enjoying the unexpected…

Good Morning Barbara,

RED-breasted MERGANSER enjoying the river

There have been some unexpected delights down here: 4 RED-breasted MERGANSERS have been lounging around on the shore across from the Crescent bridge. I am a little surprised to see them on the sandbar, where they sleep, stand around, gazing off into the distance, get briefly in the water, return and rest some more. Both of us have commented how shy they were when we spotted 2 of them a while back: always diving out of sight. These 4 are displaying a very different behavior, allowing for unusual close up observations.

I feasted my eyes for a few days on the evolving breeding plumage of a HORNED GREBE. Usually they migrate before the breeding feather surface, so we see them in their winter attire and never in their molting regalia. It was striking how the yellow streak grew more pronounced within a few days time.


You mentioned that you hadn’t seen a GREEN HERON this year. You’ll be happy to know that one was standing by the Laurel bridge, out in the open at the waterline of the sandbar. The sediment build up has moved the previous waterline away from the protective vegetation and created a different fishing experience for this timid bird. Was the shy GREEN HERON trying to deal with the river channel change? Watching it stalk the waterline, I realized that bird was jumping over its own shadow, exploring this “out in the open” location.

the SWALLOWS are back

On Thursday Gary Kittleson & I discussed how the winter storms have changed the river bed and its possible impact on the CLIFF SWALLOWS: the gravely sediment has covered many of mud patches, which supply the needed material for the CLIFF SWALLOWS mud nests. We wondered if that situation was the reason for the low CLIFF SWALLOW number at the Riverside Ave. bridge. During the last 3 weeks there had been 2 to 5 zippy flyers zooming around the bridge, then vanish for days. The next morning a spectacular SWALLOW crowd was observed by an awed audience. They were buzzing the old nests on Riverside Ave. bridge, swirling in the sky, skimming the water for a drink and careening along the bank. The flock of 60 or more included VIOLET-green, ROUGH-winged and impressive amount of CLIFF SWALLOWS. And then they all disappeared from one second to the next, leaving me starring at an empty sky. A little later a fairly large flock of SWALLOWS reappeared. I’ll let you know, if they decide on nest building. Yep! You guessed it: I got to show Gary the Fruit Orchard Killdeer nest with Mama solidly placed on it.

KILLDEER Mama sitting tight…Enter a caption

Frankly I was shocked to see a man throwing rocks at the gulls. There were children close by, who watched his activity. Since I was standing far away on the Trestle bridge, the man was safe from my questioning his actions. It saddened me to think that he had come all the way down to the beach to celebrate nature’s beauty by throwing rocks at gulls…


There must be quite a few LAMPREY in the river, because an other gull was dragging one ashore, carried it back in the water (is sandy fish un-appetizing?), found it to tedious to deal with, abandoned it and to my surprise the LAMPREY swam off. Then an OSPREY flew upriver clutching a LAMPREY in its talon. I wondered if there is an Osprey nest in your area, because usually the OSPREY eats its catch right away. Was the fish food for the young OSPREY brood?

an other LAMPREY

Enjoy the Spring symphony & you might like to catch the May 6th Bay Area Conservation Biology Symposium 2017Bay Area Conservation Biology Symposium 2017

Leave a Reply