steelhead,snakes, migratory arrivals….

Good Morning Barbara & Fellow River Lovers,

Santa Cruz Biologist getting ready to count San Lorenzo River fish

The steelhead fishing season is coming up, which always triggers my river fish population curiosity. So I did some sleuthing and heard this from Chris Berry, Watershed Compliance Manager: Nic Retford, one of his Staff members, recorded the recapture of a fish, who was tagged in June 2017 at 90mm in the lagoon by Jeff Hagar and was recaptured in between Hwy 1 and Water Street by Don Alley at 363mm in September 2018. This is pretty exciting because it indicates that this fish returned to spawn upstream. The final 2018 fish report will be out in June 2019 and I suspect that it will show lower steelhead numbers than last year according to my various fish conversations. The main topic amongst fish protectors is the proposed year-round water diversion by the City of Santa Cruz Water District. I promise to tell you more about this topic the next time.
What a snake coincidence! We both had scaly encounters within 2 weeks. It was thrilling to read about Bayta’s rare San Francisco Garter Snake find, which supports my suspicion: we actually have no idea how much wildlife the San Lorenzo River harbors. My encounter was with a Gopher snake thanks to my neighbor, who stopped her levee walk to ask about the new bird influx and of course I eagerly shared my ‘who is who’ knowledge. As we talked I kept having this eerie feeling of being watched, but I didn’t see any people or land birds in the shrubs.

Gopher Snake(googled)

Because Nature has been teaching me patiently that her dimensions extend beyond the eye level, I scanned every direction and looking down I found my ‘feeling watched’ culprit: a young Gopher snake with its body still half hidden in a ground squirrel tunnel, had its head slightly tilted in my direction and was starring straight in my eyes. Ever protective me instantly stepped between the neighbor’s dog and the snake and was surprised that dog hadn’t triggered a snake dash off reaction. Yes! the rumor is true: I dream of a river grant for an extensive fauna and flora study to gain some baseline data.


I bet you would have been quite surprised to see one of your beloved PIED-billed GREBES chase after one of your migratory favorites, the EARED GREBE.
This lone cousin was foraging peacefully at the Riverside Ave. bridge when the PIED-billed GREBE appeared out of nowhere and attacked the relative. The EARED GREBE cleared the space with loud protesting sounds and nestled in with a small flock of amiable AMERICAN COOTS. The PIED-billed GREBE kept watching the group and when the EARED GREBE started to leave the safe assembly, the feisty locale readied for an other attack. The EARED GREBE dashed back to the migrant friendly AMERICAN COOTS. This was the first time that I have seen one of the usually docile PIED-billed GREBES act so hostile towards an other species.

COMMON GOLDENEYES are back in full force…

There are still 5 perky tailed RUDDY DUCKS sleeping the day away by the Riverside Ave. bridge. The COMMON GOLDENEYE are back in full force. On Sunday 30 COMMON GOLDENEYES were spread out between the river mouth and Riverside Ave. The BUFFLEHEAD are not as well represented as of yet and I hope there will be more coming in. Up to 40 PELICANS have adopted the river shore in the last week. The river mouth is open and the seals are trolling the river. I think they are goosing the CORMORANTS under water, because they pop out of the water like black rockets as the slick ocean swimmer slinks by.

frolicking PELICANS at the river shore…

Wishing all of you a pleasant Thanksgiving and the San Lorenzo River critters invite you to take an enjoyable levee walk, jane

5 thoughts on “steelhead,snakes, migratory arrivals….

  1. I spotted a couple of Buffleheads at the Baldwin Creek beach pond today. Also 5 or 6 Ring-Necked Ducks and at least 8 Lesser Scaups….plus coots and mallards!


    1. You must have thrilled to see all the migratory ducks. By now we have a coming & going of them on the river. Maybe a Ringed-Necked Duck will visit the river…happy birding to you, jane


  2. Once again Jane, I love your posts. So great that we have snake friends. I don’t know if Barbara told you but I consulted with a local naturalist who knows many things snake and he said it could have been a common garter snake that has a red form. Technically I guess the San Francisco garter snake is a sub-species of the common garter snake and are actually genetically identical but have some separation of territories. It’s not impossible it was a SF garter but they do not usually live south of San Mateo. The only way to tell them apart is the size of face plates … I guess the scales. In any case, sorry, jumped to conclusions. Batya


    1. Thanks, Batya! I always love hearing from you. No, I hadn’t heard that snake info. & will address that in my next post. I have been caught that dilemma: is it or isn’t it?! Cheers, jane


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