Good Morning Barbara and fellow Naturaphiles,
Remember my last post about the dive crazed, shy Long-tailed DUCK? Well, that very same little, compact DUCK adjusted nicely to the feathered river life rhythm. It floated relaxed on the water, curiously eyeing the birders, who flocked to the levee to see its rare appearance. My birder friend wanted to see it. So we headed to the spot, where I had seen the DUCK for the last few days, sunbathing on a rock close to the shore. And sure enough: there was the LONG-tailed DUCK, snoozing the morning away. As we admired it, one eye opened, took us in and closed again. A young MERGANSER was circling the coveted sun spot, obviously hoping for a friendly rock sharing experience. The feathered teenager came slowly closer, casually hung out next to the enticing rock then ever so gingerly climbed up, clinging to the rock’s edge. A few seconds later the MERGANSER sought a more cozy position, which entailed turning its back towards the rock owner, who gave it a thorough examination, decided that sight was not appropriate and delivered a well aimed, feisty peak to that derrière. The MERGANSER wagged the tail and didn’t take the hint to move it. So the attacks were repeated until the intruder got the message and slid off the boulder. Satisfied the LONG-tailed DUCK watched the rude guest swim off to smaller lounging place, never ever getting up from its resting repose.
On Saturday I saw the official announcement in the Sentinel for the Flood Control Work. My heart already broke on Wednesday when I found out about the early July 16th start date, which is one month sooner than last year. In 2017 the bulldozers entered the Flood Control area after August 15th and finished their work before the Oct. 15th cut-off time. The environmentalists & birders were thrilled, because the 2017 date corresponded to their repeated plea to adhere to the Federal/State Feb.1st-Aug.15th protected bird breeding season. They wrote letters of praise to the Public Work’s Staff for their welcomed schedule change and urged that this timeline should be repeated in 2018. After all it is possible to include positive environment consideration in planing the necessary work schedules as Sonoma demonstrates. So seeing on black & white that the old way had returned was hard to take!! Some people ask me why I get so upset about the untimely vegetation bulldozing in the riparian corridor, because after all the birds can just fly away. Well, actually fledglings are lousy flyers. Furthermore bird offsprings benefit greatly by going through an undisturbed growth cycle. The valuable time of proper feeding, resting, flying practice, allows them to grow into strong, healthy adults, who will have better survival chances. Birds mature quickly and so every day matters in their growth process. That’s why one extra month makes such a vital difference and because they are denied that time my heart breaks for them.
This morning you and I were drawn to the work site like moths to light to watch the scope of work being carried out. The bird alarm sounds had accompanied my walk to the area, where the bird precaution talk had been completed, the biologist was monitoring the site, the 15’ buffer zone was being marked, the tools were active, the native plants were getting flagged and you had spotted the PIED-billed GREBE nest in the river. I am sure we’ll be back to-morrow to check out the new river look.
Sometimes I observe unusual bird behavior, i.e. this one: on Sunday a loud, agitated MALLARD squabble echoed over the water. I saw several MALLARDS swimming back and forth, rising half way out of the water and charging at each other. It looked like male behavior during breeding season. Getting closer I was surprised to see 2 female adults, 4 almost full grown, 1 juvenile and 2 tiny ducklings. The 2 adult females were battling each other, the 4 almost full grown ones were charging at the juvenile and the 2 itty ducklings. One of the adult females flew off, leaving 2 pitiful peeping ducklings behind. As if that wasn’t enough the 4 almost adults started chasing them, assisted by the 1 juvenile. The deserter came back, called her 2 ducklings and they swam upstream. The 4 trouble makers followed them, vocalizing soft sounds continuously when suddenly they swam across the river. There they squawked loudly to high heaven while one after the other raised their bodies, flapped their wings wildly, dove under, came up and repeated this unique behavior. Once they were done with that, they returned demurely and escorted Mama and ducklings down the river while whispering soft sounds continuously…
Signing off with kind river greetings to you all, jane