Comings and Goings

Dear Jane and everyone who reads our blog!

The mysterious comings and goings of the San Lorenzo sand bar continue. The highly independent-minded sand bar has recently decided to block the normal  flow of the river to the sea, raising the lagoon level so high that it has swamped the Riverwalk section that runs under the Riverside Bridge. This sand bar phenomenon always surprises me. It is such an odd maneuver of nature – so good for wildlife and so inconvenient for humans. I’m sure all the Steelhead that you reported on last week, Jane,  are celebrating this creation of a safe transitional nursery for their young ones before they are forced out to sea when the bar is breached. But in the meantime the Seaside Company will grumble as the river water seeps sideways into their underground machinery. It is illegal for individuals to artificially breach the sand bar, but will the City make a move in the next days or weeks? Until two years ago I was unaware of this annual drama.  Now I watch this drama unfold almost every year – a compelling story of humans and nature  at cross purposes.

Funny that there aren’t more birds out chasing all the Steelhead in the newly formed Lagoon. I went out yesterday, seeking my first EARED GREBE

Eared grebe with dirty ears and neck - Version 2
Eared Grebe, photo by B.Riverwoman, July, 2015

of the season after reading that Shantanu Phukan found his first one last week. But no luck. By mid-October they should be here in significant numbers. Where are they? The problem in getting so familiar with a patch of nature is that we expect the kids home at a certain hour and worry when they are not here!

My most unusual discovery this week was a TROPICAL KINGBIRD perched on a willow tree near the river behind Kaiser Arena – a lifebird for me.

Tropical Kingbird
Tropical Kingbird, near Kaiser Arena, October 15, 2017, San Lorenzo River

According to BNA, it is a common bird with a normal range from Mexico to central Argentina. They started venturing northward 75 years ago, beginning to nest in Arizona and New Mexico. A small number are now seen dispersed along the Pacific Coast in the winter. Lucky me – I not only got to see one but it sat still long enough for me to take a photo of its bright yellow belly.

Western Grebe
Western Grebe, October 15, 2017

Walking the loop between Soquel Bridge and the Trestle – and back – I also caught sight of a  WESTERN GREBE in fall plumage, and a PELAGIC CORMORANT pumping along, slim and radiant as always. 19 species in all swam or flew into my ken, and the next day Shantanu Phutan found 20 species, at least half of them different from mine. So, roughly, a total of 30 species reported last week   on the river. I hope you take time to click the two links above.  Such a great resource.

Pelagic Cormorant – Version 2
Pelagic Cormorant, October 15, 2017


On the human side of the equation – a seismic wave continues to ripple through the Benchlands right now, a fascinating phenomenon apparently generated in part by the new police chief.

The homeless are now allowed to legally pitch tents from 9 pm to 6 am, something homeless advocates have been seeking for decades. The campers are allowed the privacy and relative safety of their tents at night as long as they take them down on time and tidy up their camps. With close ranger and police supervision, the campsites looked  amazingly shipshape at 9:30 a.m. as I accompanied homeless advocate Phil Posner through the area.

Phil is working with a local group of activists, city staff and elected officials on creating a permanent homeless shelter. Altar 1BenchlandsAmong the 7 campsites on the Benchlands that I I visited with him, there were two that included altars with flowers, both created by homeless women. One woman told me that her altar was in memory of a woman ‘loved by all’ who had recently died at the age of 26. Altar 2 BenchlandsThis is the tragic and invisible part of the iceberg that we  don’t get to see.


We have a good friend of the river in Alan Martin, a Parks and Recreation Department employee who monitors the river almost daily in his shiny white truck, grabbing a few moments to record  both the human and non-human dramas of the river.  He recently sent me this video that he whimsically calls  A Garbage Truck With a View.  Check it out!

More on the political front….I attended the meeting of the City Council on October 10 where the City made its final decision on whether to approve the preliminary Parks Master Plan before it heads to the state for an Environmental Impact Report.   We knew that  the imperfect but significantly improved Plan would pass.  But most of us environmentalists in the chambers that day were unprepared by a last minute motion made by Councilmember Martine Watkins that put mountain biking back on an action priority list. Krohn and Brown supported the major Plan but held strong on opposing Watkins’ motion in favor of the biking industry push for speeding up the process of getting more mountain bikes in Pogonip and DeLaveaga. Another predictable 5-2 vote on the environment. Expect a battle over that one! We need two more strong environmentalists on the City Council if we are going to protect our treasured green spaces from the onslaught of trail-hungry mountain bikers.

Quote of the Week:

“The only biodiversity we’re going to have left is Coke versus Pepsi. We’re landscaping the whole world one stupid mistake at a time.”   – Chuck Palahniuk, Lullaby

Gratitude to all those who went before us who showed us how to  protect and promote  species other than ourselves.

Happy birding to all!















2 thoughts on “Comings and Goings

  1. Thanks for another wonderful blog entry! Barbara, city staff has made it clear they will not be doing an EIR for the Parks Master Plan so your entry needs that correction. Plus the final motion was to assess trails in open space,not specifically mountain bike trails.

  2. Thanks so much for the correction re the EIR, Gillian. In regards to the Watkins’ motion, was your sense that the ‘trail assessment’ prioritization included routine maintenance needs as well as appropriateness for mountain bicycles? In that case, why did Krohn and Brown not approve? I’m still a bit confused. Ironically, the lowest stair step into the Moore Creek trail was badly damaged and I almost took a bad fall this morning when I was walking there. I immediately called Parks and Recreation and told them about it. I’m going to try to get out there to see if they repair it right away. I tried a makeshift repair until they get there. I hope nobody gets hurt.

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