river walk discoveries…

Good Morning Barbara & Fellow Nature Fans,

CORMORANTS & LOONS at the river mouth

For the last two weeks the large amount of CORMORANTS has been truly stunning. They gathered outside the river mouth, where they line up in the hundreds in long lines or cluster in groups. The various migratory LOONS swam amongst the black crowd, unperturbed by the coming and going of the CORMORANTS. It’s the first time that I have seen so many of these 2 species congregate in one area.

Weasel (googled)

You won’t believe who I saw down by the river. A WEASEL! At first I thought the sun was playing tricks with a ground-squirrel’s coloring in the tule, but then the body shape and tail didn’t seem quite right for a ground-squirrel. In the hope of getting a better look at the critter, I stared intensely at the spot where it had disappeared. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed some movement further down and there was the weasel, just walking around on the sandbank. So the rumors about river weasels are true. I admit that on one hand I was thrilled to know that the river habitat housed a weasel. On the other hand I was worried about the eggs of the nesting birds. Let’s hope the weasel’s diet needs are met in other ways.

Mama heads for the rocks…

The other day I heard the ducklings “Mama” peeps. And sure enough there they were, paddling at high speed down the river and no Mama in sight. This scene is the telltale sign that the mother was separated from her brood. She usually flees from a male Mallard, who can’t believe she doesn’t desire him. Last year I observed a similar scenario. So here I am again, watching the tiny feather balls panicked search for their Mama. Scanning the river I see no beak nor feather of her. Now I am getting panicky too, because this unprotected little brood is extremely vulnerable to predators. I hear quaking above me, followed by a landing splash. The ducklings race over to her and so does a male Mallard. She protests and leads her offspring up the bank rocks. The male has second thoughts about rock climb and hesitates. She grabs his pause by the feathers and hides her treasures between the rocks. Just then I see a dark shape plunge down 8’ from me. It’s the RED-shouldered HAWK, flying off with a rat in its talons. I confess that I was very relieved that the HAWK didn’t chose little ducklings for breakfast. I did feel sorry for the rat though…

CLIFF SWALLOWS collecting mud…

The CLIFF SWALLOWS are in high gear at the river bridge to get their nests ready for the eggs. They are gathering mud in very specific spots along the shore lines, obviously selecting the best quality of mud for successful nest building. Have you ever seen them hover over the ground, touch down quickly, peck up some mud, fly off to their nests, deposit that little mud piece and repeat the whole process for about 20 min.? Then they abruptly stop and perform their insect zig-zag hunt again. I used to think that they finished collecting mud, because their nests were completed. That is not the case since nest construction takes 1-2 weeks to apply the 1000-1400 mud pellets. Maybe they stop, because the mud changes consistency after they removed the top layer?


My river walks are so filled with new discoveries, visits with familiar human and feathered friends. There is the glittering ANNA’s HUMMINGBIRD, siting on top of one of its two favorite trees. The other day I surprised myself when my “Hi, little fellow” greeting floated up to the well known beauty. The RED-shouldered HAWK has taught me to enjoy its majestic presence without taking photos. Now the relaxed rapture perches on the path signs when I pass by and disappear down the levee. A migratory LAZULI BUNTING teased me with its blue feathers when foraging through thick foliage. It had mercy on my questioning eyes and landed on a bare branch, allowing me to see its full beauty. As you know, I love connecting with other river lovers, so I like to introduce you to Palika Benton. She also writes about her San Lorenzo River experiences and I think you enjoy her tender river encounters.
Love to see you down by the river and just maybe you like to join us on Sat. 19th for the Estuary Project, jane

little MERGANSER catching a ride…

7 thoughts on “river walk discoveries…

  1. Batya and I found a mom mallard with 12 ducklings (the same family?) in a very urban place on Saturday afternoon: At the meeting of Pacific Ave. and Front St. South of Laurel. They were at the base of the old stone steps that used to lead up to a Victorian manor on Beach Hill (gated off now). She was trying to lead them up the steps but they couldn’t make the leap. We were terrified that she would lead them out into the street, which seemed dangerous even though there was a crosswalk right there. With a minimum of shepherding from us, she eventually opted to lead them on the sidewalk up Front Street toward the arena and Laurel St. I almost died from the cute factor, but was pretty worried about them too. Before reaching the arena, she veered into the property of the mental health facility with the ducklings in tow, and I am not sure if they could get access to the river that way. I sure hope so. We headed for dinner downtown and I hope they got dinner at Cafe San Lorenzo, because I am not sure how long duckling energy supplies last away from water and its yummy edibles.

    1. Hi Michael, that was one suspense report. I know exactly how you felt= it’s breathtaking to watch scenes like that. Every fiber in me comes alive as I root for good outcomes.

  2. Hello, Ladies!

    I’ve seen a couple of weasels along the river too. I think the species is Long-tailed Weasel (Mustela frenata). When I googled that a good page comes up as far as information. The seem to feed almost exclusively on rodents. The photos on the Wikipedia page aren’t representative of the coloration I have seen. If you do a google image search on Mustela frenata, maybe adding California, you will see some photos that show a weasel with some mask markings. That is the the way the ones I saw looked.The other morphs are legitimate, but just not as similar looking to the ones I’ve seen along the San Lorenzo.

    I’ve enjoyed reading your posts. I am inspired to walk the river more!

    Anyways, I thought you’d be glad to hear that the Long-tailed Weasel, “Only occasionally eats birds or eggs.” -Per Wikipedia

    Mac Macmillan, Santa Cruz

    1. The weasel I saw didn’t have that cute mask. I am really interested to know where you saw the masked weasels.It’s a relief to hear that birds & their eggs are not their primary food source.
      That’s so wonderful to read that because of the blog you go down to the more! It’s always hard to decide which discovery will make it into the post, so good to hear my choices resonate w/you.

  3. WEASEL! No way! That is the first picture I have seen of one locally! I had heard that there are river otters too. (I do not even know what that is!)

    1. It was pretty odd to see the weasel just walking around on the sand.One of those cases of: I can’t believe my eyes! It seemed pretty relaxed & @ ease, so I figured it was familiar w/the habitat. Love discovering the ‘unusual’ @ the river:)

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