river tales…

Good Morning Dear Nature Enjoyers,

CROWS in autumn tree…

Nature continues transitioning to her fall pace when she wraps her calming veil around her creation, reminding us to slow down and to take it easy. Now the MALLARD and MERGANSER offspring is full grown and the parents can relax. Our 2 MERGANSER families rest together, creating a long string of football shaped bodies along the river shore. The MALLARD families would never dream of such co-mingling. Each family stakes out their resting spot, making sure it’s a safe distance from other families~ no matter what species they are. The JAYS, OAK-TITMICE, CHICKADEES and squirrels are testing one crevice after an other. They are searching for the perfect, safe cache places, which is not easy. The location needs to be steal-proof, because these critters steal ruthlessly from each other. A few days ago an OAK-TITMOUSE had stored a seed in the tree bark. It flew off to a bush in need to unwind from its drudgery. A SCRUB-JAY landed above a branch of the little bird’s winter supply. The OAK-TITMOUSE definitely didn’t trust the JAY! It dashed back to its treasure and tried to pull it out. The problem was that the seed wouldn’t budge, because it had been jammed tightly into the crack. While the hoarder was tugging feverishly on its stash, the JAY hopped closer to the potential freebee. Alas~ the SCRUB-JAY was left empty beaked~ the OAK-TITMOUSE retrieved its seed just in the knick of time and took off in search for a new hiding place.

GREAT BLUE HERON facing plastic trash…

Nature can be so creatively quirky…The other day I was looking at a GREAT BLUE HERON standing in shallow water, surrounded by plastic trash. The sight made me melancholic and 2 days later Nature decided that she should follow up on that message: she had placed a sculpture next to that original sighting that looked like a mummified GREAT BLUE HERON. It turned out to be a tree trunk with algae draped dramatically over it..

Nature’s creativity…

And of course I have to tell you about the wondrous BEST progress in the Benchland riparian corridor. This restricted, sensitive habitat has been cleared of the assorted litter piles, trees and bushes that have been liberated from the chocking vines. The huge holes have been filled in thanks to the campers and Lira, our Shovel Queen. Last Sunday the BEST and Tony Elliot, our Park & Rec. Director, worked hard side-by-side. Afterwards he praised their achievements, which made their eyes shine. It was obvious that his compliments mattered a lot to the houseless BEST. Nature applauds our work as well: the MALLARDS and GREEN HERON returned to the riparian Benchland shoreline. The lizards are sunbathing on the logs. The JUNCOS, BLACK PHOEBES, WILSON’S WARBLER, CHICKADEES quietly forage through the foliage of their regained habitat. And enjoy reading Lira’s caring BEST Guest Commentary: https://www.santacruzsentinel.com/2021/08/26/guest-commentary-new-city-program-brings-healing-along-the-san-lorenzo-river/

Nature Thanks YOU for Voting by/on SEPTEMBER 14th.
Calm River greetings to you all~ jane

positive San Lorenzo River transitions…

Good Morning Dear Critter and Greenery Lovers,

San Lorenzo River pic. from September 15, 1938. It was taken during a river, ocean tour…

The bird sounds along the levee have changed. The fledglings begging sounds have become rare and infrequent. Gone are the food delivery calls of the juv. RED-shouldered and RED-tailed HAWKS. Finally the penetrating screeches of the juv. CROWS ended and the young HOUSE-FINCHES mastered the foraging on their own. The juv. GREEN HERON stopped its pitiful begging cries and is dipping its beak in the water to feed itself. Only the parents of the late clutches are still dashing hectically through the air, water and the bushes in search for high protein food for their broods. The other parents, who completed their breeding tasks, are taking it easy. There is calmness at the river, which annually reminds us that summer is preparing for fall, highlighted by the plants turning their blossoms into seeds.. Our northern migratory winter guests are getting ready to face their long journey to the San Lorenzo River and soon we’ll get to greet their safe and sound return.

gathering to learn from the experts how to plant trees: Leslie Keedy, our City arborist and Alex from the Park & Rec. crew …

The Estuary Project crew unanimously agreed that the planting event with the Brownie Troop and other community members was the perfect way to support Jasmine’s project. It was very inspiring to see all of us join together and plant 12 Buckeye trees and 26 assorted native plants. It was so impressive to see the young girls take charge of the tools and dig holes, spread soil to make sure the trees and plants had a good growing start. At the end of their planting day they pledged to be good future stewards and guardians for the trees. It was exquisite to hear that trees will be protected by these eager, young girls. And after watching them work, I can assure you they will do a great job looking out for trees.

Is the male BUFFLEHEAD looking forward to his San Lorenzo River return?

Do you wonder if the river plants and critters sense their good fortune of living in this location while their cousins are being pummeled by one disaster or an other? It’s a pleasing sight to see the Dragonflies perform their zig-zag dance along the banks in the cool mid-day air. Watching the last few, dilly-dallying SWALLOWS zoom above me, I wish I had the power to keep them safely here, but I know that their migrating urge will win.

BEST members, Braden and Eligio, hard at work on restoring riparian habitat…

Last Sunday I was thrilled to share a short Benchland walk with  Barbara Riverwoman, my retired co-blogger. She was heading home and I was going to meet with the BEST to clear damaged vegetation and trash from the riparian corridor. I was very happy for the BEST that Barbara took the time to take a look at our cleared area. She told them that they had done a great job and that the area looked amazing. They soaked up her compliments as they smiled shyly and stood up straighter. I admit it warmed my heart that their efforts received her well deserved praise. You are always invited to either join or visit us. We meet on Sundays at 11am underneath the Benchland pedestrian bridge across from Trader Joe. The San Lorenzo River habitats thank you all for caring ~ jane

MALLARDS resting in newly BEST restored riparian section…

 

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…

the shifting world of river birds

Good Morning to my Fellow Nature Lovers,

Jenn Mahley’s took this pic of a dramatic sun setting…

I was watering the young native plants by the Trestle bridge when a bicyclist stopped to ask what we had planted. We had a wonderful connection talking about the river, birds and nature. He mentioned that he lived right by the Soquel Creek. That triggered my question if he had noticed few MALLARD ducklings there, which he hadn’t. The Soquel Creek had plenty of them and he was surprised to hear the San Lorenzo River didn’t. It’s so interesting to find out that just a few miles away Nature weaves a different story.

water splashed caused by diving duckling…

And please bear with me as tell you about about yet-an-other MALLARD ducklings incident. To set the stage for this observation, I like to point out: your average MALLARD doesn’t dive and swim under water. So there was a MALLARD Mama surrounded by her 4 little ones, who kept disppearing under water and pop up in a different spot, indicating that her ducklings were actually ‘un-average’. They were budding young divers! Now the interesting part is that Barbara Riverwoman and I observed this MALLARD behavior back in 2016 and 2017, exactly a year apart. For 4 years we didn’t see that behavior again until now. It’s worth noting that this river family is the only one featuring blossoming divers. 

Remember when I asked you if you noticed bird behavior changes? I received several replies from you, reporting birds were shifting and changing their behavior. Some of you observed that these alterations varied from settled to drastic. Yet overall the consensus was our feathered friends are required to make adjustments due to habitat loss, a transformed weather environment, loss of food sources due to pesticides, etc. Personally I miss the birds that I enjoyed seeing frequently on my river walks. Now I am lucky to briefly encounter the KILLDEERS, who used to nest for several years by the Riverside Ave. bridge. The BREWSTER’S and RED-winged Blackbirds are a vague memory. A ROBIN has become a fleeting river appearance. The large flocks of STARLINGS are absent. The always present GREEN HERON is now a rare sighting. It makes me realize how precious our birds are. 

Our MERGANSER family is growing up rapidly. It’s funny to watch them explode out of the water and see a CORMORANT emerge in the middle of them. Both species feed on fish and so there hunting grounds overlap…Or is the CORMORANT profiting from the MERGANSERS fishing strategy, which is to herd the fish together for easy feeding?

CLIFF SWALLOWS chattering about their upcoming adventure?

The SWALLOW flocks are thinning out. The sky is noticeably less decorated with their little bodies and chirpy sounds. A week ago the fledglings were sitting on the bridge ledges and the phone wires. They chattered a great deal at high volume. I wondered if they were discussing excitedly about their upcoming adventure~ going on a migratory trip. While I was watching the young chatter boxes, I sensed that somebody was watching me. I turned around and there was the RED-shouldered HAWK looking straight at me, perched in its favorite tree.

our river RED-shouldered keeping an eye on me…

This morning a large bulldozer was moving sand around by the river mouth, which was open. That made the water level really low. The wading birds like SNOWY EGRETS welcomed that and the diving CORMORANTS were clinging to the few deep water channels.

Thanks to Kelly our Estuary Project day was featured on the Parks & Rec. Facebook page and we send her a big Thank You for creating such a fine post.

Kind river chirps for all of you~jane

meet the BEST and enjoy the river vignettes…

Good Morning Greetings to all you River Friends,

Mike, David, Gillian Rebecca and Tony were last Sunday’s BEST….

My last two weeks have been taken up with hand watering our young native plants, trying to nurse them through the dry summer and initiating the Benchland Estuary Stewardship Program for the houseless campers. I can’t help but see the similarities between the two activities. Both are trying to survive harsh circumstances according to their individual abilities.  The reason for this Program is that the stretch by the San Lorenzo River waterline has has been heavily impacted by uncontrolled camping that degraded the habitat vegetation. I know first hand that houseless people make great environment stewards because I have witnessed that with ‘my’ Downtown Streets Members, who have become a part of the Estuary Project work crew. These Members are the backbone of the BEST, aka Benchland Estuary Stewardship Team. They are the ones, who show up for the work, help brainstorm ideas to promote the Program so that fellow campers become part of the BEST. I admit that I loved seeing Tony Elliot, the Park & Rec. Director, Community and houseless members work together on helping the river habitat. They created a BEST community by helping each other out with hard and at times difficult work, they shared laughter and conversations. Nature rewarded their efforts with the passing of a MALLARD Mama and her 5 ducklings and a GREEN HERON’s fly-over. You are welcome to join the BEST every Sunday from 11am-1pm. We meet at the Benchland entry by the big, black dumpster close to the Water St. bridge.

JUNCO thanks the BEST with a song in the cleared Benchland area…

As mentioned before it has been interesting to compare the settle differences in the river habitats with my river compadres. We can’t figure out if this year’s lack of river bird diversity is due to COVID- more human and dog presence- or if we are witnessing the climate change effects. Many of us are keyed into the Nature cues to prepare us for the upcoming seasons : ducklings announce spring, SWALLOW arrival announces spring transition to summer, migration birds fledglings indicate summer and so on…The comrades’ consensus is that the observed changes leave us a little disoriented. Have you noticed bird behavior changes? And if that is the case~ how do they effect you?

BLACK PHOEBE sailing on the river…

The BLACK PHOEBE discovered that the algae is very handy river float that allows catching the insects that are attracted to the flotsam. It seemed quite enamored with the river ride, because it was still sailing the river on its green ‘boat’ when I returned an hour after. Usually this restless species zips from one perch to the next. This year there have been less BLACK PHOEBES along the river. Did they fly to a different habitat? Barbara Riverwoman will be delighted to hear that a juvenile PIED-billed GREBE is moseying around by the Riverside Ave. bridge. She has a special bond with them, so I want to let her know: the mask marked teenager is chasing its parents, who escape this danger by diving every time the youngster comes too close. Clearly they see their parent role as fulfilled. And talking about young birds: the juvenile RED-shouldered HAWK keeps calling for parental branch food delivery. Either the parents are deaf, bad hunters or weaning their youngster, because some days you can hear that meal request for hours on end. One of my river comrades saw the PEREGRINE in the Trestle trees again. The Falcon always disappears for a few spring and summer months. Now we are waiting for the OSPREY’s return, who follows the PEREGRINE’s behavior pattern.

Monarch approves the Estuary efforts…

Last not least~ We like to invite you to our Estuary Project work day this Saturday, July 17th, from 9am-11am. You find more details here: https://www.scvolunteernow.org/opportunity/a0C4T0000026cG4

It would be fun to meet you at the river~ cheery chirps to you all~ jane

introducing river treats…

Good Morning Greetings to you Nature Cuddlers,

CLIFF SWALLOWS…

In very early mornings~ when the air is still wrapped in its cool night blanket~ the SWALLOWS keep their eyes open for my arrival to water the young native plants. The first SWALLOW will spot me and start circling in my vicinity. Steadily others join until I am surrounded by a good sized flock. It never fails that some daring air zommer aims straight at my head, avoids a crash by pulling up in the last second. It took some time to get used to those nerve wrecking aerobatics! The reason they are happy to see me is that my body exudes heat, which attracts the winged insects, who need the warmed air to fly. Therefore my early morning presence signals to the insect devourers that breakfast snacks are being served. BTW: Since bats are insect eaters as well they share the SWALLOWS’ behavior of profiting from our body heat. So when they dive at dusk at your head they aren’t going to nest in your hair. They are too busy harvesting their insect food that is engulfing you.

Jenn Mahley’s photo of juv. COMMON MERGANSERS resting on San Lorenzo River rocks…

To-day I have the pleasure to introduce to you Jenn Mahley’s blog contribution. She is my neighbor, river compadre and friend. We developed a lively exchange of our bird sightings and I love her Nature curiosity and appreciation. So I am thrilled to share with you her San Lorenzo River experiences: “As I wake up in the morning I’m greeted by cliff swallows soaring outside my window. A mind filled with worry and anxiety deserves a break every now again. I allow myself time to sit and observe, listening to the calming sounds of all the different bird species for which our river provides a perfect habitat.

A mother and juvenile Red-Shouldered Hawk call to each other across Ocean View Park. The juvenile perching in several different trees, calling to mom from each, then on the telephone pole, staring intently at the ground. I’m glad the Crows aren’t around to harass them today.

The California Towhees fly from tree to tree, occasionally perching on our rain gutters, moving their heads in every direction — what could they be looking at/thinking about….spiders?

Jenn Mahley’s pic of visiting HOODED ORIOLE….

A female Hooded Oriole flies across my field of view, bobbing up and down through the air with a male following close behind. They stop in the willows for a brief moment then fly back to where they came from.

I’m triggered by a text coming through on my phone and the anxiety starts creeping back in. But before it gets too overwhelming a Great Egret and a shortly after a Great Blue Heron soar overhead and I’m reminded of Jane exclaiming “That means good luck!” I suddenly find myself with a big smile on my face and calmness re-enters.

A charm of House Finches enter the scene, fluttering from tree to tree. Then, a bird I have not seen in this area yet, though I’m sure are frequent visitors — Lesser Goldfinches! What a beautiful song they have….good luck indeed, Jane!

I feel I am one of the lucky ones to be able to find peace in the River Offerings right outside my door. No need to go looking for it in other humans, material things, or mood-altering substances. The only requirement from me is to allow The River to work its magic and remind me that I, along with everyone else, deserve to live in peace and serenity. I hope we are all able to stop, look around, listen, and enjoy the mysteries of the San Lorenzo.” by Jenn Mahley

I have an other treat for you: the Conservation International website. It’s full of engaging environment info., great Nature videos and a Quiz invite that is worth accepting. River cheers to you all~ jane

Mama MERGANSER keeping an eye on her brood…

Links: Nature Is Speaking~ Conservation International https://www.conservation.org/nature-is-speaking ~What force of nature are you quiz https://www.conservation.org/quizzes/what-force-of-nature-are-you

witnessing and sharing river changes…

Good Morning Dear River Aficionados,

enn Mahley’s great photo of ‘our’ river RED-tailed HAWK…

Well, it has become a ritual to visit with the RED-tailed HAWKS at the river mouth overlook, who never fail to show up. Sometimes one will be already perched on the cliff or the house roof. Other times a short wait is required. Jenn, a river compadre, has captured great photos of them and she noticed that one of the adults has a white spot on top of the head. Since I shared Jenn’s id tip with other river compatriots we are having fun exchanging ‘our’ HAWK’s tracking notes. If you send me your river HAWK reports/ pics I love to include them in the next blog post. I just remembered that last year our focus was the MERGANSER Mama and her 16 chicks…

MALLARD Mama keeping a watchful eye on me….

Much to our relief we can report the river presence of several MALLARD Mamas with their tiny ducklings flotillas. As mentioned previously: they are showing up really late in this MALLARD breeding season. Remember the MALLARD Mama with 13 ducklings from a month ago? Now she is surrounded by 13 ‘teenagers’. Back then we thought she was a diligent parent and her intact family proves us right, because she kept her brood safe from the many perils her offspring faced. For example there are the male MALLARDS, who chase the Mamas off the water into the air. This separation exposes the unprotected and vulnerable ducklings to their many predators such as  CROWS, gulls, GREAT BLUE HERONS, HAWKS and dogs. Some of the young Mamas are still learning the hard lesson of their new parental responsibility: being ‘hawk-eyed’ and diligent keeps the family members alive. So come to the river to celebrate the Mamas and their duckling delights.

Bumblebee landing on Rodriogo’s sleeve…

It’s always helpful to compare observations with other river friends. It’s good way to check if my rumination are reality based. When Rodrigo mentioned that this year he noticed a lot of Bumblebees along the river and less native, honey bees I quit wondering if I was right about the Bumblebees increase and bee decrease. Usually these pollinators generously share their food sources in close proximity. Right now the Bumblebees have very few food neighbors. Rodrigo and I hoped that it was just a temporary shift…In the spirit of shifts, I want to tell you about this blog from India. It offers an excellent insight into how environment issues are addressed by people and their government in far away locations.

male MOCKINGBIRD ready to announce his intention…

I was working at the Laurel bridge restoration site, listening to the male MOCKINGBIRD singing high up in the tree. A part of his tune was a perfect BLACK PHOEBE imitation. It made me wonder if birds ever got fooled by the MOCKINGBIRD’s tunes. Birders are warned to only id a bird sound when they hear it a fourth time, because MOCKINGBIRDS imitate other birds three times. This talented impostor announces his eagerness to settle down with a willing mate systematically: he defines his territory by perching on certain perimeter spots and letting loose his site specific sounds for about 10-15 minutes. Wisely he hasn’t included the frequent RED-shouldered HAWK call into his territory repertoire~ then again it doesn’t seem to hoodwink the females considering his mate search has been going on for over a month. There was an other bird call close by that I knew but couldn’t place right away. Looking up I saw a juv., healthy GREEN HERON balancing on the electric wires. It was a welcomed sound and sight that had been missing for the last couple of years. I send you cheery river chirps and maybe I’ll see you at this volunteer event~ jane

juv. GREEN HERON~ we welcome you to the San Lorenzo River…

Valley Women’s Club: San Lorenzo River Estuary Project, June 19, 9 – 11 am

Please join us to increase the growth margins around established native plants, prune back bushes, liberate overgrown natives, plant new vegetation & mingle with other wonderful volunteers. Our ongoing successful efforts are cherished by the Birds, Bees, Butterflies, other river wildlife & our Community. The Estuary Project offers you a wonderful opportunity to feel great helping improve food & shelter resources for San Lorenzo River critters. Meet at Laurel St. Bridge at San Lorenzo Blvd. For info email Jane at jmio@earthlink.net

river “Mmmh…?”

A Chirpy Good Afternoon Dear Marvelers,

juv. RED-tailed HAWK hanging out with parent

Sometimes my river experiences like to develop a theme. Recently I had week that deserved the heading “Great talks with river compadres”. So if I had to describe my river theme for the last week I would say it was titled ” Mmmh…?”. I resembled a poised dog: head kinked to the side, ears straight up, eyes focused, nose wiggling, body on alert mode. And NO! as a dog I wouldn’t chase after wildlife! Here is one of my “Mmmh..?” moments: “Will it be safe for the juvenile RED-tailed HAWK to keep landing on the river point railing and allowing people to approach as close as 5 feet?”. It’s true that the cliff below is the perfect hunting site for ground squirrels and that its presence stops most people in their tracks and delights their cameras. Although there are those times when other observers watch with disbelief how some people pass right by the calmly watching HAWK, obviously totally oblivious to the raptor.

Mmmh… that’s getting  a little too close

And what about the cozy friendship between the female COMMON GOLDENEYE and BUFFLEHEAD? They lingered peacefully together on the river long after their species comrades had responded to the breeding call from up North. The sudden water level drop of the May 16th breach seems to have put an end to their downstream river comfort, because they haven’t been seen since then. Also the question arose: “Will  the City re-introduce the 2018 breach procedures that carefully controlled the opening of the meandering river mouth?”. The 2018 method assured that the river was seined for the federal and state protected fish. Bulldozers were strategically stationed along the snaking river, ready to prevent the water force from tearing the river mouth open too rapidly and stranding fish in the sand.

2018 City biologists seining prior to opening the river mouth…..

It would be great to see the friendly 2018 fish, tule bird nesting methods return. The City breached the river mouth on May 28th. From what it looks like the sandbar was opened in a straight river line. This method is known to drain the river very quickly, which raises the question:”Did that happen on the 28th?”. The wading birds enjoyed the short lived fishing pools, because the river mouth closed again 2 days later. On the other beak the MALLARD ducklings welcome the rising lagoon level, because they were able to access their favorite foraging and hiding in the reeds.

wading BLACK-crowned NIGHT-HERON…

The best part of taking a break from my restoration work is scanning the surroundings for the various river surprises. Straight across from me, just waiting to be discovered, was the SURF SCOTER. He was resting comfortably on the rocks next to a male MALLARD, who didn’t mind sharing the river with the ocean visitor, who clearly deserved a migration breather.

migrating m. SURF SCOTER…

So I am trying to get a decent pic. of the cozy scene when a BRANT GOOSE casually floats by. Its late presence proves that this species hangs out the longest in its wintering places, which is understandable~ after all they need to gather strength to live up to their amazing migratory reputation: flying 3,000 miles up North at high altitude.  Unfortunately a dog wasn’t informed about the hard life of a migratory bird and enjoyed itself chasing off the BRANT GOOSE.

BRANT GOOSE, the amazing migrator….

Watching it fly towards the ocean I noticed far down the lagoon a biggish dot surrounded by smaller ones. I expected to view more MALLARD Mamas with her ducklings, but the dots turned out to be a COMMON MERGANSER Mama with her sizable brood. The little ones were old enough to practice the torpedo fishing technique: submerge head into the water and race at high speed in a straight line. This exercise exhausted the young flock and required ‘taking time out’ on Mama’s back. Although not all 7 could fit on her the offspring didn’t fight each other for a Mama spot. Instead they swam in an orderly row behind her. I bet many of us would love to ask this Mama how she taught her ‘kids’ that smooth behavior…cheery chirps from jane

tired ‘kids’ chilling on Mama MERGANSER’s back…

San Lorenzo River gifts us diverse bird life…

Good Morning Dear Nature Friends,

petite BONAPARTE’S gulls among CASPIAN TERNS…

The early Sunday hours saw me head to the river point to visit my favorite13″ gulls. Their ternlike bodies have been dotting the coast line, enchanting viewers with their elegant flights and gentle nature. This species belongs to the group of small hooded, migratory gulls. Stepping up to the railing I instantly spotted a good sized flock of my cherished BONAPARTE’S plus the stunning BLACK SKIMMER.

stunning BLACK SKIMMER…

A birder was scoping for the rare LITTLE GULL, a tricky look-a-like of the BONAPARTE’S. For days its surprise arrival had been triggering lively discussions among birders if they were viewing a BONAPARTE’S or the LITTLE GULL. While the MERGANSERS, WHIMBRELS entertained me a few mighty experienced birders flocked to the point, setting the stage for some high caliber bird kibitzing. None of us suspected that our prime gull watching spot would be the victim of the evening  forced river breach, requiring the rescue of a breach swept out person. Personally I enjoyed the sight of young parent birders with the little kids under their ‘wings’. Let’s face it’s heartwarming to see a future 4-5 year old Nature lover birding with his bright colored binoculars!

fledging Nature lover busy bird watching…

And staying with the happy theme: I won’t be meowing to you anymore about no ducklings on the river, because my friend Marky and I saw a MALLARD Mama parade her 13! ducklings by the Laurel St. bridge. Not only that~ there was another Mama with 2 ducklings, who kept her distance from the wide spread baker’s dozen brood. Needlessly to say Marky and I were hooting and hollering over our duckling discoveries. And of course we pointed out the the little treasures to anybody walking by innocently, resulting in some pleasant river habitat conservations. It’s encouraging to hear that few river comrades have also sighted river duckling. The presence of MALLARD families frolicking in the water is special this year, because we don’t have the usual amount of feather-balls.

PHEW! finally the river ducklings arrived…

This brings me to the male MALLARD, who determinately claimed his place in the orange legs tribe. From across the river you could see him swim back & forth, eyeing the line of male and female MERGANSERS covering the entire tree trunk, absorbed with their late afternoon preening. When one female jumped down the male MALLARD’s carpe diem moment had arrived. Lackadaisically he moseyed to the trunk, carefully tip ‘clawing’ onto it. Once safely placed he took his cue from the other preeners and started to shyly address his feather do. The female MERGANSER in the water came over to take a look at his grooming efforts and started a splattering bathing ecstasy. The MALLARD was keen on fluffing his feathers, which didn’t include this rinse. He attempted to hide his head, leaned away from the bathing frenzied female, inching closer to his neighbor, who opposed that intimacy. Not willing to relinquish his place among the orange legs tribe he decided to endure the splashing…

male MALLARD enduring the female MERGANSER’s bathing frenzy…

Our RED-shouldered HAWK is becoming quite the celebrity amongst us river friends: Robin named the raptor Russel and sent us a pic. Tommy and Chloe had a friendly encounter with the camera shy beauty, who flew off when Chloe tried to take pics.

Robin’s pic. of Russel, our RED-shouldered HAWK celebrity…

Jenn has the good fortune to have front seat RED-shouldered HAWK stories, because she lives across the river. This allowed her to witness the HAWKS successful romancing that ended in their copulating all in spite of the pestering CROW. And I got trapped in the car after restoration work by the Fruit Orchard, because the RED-shouldered HAWK plunged down on a ground squirrel just a few feet away from the car. The HAWK kept hopping around and I leave it up to you figure out why. I just couldn’t bring myself to start the engine and scare the raptor off its meal, because I have watched the HAWK failing many food hunts. Within seconds a CROW arrived, ready to share the snack. The RED-shouldered HAWK kept the CROW at bay by spreading its wings protectively over its prey while hissing. Then an other food free loader arrive, in the shape of a SCRUB JAY. These 2 birds kept busy eyeing each other while I waited for the RED-shouldered HAWK to calmly fill its belly. Sending you chirpy river bird greetings~ jane

Jenn’s front seat pic. of RED-shouldered HAWK

let’s river schmooze…

Good Morning Dear Nature Compadres,

the CLIFF SWALLOWS returned…

Since our last river schmooze I have been busy watching the return of the migratory CLIFF SWALLOWS and taming the weedy growth fiesta along the Estuary stretch. This entails cutting a 2 foot circle around the native plants then cuddling them into rice straw nests. Trial and error taught me that this method gives a clear message to the invaders: smothering the domestic flora is not an option. The TOWHEES and other ground feeding birds wait for me to leave so that they can spread the straw nests apart to search for their delicious food treasures.

TOWHEE frolicking in the straw nest…

When I see Mugwort stems bend their tops after their neighbor was cut back, I wondered if plants grieve…You have to come for a river visit and see the graceful California State grass on the steep East Laurel St. bridge bank. This big patch of Purple Needle grass is a successful testimony how joint efforts create remarkable results: two years ago I discovered a few clumps of this State protected grass on the site and asked the Field-supervisor if it was possible to mow that section after the grass seeded. We repeated that approach last year with the result that the rich seed bank spread and now the native Purple Needle gently veils most of the steep bank. You’ll be charmed by this purplish bank mantle that sways elegantly in the breeze.

Purple Needle grass~ protected Calif. State grass…

I confess that my river ducklings search continues. Two friends saw a Mama MALLARD with 6 chicks at the Crescent bridge on the same day, but that little family has never been seen again. In the meantime the MALLARD couples are spending a lot of leisure time together, which is not off-spring promising. And what is with that birder’s video of a MALLRD Mama taking her brood out to the ocean!? What is she thinking? That observation is ultra unusual since MALLARDS don’t favor open ocean excursions. Hopefully the closed river mouth will prevent the river MALLARD Mamas from such duckling unfriendly behavior.  Watch the video and tell me what you think.

is their leisure time interfering with breeding?

I just have to tell you about this engaging board game that a levee crew member introduced me to. It made my Nature heart flutter, because it asks the players to find the right habitat and food for their birds. The game is called Wingspan and this Bird magazine article gives it a raving review.

camera shy juv. MEW gull …

A while ago I promised to get back to you with an id for the camera shy gull. It  turns out that it was a 1 cycle migratory MEW gull, whose claim to fame is that it perches in trees and is not a garbage-can rummager. I am familiar with the gentle look of the adult MEW gull so this juvenile swam right under my gull id radar…

Is it coincidence that the RED-shouldered HAWK pretty regularly lands close by while I am working at the levee? It perches on the riverwalk signs, in the trees, on the lamp polls to keep an eye me. It is not bothered by any of my activities unless I pull out the camera! No other object I use results in an instant fly off.  So I don’t let myself get tempted anymore to take the most perfect RED-shouldered HAWK pic. Instead we just hang out together as I think of Lira’s grandfather’s relationship with a HAWK and Jen’s search for the HAWK’ nest. In that spirit I send you gentle river greetings~ jane

Lupine rewards aphid rescue with vim & vigor blooming…