BEST results and unexpected river surprise…

Good Morning Greetings to all you Nature Marvelers,

Salute to last Sunday’s BEST

I know that you too have witnessed Nature’s eagerness to heal herself and felt that awe of her life force strength. Currently I have a front seat to admire her healing display, because every Sunday I work with BEST, who you met in my prior post. Our month long restoration efforts are already sprouting amazing results! The big willows bushes are sending out new growth where we cleared off the invasive vines. New willow shots are exploding out of the soil where we removed invasive intruders. The native Smartweed and Heal-all plants are celebrating their newly available sun-kissed space with blossoms and vigorous growth. The Box Elder and Cottonwood tree branches now stretch upward, no longer smothered and weighed down by the heavy German vines. The best part is that I get to share these Nature discoveries with the BEST, a group of residents and houseless people, coming together to help Nature heal herself. And you may enjoy reading how and why her life force weaves through my volunteer élan…

Nature thanks best with new growth…

Jenn and I were on a San Lorenzo River bird walk. We both commented on the lack of birds on the water and in the bank vegetation, which allowed our conversation to flourish, spiced with our previous bird observations and anecdotes. We meandered onto the Water St. bridge to scan the river from a higher perspective. This turned out to be a brilliant idea, because right below us a PIED-billed GREBE was extra busy diving a lot. It would come up and swim over to an area in the tule, stayed there a few moments and then return to its diving action. That behavior made me wonder if there was a nest in the reeds. We scoped that location for quite a while until we found the nest!

PIED-billed GREBE hatchlings…Photo by Jenn Mahley

Jenn discovered the chicks next to the parent while I was still only spotting the parent in the nest. Finally I caught sight of 1 chick, which thrilled me to the moon and back. In the meantime Jenn was counting: ‘there are 2, no 3~ wait! there is an other one and look there is an unhatched egg in the nest!!’ By this time we were both so excited by this surprise discovery that we must have been quite a sight for the people driving by: 2 women laughing wildly, cherishing our find and then stare motionless down the bridge with our mono and binoculars. We were impressed by the parents’ foresight of arranging a private, sheltered pool for their chicks, safely closed off with some reeds. The little ones practiced there for their future life by leaving the nest, swim around timidly and face the ordeal of climbing back in.

Parent feeding off-spring…Photo by Jenn Mahley…

We watched the parent feed a hatchling, who was  practically crawling into the feeder’s beak. We thought that we saw 4 baby PIED-billed GREBES. But when Jenn returned the next day to take more pics she discovered there were actually 6 thanks to her great camera. She also got to watch the parent push the unhatched egg out of the nest. I mention quite often that the river loves to present unexpected surprises. Now I rest my case based on our great encounter with family PIED-billed GREBE…

PIED-billed GREBE parent w/chick on the back…Photo by Jenn Mahley…

Our 8/21 Estuary Project work day is a great opportunity to support Jasmine Rosales Castillo’s ‘Climate action corps fellow’ Project. In her own words she describes why this is a special occasion: “It is incredibly important for people in our community to come together to work on projects such as planting trees. This tree planting event is a perfect way to unite the community as we work together to mitigate climate change; even one tree makes a huge difference. I was always taught that one small action can make a huge difference, now imagine the impact we could do if we all worked together.” So come & support of the tree planting event of this young UCSC student on 8/21 from 9am- 12am across from Jessie St. Marsh.

The river and Nature’s life force send you invigorating cheer~ jane

GREAT BLUE HERON is waiting for you at the San Lorenzo River…

11 thoughts on “BEST results and unexpected river surprise…

  1. wonderful! I love seeing “nature helping itself.” Great group!

    Thanks for the smile on my face…. Nancy

    Nancy Macy, Chair Environmental Committee for the SLV Valley Women’s Club 831/338-6578 home 831/345-1555 cell

    1. Hi Nancy~ I admit that the positive combination of the group & the nature healing put a smile on my face as well.
      I feel so lucky to be a part of that & love that it made you smile~ jane

  2. You can imagine that my heart started beating faster when I started reading your story of the baby grebes!!!!! Shades of past joy. And here they are again in the present, probably having tried many times before they finally succeeded in creating this huge family!!!!! Even at protected Neary Lagoon this year, where there were at least four families, no family could boast of this many chicks. Hail to the determination of these rugged little waterfowl parents and their colorful, comical chicks. And hail to you and Jenn for finding them – practically on my doorstep. I think it was August 5, 2015 when I discovered my small family of two babies. I’m not aware of any grebe babies since then.

    1. Hi Barbara~ I thought of you as I wrote the post & how happy it would make you! I have to say that the Grebe parents located their floating nest in a perfect spot: in the riverine river section that would be minimal impacted by the tidal flux. Their discoveries brought back memories of you becoming their guardian angel- sitting on the river bank, making sure that they were safe from mower dangers. I am so glad that the river shared its mysteries with us~ jane

  3. That is great! I wish I had more time to talk to you about environmental restoration, and what the priorities should be. English ivy is a MAJOR concern. In your region, it might be the primary concern. Even though I know it will regenerate, it is gratifying to see so much of it cut out of the trees in the riparian area of Felton Covered Bridge Park, not too far upstream from Santa Cruz. I do not get to Santa Cruz enough to see the work that happens there. I wish I had more plant material to donate. At the moment, there are only two tiny buckeye trees here, which is not worth the bother of delivery. It would be different if there were more native plants. (Almost all of what I work with in the landscapes is exotic.) I could drop the buckeye trees if I happen to be in Santa Cruz at the same time there is someone to take them, but they are nothing special.

    1. Hi Tony~ thanks for your kind buckeye offer. Maybe we can house them when they are bigger to assure their survival on the river levee. Yes, the German ivy in the riparian corridor is an unwelcome sight, because it thrives rigorously close to the waterline. I always enjoy your insightful upstream references, which show how diverse the San Lorenzo River ecosystems are~ jane

      1. Oh, of course; German ivy (just like you said). That is a different problem altogether. It is not nearly as bad here. I remember German ivy in coastal regions of San Mateo County and in San Francisco. I am glad that is not a problem here!
        The little buckeyes are in one gallon cans, which is a good size to plant them. They are about a foot or a foot and a half tall. Small specimens get established more efficiently than larger specimens. That applies to most plants, but particularly to natives that get all their rain within a limited season. Ideally, they would be planted as seed. In such a situation, many more than what is desired would be planted, with the expectation that a quarter of them would actually grow. Because they are as easy to plant as just prodding them into the ground, they are actually easier to plant than planting a few larger specimens, which would need to be watered until they disperse their roots. Are planting projects scheduled according to the seasons and weather?

  4. Jane, I love how you describe our outings! We will be those two women laughing wildly then silently staring intently at something many times again!! 🙂

    1. We were quite a visual bridge testimony for:” Birding is fun!”, weren’t we? I loved that the wise Great-Blue Heron was grand finale of our river walk. Looking forward to more birding fun~ jane.

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