one of ‘my’ SPOTTED SANDPIPERS and was joined by young man, who asked what I was looking at. He was from Italy, where they nick-name SANDPIPERS “dancers”. Right then the OSPREY passed us, flying very low over the water, racking the surface with its extended legs. The young man watched in awe while the mighty fish hunter repeated its talon cleaning procedure several times, signaling that it had finished its breakfast. We shared how essential Nature experiences were for our soul and emotional well-being. In our good-bye we shared our pleasure to have experieced the river together.

San Lorenzo River’s OSPREY with fish…

river chirps from jane


Light and Dark on the River

Hello Jane and all our followers,

I am luxuriating in the rich autumnal light these days – the sky, the water, the trees – all are transformed. Everything seems aglow in that special ‘slant of light’ that brings life into high relief as it slowly surrenders to dormancy and death.

Bufflehead, Male and Female
Newly arrived Male and Female Bufflehead between Riverside and Laurel St. Bridges – in a flock of 11.  November 14, 2017

Light patterns on the river mesmerize me.  The luminous quality of the light helps screen out not only the city noise and buildings, but even, for a moment, the presence of tormented souls curled up silently in pain or screaming curses at no one in particular. The full spectrum of our life in Santa Cruz is out here on the river. But the harshness seems to fade away under the  magic of light and water. I fall into a kind of revery.  I go back to the river again and again – to learn once more what is so easy to forget.  I hope it is also healing to those experiencing homelessness.

Returning from the river, I watched the City Council meeting last night  with a mixture of resignation and  frustration. (I’m so glad you were there to speak up for the birds.)  The majority of the Council, of course, did what we knew was inevitable – rubber stamping the Downtown Commission’s development plan and pretty much ignoring  or putting off major environmental concerns.  Only Chris Krohn and Sandy Brown voted ‘no’.   What is most  maddening to me is  the term ‘activating the river’. With no hope of turning around the juggernaut of capitalism in Santa Cruz, I at least yearn for Confucian ‘rectification of language’.  The river does not need activation.  Let’s start by getting rid of that phrase!   Non-human life along the river is enormously active and complex, even if it is unseen and unappreciated.   What ‘activation’ means for most people is a bustling downtown with lots of humans (with money) and lots of things being bought and sold.   Why not just say that openly–  and not pretend that it has anything to do with the river.  I guess the City likes the idea of a scenic backdrop to all the bustle and exchange of money.  I guess that is where the river comes in.

The river itself, as I often say, provides key habitat for 122 species of birds not to speak of fish, insects, etc.  Rivers and wetlands are the most damaged ecosystem in our country and throughout the world.  Santa Cruz is contributing to that sad statistic.    It is so easy to mock Trump and company as we ourselves fall under the spell of build, build, build, despoil, despoil, despoil.   Climate change denial is alive and well in Santa Cruz.

I got my first glimpse today of the returning BUFFLEHEADS, dressed in their elegant black and white breeding plumage.

Bufflehead displaying
Bufflehead with extended wings.  November 14, 2017

I keep forgetting that for many waterfowl, including the common MALLARD, this is breeding season! The season starts  in October when the Buffleheads return from their breeding grounds in Canada and Alaska in full breeding plumage.  I guess they mate here, then head north again in May to lay their eggs and raise their young.    Do you think this Bufflehead with extended wings was doing some kind of mating display?  The AMERICAN COOT seems uninterested.  When the Planning Commission talks about activating the river, do they include the active mating dances of the Buffleheads?  Just joking.

I saw two Mallards last week doing a very long and animated mating dance.  The male and female faced each other, bobbing their heads up and down in perfect synchrony for quite a while, followed immediately by a 3-second copulation. Admirable balance. Will there still be mallards actively mating in the river once the the City ‘activates’ the river?  Not joking.


Cormorants drying out
Double-crested Cormorants drying their wings, near Laurel St. Bridge, November 14 2017

were scudding along the surface of the river this morning at a mighty pace, then diving, surfacing, diving again and finally resting and digesting their fishy meals on this old twisted stump – the light pouring through their drying feathers.  I’m sure all of you readers share with me fear that all the fancy new bars, restaurants, hotels and coffee shops (a human habitat) will ultimately destroy the habitat that supports  these wild creature .   And where will they go, I ask?

Alan Lozano, the river-loving maintenance person from Parks and Recreation, told me that since the homeless camp has been set up in the Benchlands, the GREAT BLUE HERON that regularly inhabits this

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron between Soquel and Riverside Bridges, November 14,2017

area has not been seen. I told him the Heron might be the same one that I had seen lower down on the river this morning, bathed in light. But even the saintly Great Blue can’t live on light alone! Hopefully the Heron is also finding good meals downstream.  But as we know,  birds must choose their domains carefully and can suffer if pushed into inferior territories. Still, all things considered, I am excited about the experiment on the Benchlands.  It seems to be a positive experiment in human decency. I wish it well. I hope it leads to something more permanent.

I was encouraged to see some native habitat restoration work going on between Soquel and Laurel St. on the east side of the river, sponsored by the City in

Restoration Project
Restoration project near Mimi De Marta Dog Park,

conjunction with the Coastal Watershed Council. Ice plant is being replaced with Coyote Bush, Manzanita, Tules, Gumweed and Native Blackberry. It’s cause for celebration when you see an agency that was actively promoting habitat-degrading recreation (paddling on the river) shift  to habitat preservation.

Hopefully, we will never hear again about putting boats on the river. But if we do, the City and CWC can expect more energetic resistance.   Just saying.

Here is the latest list of 28 species   that I saw yesterday and posted to eBird. Alan Lozano also shared with me a rather spine-tingling tale about the OSPREY that I saw yesterday and that regularly hangs out on the tall redwood just north of Water St.  He saw it plunge into a flock of seagulls resting on an island in the river. The osprey pinned one gull to the ground, attacking it again and again but failed to either kill it or carry it off. Probably too heavy.

And on that rather raw note, I bid you a light-filled week on the River!












San Lorenzo River re-entry

Good Morning Barbara and Fellow Nature Lovers,

little RUDDY DUCK…

In the early morning hours I obeyed the siren’s allure to check on the river after my evening return from Europe. We all know, I love the San Lorenzo River and I was curious to find out how I would experience the river after 3 weeks absence, seeing other landscapes, observing a few other bird species, hearing different languages. My European birding had been meager, because in Venice only the pigeons exist. The other birds dash quickly across the sky. The lack of vegetation and tourist invasion make this architecturally fabulous place difficult for birds to rest and forage. Of course the 11 story high cruise ships, blocking the most beautiful sights, have also done environmental harm: they raise the water level and damage Venice surrounding salt meadows. This condition has severely impacted the local and migratory bird population. There was a noticeable bird population decline in Munich’s English Park, which is a huge area with vast meadows, gigantic trees, creeks and ponds. I am used to seeing a large variety of bird species there, but this time it was feather poor. My friend, who lives next to the park, told me that she has noticed less birds in the last 2 years and that she is missing their songs.


As it turned out it was the perfect day for a river re-acquaintance exploration: the early, calm morning was nudging the wildlife to get ready for breakfast, the regular levee walkers were feasting their eyes on the rising sun over the ocean, stopping to talk about their latest bird observations, WHITE-crowned SPARROWS were warming themselves in the first sun rays and 15 of my beloved migratory BUFFLEHEADS were gently rocking on the water. I soaked in the images of the river, ocean, various birds, butterflies, lizard as they confirmed my long held take on the San Lorenzo River: Santa Cruz is darn fortunate to have such a unique place right in the middle of town. I just let myself drift, didn’t take any notes nor record the birds I saw, instead I just let the river enchant me with its sights, satisfied to realize why I’ll keep advocating for its environmental rights.

CORMORANTS early morning fishing frenzy…

A few days later I visited the river again and this time the water by the trestle bridge was boiling with 60 foraging CORMORANTS. Fish were jumping out of the water, PIED-billed GREBES were chocking while swallowing oversized fish. COMMON MERGANSERS were torpedo fishing, seals were goosing 24 BUFFLEHEADS, who fled the unsettling scene. The nervous RUDDY DUCK tried to zig-zag  through the hectic fishing crowd. The EARED GREBES kept diving to avoid the water surface traffic jam. 20 SNOWY EGRETS stood fish guard along the shore, ready to pounce on their breakfast. The KINGFISHER kept trying to dive between the mayhem while the OSPREY was perched high up, laconically watching the crazed scene, which made his breakfast dives impossible. It was obvious that the river had laid out one fine banquet for the fishing birds to gorge on. The algae eaters on the other webbed foot, like the MALLARDS and AMERICAN COOTS, were clinging to the shore lines, anxiously staying away from the fishing fever. To be frank: I hope these weren’t steelheads that the birds were devouring…

EARED GREBES avoiding fishing traffic…

Downstream re-entry greetings from jane

Comings and Goings

Dear Jane and everyone who reads our blog!

The mysterious comings and goings of the San Lorenzo sand bar continue. The highly independent-minded sand bar has recently decided to block the normal  flow of the river to the sea, raising the lagoon level so high that it has swamped the Riverwalk section that runs under the Riverside Bridge. This sand bar phenomenon always surprises me. It is such an odd maneuver of nature – so good for wildlife and so inconvenient for humans. I’m sure all the Steelhead that you reported on last week, Jane,  are celebrating this creation of a safe transitional nursery for their young ones before they are forced out to sea when the bar is breached. But in the meantime the Seaside Company will grumble as the river water seeps sideways into their underground machinery. It is illegal for individuals to artificially breach the sand bar, but will the City make a move in the next days or weeks? Until two years ago I was unaware of this annual drama.  Now I watch this drama unfold almost every year – a compelling story of humans and nature  at cross purposes.

Funny that there aren’t more birds out chasing all the Steelhead in the newly formed Lagoon. I went out yesterday, seeking my first EARED GREBE

Eared grebe with dirty ears and neck - Version 2
Eared Grebe, photo by B.Riverwoman, July, 2015

of the season after reading that Shantanu Phukan found his first one last week. But no luck. By mid-October they should be here in significant numbers. Where are they? The problem in getting so familiar with a patch of nature is that we expect the kids home at a certain hour and worry when they are not here!

My most unusual discovery this week was a TROPICAL KINGBIRD perched on a willow tree near the river behind Kaiser Arena – a lifebird for me.

Tropical Kingbird
Tropical Kingbird, near Kaiser Arena, October 15, 2017, San Lorenzo River

According to BNA, it is a common bird with a normal range from Mexico to central Argentina. They started venturing northward 75 years ago, beginning to nest in Arizona and New Mexico. A small number are now seen dispersed along the Pacific Coast in the winter. Lucky me – I not only got to see one but it sat still long enough for me to take a photo of its bright yellow belly.

Western Grebe
Western Grebe, October 15, 2017

Walking the loop between Soquel Bridge and the Trestle – and back – I also caught sight of a  WESTERN GREBE in fall plumage, and a PELAGIC CORMORANT pumping along, slim and radiant as always. 19 species in all swam or flew into my ken, and the next day Shantanu Phutan found 20 species, at least half of them different from mine. So, roughly, a total of 30 species reported last week   on the river. I hope you take time to click the two links above.  Such a great resource.

Pelagic Cormorant – Version 2
Pelagic Cormorant, October 15, 2017


On the human side of the equation – a seismic wave continues to ripple through the Benchlands right now, a fascinating phenomenon apparently generated in part by the new police chief.

The homeless are now allowed to legally pitch tents from 9 pm to 6 am, something homeless advocates have been seeking for decades. The campers are allowed the privacy and relative safety of their tents at night as long as they take them down on time and tidy up their camps. With close ranger and police supervision, the campsites looked  amazingly shipshape at 9:30 a.m. as I accompanied homeless advocate Phil Posner through the area.

Phil is working with a local group of activists, city staff and elected officials on creating a permanent homeless shelter. Altar 1BenchlandsAmong the 7 campsites on the Benchlands that I I visited with him, there were two that included altars with flowers, both created by homeless women. One woman told me that her altar was in memory of a woman ‘loved by all’ who had recently died at the age of 26. Altar 2 BenchlandsThis is the tragic and invisible part of the iceberg that we  don’t get to see.


We have a good friend of the river in Alan Martin, a Parks and Recreation Department employee who monitors the river almost daily in his shiny white truck, grabbing a few moments to record  both the human and non-human dramas of the river.  He recently sent me this video that he whimsically calls  A Garbage Truck With a View.  Check it out!

More on the political front….I attended the meeting of the City Council on October 10 where the City made its final decision on whether to approve the preliminary Parks Master Plan before it heads to the state for an Environmental Impact Report.   We knew that  the imperfect but significantly improved Plan would pass.  But most of us environmentalists in the chambers that day were unprepared by a last minute motion made by Councilmember Martine Watkins that put mountain biking back on an action priority list. Krohn and Brown supported the major Plan but held strong on opposing Watkins’ motion in favor of the biking industry push for speeding up the process of getting more mountain bikes in Pogonip and DeLaveaga. Another predictable 5-2 vote on the environment. Expect a battle over that one! We need two more strong environmentalists on the City Council if we are going to protect our treasured green spaces from the onslaught of trail-hungry mountain bikers.

Quote of the Week:

“The only biodiversity we’re going to have left is Coke versus Pepsi. We’re landscaping the whole world one stupid mistake at a time.”   – Chuck Palahniuk, Lullaby

Gratitude to all those who went before us who showed us how to  protect and promote  species other than ourselves.

Happy birding to all!















steelhead count up, singing a different tune…

Good Morning Barbara & fellow Nature Lovers,

First off I want to thank all of you, who commented on Bruce’s suggestion to re-evaluate our greeting opening to be more reader inclusive. Some of you expressed that you would welcome a reader acknowledgement cheer. Since Barbara & I write our stories for our blog readers, we’ll be investigating an enticing greeting format. Do let us you what you think of our exploration and thanks Bruce for addressing this topic.

returning steelhead to San Lorenzo River

As promised, I am back with an update of the Thursday Sept. 21st river seining: The approx. 1113 steelhead haul was biggest the biologists ever had. This unexpected amount exceeded their permit that specifies how many fish can be handled within a certain time to avoid undue stress for fish. So the biologist had to cut their monitoring, etc. short and release most of the steelhead back to the river. I bet the next permit will request for extended monitoring time. Right now there a lot of steelhead and other fish species in the lower river. A big “Hurray” to all, who worked hard on that great turn around for the steelhead population.

Golden Crown Sparrow
GOLDEN-crowned SPARROW(googled)

Yes indeed: the GOLDEN CROWN and WHITE CROWN migrating SPARROWS have arrived in full force along the river. On my levee walks they amuse me with their determined hopping attempts to reach the various seeds of high grasses that have escaped the City maintenance mower and other grass eliminations. This year the GOLDEN CROWN’s mournful song sounds differently. The songs I am hearing in my backyard and by the river don’t have that pitched mourn that I am used to. Instead I am listening to much softer notes, lacking that high pitch. Both species vary their tunes according to regions, which makes me wonder if the present GOLDEN CROWNS are from a different area than the previous ones. If that is the case then where did our sharp pitch migrants go? Are any of you hosting them? I always examine the newly arrived migrants for their appearance: weight, size and feather shine, because it tells stories about their trip and their summer hang out. Both species have arrived looking big, plumb, healthy, feathers shiny and intact. This means that their summer terrain offered a nourishing menu, that they ate well on their journey and they didn’t encounter feather battering storms. Our migratory birds testify how each region supports their environment. A big, alert, bright eyed, calm, healthy, shiny bird had a good life start, which means good habitat protection. So big thanks to you nature stewards and hopefully we send the feathered visitors back in equally good condition. BTW: have you visited Neighborhood Naturalist yet? If not I bet you’ll enjoy this is informative website.

last year's COMMON GOLDENEYE....png

As of yet there haven’t been any San Lorenzo River reports about these winter guests: EARED GREBES, who showed up last year on Sept. 16th, and the COMMON GOLDENEYE, who arrive Sept. 24th/16. According to e-bird these species aren’t frolicking on other local waterbodies either. Previously I lamented about the sparse AMERICAN COOT. So far I have counted 6 COOTS downriver, a far cry from last year’s numbers. It will be interesting to see how migration season unfolded when I return in November. Until then and thanks for keeping an eye on the river, jane

Hello Sparrows, Good-bye Orioles

Good Morning Jane – and good morning to you, too, Bruce Bratton – and all our other readers.

Why that opening, you readers might wonder.  Well – Bruce Bratton, got me and Jane to thinking about the greeting of this blog when he invited us  onto his radio show a couple of weeks ago.  With decades of media experience behind him, he  gently challenged us about addressing only each other  in our blog, and not the rest of you. What do you think? Do you feel excluded? Should we change this convention?  Be sure to check out Bruce’s KZSC radio show, Universal Grapevine, as well as his online column called Bratton Online. Lots of juicy material.

The birding life has been all about sparrows for me this last week. I really liked a comment that I read on the Monterey Bay Bird Google Group this week. Pete Sole wrote,

“Others in the country may have their first frost, falling leaves, etc, but to me, it is the soft song of the GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW in our garden, that gently 
announces fall’s arrival to those that listen.”

Exactly my sentiments, Pete. Last year I even got tears in my eyes when I heard what sounds to my old ears as an autumnal lament. Listen for that plaintive 3-note descending whistle if you haven’t heard it yet.  It is all over town.  But the sparrow is not lamenting as far as I know. She sings that song over and over as she establishes her winter territory after her long trip south from breeding grounds as far away as the northern tip of Alaska. A long journey to my backyard and Santa Cruz.

I actually heard the other ‘crowned’ sparrow first, the WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW.

White-crowned juvenile
Juvenile White-crowned Sparrow

She arrived in my backyard, which backs up to the river levee, on September 26. As soon as I heard her slightly more perky song, I got in my car and headed over to General Feed and Seed for my first of season 20# bag of in-the-shell sunflower seeds. I wanted to give her a good welcome home meal.   The White-crowned and Golden-crowned Sparrows usually arrive within days of each other, and sure enough, the Golden-crowned Sparrow sang to me just three days later. The banks of the levee behind my house are filling up with them now, and I get a good share of the spillover from there. It took them less than 24 hours to find my seeds and they’ve been chowing down ever since.

Another recent and very welcome guest in my riverside backyard have been two Allen’s Hummingbirds. The Allen’s have an incredibly small range, breeding mostly in California and then spending the winter in Mexico.

Allen's Hummingbird
Juvenile female Allen’s Hummingbird (?)  September, 2017, in Cape Honeysuckle hedge between Water and Highway 1, west side of levee  

They get to Santa Cruz as early as March and usually stay no longer than early October. So this will almost surely be my last glimpse. The Allen’s love my neighbor’s Cape Honeysuckle bush, and seem to want to harvest the last drop of nectar before they push on south. The other breeding hummingbird in Santa Cruz, the Anna’s, stays around all year. The Anna’s is the hummer I usually see in my garden.  One of the joys of birding in recent years is my gradual attunement to the seasonal changes of each species.


To top off my backyard sightings was a lingering female HOODED ORIOLE, also pumping herself up on the juicy Cape Honeysuckle offerings before setting off for Central America.

Hooded Oriole 5
Female Hooded Oriole, October 3, 2017, Cape Honeysuckle, between Water and Highway 1, west side of levee.  

In that respect, Randy Wardle, a star local birder, is starting a new monthly column in the Albatross (and online), listing the species that we can expect to arrive and/or leave each month. This will be a wonderful gift to the birding community and I’m sure I’ll be referring to it regularly.

Well, as you well know, the final 2030 Parks Master Plan is about to be approved a week from today, on October 10. Many, many thanks are owed to you,Jane, and quite a few others for working hard to insert more language into the final draft protecting the enviroment!!! Many thanks to Jean Brocklebank, Rachel O’Malley, Michael Lewis, Gillian Greensite, Celia Scott and Peter Scott for all their hard work on the PMP over months and months – all leading up to the City Council meeting next Tuesday.

Thank you especially Jane and Jean, for paying attention to the River part of the Master Plan. I really have not fully grasped what a bureaucratic stepchild our River is. Now that Parks and Recreation has officially dropped the San Lorenzo River from the list of 8 Open Spaces over which it has primary jurisdiction, who will be the new Mama? It’s hard to tell, isn’t it. According to Mauro Garcia, it is officially Public Works. But the focus of Public Works has never included environmental protection except as strictly required by federal and state law. It is a yearly struggle, as you know, to get them to even consider the environmental damage they inflict on the river each year. Yet they are in charge of the river by default because of their primary responsibility for flood control.

Bruce Van Allen, who has been paying close attention to the River for decades, said that during his long history with the River, it’s been considered a multi-departmental responsibility. As Bruce points out, the Planning, Police, Fire and Water Departments all have jurisdiction over aspects of the River. He said that is why back in 2003 the City put the development of the San Lorenzo Urban River Plan (SLURP) in the City Manager’s Office.

Now the City is talking about hiring an official River Coordinator. Will that be the go-to person for our environmental concerns? You can imagine how fruitful that will be considering all the other interests we will be (and are) competing with.  Environmental concerns will have no more weight with a river coordinator that it does now.  Maybe less.  At least Parks and Recreation has as part of its mission the protection of Open Spaces.

We need an Open Space Department, equal to other departments and existing solely to protect Open Spaces and environmental integrity.   That way we might get  someone at the helm who is a dedicated advocate for the environment only.  That will be a while in coming, won’t it!  But we have to keep pushing.

I was very happy to see that there is much more in the current PMP about creating native habitats in the City Parks. That is progress.

May the birds and all of us stay safe on our long journeys.








season changes…

Hi Barbara,

escaping parent…

Breeding season has taken its toll on the feathered parents. Their feathers are less shiny, their bodies slim. They are ignoring the food call of their chirping, screeching almost full grown fledglings. Now the parents will fly to locations that don’t allow for their off spring to perch next to them while the young ones circle around, puzzled over this new development. The fledglings settle on a perch close to the parent, puff up and their food calls decline. Then they venture out on their own looking for food. Not all species have that upbringing pattern, i.e. the KILLDEER chick forages right after hatching.

AMERICAN COOT taking a levee walk…

Has anybody else noticed the lack of AMERICAN COOTS on the lower river? As of yet there was one lonely Coot searching for algae, which the red-eyed vacuum cleaners love to devour. This summer we didn’t have our annual lengthily coastal lagoon. The river mouth miraculously never stayed closed long enough to grow the natural occurring algae. Last year at this date we recorded 16 Coots and within a couple of days there were 39 COOTS and 2015 resembled 2016. Is the absent algae a foreboding omen of no COOTS this season? It makes me wonder how the lack of the annual lagoon will affect the river ecosystem. And since I brought up the rarely close river mouth, this might interest you: the river mouth had sand-barred around Sept. 16th, the lagoon formed, water level was rising, causing flooding all the way up to the Benchland and increased the water level further upstream. On the night of 22nd to 23rd the sandbar breached around 2am and the river drained down. Wasn’t the Flood Control work was scheduled to begin on the morning of the 23rd? If so a rock of relief must have fallen off the project supervisors chest.

Biologists hard at work…

On Thursday morning the biologists recorded the fish they had seined earlier. It’s fascinating to watch them work: they stand at a table and each person has an assigned task. Deeply focused they measure, tag, weigh the fish and then return them to the river. I’ll try to find out what the fish count was and hopefully I’ll be able to spread good news about the steelhead count. The fish are running in the river and the CORMORANTS are popping to the surface with fish in their beaks. That reminds me of the scenario I watched at the river mouth: The ocean had several patches where birds were absorbed in some serious feeding frenzy. An un-countable amount of TERNS were swirling through the air, twisting, elegantly diving with successful fish results. The gulls were crazed by their accomplishment and would chase after the TERNS ruthlessly and just wouldn’t let up. The TERNS tried to get away while gulping down the fish, which takes some prey maneuvering. A few times that didn’t work well and they dropped the fish. The gulls, with lightning speed, would race after the desired trophy. I guess that is one way to deal with bad fishing skills…

it’s blooming…

The river plum-tree is blooming and the Coyote Bushes keep on blooming, which I found out is the correct time thanks to a reader. Alan Martin’s creative river video arrived for your enjoyment and I am waiting for the first migratory waterbird to show up….jane greetings