river nesting scenarios…

Good Morning Barbara and Nature friends,

spring fever ignites HOUSE SPARROWS

So… how are you all holding up as you witness the wild roller-coast ride of the breeding, nesting season? Let me tell you about a few nesting scenarios that have unfolded along the river:

OSPREY attempting a high voltage nest

On a wet, cold December morning the OSPREY was calmly surveying the scenery from the power pole by Trestle bridge. The mighty bird took off and returned shortly afterwards clutching a huge branch. It circled the power pole, obviously trying to figure out how to land with its load. Finally the risk-taker worked out how to touch down and not loose the building material. Placing the branch turned out to be tricky: the high voltage box was in the way. The beak & talons got busy maneuvering the obstacle to its allocated location. The builder examined the work, flew off and came back with a medium sized branch. Having gained confidence in its construction ability, the OSPREY landed right on top of the newly arranged branch. Unfortunately that was not a good decision: the branch started tipping and the contractor hopped over to the side, dropping the new bough. The beak and talons went back to work to situate the foundation branch better, which required some rest after the hard labor. The architect took off, brought back more building supply, landed this time on the pole, stretched down to place the addition on top of the branch. Alas, that didn’t work out at all: both branches fell to the ground. With calm regret the OSPREY looked at the branches on the ground, raised its head, took a river survey, flew off and didn’t return. For the next month I would see various branch evidence that the OSPREY hadn’t abandoned the nest building goal and after that the pole was bare. Obviously the universe was eager to prevent a potential high voltage disaster and tempted the OSPREY with an upstream tree to build a safe nest successfully.

safe OSPREY nest photographed by Gary Kittleson

I am happy: The CLIFF SWALLOWS are back! They were swooping around the old nests by Riverside Ave. bridge, cleaning out the accumulated mess since last year’s breeding season, getting ready for their upcoming broods.

CLIFF SWALLOWS busy w/nest re-modeling

The NORTHERN ROUGH-winged SWALLOWS perch on the wires and in the dead river trees, resting, preening and resting some more. They don’t subscribe to the incessant aviation habit that their cousins display such as the zippy CLIFF, VIOLET-green, TREE SWALLOWS. The 2 BANK SWALLOWS have disappeared and I wonder if they decide to check out other cavity nesting locations thus avoiding the many off leash dogs on the wide sandbanks.

NORTHERN Roughed-winged Swallow preening…

The current sediment buildup is impressive. There are sections in the lower river where it becomes a narrow strip, tempting people to walk along the shoreline while their dogs enjoy some bird and ground squirrel chasing, unaware that the KILLDEER, BLACK PHOEBE, female MALLARD are scurrying around in a high alarm state. Less sediment used to prevent access to the bank’s nesting areas, but the new condition exposes them to the peril of panicked parent-birds. And that brings me to an other changed river condition: I don’t believe anymore that the old river mouth will break open, in spite what the fishermen and surfers say. The river mouth continues its meandering flow along the Main Beach, giving seals, CORMORANTS and SNOWY EGRETS the golden opportunity to catch the helpless fish in the shallow water.

river reduced to narrow strip

The male BUFFLEHEAD and COMMON GOLDENEYE migrated and left eight female BUFFLEHEADS and COMMON GOLDENEYE behind. They enjoy each others company for short intervals, separate for a bit and come together again. This year the river hosted more males of each species. Did the males take off with their beak picked harem and left 8 spinsters behind? For a few days a male NORTHERN SHOVELER tried to befriend them and some MALLARD females, but that concept didn’t catch on and so he left.


Around March 15th Mama KILLDEER returned to the Fruit Orchard by the Riverside Ave. bridge, where last year 4 little feather-balls had fledged. She sat on the ground in various spots, checking out nesting potentials. Finally a week later she settled on a site. That is when I roped off the area, gave heads up to City Staff and the Fruit Orchard people that we were once again on the mission to protect the upcoming birthing. People rejoiced hearing about the KILLDEER nest and were touched to catch a glimpse of her snuggled on her nest.

Mama KILLDEER trying out nesting spots

So you can imagine my distress on Monday when I didn’t find her tending her future brood. After looking around, waiting for a while, coming back a few hours later, I had to face that something bad had happened that caused her absence and my grieving heart ached for her.
Sad jane greetings…
PS: Come and join “Let’s Spruce Up the San Lorenzo River Levee”

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