You are a wunderkind, indeed! No sooner do you touch down on these shores after three weeks in Germany, but you immediately throw yourself into the serious study of the blue-green algae crisis on the river. I decided the subject was too complicated for me, but enjoyed reading your lively account. I was glad that you pointed out to me that the algae doesn’t turn the river blue-green. It turns it brown. I was looking for blue-green slime.
Well – here is what is probably my last post on ‘Stripey’, the baby PIED-BILLED GREBE that won my heart this summer. She is the only survivor among four eggs and two hatchlings, one survivor out of a brood of six. I wonder if the parents grieve? Here she is when I last saw her on September 16, when she would have been about six weeks old. Again she was just upstream from the pedestrian bridge, near the mid-channel island off the Benchlands. This spot offers dense cover for birds and fish. I hope the City will do everything it can to protect it. (I am in communication with the Parks and Rec Department about this.) In this photo you can still make out her head and neck stripes quite clearly, although they are being slowly absorbed into the brown drabness of her parents.
Pied-billed grebes are supposed to reach independence when they are about 10 weeks old, so her independence day would have been October 9. Has she been buckling down and catching her own fish since then? I assume one of the 8 or 10 PIED-BILLED GREBES I see regularly when I walk along the river is Stripey, but without her baby stripes. Normally, PBG’s seem to be the busiest birds on the river, barely coming up for air between dives. Occasionally I see one that is simply floating on the river and wonder if it has a full tummy, or is simply too tired to chase more fish. Or is it Stripey in a rebellious teen-age mode still wanting to be fed? I miss her.
Curious how this species dresses up its babies rather strikingly, but is very understated in its own dress preferences. Most species do the opposite. I wonder what the evolutionary reason for that is. Maybe PBG’s have bad eyesight and needed their babies to stand out. Just a wild guess. Anyway, the babies sure are cute!
On a different subject – It’s been exciting to watch the eBird checklists rolling in, especially since you’ve been back. Congratulations on your discovery of the rare flycatcher. I won’t say more since I assume you will write about it. And you also caught the first Horned Grebe of the season, significant since it is a returning migrant. Gary Kittleson, the city-hired biologist, has been racking up impressively large numbers of species in his baseline work. He found 51 species last week! If readers haven’t checked out the website eBird, where we all submit our checklists, please do. That way you can keep abreast of bird life on the river when Jane or I are too tired or too full or too rebellious to write anything on the blog!
Here is the link: http://ebird.org/ebird/hotspots. Under ‘hotspots’ just search for San Lorenzo River (within Santa Cruz).