Good Morning Barbara & fellow Nature fans,
I have some wonderful news to share: the ‘survivors’ were allowed to survive the recent mowing! The City maintenance crew did a fabulous job of weaving the mower around the native plants thanks to the direction of their Field Supervisor. What is so thrilling is that he had listened to my ‘survivors’ plea and integrated it into this year’s mowing. And what a pleasant visual it created: native plants form green wildlife friendly oases along the path instead of brown, barren ground. Now the natives can spread and fill in along the path, which will cut down on mowing, consequently save time and money. The best part is that wildlife will have food sources and shelter over the summer, which had been eliminated in the past. As you can imagine: I am celebrating this very positive win-win scenario!
The other morning I was checking the river mouth and I heard the distinct KILLDEER alarm sound. It took me a while to locate the source down by the Seabright beach, because their bodies blend in so well with the background. The KILLDEER was sitting on a tuft of vegetation in the sand. Since they are famous for flimsy nests in unsafe locations, I wondered if she was breeding, which would be a little late for the season. All of the sudden a little KILLDEER chick popped out from underneath the mother. Chicks’ slip underneath their mothers when danger is close by and she lowers her body to hide them.
The first time I saw that protection behavior the mother had 4 feather puffs hiding underneath her and not a trace of them was showing. Interestingly this mother didn’t have a co-parent and so was performing double duty. Usually one parent keeps an eye on the offspring, which is not an easy task, because the little ones are a bundle of energy, careening around like spinning tops. Meanwhile the other parent performs the never ending task of keeping the two safe. I got exhausted watching her doing all these tasks on her own!
The same morning the Fruit Orchard Killdeer parent was incredibly preoccupied protecting their one bundle-of-joy from any potential danger: the CROWS needed to get chased away, the ground-squirrels had to be kept at a safe distance, the MALLARD Mama and her ducklings were told in no uncertain terms they were not welcome to come ashore and when a third adult KILLDEER arrived it had to be set straight about that idea. The arrival of the intruder had me wondering if this was the ‘lost’ partner of the lone Seabright beach parent…
An ‘odd’ duck became my ‘mystery’ bird for two weeks. The first time I saw it by Trestle bridge I thought it was a small, peculiar colored female MALLARD. That proved to be wrong, because it kept rapidly diving for extended times. The ‘mystery’ duck was hell bound to avoid any identification efforts. It would show up on the other side of the river, where I couldn’t get a clear view of its markings. The few times it was closer it teased me with rigorous diving activity with just enough time to catch some white eye marking. So I ended up with dozens of blurry diving rings pics. and non the smarter who I was looking at. Then James Maughn posted on MBB list that he had seen a female LONG-tailed DUCK on the San Lorenzo River. When I saw his photos, I knew that he had solved the mystery, because I recognized the white eye marking.
The LONG-tailed DUCK has some ‘odd’ characteristics amongst the duck species: it spends most of its time under water, sets the record with its 200 feet dives and its vocalizations. They breed in the high Arctic, flocks pass the non-breeding season flying low over the high sea/ big lakes where the males show off their finest plumage. Their breeding grounds have rich oil and gas resources. This poses high risk to their breeding grounds and their population on the west coast is declining. That is one more reason to voice our opposition to opening the Arctic to drilling. So I do hope many of you get to visit the river and see the unusual guest, jane