Good Morning Nature Devotees,
I was filling the water buckets at the Boardwalk foot shower station and kept hearing muffled, high pitch sounds that I blamed on a fatigued waterline. When I stood up my ears were bathed with the typical TERN calls. Usually we hear a few migratory TERNS announcing mealtime, but this racket was a sign of a huge flock getting ready for a big feast. The elegant divers serenaded the slushing water buckets being trekked up to the levee, where I was greeted by at least a hundred TERNS by the Trestle. They were swirling through the air, sitting on the shore, swimming in the water and flying back and forth over the river. Suddenly they all landed on the river shore, veiling the sand with their white bodies, transforming that section into a mystical scenery. I was drinking in that sight and trying to id the TERN species when a couple walked right into the flock, flushing the entire mystical scene out to the open ocean. I consoled myself with watering the Estuary Project plants, who are establishing themselves nicely in their new homes. It’s always strenuous and labor intense to get them through their first summer in the clay soil with heat beating down on them. Later I found out that hundreds of birds were involved in an incredible ocean food frenzy along West Cliff an hour after I saw the river TERNS. Were the graceful divers putting out the invitation for the upcoming food extravaganza?
It was stunning to see a female MALLARD literally scamper with turbo speed across the river surface without flapping her wings for a take-off. Just before she reached the other side of the shore line a DOUBLE-crested CORMORANT popped up right behind her and tried to peck her tush just as she took shelter in the tule. The reason for not taking-off was frantically sculling towards her: 2 small ducklings eager to reunite in the tule with their amazing Mama. The peeved CORMORANT patrolled their hiding place for a while, gave up and dove down. I have never seen a CORMORANT chasing MALLARDS like that and wondered what had triggered that behavior…BTW: it was surprising to see such small ducklings this late in the year.
My river compadre told me that he had watched a young PEREGRINE in the Trestle trees, who was trying to persuade its parent to feed it. He said that the enduring food begging request left the parent cold, who was perched high up at a safe distance across the river. We both reveled in the return of ‘our’ PEREGRINE with the off-spring in tow, which explained the long absence of ‘our’ beauty. We hoped that the food weening would go well for both.
We have a native Milkweed plant at the Mike Fox Park, which was devoured last year by a Monarch butterfly caterpillar. So I have been scanning the plant in the hope of a repeat this year since Monarchs had frequently visited the plant in the last 3 months. Sure enough the other day I saw a big, healthy Monarch caterpillar systemically shredding a Milkweed leaf at an incredible speed: a section up to the leaf stem was decimated and then the other side until both sides were even. Once that was accomplished then the whole process was repeated. The other day I couldn’t spot the big caterpillar, instead there was a small one on the plant trunk. As you can imagine it’s absolutely exhilarating to see the river critters benefitting from our restoration efforts.
Sending you river flora and fauna greetings~jane