welcoming calm, vast emptiness…

Greetings to all you Nature Enjoyers,

male MERGANSER cruising by….

This time of year the river is teaming with a wide array of bird vignettes, that raise your curiosity and make you chuckle. You’ll discover that time ran like sand through your fingers while you were watching the river migratory arrivals. You’ll take a ton of photos of empty water surface or mysterious shapes, because the diving ducks were quicker than your trigger finger. The other morning I allowed myself the freedom to let my senses to disconnect my active mind and create that refreshing space of calm, vast emptiness, which Nature’s creatures filled with quirky episodes. And so my journey through that magic realm began: I had finished watering the new native plants and noticed that there was no bird activity in the water nor the bushes. The low tide offered the shore and wading birds long stretches of enticing shorelines, yet there were none ~ not even one SNOWY EGRET. I scanned the Trestle trees, hoping to see either the OSPREY or the PEREGRINE Falcon, but neither one was gracing their preferred bare branch.

8 of 15 SNOWY EGRETS…

Just as I was thinking: ” Where is everybody?” a SNOWY EGRET landed on a rock right below me with its crest feathers going in every directions. The white beauty had the bad feather-do quickly under control ~ just in time to squawk annoyed at its cousin, who got unnerved by that unfriendly welcome and kept sliding off its hoped for perch, ending up in the water. The next savvy newcomer landed a save distance from the other two. It was amazing to witness Nature decorate the shoreline below me with 15 SNOWY EGRETS in less than 10 minutes! In the meantime the water surface in front of me had gotten busy with BUFFLEHEADS, COMMON GOLDENEYES, PIED-billed GREBES, PELAGIC CORMORANT. Some were doing their social rounds, intermingling for a short while with other groups before visiting the adjacent ‘feather folks’. Others just couldn’t stop their diving – one second there gone the next – to pop up again in a totally different spot.

male COMMON GOLDENEYE trying to impress one of the “Three Sisters”…

It was a kick to watch the ‘Three Sisters’. These 3 female COMMON GOLDENEYES ladies clearly enjoyed each others company. If any other diving duck approached, they either disappeared below the water surface or swam away in unison. A male COMMON GOLDENEYE couldn’t get it through his head that the ‘Three Sisters’ weren’t enthralled by his handsome feather attire. Finally the ladies ditched him with an extremely long dive…Scanning the other river shore showed the SPOTTED SANDPIPER foraging eagerly at its prime location. This little river resident’s priority was clearly food. It dashed up and down the shoreline, never once stopping or lifting its head. The grand finale was hearing the OSPREY call, then see her circle the Trestle trees, land on her beloved branch and hear an OSPREY response call close by. Maybe one day my wish will come true: the OSPREY couple will successfully build a nest at the lower San Lorenzo River.

Malia and Ivan…

Last Saturday we had 1 scheduled and 1 unexpected visitor at the Estuary Project day. Malia, our CityServe liaison extraordinaire, had planned to swing by so that we finally could meet in person. Thanks to her guidance my necessary paperwork looks mighty fine. She quickly became a part of our small team plus she offered to help plant Toyon bushes. It was Malia, who introduced us to the unexpected visitor with the remark: ” Watch out – there is a huge spider!”. She was not exaggerating ~ it was astonishingly big and beautiful.

unexpected visitor: Banded Garden Spider…

None of us had any clue who we were starring at since none of us had ever encountered a Banded Garden Spider. We picked it up and put it in a cozy place. BTW: Should you ever meet one you’ll probably agree with Malia’s remark…
Sending you River Chirps and Cheer ~ jane

seed miracles…

Profuse Seed Greetings to all Nature Lovers,

glorious Calif. Fuchsia…

Plant seeds are one of Nature’s miracles that herald life’s determined resolve to show up to live. The Estuary Project sites along the San Lorenzo River banks are fertile grounds to witness these miracles. Ever since the seeds have been kissed by the first rain drops they have reciprocated the gift with their breath taking growth. You’ll find me performing my annual eggshell dance, looking for the native plant seedlings while not stepping on them. These searches include a fair amount of bafflement: Why are only a few Poppy seedlings sprouting from the thousands of Poppy seeds? On the other petal the minute ballerina seeds from the Calif. Fuchsia obviously took a different approach to the “Rise and Shine’ call. Their plumules (plant embryos) were definitely keen to answer the message. There is an abundance of new plants coming up everywhere.These seed miracles appear in my life, often outfitted with different shapes, colors and textures. They weave themselves self into my life web, which in return connects me back into the web of Nature. Wasn’t my grandfather planting a ‘Nature awe’ seed in me, when he made me stop and admire majestic trees with him? Sure, I rolled my 10-year-old eyes ~ not knowing that the seed had lodged itself into my soul, just waiting for the right time to sprout into a passion. And how was I to know that simple act of introducing a restoration tool to a houseless man was the seed of opening up his confidence? Just like Nature spreads her seeds so do our actions and words. May our seeds unfurl into into gracious, blooming beauties.

Opa’s majestic tree admirations planted the seed for my passion …googled image

I am eager to let you know that your kind donations for the BEST efforts seeded a cherished blossom, symbolizing your caring support of their riparian environment restoration every Sunday. You made them feel acknowledged and respected, which means a lot to the houseless campers. I send you my grateful THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart in the name of the BEST, who match your awesomeness mighty fine! Should any of you want to plant a BEST seed then this link will sprout your donation seedling by clicking on “Other Programs” and adding a note during checkout that funds are for the BEST : https://friendsofparksandrec.org/donate-to-fopar/

The BEST was thrilled to welcome Dr. Tiffany Wise-West as a Sunday BEST member…
The GREAT BLUE HERON & RED-tailed HAWK are the BEST mascots…design & artwork by David Cacho

I was visiting David, the artistic creator and designer of the BEST mascots. By chance I turned towards the river and saw a GREAT BLUE HERON starring right at his tent. Did the mascot want to take an other look at its portray? On Sunday a MALLARD couple watched the BEST work as they rested on a tree branch by the waterline. I am glad that Mitch allowed me to see the MALLARDS scene with his eyes by pointing out that the lighting and the setting created a great visual.

Last Wednesday the Estuary Project hosted the Kirby’s ‘Community Involvement Day’ event for 9 students and their 2 wonderful, warmhearted chaperones. It was thrilling to watch the students take fearlessly to tasks they had never done before, work together until all jobs were finished, enjoy what they were doing while sharing time with friends. You can watch us spread beautiful gratitude seeds that will make your heart sing...https://drive.google.com/file/d/1PsGKpZooR0FEGQJThuUi7-mDCLIHtiB1/view
 Estuary Project-Gratitude.MOV

Big Thanks to the 9 amazing Kirby School students volunteering for the Estuary Project…

You might like to join the Estuary Project workday on Saturday, the 20th from 9am – 11am at the Laurel St. bridge levee path, upstream from Mike Fox Skate Park. It would be great to meet you and enjoy the river together.
Sending you cheers from the sprouting river joys ~ jane

MALLARD couple that caught Mitch’s eye…

river storm beauties….

Good Morning cherished Nature Lovers,

The storm was having a rambunctious time with its playmates, named Wind and Rain. Each enforced the others mighty display of unleashed power. It was truly breathtaking to stand in their presence at the river mouth point. The wind amused itself with blowing the rain sheet horizontal and the few flying gulls sideways. I wondered about my common sense when I opened the car door to go and check on the river. The wind came in strong gusts that had a blast taking things somewhere else. A man’s hat became the wind’s toy, a dog looked worried about his long ears that either stuck straight up or out. Suddenly a hushed silence wrapped the storm and the playmates in its swaddling blanket, allowing the gulls to take to the sky. I turned just in time to see the RED-tailed HAWK glide in, circle above me and land close by on the cliff.

majestic RED-tailed HAWK at the river mouth cliff…

Watching this majestic bird survey its surrounding I wonder if once this RED-tail HAWK’s sovereign, dignified behavior was the model human leaders strived for: calm power that knew the right moment for actions.
I believe that we all share the experience of having assumed something quickly to be proven wrong. Well, this little story illustrates how Nature recently gifted me one of those occasions.

oddly morphed domestic MALLARD …

The Education Coordinator for the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History, Chris Soriano and I had arranged a meeting at the river levee to discuss onsite the logistics for the Earth Stewards’ February event. Alas ~ both of us being birders we just had to take a ‘quick’ look at the river birds. A waterfowl bird flew in, who I quickly wrote off as a MALLARD. But when Chris wasn’t buying that id, I took a a second look and wondered about my birding skills, because this was definitely not your average MALLARD. In a matter of fact this friendly water dweller looked like no species we were familiar with. We eliminated EIDER, which I long to see on the river and guessed it was an AMERICAN WIGEON. Then I started doubting that id once I took a closer look at the enlarged pics. So finally I had mercy on myself and asked our local guru birder, Alex Rinkert. It turned out to be a CHILOE WIGEON, which is a high priced (literally) South America beauty. Maybe it was a storm escapee of an exotic duck collection?

CHILOE WIGEON ~ a South America beauty…

If I didn’t have pic. proof I would doubt that the BUFFLEHEADS had shared the river with the unusual CHILOE WIGEON. I was thrilled to see their winter arrival, which is expected around this time of year. The odd thing is that I have not seen them since that day. It did cross my mind that the BUFFLEHEADS might have read the Health Advisory sign at the river mouth shore and decided to move on…

BUFFLEHEADS’ arrival is being inspected by A. COOT…

In my search for winter migratory birds I discovered the newly installed fence by the Riverside Ave. bridge. I knew who had done this good prevention deed: Louis ~ a member of my’ awesome Park & Rec. levee crew. The fence will protect the native plants from walk through traffic, allowing the plants to thrive. Receiving Wayne’s head-up fence pic. once again made me celebrate ‘my’ entire Park & Rec. levee team ~ And YES ~ I consider myself very fortunate to have their support!

new native plant protection thanks to Louis…

It was good to get back with the BEST and work again in the riparian corridor after we got rained out last Sunday. One of our tasks was to move vegetation debris away from the waterline. A BEST member was moving such a pile when I heard him ask quietly behind me: ” What do I do with this guy?”. Thinking he was referring to a person, I checked around before realizing that he was looking down at something on his pitchfork. When I walked over I saw a baby gopher snake, wriggling off the chilly metal. We all respectfully greeted the discovery of the riparian corridor critter and Lira took it to safe place so it could continue its life journey. I was happy that the BEST got to meet a member of the important river wildlife, showing them their stewardship has meaningful value. We send you our river greetings ~ jane

The BEST find: a baby gopher snake…

sharing river beauty, caring and vision…

Good Morning Dear Nature Comrades,

Nature’s beauty offering: Elderberries

Don’t you just love it when Nature stops you in your tracks because you can’t help but admire her beauty creations? The world around you floats away, your worries quit their mindless blabbering, your schedule crawls to rest on a cloud and the only the present moment exists: allowing Nature to touch your soul with her opus and marvel how she came up with that design…Her pillowy Elderberries had that effect on me, swaying in the breeze, jeweled glitters in morning sun. The snuggled together berries are a welcome omen of fall harvest for migratory and local birds. I share my sparkle bonanza delight with the Warblers, Mockingbirds, Towhees, Waxwings, American Goldfinches ~ although Nature’s beauty nourishes us differently: they enjoy eating it and I feed visually on it.

little Flounder…

The City had opened up the San Lorenzo River mouth, which unfortunately drained quicker than planned. When that happens the City biologists check the drained section for stranded fish that got stuck in the sand. Seeing 2 biologists with their buckets and nets walking slowly underneath the Trestle bridge, I knew what they were doing and my curiosity unleashed itself.
I just had to find out what fish they had saved any plus I love asking them endless questions. So I tagged along, watching them work while they patiently responded to my inquisitiveness. Their fish sleuthing saved a juv. STICKLEBACK, who is related to the pipefish and seahorses. The little fish was not happy to end up in the bucket and then calmed down. Maybe it could sense that it would be released back to its brackish water home. It was very interesting to see Randy scoop up a tiny sand mount, put it in the bucket and discover that it was actually a very small flounder. A petite rock crab was starring at us with a peeved expression, clearly indicating to stay away because it could take care of itself, which was seconded by the biologists. The rock crab will dig into the sand and wait for the next high tide to relocate itself. The drained riverbed had some fascinating, exquisite sand formations that I got lost in a dream world…

tiny Stickleback…

Without a doubt the weekly BEST‘s Sunday achievements have resulted in impressive restoration progress. Kevin’s video shores up my boast by showing us in action. You’ll get a glimpse of why I feel privileged to work side by side with a remarkable group of houseless people, who are the BEST. Every Sunday they show up, ready to work focused, thoughtfully, caring on helping the San Lorenzo River environment heal itself. Of course there is more that makes the BEST special, i.e. their pleased response to vegetation re-growth, being awed by finding a Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar, being proud of freeing a tree from chocking vines, learning to identify bird species, recognizing how their work connects them to Nature’s ‘Thank You’.

BEST mascot: GREAT BLUE HERON

After all hadn’t Nature confirmed the BEST mascot choices by placing the GREAT BLUE HERON and the juv. RED-tailed HAWK above them during their discussion and work?

BEST mascot: juv. RED-tailed HAWK…

As you can tell: I am mighty proud of the BEST and I believe wholeheartedly that they deserve a future. So I wonder if you like to share this vision with a kind donation so that the BEST can keep doing their best. Your support is gratefully accepted by https://friendsofparksandrec.org/donate-to-fopar/. Friends of Park Recreation asks you to please click on “Other Programs” and then add a note during checkout that funds are for support of the BEST. Greetings from the river critters and fauna, who thank you for caring via https://youtu.be/GAHKOvyhQhg~ jane

San Lorenzo River connects you and me…

Good Morning Dear River Friends,

bright yellow eyes hiding in the bush…

Let me tell you: there is nothing like a SHARP-shinned HAWK missing you barely by a few inches to immediately abandon your early morning stupor! That is what happened to me the other day as I was walking by a dense willow bush close to the Trestle bridge. This 10-14 inch small Hawk is master of hiding and navigating tight vegetation spaces where its small prey is trying to hide. Once I realized who had scarcely missed me, I remembered looking by chance at bright yellow, penetrating eyes in the thick of my backyard bush, which is only a few blocks away from the river. It took me a few seconds to register that I was starring at a SHARP-shinned HAWK. It stayed in the bush for quiet a while and then smoothly left the interwoven branches without disturbing them. Of course I had to wonder if the river and back yard SHARP-shinned HAWK were the same…

GOLDEN-crowned SPARROW (Cornell Lab photo)

One of the reasons I love Nature is that she can pull that spontaneous laugh out of me. That happened when I was listening to the GOLDEN-crowned SPARROW song on the levee. This migratory SPARROW species has recently arrived at the river for its winter visit. It’s great to see that they look plump and healthy, indicating that their summer home had plenty of food and that the migratory journey offered rest, spiced with plenty of meals. But I am getting side-tracked ~ back to why I had to laugh: a juvenile GOLDEN-crowned SPARROW was singing the first part of its characteristic species tune and then stopped as if trying to remember the other part. After a short silence the young bird made another attempt with the same result. Then another GOLDEN-crowned SPARROW in a neighboring bush happened to know the second part to the song. The first one listened and then tried to repeat it, but the additional melody would get stuck half way. The other one repeated it and waited for the juvenile’s response. Listening to this teaching interchange was so sweet and funny that I had to laugh with amusement. BTW: GOLDEN-crowned SPARROW know the first part of their tune and then create their own unique songs by imitating more experienced singers.

9 of the 14 PIED-billed river GREBES…

If you have been to the river I know you’ll agree that this year the water is sprouting with a large number of PIED-billed GREBES! It has been at least 3 years since we had so many decorating the river. This is a good sign that several successful breedings took place in the river reeds. I know that this news will make Barbara Riverwoman happy, who has a strong bond with them.
Because I love the San Lorenzo River I am always interested in related Nature topics. So to-day allow me to share the themes that lifted my soul:
A birder compadre sent a link to a radar map that showed how many thousands of migratory birds fly at night, which most of them do to avoid exhausting heat and predators. He also reminded us to reduce night light, which lures birds off their migratory track.
A couple of weeks ago a river friend from India told me she was celebrating that evening with her family the Hindu Holiday in honor of Nature. What a wonderful Holiday ~ I told her I’ll join her by lighting a candle at my house that evening.

synchronized CORMORANT preening…

A reader sent the news that the County’s Mill Creek dam had been removed, setting the water free. I just loved that this was achieved by multiple organizations working together on behalf of the environment!!
Then there was the relieving report that the previous government’s decision had been overturned: No! it was not okay to kill birds due to incompetent project management. Obviously the past President needs to meet my river friend from India…
Thanks to Nancy from the Valley Women’s Club I learned that there is a National Estuary Week that was re-instated. So let’s celebrate the San Lorenzo River Estuary in the week of September 19-26th in 2022!
These topics make me realize that Nature is loved by so many people and together we weave the web that nourishes her.
The river is always ready to welcome you ~ jane

what do you think?

Good Morning Dear Nature Cherishers,

KINGFISHER listening to the willow bush call…

So do you think that Nature listens in on our conversations, thoughts and then finds ways to interact with us? I know it sounds crazy…It’s just that I have experieced instances that made me wonder if she is our conversation partner. Take my last night conversation with a birder friend, who told me that she had heard the KINGFISHER call along the river, but hadn’t spotted it. I told her that I hadn’t seen either 1 of our 2 KINGFISHERS for some time and that I thought the lower river river resident had offspring this year. Early this morning I am watering our new Estuary Project native plants and what do I hear? The KINGFISHER’s call as it lands empty beaked on a willow bush close to the Crescent bridge. No fish in beak is somewhat an unusual sight, because KINGFISHER are such excellent fishers. I watch its unsuccessful dives for a while and decide that this must be a young bird that is still honing its fishing skills. Minutes later I meet up with one of my river compadres, who tells me that last week he saw a KINGFISHER flying over the river followed by 2 offsprings. Do you think my last night conversation prompted Nature to clarify my offspring musings?

Ladybug swarm…(googled/fotomba)

And how about the Ladybug incident? A couple of months ago one of the houseless BEST members told me that years ago during a hike he came across a field that was filled with Ladybugs. That sight made him spend a long time enjoying his magical discovery. When he got home he found out that a huge amount of them had hitched hike a ride with him that they began to swarm out of his house to his neighbors. This story came up again yesterday and when we said good-bye I noticed a Ladybug on his neck. We both instantly took it as a good omen. We were certain that Nature was sending him encouragement for his efforts for a brighter future.

PIED-billed GREBE parent presenting offspring to COOT…

Maybe Nature will disclose the reason for this amusing, lengthly interaction that has me puzzled. Several days ago a PIED-billed GREBE parent paraded with its masked youngster back and forth front of 3 lined up AMERICAN COOTS, who watched the show with interest. The descendant, new to its river compadres, ventured into the COOTS line. After COOTS had taken a good look of this little one, they started to swim away. The PIED-billed GREBE parent swam after them with brood in tow. The COOTS had started harvesting the big supply of algae and were not paying attention to the presence of the GREBES. For a while they all foraged together and when the parent left with its charge the COOTS followed. The GREBES turned around, joined them and feeding commenced again. Then the COOTS swam off and this time the GREBES caught up with them, resulting in more joined foraging. This roundelay was still going on when I left. It intrigued me that COOTS didn’t mind the immature PIED-billed GREBE foraged right next to them while the parent kept a respectful scavenge distance. Was the parent introducing the chick to different foraging techniques?

young PIED-billed GREBE checking out its river compadres…

Sending you all the joy of river’s Nature magic~ jane

river tales…

Good Morning Dear Nature Enjoyers,

CROWS in autumn tree…

Nature continues transitioning to her fall pace when she wraps her calming veil around her creation, reminding us to slow down and to take it easy. Now the MALLARD and MERGANSER offspring is full grown and the parents can relax. Our 2 MERGANSER families rest together, creating a long string of football shaped bodies along the river shore. The MALLARD families would never dream of such co-mingling. Each family stakes out their resting spot, making sure it’s a safe distance from other families~ no matter what species they are. The JAYS, OAK-TITMICE, CHICKADEES and squirrels are testing one crevice after an other. They are searching for the perfect, safe cache places, which is not easy. The location needs to be steal-proof, because these critters steal ruthlessly from each other. A few days ago an OAK-TITMOUSE had stored a seed in the tree bark. It flew off to a bush in need to unwind from its drudgery. A SCRUB-JAY landed above a branch of the little bird’s winter supply. The OAK-TITMOUSE definitely didn’t trust the JAY! It dashed back to its treasure and tried to pull it out. The problem was that the seed wouldn’t budge, because it had been jammed tightly into the crack. While the hoarder was tugging feverishly on its stash, the JAY hopped closer to the potential freebee. Alas~ the SCRUB-JAY was left empty beaked~ the OAK-TITMOUSE retrieved its seed just in the knick of time and took off in search for a new hiding place.

GREAT BLUE HERON facing plastic trash…

Nature can be so creatively quirky…The other day I was looking at a GREAT BLUE HERON standing in shallow water, surrounded by plastic trash. The sight made me melancholic and 2 days later Nature decided that she should follow up on that message: she had placed a sculpture next to that original sighting that looked like a mummified GREAT BLUE HERON. It turned out to be a tree trunk with algae draped dramatically over it..

Nature’s creativity…

And of course I have to tell you about the wondrous BEST progress in the Benchland riparian corridor. This restricted, sensitive habitat has been cleared of the assorted litter piles, trees and bushes that have been liberated from the chocking vines. The huge holes have been filled in thanks to the campers and Lira, our Shovel Queen. Last Sunday the BEST and Tony Elliot, our Park & Rec. Director, worked hard side-by-side. Afterwards he praised their achievements, which made their eyes shine. It was obvious that his compliments mattered a lot to the houseless BEST. Nature applauds our work as well: the MALLARDS and GREEN HERON returned to the riparian Benchland shoreline. The lizards are sunbathing on the logs. The JUNCOS, BLACK PHOEBES, WILSON’S WARBLER, CHICKADEES quietly forage through the foliage of their regained habitat. And enjoy reading Lira’s caring BEST Guest Commentary: https://www.santacruzsentinel.com/2021/08/26/guest-commentary-new-city-program-brings-healing-along-the-san-lorenzo-river/

Nature Thanks YOU for Voting by/on SEPTEMBER 14th.
Calm River greetings to you all~ jane

positive San Lorenzo River transitions…

Good Morning Dear Critter and Greenery Lovers,

San Lorenzo River pic. from September 15, 1938. It was taken during a river, ocean tour…

The bird sounds along the levee have changed. The fledglings begging sounds have become rare and infrequent. Gone are the food delivery calls of the juv. RED-shouldered and RED-tailed HAWKS. Finally the penetrating screeches of the juv. CROWS ended and the young HOUSE-FINCHES mastered the foraging on their own. The juv. GREEN HERON stopped its pitiful begging cries and is dipping its beak in the water to feed itself. Only the parents of the late clutches are still dashing hectically through the air, water and the bushes in search for high protein food for their broods. The other parents, who completed their breeding tasks, are taking it easy. There is calmness at the river, which annually reminds us that summer is preparing for fall, highlighted by the plants turning their blossoms into seeds.. Our northern migratory winter guests are getting ready to face their long journey to the San Lorenzo River and soon we’ll get to greet their safe and sound return.

gathering to learn from the experts how to plant trees: Leslie Keedy, our City arborist and Alex from the Park & Rec. crew …

The Estuary Project crew unanimously agreed that the planting event with the Brownie Troop and other community members was the perfect way to support Jasmine’s project. It was very inspiring to see all of us join together and plant 12 Buckeye trees and 26 assorted native plants. It was so impressive to see the young girls take charge of the tools and dig holes, spread soil to make sure the trees and plants had a good growing start. At the end of their planting day they pledged to be good future stewards and guardians for the trees. It was exquisite to hear that trees will be protected by these eager, young girls. And after watching them work, I can assure you they will do a great job looking out for trees.

Is the male BUFFLEHEAD looking forward to his San Lorenzo River return?

Do you wonder if the river plants and critters sense their good fortune of living in this location while their cousins are being pummeled by one disaster or an other? It’s a pleasing sight to see the Dragonflies perform their zig-zag dance along the banks in the cool mid-day air. Watching the last few, dilly-dallying SWALLOWS zoom above me, I wish I had the power to keep them safely here, but I know that their migrating urge will win.

BEST members, Braden and Eligio, hard at work on restoring riparian habitat…

Last Sunday I was thrilled to share a short Benchland walk with  Barbara Riverwoman, my retired co-blogger. She was heading home and I was going to meet with the BEST to clear damaged vegetation and trash from the riparian corridor. I was very happy for the BEST that Barbara took the time to take a look at our cleared area. She told them that they had done a great job and that the area looked amazing. They soaked up her compliments as they smiled shyly and stood up straighter. I admit it warmed my heart that their efforts received her well deserved praise. You are always invited to either join or visit us. We meet on Sundays at 11am underneath the Benchland pedestrian bridge across from Trader Joe. The San Lorenzo River habitats thank you all for caring ~ jane

MALLARDS resting in newly BEST restored riparian section…

 

BEST results and unexpected river surprise…

Good Morning Greetings to all you Nature Marvelers,

Salute to last Sunday’s BEST

I know that you too have witnessed Nature’s eagerness to heal herself and felt that awe of her life force strength. Currently I have a front seat to admire her healing display, because every Sunday I work with BEST, who you met in my prior post. Our month long restoration efforts are already sprouting amazing results! The big willows bushes are sending out new growth where we cleared off the invasive vines. New willow shots are exploding out of the soil where we removed invasive intruders. The native Smartweed and Heal-all plants are celebrating their newly available sun-kissed space with blossoms and vigorous growth. The Box Elder and Cottonwood tree branches now stretch upward, no longer smothered and weighed down by the heavy German vines. The best part is that I get to share these Nature discoveries with the BEST, a group of residents and houseless people, coming together to help Nature heal herself. And you may enjoy reading how and why her life force weaves through my volunteer élan…

Nature thanks best with new growth…

Jenn and I were on a San Lorenzo River bird walk. We both commented on the lack of birds on the water and in the bank vegetation, which allowed our conversation to flourish, spiced with our previous bird observations and anecdotes. We meandered onto the Water St. bridge to scan the river from a higher perspective. This turned out to be a brilliant idea, because right below us a PIED-billed GREBE was extra busy diving a lot. It would come up and swim over to an area in the tule, stayed there a few moments and then return to its diving action. That behavior made me wonder if there was a nest in the reeds. We scoped that location for quite a while until we found the nest!

PIED-billed GREBE hatchlings…Photo by Jenn Mahley

Jenn discovered the chicks next to the parent while I was still only spotting the parent in the nest. Finally I caught sight of 1 chick, which thrilled me to the moon and back. In the meantime Jenn was counting: ‘there are 2, no 3~ wait! there is an other one and look there is an unhatched egg in the nest!!’ By this time we were both so excited by this surprise discovery that we must have been quite a sight for the people driving by: 2 women laughing wildly, cherishing our find and then stare motionless down the bridge with our mono and binoculars. We were impressed by the parents’ foresight of arranging a private, sheltered pool for their chicks, safely closed off with some reeds. The little ones practiced there for their future life by leaving the nest, swim around timidly and face the ordeal of climbing back in.

Parent feeding off-spring…Photo by Jenn Mahley…

We watched the parent feed a hatchling, who was  practically crawling into the feeder’s beak. We thought that we saw 4 baby PIED-billed GREBES. But when Jenn returned the next day to take more pics she discovered there were actually 6 thanks to her great camera. She also got to watch the parent push the unhatched egg out of the nest. I mention quite often that the river loves to present unexpected surprises. Now I rest my case based on our great encounter with family PIED-billed GREBE…

PIED-billed GREBE parent w/chick on the back…Photo by Jenn Mahley…

Our 8/21 Estuary Project work day is a great opportunity to support Jasmine Rosales Castillo’s ‘Climate action corps fellow’ Project. In her own words she describes why this is a special occasion: “It is incredibly important for people in our community to come together to work on projects such as planting trees. This tree planting event is a perfect way to unite the community as we work together to mitigate climate change; even one tree makes a huge difference. I was always taught that one small action can make a huge difference, now imagine the impact we could do if we all worked together.” So come & support of the tree planting event of this young UCSC student on 8/21 from 9am- 12am across from Jessie St. Marsh.

The river and Nature’s life force send you invigorating cheer~ jane

GREAT BLUE HERON is waiting for you at the San Lorenzo River…

the shifting world of river birds

Good Morning to my Fellow Nature Lovers,

Jenn Mahley’s took this pic of a dramatic sun setting…

I was watering the young native plants by the Trestle bridge when a bicyclist stopped to ask what we had planted. We had a wonderful connection talking about the river, birds and nature. He mentioned that he lived right by the Soquel Creek. That triggered my question if he had noticed few MALLARD ducklings there, which he hadn’t. The Soquel Creek had plenty of them and he was surprised to hear the San Lorenzo River didn’t. It’s so interesting to find out that just a few miles away Nature weaves a different story.

water splashed caused by diving duckling…

And please bear with me as tell you about about yet-an-other MALLARD ducklings incident. To set the stage for this observation, I like to point out: your average MALLARD doesn’t dive and swim under water. So there was a MALLARD Mama surrounded by her 4 little ones, who kept disppearing under water and pop up in a different spot, indicating that her ducklings were actually ‘un-average’. They were budding young divers! Now the interesting part is that Barbara Riverwoman and I observed this MALLARD behavior back in 2016 and 2017, exactly a year apart. For 4 years we didn’t see that behavior again until now. It’s worth noting that this river family is the only one featuring blossoming divers. 

Remember when I asked you if you noticed bird behavior changes? I received several replies from you, reporting birds were shifting and changing their behavior. Some of you observed that these alterations varied from settled to drastic. Yet overall the consensus was our feathered friends are required to make adjustments due to habitat loss, a transformed weather environment, loss of food sources due to pesticides, etc. Personally I miss the birds that I enjoyed seeing frequently on my river walks. Now I am lucky to briefly encounter the KILLDEERS, who used to nest for several years by the Riverside Ave. bridge. The BREWSTER’S and RED-winged Blackbirds are a vague memory. A ROBIN has become a fleeting river appearance. The large flocks of STARLINGS are absent. The always present GREEN HERON is now a rare sighting. It makes me realize how precious our birds are. 

Our MERGANSER family is growing up rapidly. It’s funny to watch them explode out of the water and see a CORMORANT emerge in the middle of them. Both species feed on fish and so there hunting grounds overlap…Or is the CORMORANT profiting from the MERGANSERS fishing strategy, which is to herd the fish together for easy feeding?

CLIFF SWALLOWS chattering about their upcoming adventure?

The SWALLOW flocks are thinning out. The sky is noticeably less decorated with their little bodies and chirpy sounds. A week ago the fledglings were sitting on the bridge ledges and the phone wires. They chattered a great deal at high volume. I wondered if they were discussing excitedly about their upcoming adventure~ going on a migratory trip. While I was watching the young chatter boxes, I sensed that somebody was watching me. I turned around and there was the RED-shouldered HAWK looking straight at me, perched in its favorite tree.

our river RED-shouldered keeping an eye on me…

This morning a large bulldozer was moving sand around by the river mouth, which was open. That made the water level really low. The wading birds like SNOWY EGRETS welcomed that and the diving CORMORANTS were clinging to the few deep water channels.

Thanks to Kelly our Estuary Project day was featured on the Parks & Rec. Facebook page and we send her a big Thank You for creating such a fine post.

Kind river chirps for all of you~jane