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…
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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

HAPPY RIVER VALENTINE…

Good Morning Barbara and Fellow Nature Lovers,

Valentine greetings from the Trestle…

Valentine’s Day will be celebrated this week and I send you all ‘Happy Valentine’ chirps. Traditionally we express your love to your 2 legged heart’s choice on this occasion. Since I have the enduring tendency to adjust customs and traditions to my liking, I take Valentine’s Day as a red opportunity to decorate one of my passions with some kind of action. As you guessed correctly: Nature is my choice. So on the morning of the 14th I’ll decide on my caring action. I enjoy the combination of the spontaneous Valentine’s expression and the planned demonstrations for my 2 legged choices.
I want to let you know that our ongoing ‘Estuary Project’ will happen on SAT. 16th from 9 am-11 am. We welcome you to join us for restoration work on the San Lorenzo River banks. Like more info? Then click on ‘San Lorenzo River Estuary Project’.

GREAT HORNED OWL-googled

You are not going to believe, who Gillian and I heard on Thursday at 8:30pm by the County building! A GREAT HORNED OWL, hooting in the dark. Then Gillian saw it fly to the window ledge, barely visible in the dark. By then I was hooting and hollering with delight, because for years I heard the rumor that we have OWLS along the river. The GREAT HORNED OWL flew up to the corner ledge, where its silhouette show up better and hooted for the other one to come on over. After a minute of hoot coaxing the other GREAT HORNED OWL flew in, they had a lengthy hoot discussing until one had enough of the cold concrete, flew to the top of the tree and continued hooting from its pleasing setting. Gillian commented that the OWLS were probably missing the County building trees, which I am sure they are.

CROW enjoying the closed Trestle path…

On Sunday I checked on the construction progress of the Trestle path. It looks like the work is proceeding slowly. The only visible changes are the wood covered rail ties, the beginning demolition of the East path, Trestle conjuncture and the installation of a horizontal projecting beam. I am curious if only the rains and storms are to blame for the downtempo pace or if other issues are at play as well. I am eagerly awaiting the installation of the net, which will protect the river from any falling construction debris. In the meantime I am keeping my fingers crossed that none of the Eucalyptus trees will be removed!

SANDERLINGS here to stay…

The SANDERLINGS have become regular shore guests and the gulls have gotten used to their presence. When the little puff balls-on-busy-legs first arrived, the gulls were peeved hosts. The much bigger birds spent useless time chasing the agile little ones down the sandbank. The speedy SANDERLINGS would dodge the giants easily while still foraging. Now I see the two species calmly feed side by side. I love to figure out how and why this shift occurred. I doubt that the birds are the same individuals throughout this shift, so how and why did the gulls’ behavior change and why did the skittish SANDERLINGS remain so unperturbed?

male MALLARD checking out BLACK TURNSTONE…

MALLARDS are water grazer and their feeding pace is similar to the land grazers: eat here a little, check out that spot over there, clean a little, rest a lot, etc. So when I saw 4 MALLARDS zooming across the river, aiming towards a spot under the Trestle trees, they had my attention. I checked that cliff area and saw what I thought was a TOWHEE at the waterline, but when 2 more appeared, I had doubts, because more than 2 TOWHEES in close vicinity is ultra rare. Looking more carefully the mistaken birds turned into migratory BLACK TURNSTONES, who only breed in coastal sedge marshes in western Alaska. I didn’t expect that the river visitors were the MALLARDS’ destination, but they were! All 4 MALLARDS decelerated at the waterline, climbed slowly on the rocks and took turns checking out the new shoreline additions.

female MALLARD inspecting BLACK TURNSTONE….

The BLACK TURNSTONES kept moving around, totally at ease with the MALLARDS’ inspection. The MALLARDS came to the consensus that the new ‘kids’ on the shore were okay and started a little nibbling here and there. When I walked by again, they were still enjoying each other’s company.
Happy Valentine to you all,
jane ❣

transitioning together…

Good Morning Barbara and riveted River Friends,

The low shrubs and the tall Eucalyptus trees, lining the path to the Trestle bridge, mirror the desolate path over the river since the area was fenced off. Not only was the life rhythm changed for us humans, who regular used the path, but clearly our frequent feathered critters are effected as well.

shy SANDERLINGS enjoying no path noise…

The little SPOTTED SANDPIPER, who usually could be seen foraging under the bridge along the Cliff shore, has been absent shortly after the barrier appeared. The Trestle trees have been void of the once familiar sight of the OSPREY, RED-shouldered, RED-tailed HAWK and PEREGRINE FALCON. The SONG, White-crowned, GOLDEN-crowned SPARROWS are not flitting through the path trees and bushes. Missing are twitters of the busy YELLOW-rumped WARBLERS and BUSHTITS, who used to harvest their food there. Nor has the TOWNSEND’S WARBLER frequented that area. The ANNA’s HUMMINGBIRD in residence is still present and feeds on the recently opened Eucalyptus blossoms. There are less COMMON GOLDENEYES and BUFFLEHEADS under the bridge and its vicinity. I find this bird behavior change fascinating, because the path construction hasn’t even started yet. So far the only work activity has been across the river on the Boardwalk side. I am surprised to observe that the erection of the fence triggered a modified bird movement, which I expected when the heavy construction work gets activated on the bridge. Are the repeat foraging guests already sensing, responding to the onslaught on their habitat? That wouldn’t surprise me, because I believe that wildlife is much smarter than we give them credit for. For the last 2 weeks I have noticed that the shy SANDERLING flock is preferring the cliff shore under the bridge, which they previously avoided. They seem to relish the lack of traffic noise from above. Yesterday I watched the flock work their way slowly upstream towards the bridge with the SPOTTED SANDPIPER in tow. The tag-along drew the line in the shore as they got close to the bridge. The little shorebird turned around and commenced with its perpetual solitary foraging. Isn’t nature riveting?

ANNA’s HUMMINGBIRD in the Trestle shrubs…

The early morning hazy ether suddenly carried TERN screeches to the river point. I couldn’t locate them because the haze made their white bodies invisible above the water. Finally I orientate myself on their hunting water splashes. This allowed for brief glimpses of their bodies ascending, but I was never able to see their markings clearly, so I have no idea if they were ELEGANT, FOSTERS or CASPIAN TERNS. After a few minutes their screeches and dive splashes stopped abruptly. was their quick, ghost-like appearance was just a brief stop-over on their migratory journey?
After the storms, when the ocean was still showing off their turbulent waves, a WESTERN GREBE decided to check out the comparatively calm river water. Two others arrived at the same idea and for the next few days the 3 of them enjoyed their river stay. I am always amazed how long they can dive and they never ever re-surface where you expect them to show up again.

WESTERN GREBE taking a break in the river from the wild ocean…

I couldn’t believe it when I saw a CROW with a branch in it’s beak! It’s a sign that spring is in the air, nesting is on the horizon and new little additions will open up our hearts to life’ s miracles.
So until next time enjoy watching the magic of spring arrive, jane

birds in the rain & ‘Nature bathing’

Good Morning Barbara and Nature Bathers,

Rainy season always vividly demonstrates the different behavior of land birds versus waterfowl. My rain approach mimics the land bird precipitation attitude: it’s best to avoid get soaked. I see them huddle together in the protective bushes. Their feathers fluffed up to keep warm as they wait for a rain break. I can tell a break is coming up when the ground-feeders start coming out to feed on seeds. The insect flyers are not so willing to come out for their insect chase while drops are still falling. As soon as the rain eases up, the bush, tree insect eaters start scurrying through the foliage. These distinct actions illustrate the diverse food sources of the various bird species. When there is a vegetation balance then there is a varied assortment of food available and in turn the birds keep the insects in check.

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LESSER GOLDFINCHES feeding on seeds…

The longer I work on the Estuary Restoration Project the more I notice which bird species is lacking food sources on the levee and we plant natives accordingly. Presently I am on a mission to replenish the lost toyon bush trees, because I noticed that the beautiful Cedar-waxed Wings flock had finished off the few berries in no time. It’s interesting to see them fly to the areas where there used to be toyon berries waiting for them in the winter and fall. After observing one too many times the flock head for their old food source patches, make a brief dip and fly on, I am determined to make a positive change for them. You might like to join us making this change at our next Estuary Project day on Sat. 19th from 9-11am at the Riverside Ave. bridge. Click for more info.

The river birds are not perturbed by the rain. They pursue their diving, foraging, meandering  life as the wetness from the sky showers on them. Then again they are used to having their lower body wet all the time…

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PIED-billed GREBE devouring a crab…

Monday morning the river point welcomed me with a fierce, gusty wind, which gave me instantly teary blurred vision through which I peeked at the whipped up ocean and a few flying birds. It was eerie to see the gull bare river shore. One gull flew in, briefly touched down and took of again. The flying birds, who braved the wind, did a lot of sideway drifting, obviously unable to keep their wished for course. I didn’t see one bird on the turbulent ocean surface.

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empty gull shore…

Land and water birds lay low during heavy winds for obvious reasons. Many ocean birds seek shelter on the river during storms and some show wing injuries, which often heal, spending time in the river.P1150409.JPG

The Trestle path is now fenced off. The only construction related activity I have seen has been the big equipment vehicle trying to maneuver the sharp turn up the Boardwalk ramp. It looked like that attempt failed. Meanwhile I am trying to adjust to missing my familiar Trestle path observations spots, not meeting my cherished levee compadres, not visiting with my feathered friends at our customary time and place. Right now I am a drifter, exploring new river routes, so I can still ‘bath’ in Nature, which is like the old Japanese tradition of ‘forest bathing’. This practice promotes balancing out the social, urban living with its crushing impacts and ‘forest bathing’ is considered a form of medicine. I can see the specific benefits of this tradition and I also know that any ‘bathing’ in any of Nature’s territory has a healing effect on many people. How can we not feel refreshed watching a SPOTTED SANDPIPER taking a rigorous bath?P1020490.JPGExploration greetings to all you Nature bathers, jane

fractions have values…

Good Morning Barbara and Nature Lovers,

glorious sunset view from the San Lorenzo River point…

On Saturday I was checking on our newly homed plants by Laurel St. bridge. I was happy to see that they were doing quite well. Of course I wasn’t so happy to see a man and his dog take a short cut through our restoration area, obviously unaware of the baby plants…lesson learned: mark the planting zone more clearly!!
Walking to the next plant section, I watched 4 fishermen unsuccessfully fly-fishing. The empty lines weren’t surprising since the steelhead count is down this year. Earlier I had seen the OSPREY flying low over the fishermen, heading downstream. She was in hunting mode: turning her head side to side, scanning the water for fish. I wondered if she would be able to catch anything with the fishermen blocking her usual hunting grounds. As it turned out, she scored! She returned with a fine catch in her talons, circled twice over the fishermen, who never looked up and missed the testimony of her fine hunting skills. She decided that she was done with the oblivious fellow hunters, flew over to the high Boardwalk ride and devoured her big meal.

OSPREY eating her catch…

The little episode amused me, because so much life happens around us and we only witness a fraction of it. This humbling experience accompanies us birder on every outing and we grin and bear it. We know that we might miss a rare bird sighting as we stare at movement in the dense foliage, which turns out to be a wind rustled leaf.

WESTERN SANDPIPERS amongst A. COOTS…

Then again, I enjoy my fragments: I was watching the WESTERN SANDPIPERS by the trestle cliff rocks, negotiating their foraging path through the unyielding AMERICAN COOTS flock, when suddenly they all exploded into every directions. Had I kept an eye on the Trestle trees, where I had seen the perched PEREGRINE earlier, then I would have caught sight of its plunge for a meal. Instead I watched it return empty taloned to its branch while the agitated A. COOTS were treading water in the middle of the river and the WESTERN SANDPIPERS had disappeared in search of safer shores. Across the river the small BONAPARTE’s gull had only briefly raised its head during the entire turmoil and busily resumed its foraging. A CROW watched the drama quietly from the phone pole without bursting into its usual bombing fit.

Trestle path closure sign…

It was sitting right above City sign, announcing the start of the Trestle path construction, which makes me misty, raises and ruffles my bird protection feathers. Yes, I am concerned that the raptors, falcon, CORMORANTS hunting perches/grounds are going to be impacted for at least 5 months, which will interfere with their feeding, life cycles. The river is their home and the trestle trees are the only high perches along the river edge, which these birds require for their hunting flights and roosting times. If these species feel displaced then they will try new territory, where they will intrude on other birds habitats and decrease food sources and life cycles for all. I know that the birds well being plays second fiddle in the construction scheme and therefore I feel misty for the COOPER, RED-tailed, RED-shouldered HAWKS, the OSPREYS, the PEREGRINES and the CORMORANTS…

PEREGRINE perched on TRESTLE tree branch…

As I was puzzling over the BONAPARTE and CROW behavior, worried about the Trestle tree birds I almost tripped over the brazen YELLOW-rumped WARBLER on the path. It was watching my approach, clearly pleased by my common sense to stop advancing and continued pecking on the ground. My good birding behavior was rewarded with a view of the bright yellow patch on top of its head.

meeting little YELLOW-rumped WARBLER…

A cyclist interrupted our tête-à-tête and a tiny, quick moving bird caught my attention, dashing around in a levee bush next to the path. Its olive-brown body blended right into the vegetation and I had a hard time id-ing it. Then the sun ignited the ruby head spot and I knew it was a RUBY-crowned KINGLET. Both species are migratory birds, whose wintering area stretches all the way down to Mexico.
Thanks to the Sierra Club members, who sent in their ballots. If you haven’t yet then you can still mail it before the extended 1/12/19 deadline.
I wish you all a very Happy New Year and may 2019 bring you fulfilling abundance, jane

BLACK PHOEBE’s abundance…

setting it straight…

Good Morning Barbara and Fellow River Meanderers,

As you can see: there are no photos in this post, because the apple giant crashed my iPhoto. Consequently this post is different, because I decided to tidy up loose ends and loop back to previously promised info. So wish me luck to get iPhoto back up and yes! in the meantime I’ll be biting my nails.

I want you, our readers, to know that your post comments matter a lot. Your feedback, update information add a lively dimension to our reporting. They are a wonderful way of connecting with you and let other readers share your scoop like these 2 inputs for this post:
As it turns out that I was wrong, when I wishfully wrote: “This is pretty exciting because it indicates that this fish returned to spawn upstream.” in my post ‘steelhead,snakes, migratory arrivals….’ Our fish expert reader pointed out that “ The 363mm re-captured steelhead was not an adult yet. It has been growing since it was first captured. It may have spent time in the lagoon/estuary and even in the Bay since then. Juveniles may grow quite large in the estuary/lagoon, where food is abundant. Most adult steelhead return from the ocean in late fall through spring to spawn, usually at 500 – 600 mm FL or larger. They go upstream as far as they can into their natal streams to spawn.”
Also my excitement ‘about Bayta’s rare San Francisco Garter Snake find‘ received her caution revision: “I consulted with a local naturalist, who he said it could have been a common garter snake that has a red form. Technically I guess the San Francisco garter snake is a sub-species of the common garter snake and are actually genetically identical but have some separation of territories. It’s not impossible it was a SF garter but they do not usually live south of San Mateo. The only way to tell them apart is the size of face plates … I guess the scales.”
I was talking with my birding friend from FT. Bragg about our annual Santa Cruz County bird count that took place last Saturday. She told me that the BRANDT CORMORANTS parents in her area didn’t feed their fledglings. None of the offspring survived and the birders have no explanation for that occurrence. What really stunned me was that this year no BRANDT CORMORANTS have been reported in our County. Of course I wonder if these 2 incidences are related? And what a difference a year makes: 6 PINE SISKINS were spotted this year while 370 were counted last year. Where are those cute little birds?
The Santa Cruz Water Rights Project is a complex issue. It involves many local, State and Federal agencies. The City proposes an increase of year-round diversion at Felton and to include Tait Street in the Project. The concern is that this proposal can potentially reduce the crucial habitat between Felton and Santa Cruz during the summer and dry years. Furthermore the proposed maximum diversion rates at both locations could result in more fluctuation of the lagoon/ estuary levels, impacting steelhead, salmon and bird population. It is hard to assess the Project, which references to the Conservation Plan, which is 18 years late of being completed. The Environmental Committee of the Valley Women’s Club stated in their comment letter that they have concerns about the assessment of population and housing growth on page 32. Their reason is: even if annual water extraction is not increased, the city will be able to extract more during dry and drought years. This will thus increase the available water during those years, with the potential to allowing greater population growth. This brings into question the assertion that, “The Proposed Project would not increase the City’s overall water supply to accommodate growth.” – Like I said before: This is a complex issue and I’ll keep you updated!

I wish you all a very chirpy Holiday Season and a Happy New Year with lots of wonderful river walks. Also cheers to our Sierra Club readers, who will be sending in their ballots before Jan. 12th(new deadline) for their ExCom candidates choices. jane