I saw the COMMON GOLDENEYE you wrote about so sweetly last time. Indeed, she seems to be spending the summer with us. It’s sad that she may have been held back by an injury. As always, I appreciate your careful observation and keen eye. I probably wouldn’t have noticed her drooping wing.
I’m afraid something has taken a heavy toll on the gloriously large brood of 19 COMMON MERGANSER babies I wrote about two weeks ago. This week I saw a mother and just four babes. They were resting for awhile and then swimming in a row under the pedestrian bridge. Am I right in thinking that this is the only Common Merganser family on the river this summer? A friend walked by as I was watching the family, someone who is out on the river almost daily, and agreed that it was probably the famous family of 21, now sadly diminished. We lamented together. Has this family made it down to your end of the river yet?
It is fun to see the MALLARD families out and about, most of the ducklings now entering their teen-age years.
I did see one female with two tiny fist-sized fluff balls down towards the Soquel Bridge, so at least one new family is just getting started. I also saw the mother WOOD DUCK with two teens today. I think this is the same family that I saw before, now reduced from four to two? Aaah, nature. We must not let humans add to the challenges that these wonderful animals face.
I’ve not had one glimpse, though, of the two young PIED-BILLED GREBES I saw behind the Tannery recently. I hope they are still out there swimming around and that I just missed them. I haven’t been able to get out that much these last two weeks, so may be missing a lot.
I went to duck.org to see what I could find out about duck mortality. There are so many variables that influence whether or not these creatures survive – including age of ducklings, brood size, hatch date and habitat conditions, the last one being the most important. Habitat, habitat, habitat! They have to have food. Obviously, ducklings are the most vulnerable during the first days and weeks after hatching. Once they reach the age of the ones I showed above, one study shows that their chances of surviving have increased 9 times. Mallards do well compared to other ducks since they are the first ducks on the river to nest in the spring and are thought to benefit from better water quality and availability of food.
I’ve been enjoying all the colors on the river – purple Vetch, yellow Mustard, lavendar and white Wild Radish magenta, curly Red dock, and so many more whose names I don’t know. Some happy day the levee will perhaps see the restoration of native plants, but in the meantime we can enjoy the colorful and cheerful non-natives.
Speaking of vegetation, we’re only a month and a half away from August 1, the time the City begins its annual attack on the vegetation of the levee. I’m doing a little scheming about how we might get the City to take a more measured approach to the cutting down of the alders, box elders, willows and cottonwoods that have flourished this winter with the heavier rains. Once they reach a certain diameter they are destined to fall victim to the chainsaws – by order of the Army Corps of Engineers. Last year I saved two Cottonwoods and one Alder in the area just below the Third Street steps. I’m hoping for a few more rescues at least – and hopefully a more careful approach. Bruce Van Allen told me that in the past a representative from Public Works plus a biologist and someone from the Army Corps would walk the levee each year and mark the trees that had to come down. Now the determination is left up to the contractor with the tractor and chainsaws . If it is the same contractor this year, it is a guy who cares about the habitat, knows the birds and trees and sticks to the City guidelines I think. But I would like us to return to the earlier approach. I think more trees could be saved. Each tree adds to the scenic value of the Riverwalk, but more importantly, it contributes to the habitat and the many species that depend on this habitat.
We’re almost at Summer Solstice. How fast the summer passes.
Best birding to you.