Big Families

Dear Jane,

You told such a wonderful story in your last post – weaving together a web of caring that threaded its way from your concern about the health of the RED-THROATED LOON to your efforts to bring your sweet grandson into the world of loving birds.  I appreciated so much your appreciation of what you called the  ‘deep animal devotion’ of Eve, Lupin and Zoe of Native Animal Rescue. And I even copied you by getting a little teary  when I saw your photo of crocheted baby nests that so many women make for little birds in trouble.  I didn’t know either  that there was such a thing as a rescue center in San Francisco especially devoted to water birds! The circle of caring is indeed wide, weaving humans and birds into one big family.

Speaking of families, I was so amazed about two weeks ago to see a family of twelve (!) MALLARDS swimming together in a single file along the east bank near the Laurel St. Bridge.  That was the biggest  family of water birds that I have seen this breeding season. I was just  putting down my binoculars, and aiming my camera when the long line of ducks was broken.  (I was on the west bank but fortunately I have a great zoom on my new point and shoot camera.) The mama had reached the foraging spot she had led her kids to and now fell back and let the young ones enter the reeds.   I was so happy to get these two photos (below).   When I looked closely, I realized that the ‘babies’ were quite grown but still still smaller than the mother.  I also noticed that the bill of the mother duck has much more black on it.

Version 2 vigilant mom

Here they are in the grass, feeding as fast as they can.  It was probably breakfast, their first meal of the day.   What I especially loved was the way the mother mallard maintained her vigil while her ‘babies’ were feeding.  She must have been hungry, too.  But once a mother, always a mother!   She must have been a very good mother to protect eleven babies from all the hungry hawks, corvids and falcons, as well as coyotes and other mammals. Good going, Mom.

This morning I went out again about 7:30, further downstream, and saw a very young MALLARD skirting the bank without any adults in view. Be careful little one! Where’s your mama?   In less than an hour I also got to feast my eyes on a GREAT BLUE HERON with outstretched wings, a GREEN HERON resting on a tree along the river, a PIED-BILLED GREBE with its handsome black and white beak (breeding season only), a DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT diving busily, three CANADA GEESE gobbling up the grasses along the bank, and two BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERONS, including one juvenile, perched close down to the river, presumably getting ready to rest after a night’s fishing.   Every single one of these birds was on the east side of the river.  Were they aware of all the Wharf to Wharf runners streaming along the west side of the levee on their way to the big race? I’m pretty sure the runners didn’t see our friends. Here’s some photos of all the beings that  I saw this morning.

Pied-billed grebeBCNH


Canada Good w grass

Green Heron


I’m glad that you heard back from the Assistant City Manager  about the Baseline Study.  Seems the City is following through on getting bids for a biologist to monitor the birds.  Good!  Even though we birders know the birds are there, lots of people don’t.  Too bad they won’t just believe us.  That way we could use the $20,000  for habitat restoration.  Anyway, let us know the details when you find out who has been hired to do the study and when it will start.

I’m also very glad that a new group called Friends of the North Coast is challenging the idea of a National Monument at Coast Dairies. A video on their new Facebook page explains a lot of the reasons that they are opposed, foremost among them being the threat  it presents to one of the most bio-diverse spots in our whole country. Yes, country, not county!  I hope everybody checks it out. I was happy to see that it included a strong statement from Franz Lanting.

Here’s a quote I just ran across from Ken Rosenberg of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  Her says, “To me, the top three threats to birds overall are habitat loss, habitat loss, and habitat loss.” So we must keep working to protect this little postage stamp habitat called the San Lorenzo River.  And the North Coast.  As our council person Richelle Noroyan says so well, “Leave space for birds!” Each little spot counts for the birds who make our river their home.

Peace to you and to the birds,


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