Dear Jane and Fellow River Ramblers,
My apologies to the birds for my title. But I couldn’t resist.
I think I may actually have gotten a glimpse this morning of two RED-TAILED HAWKS in a rare courtship ritual – although I didn’t realize it at the time. I saw two raptors with the telltale bright orange tails circling higher and higher
until I could no longer see them. I thought maybe the strong winds were helping lift them to these unusual heights, and that they were flying around at that altitude for pure joy. But it did seem unusual. I couldn’t remember ever seeing hawks, certainly not a pair, soaring that high. When I looked it up at home, I read that these hawks typically carry out their courtship rituals very high up in the air – up to 1000 feet! And courtship season typically begins in late February through March. Aha! According to the book, the ritual includes circling, touching each other and diving on half-closed wings at speeds up to 100 miles per hour. I didn’t see any tentative touching or daredevil diving, but I did see the hawks circling higher up than I’ve ever seen them. This species is said to mate for life, but when a mate dies, the mateless hawk’s ritual sky-dance courtship must begin again. Or sometimes, according to the book, a pair will engage in the aerial acrobatics in order to strengthen pre-existing pair bonds before going into the breeding. Since they mate for life and the breeding window is small, I may never get to see even this much of their sky dance again in my life.
It’s sweet, isn’t it, that nowadays our walks along the river often include welcoming back old friends like the Red-throated Loon that you so happily reported on last week and this pair of CANADA GEESE that was my first-of-season sighting this year . My neighbor Batya told me that she saw a flock of about 10 a week ago – earlier and more numerous than ever reported on the urban stretch of the river as far as I know. This was confirmed by your park ranger friend. Last year you might recall that Alex Rinkert who leads the Bird Breeding Project in Santa Cruz County asked us to report any breeding behavior of these geese – since their populations seem to be moving south. And sure enough, we saw a second year of three families on the urban river in 2019, an increase from the previous year. It looks like we may see even more this year. I especially love these good parents for their mutually supportive and highly protective parenting.
Have readers read the classic Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold? I love this book. Here’s what Leopold has to say about the spring arrival of Canada Geese in Wisconsin:
“A March morning is only as drab as he who walks in it without a glance skyward, ear cocked for geese. I once knew an educated lady, banded by Phi Peta Kappa, who told me that she had never heard or seen the geese that twice a year proclaim the revolving seasons to her well-insulated roof”
I’m afraid I was once that lady. I’m grateful to local birding guides who have helped me become more aware of all the avian wonders around me. .
And speaking of dear old friends, this morning I saw a dear PIED-BILLED GREBE, hanging out on the cold and windy river with the COMMON GOLDENEYE, above. Since the Grebe is a solitary soul (part of my attraction to it, I suppose) I think the Goldeneye, who is generally more convivial, may have become separated from her flock and decided to find comfort in a new friend. Or was she rejected by her flock for her unusual plumage? For whatever reason, they continued swimming close to each other, almost alone in an otherwise pretty empty river between Soquel and Laurel Streets. I didn’t even notice until I saw the image on my computer that the Grebe’s bill had changed back from its non-breeding drab color to its breeding colors of bright white with a dark black stripe. That’s another winsome aspect of this nondescript bird – it’s modest and unusual breeding display (males and females are indistinguishable and they both sport beautiful bills during breeding season). I’m happy to know that my little grebe is ready and willing again this year.
As for chattiness, this opinionated RAVEN had a lot to say to me this morning, if only I had the ears to hear. Maybe it was saying No to the Recall.
Which – eh –brings me to the Recall – which has been occupying a lot of my time and keeping me from the river. I strongly believe that this recall not only sets a terrible precedent for democratic governance but threatens to upset our new environmentally responsive majority. Our new Mayor, Justin Cummings captured the crux of the matter when he said,
“Recalls are intended to remove elected officials who commit crimes or who abuse their powers in office. Regular elections, not recall elections, are the way that members of the public are supposed to make clear their various policy priorities. What is happening in this recall is an attempt to pre-empt and undermine the normal electoral process, and the voters should reject it.”
Two key points that Justin did not mention are that (1) this recall began immediately after the November 2018 election, long before accusations of misconduct were directed against Drew Glover and Chris Krohn. and (2) that the recall was instigated and funded – to the tune of close to $100,000 (!) – by outside development and real estate interests (using the local anti-rent control group Santa Cruz Together as its funnel). And they had the nerve to call it a “grassroots movement”! Takeover by wealthy, outside interests is what our community should be seriously concerned about, not a regrettable but minor lapse in civility by hard-working and committed civil servants. You can read lots more about the recall if you go to Stopsantacruzrecalls.org.
As for Chris Krohn and Drew Glover, both are srong environmentalists who are supportive of protecting the San Lorenzo River as a wildlife habitat. If we lose them and get Don Lane and Renee Golder, I believe it will be a setback for a green future in Santa Cruz. Don Lane supported recreational boating on the San Lorenzo River when he was on the Council, the issue that triggered this blog. Renee Golder has been registered as a Republican most of her adult life. Katherine Beiers and Tim Fitzmaurice, on the other hand, oppose the recall and have generously stepped forward as “just in case’ candidates who are committed to upholding the progressive views of Chris and Drew i the event they are recalled Let’s hope not! I urge readers to vote NO on the recall and YES on Katherine and Tim.
When Drew Glover was running for City Council in 2016, he carefully listened to me talk about the importance of protecting the wildlife habitat of the river from commercial and recreational development and memorized the fact about the 122 bird species who depend on the urban river for their survival. He used this information in several campaign forums. Drew is the founder of Project Pollinate, an organization committed to raising public awareness about our threatened ecosystem. Click here for a very interesting video of him describing the work of his five-year old organization.
Chris Krohn has been an active environmentalist long before his first 4 years as a City Council member from 1998 to 2004. He was part of a progressive majority that got the current San Lorenzo Urban River Plan (SLURP) passed in 2003, a plan that offered far more habitat protection than the levee projects of many other cities. Chris Krohn has actively solicited the input of Jane and me and many other local environmentalists in considering the environmental impact of issues before the City Council. He has worked hard to put environmentally aware community members on some of the leading City Commissions.
The following statement in support of Krohn and Glover, and against the recall, was recently released by the Sierra Club:
The Sierra Club is against the recall of Counncilmembers Drew Glover and Chris Krohn in the March 3, 2020 election. Council members Glover and Krohn originally earned the Sierra Club’s endorsement through a rigorous vetting process that identifies candidates who prioritize the world’s climate and our local biodiversity. As elected officials, both have energetically followed through on their commitment to the environment.
Both councilmembers are important to the council majority that protects our local environment. They have taken the lead in providing free bus passes to downtown employees, supporting our City’s urban tree canopy, protecting the site of the downtown Farmer’s Market from development into a $40 million parking structure, managing UCSC growth in the context of finite natural resources, renovating our downtown library at the civic center, requiring that a minimum 20% of new housing be kept affordable to local workers, and protecting our greenbelt from overuse and degradation.
Council members Glover and Krohn have supported Sierra Club priorities, and now we need to suppport their voices on the Council.
We hope you will join with the Sierra Club in voting AGAINST the recalls of Drew Glover and Chris Krohn. For more information on how to help, please visit stopsantacruzrecalls.org.
Please vote NO on the recall. Vote YES for Katherine and Tim.
Click here to see my eBird checklist from Feb. 4, 2020
I hope you have time in your life to to make some new wild friends, or visit some old ones.