Good Morning Dear River Friends,
The sky above the river is dotted with the returned migratory SWALLOWS, so be sure to take a minute to watch their delightful, zippy, zig-zack flights. The mornings and later afternoons are the best times to catch them chasing after their insect food-source. The NORTHERN ROUGHED-winged and VIOLET-green SWALLOW species have come back and still missing on the scene are the BANK, TREE and CLIFF SWALLOWS. Once they arrive our spring messenger crew is assembled along the river, where the different species have their favorite spots: CLIFF and BANK SWALLOWS frequent the lower river bridges, VIOLET-green SWALLOWS love the stretch between the HYW 1 and Water St., NORTHERN ROUGHED-winged flit along the entire urban river reach. It always amuses me how birds and humans share the habit of returning to their preferred ‘restaurants’. The RUBY-crowned KINGLET definitely aims for very specific breakfast trees and bushes, skipping right over the same vegetation to land on its morning plate. The BUFFLEHEADS and COMMON GOLDENEYES adhere to that pattern as well. There are certain spots in the river where they always forage, ignoring other places.
These observations are of great interest to me, because working on the levee restoration it is important to know how the birds and critters respond to the new ‘restaurant’ in their habitat. Birds don’t take new 1gal trees and bushes seriously and snub them vehemently~ not that I blame them, because the young plants are of little use for food, perching or sheltering. It takes on an average of 2 years before birds start testing the flora as a valid part of their lives. The juice sucking insects, on the other hand, are ready to explore any new plant instantly, which makes it hard to get the plants through the important 1st year. If the thirsty munchers can be controlled then the plant can establish itself solidly and is not prey to that kind of insect invasion anymore. My prime example is the yellow Lupine that I rescued from an Aphid infestation in the beginning of this year and is now in full beautiful bloom. This shows there is always room to do better for the river as our Sentinel Op-Ed suggests.
Last Saturday we had our Estuary Project work day, which was a special occasion. The Downtown Street Team(DST) planted 3 buckeyes in memory of the members, who they lost last year. Together the DST members dug the big holes, planted the trees, put straw nests around them and watered them with their messages written on water-soluble paper. Community and DST members gathered and shared time to say good-bye and know that the trees will grow in memory of these DST members.
Yesterday I watched the diminished winter migratory flock of the BUFFLEHEADS and COMMON GOLDENEYES. There are about 4 female and male BUFFLEHEADS left, who seem quite content on the river. The 6 female COMMON GOLDENEYES appear unperturbed that the males already took off to the boreal breeding grounds. Isn’t it curious that the female GOLDENEYES are the first to arrive and the last winter guest to leave? BTW: the COMMON GOLDENEYE species nests in tree cavities just like the COMMON MERGANSER. This breeding behavior requires mature trees close to the chosen waterbody. This time of year the summer and winter migratory birds overlap, which generates a lot of “Welcome back!” and “Farewell ’till late fall” greetings. And yes, I am still waiting to greet the adorable river ducklings…hopefully soon. Chirpy River cheer to you~ jane