Hello Barbara,

San Lorenzo River mouth.JPG
San Lorenzo River mouth

Checking on the San Lorenzo River the other day, I was surprised to see no feathered neighbors on the open water. I wondered if the COMMON GOLDENEYE, BUFFLEHEAD and other River dwellers had decided on early migration. But then I saw the beaked River population clinging along the shoreline. Their mode of operandi became obvious when a FEMALE COMMON GOLDENEYE succumbed to the urge of crossing the River. The current was so strong, that she floated rapidly backwards towards the Ocean. She scrambled back to calmer waters and coiffed her ruffled feather-do.

Reading your CROW comment, my GENUS CORVUS preference fluttered instantly over to the RAVEN. I break the birder’s unbiased species etiquette by openly declaring my CROW dislike. Although the RAVEN shares many characteristics with the CROW, there are some fundamental differences: The RAVEN is twice as heavy as a CROW, is wrapped in stunning “RAVEN” black, shiny feather garb.  Also they mate for long duration, only flock in the winter time, have an impressive, emotional vocal repertoire, equal any prey bird with their flight stunts, surpass chimpanzees in problem solving, are the ‘coyote tricksters’ of the bird world and are considered the most intelligent bird. So I rest my case for my GENUS CORVUS choice…

Did you hear? Lisa Sheridan and Shantanu Phukan saw a VIRGINIA RAIL on their San Lorenzo River Bird Walk! Right downtown… hanging out in the reeds… across from Trader Joe’s parking lot! Pretty exciting to see this shy Marsh delight along the river. Makes you wonder, what other bird/critter treasures are present in this ignored urban Nature stretch? Here are some other recent River surprises.

There was a migratory GREATER YELLOWLEGS strolling along the shore behind the Skateboard Park, deeply interested in drilling the sand with its long beak. Id-ing this bird tests my birder nerves since its cousin, LESSER YELLOWLEGS, looks so similar and the question: “Is it or isn’t it a GREATER YELLOWLEGS?” rattles my brain. The bill length helps decide who is who: the GREATER YELLOWLEGS owns a slightly upturned bill, that is 1,5 longer than its head while LESSER YELLOWLEGS bill equals its head length. It helps to have both present to see that the GREATER YELLOWLEGS has a more robust, bigger build.


A juv. RED-THROATED LOON required some rest on the River during its migratory journey to the High Arctic. It strengthened itself with nonchalant floating by the Trestle bridge, diving abruptly, staying under water for extended time and resurfacing in unexpected areas.  This refreshed, dotted back young LOON is gone from River now, completing its journey. Did you know, that they mate for extended time like the RAVEN?


The other day a white cloud fluttered upstream, landed on the Trestle bank rocks, spread out, performed a well choreographed scurry dance while examining every rock’s knock & cranny. They were SANDERLINGS, who are shore wading birds and breed in the High Arctic. They are passing through from their South America winter trip and by the time they arrive at their breeding ground, the SANDERLINGS will have flown 6,000 miles. No wonder they needed our River to rest and feed for a few days.


Observing what an important part our San Lorenzo Urban River habitat plays for the health/well-being of the local/ migratory bird population, makes me aware how Nature spreads her wings to support life in spite of her circumstances. That’s inspiring, don’t you agree? jane


  1. So much to be seen down river from me! You always come up with so much. I must bestir myself and trundle down there. Sanderlings, loons, yellowlegs. Love that you see all this. I can see I will have to be the advocate for the much maligned crow – that oh so clever and hot-headed creature. I just can’t help myself – I always stand up for the underdog, or underbird as it were. I do love the growly rattle of the raven, though. The photo of the ocean at the river mouth is stunning.

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