river storm beauties….

Good Morning cherished Nature Lovers,

The storm was having a rambunctious time with its playmates, named Wind and Rain. Each enforced the others mighty display of unleashed power. It was truly breathtaking to stand in their presence at the river mouth point. The wind amused itself with blowing the rain sheet horizontal and the few flying gulls sideways. I wondered about my common sense when I opened the car door to go and check on the river. The wind came in strong gusts that had a blast taking things somewhere else. A man’s hat became the wind’s toy, a dog looked worried about his long ears that either stuck straight up or out. Suddenly a hushed silence wrapped the storm and the playmates in its swaddling blanket, allowing the gulls to take to the sky. I turned just in time to see the RED-tailed HAWK glide in, circle above me and land close by on the cliff.

majestic RED-tailed HAWK at the river mouth cliff…

Watching this majestic bird survey its surrounding I wonder if once this RED-tail HAWK’s sovereign, dignified behavior was the model human leaders strived for: calm power that knew the right moment for actions.
I believe that we all share the experience of having assumed something quickly to be proven wrong. Well, this little story illustrates how Nature recently gifted me one of those occasions.

oddly morphed domestic MALLARD …

The Education Coordinator for the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History, Chris Soriano and I had arranged a meeting at the river levee to discuss onsite the logistics for the Earth Stewards’ February event. Alas ~ both of us being birders we just had to take a ‘quick’ look at the river birds. A waterfowl bird flew in, who I quickly wrote off as a MALLARD. But when Chris wasn’t buying that id, I took a a second look and wondered about my birding skills, because this was definitely not your average MALLARD. In a matter of fact this friendly water dweller looked like no species we were familiar with. We eliminated EIDER, which I long to see on the river and guessed it was an AMERICAN WIGEON. Then I started doubting that id once I took a closer look at the enlarged pics. So finally I had mercy on myself and asked our local guru birder, Alex Rinkert. It turned out to be a CHILOE WIGEON, which is a high priced (literally) South America beauty. Maybe it was a storm escapee of an exotic duck collection?

CHILOE WIGEON ~ a South America beauty…

If I didn’t have pic. proof I would doubt that the BUFFLEHEADS had shared the river with the unusual CHILOE WIGEON. I was thrilled to see their winter arrival, which is expected around this time of year. The odd thing is that I have not seen them since that day. It did cross my mind that the BUFFLEHEADS might have read the Health Advisory sign at the river mouth shore and decided to move on…

BUFFLEHEADS’ arrival is being inspected by A. COOT…

In my search for winter migratory birds I discovered the newly installed fence by the Riverside Ave. bridge. I knew who had done this good prevention deed: Louis ~ a member of my’ awesome Park & Rec. levee crew. The fence will protect the native plants from walk through traffic, allowing the plants to thrive. Receiving Wayne’s head-up fence pic. once again made me celebrate ‘my’ entire Park & Rec. levee team ~ And YES ~ I consider myself very fortunate to have their support!

new native plant protection thanks to Louis…

It was good to get back with the BEST and work again in the riparian corridor after we got rained out last Sunday. One of our tasks was to move vegetation debris away from the waterline. A BEST member was moving such a pile when I heard him ask quietly behind me: ” What do I do with this guy?”. Thinking he was referring to a person, I checked around before realizing that he was looking down at something on his pitchfork. When I walked over I saw a baby gopher snake, wriggling off the chilly metal. We all respectfully greeted the discovery of the riparian corridor critter and Lira took it to safe place so it could continue its life journey. I was happy that the BEST got to meet a member of the important river wildlife, showing them their stewardship has meaningful value. We send you our river greetings ~ jane

The BEST find: a baby gopher snake…

7 thoughts on “river storm beauties….

  1. Wow, Jane! Your observations, ruminations and discoveries never fail to amaze me. I loved the political teaching you drew from the calm power of the RTH, was astonished at your discovery of the presence of the rare wigeon on our river, and -as always – so impressed by the restoration work you are doing with both humans and other wildlife. And I’m always glad to hear of a snake on the river, especially after the bulldozers onslaught.

    1. Thanks for your cheery comments, Barbara! I always wonder how much animals actually inspire many of us. For that matter nature! That wigeon beauty threw us for a hilarious loop. & yes, I am so proud of my BEST group! river chirps to you from me

  2. Thanks for the lovely photos, as always, Jane. I wonder whether you keep some debris piles around as habitat for the snakes, maybe higher up the slope? They often hunker down in them. This is an interesting background article on snakes and debris: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2009.12.024 (Davis et al. 2010. Influence of coarse woody debris on herpetofaunal communities in upland pine stands of the southeastern Coastal Plain. Forest Ecology and Management259(6)1111-1117.)

    1. Hi Rachel, glad you like the pics. & thanks for the snake info. I love to keep debris piles around for various wildlife use & we do have some available up the slope.The tricky part is to find that fine balance, because some campers enter into the restricted area to grab that pile for campfires. These are campers, who have a closed ear to environment reasons to refrain from that habit.

  3. BEST is the BEST! I miss working with our crew on projects in Felton. We used to clean out the area of the Fetherstone Tree within the Community Deck. Goodness, that was not as simple as it sounds. We no longer organize such events just because there are so few people remaining to participate. That is actually a good thing! Those who had been without homes are now living domestic lifestyles. Those who had been unemployed are now employed. There are still a few small projects here, but those will be done by just a few people who live nearby. (Two of the unhoused here are too mentally compromised to maintain their campsite. Unhoused neighbors do it for them.) I tend to newly planted trees myself. (I added five nonnative Arizona cypress to partly obscure the view of the Mount Hermon Maintenance Shops from Graham Hill Road, and will add native trees where the ‘landscape’ merges into the forest.)
    Anyway, I mentioned BEST in one of my brief articles, and linked to your blog.

    1. Thanks, Tony, for posting about the BEST! I am surprised to hear that your Felton houseless population has so diminished, which is not the case for Santa Cruz. The people I work with are working hard, are proud of their work, so they are a delight to work with. Lucky jane

      1. Yes, most people are surprised that there are fewer lacking domestic situations here than there had been years ago. Such fluctuations are more likely within such minor populations.

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