when passion calls…

Good Morning Barbara and Fellow Nature Passion-eers,

KILLDEER watching me…

Was that the beginning of a roof top romance? Will the romance result be a nest? Could it be that I was watching a tradition in the making? As you know, I have been hoping for the return of the KILLDEER couple. They have nested for the last 3 years by the Riverside Ave. bridge. 2 years in a row in the Fruit Orchard, which puts Andy in a bind, because it makes work there impossible and he enjoys being the feather-puff godfather. Wistfully I would listen to reports of nesting KILLDEERS upstream, missing that sight downstream. So when I heard that unique KILLDEER call, I froze in place and scanned the grounds all around me. Then the call came again from higher up. Lifting my eyes to the roof top across the street, I saw the KILLDEER watching me, matching my frozen stance. It made me laugh to catch the 2 of us behaving the same way. Just then the other KILLDEER appeared over the roof top, walking by the frozen one with a swashbuckling attitude, who snapped into action, following the promising tail swagger around the corner. Their lively roof top activity looked nest promising.

MALLARD couple crossing the Trestle bridge…

Before I tell you about these next situations a brief nutshell explanation is in order: my love for Nature is a passion, which is a willingness and a free choice to surrender to the emotions that my passion creates, which often amounts to translating Nature’s communication language to fellow human beings. Therefore I am no longer mortified to find myself yelling down the river point cliff at a young woman and a State Ranger on top of my lungs. Both were lingering over a drift wood pile, sending a KILLDEER into high panic. The agitated bird tried to lure the humans away from the nest: repeatedly running a short distance with dragging wing while vocalizing, stopping, collapsing into the sand with wide out spread wings. Neither human picked up on the KILLDEER’s request for needed space. When the young woman understood my translation of the bird’s communication she waived and left. The Ranger communicated that he would leave after carefully removing a big log on which a MEADOW LARK was perched, who waited until the tractor gripped the log before it flew off. 4 fledglings peeled out of a close by bush and followed the parent up the cliff. When things finally settled back down, the MEADOW LARK family and KILLDEER returned to pursue their lives. My next encounter was with 2 young men, who were in the search of a board that one of them had thrown into Jeb’s wonderful restoration project. I know the hard work that went into creating that luscious native vegetation and so had to ask them to please not step on the plants. One of them was really understanding, apologized and got his friend to stop breaking the bushes and they left.

camping mistake…

Next was the man in the tent at the bottom of the river bank. His mistake was camping next to the bush where I had seen the SONG SPARROW disappear with food in its beak. This bird is an ever elusive ground, low bush nester. Now it was flying agitated back and forth. This called for pointing out that camping was inappropriate next to a SONG SPARROW nest. That news didn’t go over great and we had a heated discussion, which was well worth it, because he packed up & left. Later I saw the SONG SPARROW dash into the bush with food in its beak.

Trestle path is open…

Well, the new Trestle path is open and people are using it. It is wider, which seems to create the Goldfish bowel effect: Goldfish rapidly grow to take up the extra bowl space. Single filing is a thing of the past~now people enjoy walking, biking next to each other, taking up the extra space, resulting in the prior dilemma: passing is difficult. Life has a curious sense of humor: the men were dismantling the safety structure, which was installed to prevent construction materials from falling into the river. One beam decided that the precaution didn’t apply to safety material, got loose and plunged into the river…I welcome the return of the PEREGRINE FALCON, the OSPREY, SPOTTED SANDPIPER, WARBLERS, SONG SPARROW to the Trestle tree area.
Passion greetings to you all, jane

SONG SPARROW announcing its territory…
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this is different…

Good Morning Barbara and all you Nature Enjoyers,

Pat Farley taking Mickey for a walk…

I was taking photos of the Trestle path when my neighbor and river point compadre, Pat Farley, walked up with his dog in a wagon. Mickey is getting old and walking is becoming an ordeal for the big Belgium shepherd dog. That day was their second outing with the new set-up, which is proving to be very satisfactory for both. Pat and Mickey have a harmonized relationship, where they just sync up with each other as they move through life. We talked about the path progress, which is coming along rapidly now that the weather improved. Pat and I used to feel sorry for the workers, who were getting hammered by the rain, cold and wind. Mickey gave the restless sign, so they moved and I took photos of the tree that the Public Work Department saved thanks to adjusting the path design. It’s wonderful that the big tree was allowed to stay so that it can shade the water, the path and be a home, food source for birds, bees and butterflies.

path design saved Trestle tree…

Finally the cute, tiny feather balls arrived on the water. In the last week I saw 2 MALLARD Mamas showing off their newly hatched joy bundles. One batch of ducklings had a Dad in tow, which in recent years has become a rare sight. This year the air isn’t filled with female quakes as the male MALLARDS pursue them in the sky. I am happy to report that the Mamas are not being harassed by the males. Honestly that is a refreshing relief, because in the last 2 years the aggressive male behavior had escalated and was hard to watch.

finally! the cute feather balls are here…

There is still a big flock of CLIFF SWALLOWS busily building nests under the Crescent bridge, which is across from Jessie St. Marsh. As I mentioned that is a new location for them. I think the reason for their presence at that bridge is the abundance of mud: highly treasured by the CLIFF SWALLOWS, because it’s a necessity for their nest building. Hanging over the railing, I entertained myself watching them dig their beaks into the mud, resurfacing with a bill load, flying off and returning for more. They do that approx. 500 times to complete a comfy nest.

CLIFF SWALLOW w/mud load in beak…

Across the river a juvenile Gull was looking around for something to do. It stood by the waterline, contemplating mischief, pondering how to achieve that task and then went into action after surveying the scene in both directions. The Gull focused on the near-by sleeping MALLARDS, slowly walked close to them, stopped, stretched its neck and pecked one sleeper’s back, who exploded to his feet, looking with surprise at the Gull. The other MALLARD got up slowly up to find out if it should be worried about the Gull’s next move. The Gull clearly wanted a more dramatic MALLARD reaction and started chasing its first victim up the bank.

juv. Gull chasing m. MALLARDS up the bank…

The other MALLARD was no fool, used its own common sense and cleared off the shore. After that accomplishment the Gull looked around, saw an other MALLARD group, walked over and chased them off the sandbar. The next group saw the approaching Gull and delivered a dramatic burst into the air, avoiding the chasing fiend. Satisfied the mischievous chaser preened its feathers. When that was done, it took a leisurely walk up and down the empty shoreline. It was unexpected to watch the Gull’s behavior, because Gulls and MALLARDS usually coexist very nicely together. Then again~ maybe feathered teenagers are not that different from human teenagers, whose middle name is mischief…Well, the big equipment arrived again at the river mouth. Huge amounts of sand were shoved to shape a berm along the Boardwalk and the Main Beach. This berm will prevent the river from getting any wrong meander ideas, i.e. wandering into the Boardwalk Beach area. It will be interesting to see if the Boardwalk will clean the tourist litter that is left behind on the other side of the new berm, which the kids welcome as their new fun slide.

new berm and beach litter…

If you are able to join us for the next Estuary Project day on Saturday, May 18th from 9am-11am you’ll experience the wonderful side-effect of restoration work: Feeling happy that you are helping to improve the San Lorenzo River wildlife habitat.
River morning greetings to you from jane

did you notice?

Cheering your New Morning,
I love mornings. They open the gate to let in the day’s adventures. My morning river walks limber up my mind, soul and spirit since they are filled life’s unpredictability, which can be magical, sad, puzzling, humorous and or ??? They are perfect for getting me ready for the rest of my new day.

early morning at the San Lorenzo River…

Have you noticed the flux of COMMON GOLDENEYES on the river? Sometimes 1 or 2 are present, then the next day there are 9 to 11, then they are totally absent to show up the following day in full force. Actually they should have left, because they are supposed to be thinking of the future generations, frolicking around up north in preparations for breeding. For us it is an uncustomary treat to see the young males cast their juvenile plumage aside and start show-casing their stunning adult attire.
There is male BUFFLEHEAD, who likes to hang out between Riverside Ave. and Laurel bridge. 2 weeks ago I saw a female with him, but now she is gone. It is odd to see him alone. BUFFLEHEADS usually hang out with their flock ..then again he seems quite contend foraging and diving at his own leisure. He should be up north as well, working on his mating skills.

one of the few CLIFF SWALLOWS at the Riverside Ave. bridge…

I noticed a heavy decline of CLIFF SWALLOWS’ interest in nesting under the ledges of the Riverside Ave. bridge. Traditionally that has been their favorite breeding location. Robin, a river connoisseur, also noticed less CLIFF SWALLOW activity there. It appears that they they migrated to the other bridges. Now the ‘why’ questions are storming around in my head: Has the common danger of nest parasites invaded their old homesteads and doomed their usual remodeling as hazardous for their brood? Has the high, sandy sediment build up covered their mud spots, which they use for nest mortar? Did the heavy, late rains change their food source? I have noticed more NORTHERN Roughed-wing SWALLOWS at the Riverside Ave. bridge. They are crevice nesters, honing in on the light fixtures underneath the bridge. This spring I have observed a new NORTHERN Roughed-wing SWALLOWS behavior: they are chasing after their cousins in a menacing manner, at times tangle up with them in mid-air. It turns out that our path wood chips are their preferred nesting material. The NORTHERN Roughed-wing SWALLOWS clearly favor the Cedar chips and carefully select the best fibers, reminding me of people searching for the perfect piece of wood at lumber yards.

one of the many NORTHERN ROUGHED-winged SWALLOWS…

The other day there was a LESSER YELLOWLEG along the shore behind the Skate Park. This is another bird species, who should have flown north by now to work on the offspring assignment. But there it was, relaxed and feasting on river yummies.

delaying migration?

 

 

 

 

 

 

I haven’t seen 1 little duckling fluff ball on the river. At this time of year they delight us with their adorable cuteness. I have seen 10 small feather puffs in a box though. They were rescued by the meridian maintenance crew from the busy Ocean St meridian, where they were found with no mother in sight. Alex Lopez and Dan Ayers are my heroes, because they safely gathered the tiny lost souls in a box and took them to the wonderful Native Animal Rescue, where they will be taken care of until they are big enough to be set free. I cheer these 2 men, who took the time to follow the call of kindness: looking out for the young, helpless beings.

City meridian crew rescue ducklings…

I noticed 2 kayaks parked underneath the Trestle bridge. After ogling the RED-throated LOON’s foraging, I turned around to witness the occupied kayaks heading upstream as all the water birds started to flush. I was far away from them and couldn’t get their attention away from navigating the shallow water. Finally I couldn’t stand it anymore and yelled on top of my lungs: “NO!”, which snapped the kayaker’s head up in my direction and made the nearby couple jump. I shouted down to the trespassers that boating is prohibited on the river and that it is nesting season. They turned around and headed to the ocean after they unstuck themselves from the high sediment. I hadn’t realized that several people had gathered around me, which turned into the perfect occasion to explain why boating on the river was a bad idea. River morning greetings, jane

tasks are useful…

Good Morning Barbara and Nature Lovers,

CLIFF SWALLOW working on the nest…

I arrived early for our river walk rendezvous so that I could spread some wood chips around the newly planted native vegetation before my German friend arrived. The chip circles suppress weeds and also give the maintenance crew ‘native plant’ head’s up as they weed whack. Of course I got sidetracked watching the SWALLOWS acrobat-ing, careening above me. Then I had to stand stock-still to find out if the 2 BUSHTITS were building a nest in the bush next to me, because they kept flying in and out of that shrub. We are in the February 1st through August 15th nesting season I am on constant look out for nests since I don’t want to alarm the young parents with my presence close to their nests. It’s a waste on their energy resources to focus on ‘is she or isn’t she a threat?’. Clearly they have to attend to more important season tasks. So when my friend got there I had not completed my task, which we did finish together thanks to his kind help. As you can imagine, I basked in telling him in German about my endless river observations. During our walk we bonded with the river as we celebrated one observation after the other. Without a question the OSPREY was the highlight that made us giddy with its beauty. It was on the tippy tip of the Redwood tree that grows at the foot of the bank next to the elevated path. This combo allowed us to watch the OSPREY fairly close up, whose priority was pulling one wing feather at a time through its beak. When we left after a long time the OSPREY still wasn’t done with its feather beak combing task, necessary to achieve its superb flight. Saying our good-bye my friend and I agreed that the river had gifted us with many wonderful sights and that we were glad we took the time for this walk.

our OSPREY….

This situation was hell for birds: A young man was sitting peacefully on the river bank and sharing his breakfast with the MALLARDS, who were overjoyed by this unexpected food supply. They stood around him, waiting patiently for an other morsel coming in their way. The RED-throated LOON swam close to the shore, clearly interested in the MALLARD scene. An other young man showed up with his dog. He unleashed the look-alike wolf, who couldn’t believe its luck: MALLARDS nearby on the shore. The dog took off lightning fast, aiming for the breakfast eaters, who couldn’t believe their eyes while they were gauging if this was really true: a dog on the loose, racing straight at them. They decided that a peaceful meal had turned into hell and exploded into the air to land on the water.

creator of bird hell…

The breakfast benefactor yelled at the dog owner, whose dog was chasing the MALLARDS in the water. The RED-throated LOON dove down and re-surfaced at a safe distance. It became obvious that the dog was on fire with hunting fever, ignoring the helpless master’s calls, chasing after every bird in sight until land and water were feather empty. It took a while for the owner to get hold of his dog and as they left the previously peaceful man tasked the other man to become a responsible dog owner with some peppery comments.

welcome back, little KILLDEER…

Driving downtown, I did my usual river scan and saw a group of CANADA GEESE on the sandbank. Needlessly to say: I had to pull over to check them out. There were 10 of them, feeding in the low water, preening themselves and a few were starring off into space. It seemed that the river was a stop-over on their way up north. Watching them I heard the welcome sound of the KILLDEER above my head. That call got a response from the shore. Moments later both of them were walking close to each other on the shore. I was so happy to see them, hoping they decide to nest again by the Riverside Ave. bridge. Never before have I seen so many RED-throated LOONS in the river, also there are still some BUFFLEHEADS and COMMON GOLDENEYES present. Did they decide to spend the summer on the river?                                        Sending you river joy greetings, jane

COMMON GOLDENEYES still on the river…

river offers wondering…observing…searching

Good Morning Barbara and Fellow River Lovers,

1st winter HEERMANN's GULL
1st winter HEERMANN’s GULL

I am getting that creepy suspicion that the gulls will rob me of my birding confidence. You have heard me whine about their changing looks, which occur over a 3 year cycle. So here I was looking at a dark brown(almost black) gull with dark legs, wondering who it was, when Alex Rinkert saved me from wandering down the ‘???’ path: it was a 1st winter HEERMANN’s GULL, obviously ignored the spring season. Alex is one of the best birders we have in our community and I was elated when he confirmed my ‘is it a CASPIAN TERN or not?’ dilemma. I had hesitated to id the TERN, because it was partially hidden by a gull crowd, but for Alex the questioned bird moved right out into the open.

WESTERN GREBE on land…

It’s really rare that GREBES and LOONS drag themselves ashore, because their legs are useless for walking, which makes them highly vulnerable on land. Their bodies evolved to be highly efficient at diving and swimming, requiring their legs to be positioned far to the back of their body. If any of you have seen a GREBE or LOON labor ashore, I bet you instantly thought the bird is injured, because accessing the shore is definitely a chore for these species. So both Alex and I were taken back to see a WESTERN GREBE on the river shore, preening itself thoroughly. As I walked upstream I watched a RED-throated LOON slog itself onto the sandbar, where it collapsed to rest from that ordeal. Two close by WESTERN GULLS were bored and starring off into space, snapped into ‘who is that?’ mode: with their heads raised, they slowly approached the resting bird. The trusting RED-throated LOON started to preen its feathers, but got suspicious when 1 of the gulls inched straight forward and the other one pretended to walk by and then suddenly turned towards the LOON. The long, sharp bill targeted the nervy gull with a quick jab, that send a clear ’back off’ message, which caused the gull to re-think its pestering strategy. Meanwhile the 1st gull was near the LOON with a stretched out neck as if it was trying to sniff the leg less dweller, who turned to strike the intrusive head, barely missing its target. While the 2 gulls were contemplating their invasion tactics, the RED-throated LOON had enough of its land excursion and trudged back to the safe water. It performed a long dive and swam across the river…never looking back.

RED-Throated LOON on sandbank…

On Saturday I was checking on the newly planted natives and when I looked up, I saw a small flock of 7 NORTHERN ROUGH-winged SWALLOWS zooming over the levee banks by the Riverside Ave. bridge. I kept hoping to see CLIFF SWALLOWS, who have been rumored to have arrived, but I didn’t spot any at the Riverside Ave. bridge. BTW: the native plants are thriving!
I am also on the look-out for the other 2 little feather delights: the KILLDEER parents, who have nested for the last 2 years in the Fruit Orchard by the Mike Fox Park. This time of year that they are choosing their nest location. I find myself listening for their shrill, trilling, wailing call, which they activate at the slightest threat. So far that sound is absent from the river shore and the Fruit Orchard. Can you let me know if you see or hear the KILLDEER along the river?

COOPER HAWK(googled)

Several days ago I was standing at the river point, feeling grateful for the sight, when the COOPER HAWK was flying straight at me. Just inches before landing right in front of me on the railing, our eyes met and it realized that I was a potentially dangerous human, causing it to sharply veered off to the left and perch a few feet away on the cliff. We inventoried each others intentions and I got its point: the COOPER HAWK was on an early morning hunt. So I slowly backed away from its territory, honoring its pursuit for food. A few minutes later I saw it glide over the banks on the look out for breakfast.
I send you all rich river joy, jane

sweet and wet…

Good Morning Barbara & River Fans,

ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRD toeing the sign…

I kept wondering what people thought of us as they were driving past us…We had our great event on Saturday morning, which was hosted by Karlee & Lindsay, 2 interns of the Watershed Stewardship Program in partnership with AmeriCorps, serving at the NOAA SW Fisheries Science CenterNOAA. Part of their program was to host an event of 60 volunteers. Yes, that is right: 60! So what people saw were all these volunteers working in the pouring rain from the Laurel St to Riverside Ave. bridge. Personally I thought that was mind-blowing awesome, especially considering that we all maintained our high spirits. Looking around I saw the volunteers working, talking, laughing as the rain dripped off their bodies. Some of the task proved to be a patience challenge as Brian his crew found out and any of you, who ever attempted to remove Pampas Grass, will understand what they were up against.

our partial tool stash…

The other incredible event part was the co-working/organizing that took place with a variety of people. It’s hard to not get gushy and mushy as I tell you that ‘my’ Park & Rec. Staff~Leslie Keedy, Mike Godsy, Jordan, Lori~ did a laudable job of walking that extra 100miles to create a successful event plus Mike did impressive work at his station and kept a guiding eye on all of us.

BEFORE…
AFTER…

 

 

 

 

Then there is Linda, my cohort for the Valley Women’s Club Estuary Project. She generously brought the Valley Women’s Club AmeriCorps Team to the event although they are working on plenty of other projects. The Valley Women’s Club Board jumped in to make food donations possible. The Conservation Committee of the Santa Cruz County Group of the Sierra Club voted to co-sponsor the event. And then there are my friends Dan and Sue, who are familiar with our Estuary work. Their presence was essential to help out in some ‘now what?’ moments. And Dan untangled me when I was twisting myself in knots with choosing locations for plants on Friday plus he brought the plants early on Saturday morning. Then there are the people from Central Coast Wilds Nursery, who so patiently put up with my time consuming plant hand picking. Jessica is my plant saint: she walks the plant aisles with me, points out plant possibilities, helps me pick out the perfect natives plus she joined us on Saturday. As you can tell: It was a magnificent crew that created a marvelous event.

some of the awesome event volunteers…

You might like to join us this Saturday ~the 16th @ 9am-11am~ for our ongoing Estuary Project day. We’ll be at E. side of the Riverside Ave. bridge. Click here for more details.                                                                                          This was so magic: I connected with Mark, a AmeriCorps member from New Jersey, because he is a birder. I told him about our river OSPREY and he said he would love to see it. Jokingly I said that maybe the Osprey would show for him. I was working at an other station and looking up I saw the Osprey circling above the river. I told the group that I was sorry that Mark wasn’t with us. Later Mark told me with shiny eyes that he had seen the Osprey. I was so happy for him and thanked the Osprey for its appearance.
Right now there is only 1 female COMMON GOLDENEYE left on the lower river. I wonder if she is the same one that stayed with us during last year’s Summer. Remember? She had an injury and couldn’t leave with the others.
The PELAGIC CORMORANT has been putzing around the Riverside Ave. bridge, looking mighty fine with his white breeding markings, which you have mentioned before. The other day he was sitting close to an other PELAGIC CORMORANT and I am hoping that they were discussing their parent future. Wouldn’t it be great to see their babies on our river?                       The PEREGRINE is only in the early morning in the Trestle trees. The Falcon isn’t taking kindly to the construction work, because it puts a kink in his meals: the PIGEONS don’t perch on the Trestle during construction work. I have seen the PEREGRINE hanging out in a tree a couple of blocks away from the river.

Sending sunny chirps to all of you, jane

Peregrine in the early morning…

river coexistence…

Good Morning Barbara & all you Nature Cuddlers,

sediment build up after storms…

My recent river visits include long stare pauses at the widening sediment sections in the river. The rain filled storms have caused impressive changes in the lower river reach. The area between Laurel St. bridge and the river mouth is now really shallow, the passage by the Riverside Ave. bridge has narrowed drastically.
This water condition is not ideal for the fish hunting OSPREYS, because they require a certain river depth and width to grab the fish. The other day I watched an OSPREY for a long time as it kept circling over the lower river. It never attempted one of its awesome fish plunges. So I wondered if my river compadres was addressing the OSPREY’S hunting dilemma when he said: ‘The sediment build up is chocking the river’.

placing the bucking beam…

It’s oddly fascinating that the construction of the Trestle path is roping me in. The other day I couldn’t take my eyes off the 3 workers, who tried to place a huge beam underneath the bridge. One man was standing above the water on a wood plank. The other 2 men were holding the free floating beam over the path railing with 2 heavy lines. Every time the man on the structure beam tried to guide the wood beam to its location, the beam would swerve and buck the 2 men off their spot. I couldn’t take the suspense and left…

f. MALLARD & SPOTTED SANDPIPER peaceful coexisting…

Lately I have been intrigued how different species share peacefully close vicinity. They rest, feed and are content to exist next to each other. They acknowledge their feathered neighbor, weave their way around them in their pursuit of life. When their paths cross, both species will stop, look at the other one while figuring out how to proceed. The bigger species is reluctant to move around the little, agile species, so most of the time the smaller species zoom by the bulky ones. It seems that it’s not easy to get a husky body moving plus it takes more energy. Animals are very good energy savers, so they like to avoid extra work.

little Shorebird w/the big gulls…

The busy SANDERLINGS have left the river shores and I miss seeing their small, white bodies dashing along the water line. The SPOTTED SANDPIPER’s plumage is changing into its weeding outfit and soon the chest spots will become pronounced. Of course I hope they will nest along the river.
The other day I saw a LOON foraging by the Trestle and it looked a little worn out with its feathers askew. The storms are hard on the migratory birds, so our river offers them a welcome refuge.

LOON taking a river break…

I have been getting ready for an other restoration project with 2 young interns from the Watershed Stewardship Program. They are required to host an event for their Program and I am thrilled to co-work with 2 young women, who are starting their careers in watershed protection. So come, meet them and cheer their efforts on Sat. March 9th from 9am-1pm.
Click on Watershed Stewardship Program for more details.
Sending you river chirps & wish you the best,
jane