treasuring river’s touching moments…

Greetings to all of you river enjoyers,

HAPPINESS STREET BLITZ….

Just in case you are wondering if I have landed back on earth after my incredible river 3/22 Happiness soak: barely! ~ is the answer to that, because all day long tremendous people celebrated the Jane Mio Day with me. Blog readers cheered the day, e-mails offered wonderful ‘Yahoo’ messages, Major Brunner’s Proclamation reading triggered my happy cry, which sprinkled happy tears all over my well rehearsed dignified response and they kept flowing thanks to the heartwarming comments of City Council Member Brown, Cummings, Meyers and Mayor Brunner. My words might have failed me, but my happy tears delivered the message wet and clear: I felt immense honored!! In the afternoon family, friends/neighbors joined the Happiness Street Blitz that had been put together spontaneously by my wonderful neighborhood friends. The result was that I floated above the ground, because I was surrounded by ‘my’ people, who enjoyed having a good time meeting each other, sharing laughter and lively conversations.

They braved the rain…Peggy, Nasebee, Peter, Robin, Dan, Sue, Ivan(not shown Karsten, Russ, jane)

My recent river time had 3 volunteer events that included some special moments that I like to share with you. The 3/19 Estuary Project work day had rain forecasted, which is not very inviting to work outside in the dirt. Yet this weather didn’t deter 10 volunteers to show up at 9am in rain gear and work with vim and high spirit on our various tasks. We were thrilled to welcome Rotary Member Peggy Pollard and her UCSC International Student from Mozambique, Naseeba Sidat, who was introduced to planting Calif. Lilac by resident Peter & DST member Ivan. Our river OSPREY dazzled Naseebe by scrubbing its talons in the shallow water right across from us

river OSPREY dazzling Naseebe…

The second event entailed working with 9 members of a delightful AmeriCorps Team and a DST Member. I was smitten by the 9 members’ interest in the river, their questions about the benefits of their tasks. Robin Lopez, a DST and BEST member, was my right-hand since she is familiar with the restoration tasks. She kept an excellent eye on who needed what help.

fabulous AmeriCorps Team & DST member Robin…

Robin is also the one, who discovered the very long gopher snake. We tried to guide it to a safe place, but it wanted to return to its dangerous sun bathing spot. So I just picked it up(much to everybody’s surprise) and relocated the beauty away from the heavy foot traffic path.

Robin found this very long gopher snake…

Last not least there was the 4/3 BEST Sunday, filled with touching nature incidents. There was Mitch, being totally absorbed by the flight of a butterfly, by a bug crawling up a branch, raising his head to glimpse at a bird. It makes me happy to witness how nature awareness is unfolding for him. You would have been touched to see David tenderly attend to the newly planted vegetation, making sure they were properly berm-ed, flagged, weed free, watering them carefully.

BEST Sunday members: Mike, Katrina, Robin, Mitch, Beth, David, Cheetah, Ivan..,

And there was Cheetah, looking for me, because he wanted to show me the GREAT BLUE HERON, hiding in the bushes across the river. It melted my heart to stand next to him and share his glorious, well hidden find, which he spotted because he had tuned into the river environment. I hope these little insights highlighted some of the many touching moments that I treasure dearly ~ fortunate jane chirps

Cheetah’s find, the GREAT BLUE HERON…the BEST mascot

San Lorenzo River Happiness soak….

A Glorious Happiness Good Morning to all you Nature Passion cohorts,

MERGANSER Mama’s chick transport…

To-day I am allowing myself the luxury to enjoy soaking in San Lorenzo River Happiness. So I want to share with you the cause of my exquisite state of heart, soul and mind: to-day my river advocacy is being acknowledged, recognized by the Santa Cruz City Mayor: Sonja Brunner will read the
Mayoral Proclamation Declaring March 22, 2022 as Jane Mio Day
You all have been witness to my San Lorenzo River love! How its habitats, critters and fauna have filled my soul with unique, surprising mysteries. How many people got involved with the Valley Women’s Club Estuary Project and the City’s multi-Departments BEST Project. You know how I traveled a long, windy, river advocacy road. Let there be no doubt that your kind, insightful reader comments made that journey worthwhile.

sign made by one of the BEST members…

My Happiness honor soak is bubbling with good omens: the sun is smiling, the birds are chirping their mating intentions, March is the National Women’s History Month, to-day is the 2nd day in spring, it’s the birthday of my dear friend’s Dad, who enjoyed life whistling his own piper tune and the CLIFF SWALLOWS are starting to arrive. For me this recognition is a tribute to all women who followed their passions to engage their diverse community to build inclusive environment connections for the healthy benefit of all. I also celebrate every single person, who made this Jane Mio Day possible, because this proclamation is a testimony of everybody’s work, support & encouragement. I could fill books with describing why every single kind, dedicated, touching way mattered to me. The truth is that I am fortunate to have so many unique, marvelous people in my river life! Since I found out about the proclamation I have been floating on the long and wide river called “Advocacy Memories”. My heart and soul are filled with wonderful re-surfacing scenes like houseless DST members working together with residents to restore the Estuary habitat, laughing, helping each other out. ~ Teaching young students about birds, their excited sharing of their bird experiences/observations happily sidelined me. ~ Watching little kids take their parents’ shovels and dig determinedly the hole in the hard soil for the native plant. Their little hands hardly reached around the shovel handle, feet, hands caked with dirt, beaming with joy and pride, because they had done it all by themselves: putting ‘their plant’ safely in the ground. And their parents were beaming too, who I had discouraged from helping their child unless they were asked for assistance.

mighty little kids ready to plant…

~ The MERGANSER Mama floating by with her chicks on the back while the Estuary volunteers watch in awed delight. ~ Working for hours in the pouring rain with 60 members of the Watershed AmeriCorps Team, getting drenched down to the bones in spite of heavy rain gear. We couldn’t believe it: the rain stopped right when we finished our work and the sun came out after 5 minutes. We laughed hysterically, ate our late lunch and decided that none of us would never forget this weather joke.
So thank you for reading why I am enjoying a Happiness soak, which I am enjoying to the sun and back! Happy river greetings ~ jane

Interested in watching Mayor Brunner announce the Proclamation at approx. 12:15pm at the 3/22/22 City Council Meeting?
Then use this Zoom link: https://zoom.us/j/94684401344

the SWALLOWS are back…

Good Morning to my Fellow Nature Inter-minglers,

last year’s NORTHERN ROUGH-winged SWALLOWS fledglings…

The only explanation for this scene is pure bird excitement: I was checking on my BEST crew at the City sanctioned camp that is right next to the San Lorenzo River. I got sidetracked with talking to one of the houseless campers. All of the sudden I saw 2 birds zipping behind him and my conversation focus totally collapsed. The way the birds zigzagged made me think “Those are SWALLOWS”, which indicated an early arrival date for these migratory spring messengers. All of the sudden there were about 20 in the air. I realized that they were NORTHERN ROUGH-winged SWALLOWS, which triggered my grabbing the surprised man’s arm and squeezing it, shouting:”OMG! They are back!!” “Who is back?! Where are they?” was his nervous response. He scanned his surroundings at eye level and saw nothing that warranted my outburst. I pointed up behind him at a moment when the little torpedoes had disappeared. “What are you talking about?” was his slightly annoyed, confused comment as he looked at an empty sky. Just as he was turning back to me a SWALLOW flew low right by him as I excitedly squealled:” Did you see it?”. “See what?” “The bird that flew almost into you. That was a SWALLOW!” “What’s a SWALLOW?” was the perfect opening for me to make a birder out of him. I told him they are the first SWALLOWS to arrive and that they build their nests in cavities and that they repurpose the light fixtures underneath the bridges for safe nesting. Furthermore the NORTHERN ROUGH-winged SWALLOWS will actually perch on bushes, which the CLIFF, TREE, BARN SWALLOWS very rarely do since they spend 99% of their time in the air catching insects. I did apologize for grabbing his arm and getting so tweaked over seeing the first spring SWALLOWS. He smiled and said that I did scare the hell out of him, because he had no clue what had come over me…and he thanked me for telling him about the SWALLOWS, because he likes knowing who they are.

resting NORTHERN ROUGH-winged SWALLOWS…

The spring migratory birds are arriving and the 6 winter migrants are still lollygagging on the river. Their BUFFLEHEAD comrades left a couple of weeks ago for their northern breeding sessions, leaving the 4 males and 2 females to enjoy the river. They don’t seem to be possessed by the usual mating behavior of bobbing their heads up and down, bending their heads all the way back, which occurs just before they head to their winter location. Maybe they took a lesson from the CANADA GEESE and decided to forgo the tedious flight up north?

BUFFLEHEADS still on the river…

In these intense times I take heart in the positive outcomes, which spread hope and a sense of sanity. I so I like to share with you that women ranchers are successfully combining ranching with bird protection thanks to the Audubon’s Conservation Ranching Initiative. The Center for Biological Diversity and an other group sued the ‘chemical giant BASF’ over their Pesticide product that contains trifludimoxazin that is harmful to fish. BASF just agreed to cease manufacturing and selling that product, which is great news for our river endangered steelhead and coho.
The river invites you to visit its delights with this Rainer Maria Rilke quote ~
Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.
SWALLOW happy jane

FYI: 3/19 is our next Estuary Project work day from 9am-11am. Come & join us @  River-path south of Riverside Ave. bridge above San Lorenzo Blvd. across from the Budget Hotel

SAT. 19th location

blood stream’s nature memory…

Good Afternoon Dear Fellow Nature Schmoozers,

Evening Primrose blossom bursting open…

Have you been enchanted by the various spring messages Nature started to sprinkle over our surroundings? Have you found yourself staring at the budding tree leaves, because their vibrant green is the perfect color to accentuate their fragile beauty? Spring tends to wake up my dormant winter senses, reminding me to snap into the “Take time to take a look now!” mode, because the stages of smells, colors, vegetation growth change so rapidly that a day of ‘I don’t have time’ attitude makes me miss the opening of a flower blossom.

the bonding decision has been made….

We have quite a few migratory Canada Geese renegades, who decided that the long trip up north is a waste of time and energy since breeding along the river actually produces wished-for results. Now these feathered mutineers are busy working out agreements with potential mates, requiring the male to stand his ground on his decision. This endeavor is easy if the female views their future together favorable and no other males had their eyes on her. Then they just waddle away from the flock and try to find a nesting spot they both can agree on. That choice honks for standing in one spot for some time and gauging if the location will be safe. Should the female be unsure of the mating offer she insists on her prerogative of free will by evading, escaping his requests. Hot male debates break out when other suitors question the male’s mating right for that enticing female. Usually she stands disinterested on the sideline, letting fate decide the outcome.

Red-winged Blackbird- e-bird

It’s a slow process for me to let go of familiar nature sounds, sights. Decades of river visuals and tunes are lodged in my blood stream’s memory. I still expect to hear the RED-winged BLACKBIRD song announce spring although for the last few years their tunes have been absent from the river tule and bushes. I am so eager to hear them again that I’ll turn 2 notes of the SONG SPARROW tune into the lost river melody. There used to be sizable flocks of STARLINGS spread out on the river wire lines, commenting on their life with smooth liquid sounds or loud whistle trills. Now I don’t see them anymore and I miss their sounds and quirky, lively movements that make their intricate feather coats sparkling in the sun. Many birders are okay with the STARLINGS’ population decline, because they rank low as an invasive bird species.

2 SONG SPARROW notes don’t make a RED-winged BLACKBIRD melody…

It has been unsettling hard to come to terms with the disappearance of my Mama Hum! A week after I told you about this tiny HUMMINGBIRD Mother she didn’t show up for our morning coffee date. At first I thought she was out for her usual quick nectar shopping spree, but when she didn’t return after a few minutes I started to wonder, which turned into worry and then alarm after 30 minutes. In the last week she hadn’t left the nest for more than short intervals. I searched for her throughout the yard and the neighborhood in case she had been injured. Then I got concerned about the unattended eggs and decided to look in the nest in hope of saving them. I was totally surprised to discover no eggs in this lovely nest that hopeful Mama Hum had build so meticulously for 10 days and sat on for 10 additional days. There are many reason for Mama Hum vanishing: nature sent her a false brooding message, neighbor’s cat caught her, something scared her away, her nest was raided… What I do know is that I grieved her disappearance, that I still find myself expecting to see her snuggled in her nest in the mornings and begin our day together. Although I miss Mama Hum dearly I’ll celebrate knowing that our 20 days together are firmly lodged in my blood stream’s memory. I leave you with an Anatole France quote:
“Unless one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened”

glad we shared 20 morning coffee times…

because I love I owe…

Greetings to you Fellow Nature Lovers,

under construction…

To-day I’ll like to take you a few blocks away from the river, because I want to introduce you to my grandiose garden event: 2 weeks ago my Anna’s backyard Hummingbird decided to build her nest right outside my kitchen window on a Manzanita branch. Personally I was concerned that the branch might be too fragile for this nest location. Clearly Mama Hum didn’t share my apprehension, because after a 10 day construction period she completed her nest, which is not much bigger than half a walnut shell.

task accomplished!

Frankly ~ the prime front-row watching left me in stunned admiration for her exhausting, labor intense achievement. This tiny, tireless Mama schlepped minute cobweb threads, small dried leaf fragments, dried grass pieces to her chosen site. She arranged the material carefully into a sturdy base, sit on it for a moment, wiggle around a little and re-position pieces to her satisfaction. Then off she dash to retrieve more perfect items. It became obvious that she intended a ‘comfy’ home for her brood that was lined w/feather down. Locating this luxury item demanded longer search trips. It was truly a marvel to see the nest take shape, which entailed a lot of testing if additional parts needed to be incorporated. BTW: using cobweb threads is a brilliant idea, because they are remarkably strong, have ant-bacterial and anesthetic properties. One day she decided to decorate the outside nest with itty Manzanita bark chips. Mama Hum definitely knew what she was looking for! She examined the tree from every angle, scrutinizing the bark for flake harvesting, hold a selected piece in her beak, fly backwards for a second and drop it if it didn’t measure up to her standards. After some time the right bark was added to the outside that gained my salut for her exquisite choices and placement. Mama Hum’s nest has changed my home life style quiet a bit. Because I love her presence and the trust she gifts me by building her nest so close by I figure I owe her my new daily adjustments. After all my day starts with sharing my morning coffee with a beautiful bird calmly eyeing me. In exchange I want to offer her a safe breeding time.

reluctant bird model…

Now I stopped acting like a paparazzo, respecting her dislike for being a bird model. I keep the kitchen noise and lights down, visitors are encouraged to speak with low voices in the kitchen, causing my 16 year old grandson to roll his eyes…which triggers my lecture that I owe the birds I love these small life modifications. Especially since I know that 11 bird species were declared extinct in fall of 2021 ~ the largest extinction batch ever announced by the U.S. government. This is on top of the news that the Santa Cruz Christmas Bird Count data shows that we are down 20 species from the late 1990 to the last 5 counts and birders are reporting less birds at their feeders. So I happily make my ‘sound’ to announce my presence when I approach her nest, figuring that she makes sounds to let me know what she is up to. It seems to work, because now she calmly stays on her nest, supervising my garden work.

we share my morning coffee time…

It’s a fact: I enjoy including nature care into my daily life and try to match Nature’s attempts to survive with our daily presence. So I leave undergrowth, leaves, small wood piles in my garden as lizards, snakes, frog and Butterfly caterpillar habitat. Oh…& one more little habit: I don’t prune bushes, trees during the February 1 through September 1 bird breeding season unless I am 200% sure there are no active nests in the vicinity.
Thanks for letting me share my Mama Hum story with you and next time I’ll take you back to the river, until then ~ chirpy jane

loving the San Lorenzo River is a full-time job…

Greetings to You Delighted Nature Lovers,

nature teaches patience: Beeplant returns after 2 year hibernation…

The San Lorenzo River visit answered my frustration driven, irritated question: “Why do I spend so much time on the river related issues?”. This question was triggered after reading ‘Steinbruner’s States’ 1/17 post, because I realized that I was unaware that ‘conveyance system’ plans for the PureWater Soquel Project had changed to the option of attaching the pipe to the Laurel St. bridge and not placing it underneath the river. So finding out that the favored, much needed breeding location for the migratory CLIFF, NORTHERN ROUGH-winged SWALLOWS was in jeopardy made my SWALLOW nests knees buckle. Admit-tingly I find the pipe construction project to be San Lorenzo River environment unfriendly, but a mitigated pipe placement would assure that the SWALLOWS breeding location was saved. In order to get clear on the pipe location I descended into the project’s documents/plans hell. I’ll spare you my journey through the all-too-familiar rocky terrain of ‘ the San Lorenzo River environment is paying a high price once again’, which made me run to the river. There I was greeted by the recently planted Buckeye buds that were pushing open their protective brown capsules because the leaves are birthing ready.

Buckeye buds birthing leaves…

The Bumblebee was nibbling nectar from the Sage plants, the RED-tailed Hawk couple was involved with their mating circling, the lone female COMMON GOLDENEYE attracted 3 AMERICAN COOTS, who hoped that the damsel had stirred up some delicious algae. Down the river I discovered 2 more female COMMON GOLDENEYES. One was eager to befriend a MALLARD couple ~ alas ~ they were busy discussing their mating possibility…I didn’t see any male COMMON GOLDENEYES, who had a low presence on the river this year. And then there was the discovery that the Beeplant had decided to come back strong after a 2 year hibernation. It was a treat to see my levee friend walking up with her 2 grandchildren and I had wonderful river conversation with her 5 year old grandson. This little boy and the river life made me realize why I spend so much time on river issues. It’s because I want all present and future beings to be able to enjoy what I love: a rich and thriving river environment.

lone female COMMON GOLDENEYE…

Mitch, one of the BEST members, and I will give a presentation to-night to a group that is interested in our efforts. It will be a good experience for both of us, because we will gain insight how our message comes across. I like you to know that the BEST is still doing a very fine riparian corridor stewardship job. Because of our by now familiar presence the Benchland campers are becoming more and more engaged with kinder co-operation and lending us their hands and tools. My friend, Eva, made the BEST a yummy lunch, which we devoured gratefully after our shift, having a great time sharing a meal together.

BEST enjoying Eva’s lunch…

Chirps to you that hum with river life ~ jane

river beckoning…

The River Sends You Its Good Morning Greetings,

storm break at the San Lorenzo River…

Actually I was heading to a different river site when the corner of my eye caught sight of that mighty big shape on on the tree trunk in the middle of the river. Not only caused that for my car to slow down – apologies to the driver behind me – but a pronto decision to pull over across from Jessie St. Marsh and figure out who owned that shape. Walking up the path I prepared myself to either discovering an odd piece of debris or look at an empty tree trunk. The first is based on living with my quirky imagination that entertains me with turning branches into critters, etc. The second one is the birders’ reality: birds see no reason to satisfy human viewing hunger with waiting patiently for their arrival. So my birding heart giggled seeing the sizable, dark silhouette be a bird that was still hunkered down on the stranded tree. And that is where my luck wore thin ~ the large bird had its back to me, was gazing across the river with the sun shinning straight into my eyes. I appreciated that it sat immobile while I improved my viewing angle. When I was able to take a better look, I noticed that it was gradually tipping backwards to dip its tail in the water and then tip forward, gently shake the tail, sit for a moment and repeat its interesting ‘grooming’ act. Finally it turned its head sideways, allowing the view of the stunning eyes and the fierce beak, triggering the immediate thought: ” WOW ~ that’s one fine EAGLE!”

the mighty fine EAGLE…

I spend 10 minutes starring at its back since it refused to turn around or look sideways again. It was surprising to see the huge body suddenly be in the air without the usual raptor lift off maneuver. It gained height with a few powerful wing flaps, aimed to the Boardwalk, changed direction towards me, circled twice above me before heading inland. Watching it disappear I was happy that Nature had beckoned me to take the time to observe her young BALD EAGLE.

BUFFLEHEADS snoozing in shallow river water….

Now that my bird focus was gone, I looked around, taking in what the low tide exposed after the rains and storms: extensive sandbars and expended shorelines. The water was very shallow, which might be due to the sediment deposits that raised the riverbed. Because of these conditions it seemed possible to walk across the river. In the urban corridor section the banks let go of a few big trees that are now lying in the river. During my river escapade the AMERICAN COOTS kept me company and upstream from the Riverside bridge 3 male and 1 female BUFFLEHEADS were snoozing the afternoon away. 2 female COMMON GOLDENEYES took lazy swim. There were very few birds on the water, which might be due to the BALD EAGLE visit.

young BALD EAGLE water ‘grooming’ the tail…

The BEST is still busy doing an amazing job in taking care of the Benchland riparian corridor: planting natives vegetation and re-purposing the broken willow branches as new starts for future growth. It’s is very remarkable to see the BEST show up for the Sundays. They work hard and focused in spite of the camp upheaval such as relocations, wet belongings and unsure future. I love how they kindly raise my awareness of being houseless by letting me know what I can do better to be more sensitive to their circumstances. Their honesty means a lot to me.

a BEST planting a native Calif. evening Primrose…

Have you been pondering what to do in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King’s memory this week-end? Then allow me to invite you to join the Saturday Estuary Project volunteer day: join residents and DST members and enhance together river habitats. Click here for details.
Can’t make that one? No problem, because there is the BEST Sunday option: meet us @ 11am at the Benchland shipping containers underneath the pedestrian bridge.
River Beckoning Cheer ~ jane

river cornucopia…

Good Morning Dear Rain-soaked River Friends,

sunset after heavy rain…

The day after the heavy rain my river visit showered me with a cornucopia of multifaceted episodes. My first stop was the river mouth point, where the noticeable cliff erosion had created a dramatic visual of coastal land change. The cliff banks were void of its vegetation that now rested at the bluff’s foot, surrounded by washed down soil. I have ‘thing’ about avoidable, irreversible erosion damage caused by human behavior. So it clearly was a bad idea for two young men to climb over the railing and start descending the severely eroded, steep, rain drenched section in my presence. After taking a deep breath I pointed out that their activity was conducive for further erosion. One of them claimed their climb didn’t matter in the bigger cliff picture. I pointed out that it was up to him make his situation appropriate choice and not me… Nature mud-caked them on their way down.

eroded cliff bank…

Resuming the calming bird watching I spotted a flock of WHITE-crowned SPARROWS below me that were dashing in and out the low bushes. Their sporadic foraging always intrigues me, because I can’t figure out how the racing around procures food. Taking my monocular down I noticed a WHITE-crowned SPARROW watching me from a close by branch. It made me titter to realize I was being observed while focusing on its far-off cousins as this little feathered one was right next to me… That little mood uplift befriended the follow up: it was zany to look at determined metal ant, dressed up as a lone, little forklift on the Main Beach. This small ant imitator was diligently transporting non-stop one single driftwood piece after an other from the river mouth to the wharf.

metal ant…

Proceeding to my next river spot I almost crashed into a lamp post, because two beautiful RED-tailed HAWKS were circling close to the Trestle trees. Their talons were extended, a sign of their mating air dance. Just as quickly as they appeared they disappeared. Moments later there was one flying above the Trestle trees, which drew me in that direction like a magnet. And sure enough the mate was flying low over the river being orbited by the other. After some tight rotations they flew off towards Ocean View Park. Staring up in the sky I hadn’t noticed the enjoyable surprise walking up the path: my friend and his dog, who I hadn’t seen for a while. We had a short, cozy visit, oh-ed and ah-ed about the rainbow as we parted. My decision to locate the new river love couple just one more time was exquisitely reward! RED-tailed HAWKS were spiraling downriver towards the rainbow. Their flight followed its arch and then they flew right into the rainbow and disappeared. Of course my quickly ignited imagination had a feather day with that experience ~ the river had gifted us a magical moment.

dot to right is RED-tailed HAWK flying into rainbow…

I want to take a moment and thank life for gifting me so many people, who have allowed me to feel awe, taught me courage to follow passion. I cheer the lives of Desmond Tutu, Edward O. Wilson and Thomas Lovejoy. Over many years I have followed their life work with great interest, because their passions made total sense to me. Within two days three of my cherished influences left: witty Desmond Tutu and E.O. Wilson died on the same day and Thomas Lovejoy a day earlier. I celebrate that I was fortunate to share this planet with them at the same time as they created inspiring, rich, passionate lives, which were infused with their caring souls.

in memory of their gifts to the planet…

Without a doubt Jessica York’ article in the 12/17 Sentinel issue meant a lot to the BEST, because they felt that the reporter truly captured what they and the BEST program is all about. This article was especially welcome, because the Benchland camp had received so much unpleasant houseless media coverage. It was touching to see the article spread a warm glow over the BEST, for which we thank Jessica York and the Sentinel.
Wishing you all a HAPPY NEW YEAR and great new beginnings ~ jane

greetings from the BEST

belonging…

Good Morning Dear Nature Schmoozers,

curious LESSER GOLDFINCH…

Have you been able to escape from this hectic time of year with a visit to nature ? That wonderful place, where we can space out and let the moment take reins of our thoughts. My ‘must-do!’ list drowned itself in the river, because I tried to guess how many zillions of AMERICAN COOTS were frolicking on the water that late December afternoon. Dense groups of A. COOTS formed dark patches on the river that looked like floating islands with personalized behavior. There was the flock that move in synchronized slow motion to the other shore. An other batch would scatter for a bit and then unit again into a tight cluster. Two groups tried intermingling with each other. That experiment didn’t last long. The group members returned to their original flock and swam in opposite directions. Except one COOT, who couldn’t decide which cluster to follow. After some flustered back and forth swimming the decision was made, restoring the COOT’s sense of belonging.

juv. RED-tailed HAWK perched above Benchland…

That brings me to the Benchland incident that a friend alerted me to: a FB post addressed that a drugged RED-tailed HAWK had been rescued from a campers tent. Reading the post I instantly wondered if the HAWK had eaten a rat poisoned prey, because it sounded like the raptor hadn’t fought human handling, which is highly unusual. Later the keeper of the big bird assured me that it didn’t fight being picked up off the ground and being petted. The camper took this as a sign that the HAWK loved him and they now belonged together, which included sharing the tent. The relationship ended when the tipped-off Animal Shelter crew located the sluggish patient after a 2 day search and re-located the RED-tailed HAWK to the perfect place: The Native Animal Rescue (NAR) Center. Their record of raptor rescues is incredibly impressive as are all their native animals re-hap achievements. Of course I called Eve Egan, one of the kind NAR souls, to get an update about the ‘famous’ HAWK thanks to KSBW airing its story. She told me that it was a juvenile RED-tailed HAWK, probably hatched this year, that it was still sluggish, undernourished and eating well. I asked if the HAWK’s behavior could be due to ingesting a rat poisoned prey. She said they couldn’t tell, but that was a possibility ~ the next few days were crucial for its health success. BTW: the NAR website posted a very informative video about rat poison and  its wildlife effects. The BEST wasn’t happy to learn about the state of their chosen mascot. They did feel encouraged that the HAWK was eating and took its appetite as a good omen.

adult RED-tailed HAWK perched across from juv. HAWK

I’ll keep you updated about our river RED-tailed HAWK and just in case you like to spend time in nature then this might appeal to you:
The Estuary Project invites YOU to join us for 2 hours on
Saturday, 18th – from 9am-11am
We suggest that you bring gloves, sturdy shoes, hat & water.
WHERE?
River path – south of Riverside Ave. bridge above San Lorenzo Blvd. across from the Budget Hotel

welcoming calm, vast emptiness…

Greetings to all you Nature Enjoyers,

male MERGANSER cruising by….

This time of year the river is teaming with a wide array of bird vignettes, that raise your curiosity and make you chuckle. You’ll discover that time ran like sand through your fingers while you were watching the river migratory arrivals. You’ll take a ton of photos of empty water surface or mysterious shapes, because the diving ducks were quicker than your trigger finger. The other morning I allowed myself the freedom to let my senses to disconnect my active mind and create that refreshing space of calm, vast emptiness, which Nature’s creatures filled with quirky episodes. And so my journey through that magic realm began: I had finished watering the new native plants and noticed that there was no bird activity in the water nor the bushes. The low tide offered the shore and wading birds long stretches of enticing shorelines, yet there were none ~ not even one SNOWY EGRET. I scanned the Trestle trees, hoping to see either the OSPREY or the PEREGRINE Falcon, but neither one was gracing their preferred bare branch.

8 of 15 SNOWY EGRETS…

Just as I was thinking: ” Where is everybody?” a SNOWY EGRET landed on a rock right below me with its crest feathers going in every directions. The white beauty had the bad feather-do quickly under control ~ just in time to squawk annoyed at its cousin, who got unnerved by that unfriendly welcome and kept sliding off its hoped for perch, ending up in the water. The next savvy newcomer landed a save distance from the other two. It was amazing to witness Nature decorate the shoreline below me with 15 SNOWY EGRETS in less than 10 minutes! In the meantime the water surface in front of me had gotten busy with BUFFLEHEADS, COMMON GOLDENEYES, PIED-billed GREBES, PELAGIC CORMORANT. Some were doing their social rounds, intermingling for a short while with other groups before visiting the adjacent ‘feather folks’. Others just couldn’t stop their diving – one second there gone the next – to pop up again in a totally different spot.

male COMMON GOLDENEYE trying to impress one of the “Three Sisters”…

It was a kick to watch the ‘Three Sisters’. These 3 female COMMON GOLDENEYES ladies clearly enjoyed each others company. If any other diving duck approached, they either disappeared below the water surface or swam away in unison. A male COMMON GOLDENEYE couldn’t get it through his head that the ‘Three Sisters’ weren’t enthralled by his handsome feather attire. Finally the ladies ditched him with an extremely long dive…Scanning the other river shore showed the SPOTTED SANDPIPER foraging eagerly at its prime location. This little river resident’s priority was clearly food. It dashed up and down the shoreline, never once stopping or lifting its head. The grand finale was hearing the OSPREY call, then see her circle the Trestle trees, land on her beloved branch and hear an OSPREY response call close by. Maybe one day my wish will come true: the OSPREY couple will successfully build a nest at the lower San Lorenzo River.

Malia and Ivan…

Last Saturday we had 1 scheduled and 1 unexpected visitor at the Estuary Project day. Malia, our CityServe liaison extraordinaire, had planned to swing by so that we finally could meet in person. Thanks to her guidance my necessary paperwork looks mighty fine. She quickly became a part of our small team plus she offered to help plant Toyon bushes. It was Malia, who introduced us to the unexpected visitor with the remark: ” Watch out – there is a huge spider!”. She was not exaggerating ~ it was astonishingly big and beautiful.

unexpected visitor: Banded Garden Spider…

None of us had any clue who we were starring at since none of us had ever encountered a Banded Garden Spider. We picked it up and put it in a cozy place. BTW: Should you ever meet one you’ll probably agree with Malia’s remark…
Sending you River Chirps and Cheer ~ jane