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Growing Up

Five-weeks-old (September 10, 2015)
My Pied-billed Grebe, Stripey,  at five-weeks-old (September 10, 2015)

Dear Jane,

I’m looking forward to your arrival back from Germany in about a week! I have missed knowing that you are keeping your eagle eye on the other end of “our” river, as well as your sprightly comments.

I will welcome you back with an update on my sweet stripey-jowled friend, the baby PIED-BILLED GREBE. It was a bit of an emotional roller coaster after I last posted my story on the PBG baby on September 3.  For a week I caught not a glimpse of that darling little creature, and I must say all my frustrated grandmotherly instincts (my 7-month human grandson being 3000 miles away) were on high alert. Then, on September 10, standing on the pedestrian bridge looking upstream, feeling gloomy, I saw the dim outlines of three grebes. Could it be? Yes! Two adults and someone smaller. Pretty soon they swam downstream and I was lucky to get this photo of the young one zooming back and forth on the water surface– kicking with all its might and main.

Practicing to become a ‘devil diver’

I haven’t seen it dive yet, although I have seen it dabble a bit, satisfying itself on a little plant life until a parent brings it something tastier perhaps. I’m sure it is strengthening its legs so it can successfully dive for food like its mom and dad.  I read that a baby PBG isn’t fully independent for 70 days.  But with so much hard kicking, the young one should be a ‘devil diver’ like its parents in no time. Since then, I have seen the fledgling only one more time, a week later in about the same place. Where are you, little Stripey?   This morning, walking along the river between Water and Highway 1, I saw a PBG further up the river than I have ever seen one, bathing and preening in a little backwater pool.   It seemed a nice protected place for a non-diver. Could it be the baby without its stripes? It’s getting very close to 70 days – I calculate October 12.  Should I hold a Quinceanera or Bar Mitzvah?

The City did go ahead and hire Gary Kittleson as the biologist to carry out the Baseline Study authorized at the June 23 Council meeting. I’m glad! He has been out a couple of times a week in the last three weeks and has been posting his rich findings on eBird. He discovered a juvenile EARED GREBE down in your stretch of the river. an important migrant. Reading his lists helps me know what to look for.   He identified a marsh wren by ear, one of my new goals. I have been listening to my tapes, but just can’t be sure of myself yet. My best discovery since you’ve left was a SORA scuttling around awkwardly in the tules near the Laurel St. Bridge – just long enough for me to catch a glimpse of that telltale yellow beak. Stay away paddlers! These are rare birds in these parts that we need to protect. I hasten to add that we must protect all our beloved regulars, including my first view today of a GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW, newly arrived back from Canada/Alaska where they breed as far north as the Bering Strait! Welcome back Golden-crowns! I hope your long journey north resulted in many babies.

I have started a new program of finding a different spot on the river each time I go out, planting myself in my portable chair, and letting the birds come to me. Today I chose a place just up from the jail at Blaine St –and was thrilled with the 13 bird species that visited me -plus a coyote ambling nonchalantly along the willows near the river.  I felt sad that I and the birds were so free and happy on the levee and close by were folks trapped in prison cells.

I told a passing ranger about the coyote and he was very happy to hear it – told me how much they are trying to encourage coyotes in the area since they help with the gopher problem. He said that Public Works is struggling with how to deal with the explosion of gophers who create hundreds of tunnels under the levee and compromise its strength.

Always problems, but always some joy tucked away out of sight.  See you soon.


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