Dear Jane and Other Windblown, Rainsoaked Adventurers,
It’s been a pretty wild week, hasn’t it! Even thunder and lightning slipped in for a short visit under cover of dark. I do miss my Minnesota thunderstorms.
I ventured out the day before the big storm was predicted to hit, always loving it when the sky turns dark and foreboding, and everything seems slightly ominous. The world holds its breath.
I don’t know if I just imagined it, but the birds seemed to be congregating in larger groups than usual that day. A pretty large flock of LESSER GOLDFINCHES seemed
agitated as they flitted about in a leafless grape arbor, close to the levee. I saw a group of 18 AMERICAN COOTS hugging the banks, a larger congregation than I usually see. When things get rough, stick together. I thought of your very interesting comments, Jane, in your last blog, on how the birds near the besieged trestle seem to be anticipating danger and disruption ahead of time. Since birds probably don’t think into the future, does the space between now and the future collapse into the present. Do they live in some kind of timeless, non-cognitive world that folds the future into the present?
Two CANADA GEESE near the Chinatown Bridge, seemed preoccupied with
tuning up their tail feathers, while a GREEN HERON once more took refuge in the quiet waters of the Duck Pond, peering around anxiously rather than actively concentrating on the fishing. Was I just projecting or was all of nature, including me, waiting for something to descend upon us? While we filled our cars with gas, the birds lubricated their feathers, took cover, and gathered in protective groups.
My pre-storm outing concluded rather grandly. Just as I approached my gate, I spied a RED-SHOULDERED HAWK in a tall redwood on the levee just up from he County Jail. Then, suddenly, a COOPER’S HAWK came shooting over my head, landing on a nearby eucalyptus tree just behind Bank of America. After studying her for a minute, I turned back to the other hawk and my eye was led skyward to an OSPREY perched at the pinnacle of another tall redwood just across the street from the County Building, all visible at the same time from the spot where I stood. A bank, a county government building and a jail! And a rapturous raptor moment for me in urban Santa Cruz.
According to eBird, I have now reported on a total of 109 species seen on the urban stretch of the river – they keep count for you! But it’s not about numbers. For me it’s about trying to imagine what it is like to be a solitary pied-billed grebe, or a busily grooming goose, or a nervous green heron.
The storm hit Saturday, and I stayed hunkered down inside – but went out again the next day during a sunny break. The wind was still high, and the river looked like soft coffee ice cream. Wouldn’t that be nice! Here are two photos, the first on February 1 before the storm hit, and the second on February 3, during a lull in the storm. It shows the huge loads of sediment that the river was bearing to the sea, and also suggesting the layers of silt it may unfortunately – for us humans – be laying down on the bottom of the river.
Here are two photos of the river, before and after the storm, looking north from the Chinatown Bridge towards Water St.Bridge.
There were almost no diving waterfowl on the river after the storm – except two COMMON GOLDENEYE that were not diving. Even with their bright yellow eyes, which might be good for seeing in murky water (I think of the eyes of owls), they were still just floating along on the surface, not fishing. This brave KINGFISHER was also out and about,
but I never saw him leave the telephone wire. Maybe the thought of plunging into that fast-moving river of coffee and cream just wasn’t enticing. He was no doubt hungry. What should he do?
The PIGEONS, on the other hand, whom I rarely see feeding, seemed to be enjoying the wild wind. A flock of about 75 would lift up together, sail in elegant formation above the houses and trees, settle to rest for a moment in a tidy line along a telephone wire, then, as if of a single mind, in perfect synchrony, happily abandon themselves again to the wind!
Two top birders in the area, Lois Goldfrank and Phil Brown, visited our stretch of the river on January 13 and reported a PALM WARBLER and a LINCOLN’S SPARROW. I have found the latter bird only once in my life, but will re-double my efforts.
For those of you who still don’t know about Monterey Bay Birds (mbbirds) Google Group, I strongly encourage you to subscribe. You can get regular updates by e-mail of interesting sightings throughout the County. This week Randy Wardle posted his monthly report on what birds we can expect to see leaving, arriving and breeding this month – jam-packed with useful information. One of the things he mentioned is that ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRDS and BUSHTITS are already nesting and DARK-EYED JUNCOS and other cavity nesters may begin this month as well. All San Lorenzo regulars. Keep your eyes open.
John Muir quote of the week:
“The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”
Special love to one whose soul was shaken deeply by the storm of life, who sought peace in the wilderness of the Sierra Nevada and who has now abandoned her dear self to the wind and the waves. Rest in peace, brave woman.