Good Morning Barbara and Nature Lovers,
Sometimes the river mornings are truly exquisite. The momentum is dreamy, peaceful and soothing. The birds are slowly waking up, a few are still sleeping, some are getting ready forage and others are sitting in their favorite spots, surveying serenely their territory. Even the CROWS are quietly walking on the shore next to the sleeping MALLARD while the SPOTTED SANDPIPER is slowly wading through the water and the RED-throated LOONS is drifting in the current. Other mornings the wildlife activity is in full swing. The head down, tail in the air MALLARDS are eating their early morning meal, the RED-shouldered HAWK is gliding over the banks, triggering the alarm calls amongst the river wildlife residents as they rush for cover. The GREEN HERON is following the CORMORANT in the hope that its quick breakfast beak will spear a fleeing fish along the shoreline.
Last week I got a call from a river lover, who was really concerned and upset about the EBB and FLOW light installation on the Soquel Ave. bridge. I wasn’t aware of the 12 metal poles on each bridge side holding the light cables. Of course my first thought landed on the active CLIFF SWALLOW nests underneath the bridge ledges. Since I wanted to see for myself what the caller had talked about, I found myself standing on the levee path by the bridge, watching the installer put the final touches on the installation. There were about a dozen CLIFF SWALLOWS circling above the bridge and none entered a nest in the 50 min. I spend at the site. I couldn’t help but think that the construction had/was impacting their breeding/nesting activity. It was hard to know if intact nests were active or not. Naturally I wondered about the broken nests: were they destroyed by drilling vibration to mount the 6 bolts into each pole base? Were they old nests? Unfortunately my CLIFF SWALLOW nest outreach to other birders and river lovers didn’t turn up any factual details.
So I am left with the questions: Why celebrate the river with a light installation that effects the protected migratory birds and other wildlife? How and where did that disconnect happen? Don’t get me wrong! I love art, I love people celebrating nature. I just happen to think that nature has to have a voice at the planning table to avoid these kind of disconnects.
I relish meeting up with one of my river enjoyers on the levee walk. It’s the perfect setting to exchange our latest ‘ feather news’. The other day I saw Robin on the levee while I was trying to decipher why 2 gulls were having this insane interaction. One gull had the other by the neck, trying to push it under water, both their wings flapping wildly. The neck biter succeeded to keep the other submerged and I was sure the poor thing was drowning, because its wing action was becoming slower and weaker. It gathered all its force, resurfaced and attempted to return the vicious favor to its opponent. As we watched the disturbing scene, we contemplated several scenarios: ‘ it’s a territorial issue’, ‘it’s a mating ritual’, ‘it’s a food fight’, ‘have no idea what’s going on…’.
And then John walked up and told us he had just seen Mama MERGANSER and her 11 ‘merganserlings’ (as Robin calls them), which send us into a swoon festival about this adorable family. Separately each one of us had kept an eye on them for the last three weeks and whenever we meet up, we rejoice that the Mama has managed to keep ‘our’ merganserlings safe, inline and healthy. We have observed them resting on the log, torpedo-ing for food through the water, checking out the tule larder and cheered their rapid growth. Obviously they have charmed us. The other day 2 ‘merganserlings’ surfaced, hanging on to the same fish: one had hold of the head, the other was clamping down on the tail. The lively fish tugging stopped the other siblings in their tracks, viewing the spectacle from a safe distance. The winner got so occupied with its meal that it missed the family departure. Realizing that everyone was downstream, the little one raced after them, looking like it was running on the water surface.