RED-necked and Cleaned Up…

Hi Barbara,

The river and I are happy you returned and welcome you back. It’ s so interesting that you saw AMERICAN COOTS over a week ago, because just to-day I saw the first 4 AMERICAN COOTS down here. Usually they are everywhere at once on the river. You’ll be happy to know that about 10-12 of your beloved PIED-billed GREBES have been feasting by the Trestle bridge.

GREATER SCAUP cleaning up...
GREATER SCAUP cleaning up…

I love when Nature quirks me! Down the river I saw a group of PIED-billed GREBES demonstrating their agitated escape behavior: quick dives, surfacing, pedaling ferociously, looking over their shoulder and down they go again. I noticed a bigger bird shape right behind them, attempting to catch up with the escapees. All of the sudden the shape stopped in its water track, overcome by an urgent need to preen itself rigorously. The water drops were flying everywhere, the body performed some hilarious acrobatics in order to clean the hard to reach parts. I swear the GREATER SCAUP re-invented the bathing wheel. The mollified PIED-billed GREBES watched from a safe distance. Then the scrubbed GREATER SCAUP joined the group and they all hung out together peacefully. Obviously the PIED-billed GREBES prefer clean friends…

PIED-billed GREBES w/their scrubbed friend, the GREATER SCAUP
PIED-billed GREBES w/their scrubbed friend, the GREATER SCAUP

The San Lorenzo River enjoys surprising me. I was moseying down the levee, thinking it’s late in the day and I wouldn’t see anything unusual. Then across the river, I noticed a white spot bobbing up and down, assuming it was a trashed paper cup, my “ARGH!” reaction got triggered. A closer look turned the paper cup into this adorable, dainty white bird, dressed up in a slender, elegant body. The bird was continuously twisting and twirling while pecking at the water surface, catching every delicious tidbit available while keeping a watchful eye on me. So the suspect trash uncloaked itself as a migratory RED-necked PHALAROPE, swinging by for dinner on its way south. This little bird is perfectly fine out on the rough ocean for months at a time. The female has thrown her traditional sex role over board.

female RED-necked PHALAROPE(goggled pic)
female RED-necked PHALAROPE(goggled pic)

She decided to adopt a bigger and more colorful physic, initiate the partner vowing and then tops it off by leaving the male to incubate the eggs and raise the young ones. The male stays with the fledglings for 2 weeks then takes off although his left behind charge doesn’t fly until they are 3 weeks old. I can’t help but smile, imagining how this feathered RED-necked PHALAROPE role reversal would sound to a human “Red-neck”…

It's a RED-necked PHALAROPE & not a paper cup...
It’s a petit  RED-necked PHALAROPE & not a paper cup…

It felt enriching being up in Felton at the Valley Women Club/SOS “Road & River Clean-up” and work with such a diverse community on behalf of the river, knowing that the gathered trash would never touch the watershed. We had Boy Scout groups and an amazing amount of families, all were eager to do their part for the environment. The little trash scavengers crawled into my heart with their adorable stories of where they found their litter as they looked up with shiny eyes, trustingly handing me their trash treasures. If anybody ever needs an environmental outlook adjustment, here is the cure: take part in a community ” Clean-Up” event.

Diverse community clean-up crew..
Diverse community clean-up crew..

Thank heaven the Flood Control clean-up was finished a week ago. The noisy activity has ceased and there is an obvious drop in the local bird population. The remaining birds are noticeable skittish. And where are the other ones? Are they going to return to their home as the displaced BLACK-crowned NIGHT HERON did? I have learned that on the first day of the habitat re-arrangement at least one of them will show up in the safe Trestle tree branches. And sure enough on the first pandemonium day he arrived, hiding in the foliage and just as expected he was gone the first day the work stopped.

BLACK-crowned NIGHT HERON hiding from Flood Control work...
BLACK-crowned NIGHT HERON hiding from Flood Control work…

Quirky river greetings fluttering your way, jane

4 thoughts on “RED-necked and Cleaned Up…

  1. Laughed out loud at your hilarious depiction of the high standards that Pied-billed Grebes set for their friends! Very exciting that you found a Red-necked Phalarope on the river. I have never seen them anywhere in Santa Cruz except at Younger Lagoon. A great find! I have always been intrigued by them because of their odd gender roles.


    1. That’s great that you had to laugh, because it was an amusing sight & I am glad that came across. That little bird is so amazing= turning the gender roles up side down like that. We humans are still working on that…Be well & thank you for your kind words, jane


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