missing & discovering…

Good Morning Barbara and all you other Nature Snugglers,

I didn’t read that article you were referring to in your last post, Barbara, therefore I appreciated your grant updates and insights. We all learned a lot thanks to you. The fish most certainly don’t need more lights shining into the river. It sounds like we’ll be busy at the public meetings for the plan design should the City receive the grant.

EARED GREBE with AMERICAN COOT…

Has anybody else noticed the absence of our usual river winter migrants? I keep hoping to see more petit-ish HORNED and EARED GREBES performing their rapid dives, that drive any photographer out of their minds. This season we have a record of 1 EARED GREBE, who stayed for a short while. And were are the elegant, well sized WESTERN and CLARK’S GREBES? Have you been missing their royal float-by as they watch you on the levee? So far I haven’t had that thrill of catching sight of the slender RED-throated LOON moseying on the river.

No RED-throated Loon on the river this year…

Thinking that I just happened to be at the river at the wrong time, I checked the e-bird Hotspot for the San Lorenzo River to see if other birders recorded better winter migrant results. Looking at the reports it became obvious that the other birders didn’t have any better luck then me. The BUFFLEHEAD and GOLDENEYE count is way down as well. Frankly I have never seen so few winter migratory species visit our river. It’s time to find out if they are lollygagging on other waterbodies or if they just didn’t arrive this winter season.
I love that “Wait!~ what is that?” moment when I scan the river landscape. That odd shape among the rocks on the other side. That flicker of light catching in the bird’s feathers in the tule. The quick leaf movement in the bush as a bird nibbles on the delicious bugs. These moments of discovering that the rock is actually a GREAT BLUE HERON preening its feathers and that the light flicker was caused by a GREEN HERON are magic micro reminders of Nature’s abundance, ready to be enjoyed at any time.

GREAT BLUE HERON blending in with the rocks…

The rain has been taking care of the Estuary Project plants we have put in at the path by the Trestle bridge. The area is doing nicely and the rice straw is behaving well: it’s staying in place in spite of the strong winds we have had. We are experimenting with straw as mulch, because it allows the ground insects, such as ground bees, easy access to the soil. We decided to try this approach in the hope of supporting the declining insect population, which deserves all the help we can offer. After all insects play a vital part in the ecosystems and feed many critters. We have been ‘liberating’ the established Toyon bushes from encroaching branches of neighbor bushes and trees. That pruning resulted in more winter berries for the CEDAR WAXWINGS, who cleaned the red Toyon fruit off their stems within a week. This year there was an increase of CEDAR WAXWINGS sightings along the river, so it looks like our Estuary Project efforts are literally and successfully bearing fruit. This coming Saturday is our fun work day and we love to have you join us. For more info.: click here
May Nature’s gifts expand your heart, jane

Cedar Waxwings resting after stripping Toyon berries off the stems…

Nature gifts us her masterpieces…

Good Morning Barbara and all you Nature Celebrators,

early morning CANADA GEESE saunter…

Standing early at the river point, I hear their honking in the distance, knowing that any moment their bodies will be visible in the sky, disclosing their flight intent. From my observation these big birds fly in loose formation when they are out for a fly-saunter such as a new, close by feeding site. The leisure outings seem to require a lot of loud honks. When they are ready to cover greater distance they fall into wing for that famous CANDA GEESE ‘V’ alignment that involves less honks until it comes to the landing when heated honking breaks loose. Listening to their reverberating sound exchange I expected to see a loose arrangement line, which turned out to be case. 10 Canada Geese flew over me, touched down upstream and their loud landing proclamation guided 5 more to the chosen location. 

I bet you all gained great Christmas count insights from Barbara’s report. Peripherally many of you have noticed a change in bird presence and/or their behavior, so the count helps to document these alterations. Any of you are welcome to join us for the next Christmas count.

SNOWY PLOVER warming up in the morning sun…

I want to address a Facebook post that was about a loose, owner less dog racing around on the State Beach chasing SNOWY PLOVERS, who are experiencing a population decline. The Seabright Beach used to filled with SNOWY PLOVERS, cuddling in the early mornings in any sand indentations, waiting for the sun to warm them up. For a long time they disappeared and in the last 2 years, we have recorded the return of a few.

dog chasing SNOWY PLOVERS…

So if any of you know this dog and its owner, please let me know, because I want to tell the owner that any chased bird has to spend a size specific amount of energy to escape, which depletes the bird’s resources, who then has has to feed more to make up for the depletion, reducing its necessary resting and decreasing the already compromised food sources. I plan to have a good interaction, because I know that as residents and beach goers we love and enjoy what Nature gifts us and in return we have to take pride in how we caringly steward our gifts.

not an EAGLE…

I came early to prep for our monthly Estuary Project day, which got waylaid because I just had to check on the birds…big time consuming mistake! There was a large bird high up in the Trestle trees, which looked odd and requiring some deciphering time~ after all it might be an EAGLE visiting the river. After looking at it from various angels, a part of the large bird moved up the branch, disclosing itself as the PEREGRINE and the other, remaining part was its breakfast draped over a branch fork, whose legs dangled down. Prior to the move, both were positioned in a way that they looked like 1 bird. After that discovery, I hustled to catch up on the prep work, leaving the PEREGRINE to its meal. I just love my volunteers!

awesome volunteers taking a Holiday bustle break…

Here 11 amazing volunteers had gathered at 9am on a Saturday morning in the midst of the Holiday bustle, a few days before Christmas, eager to get native plants into the ground, spreading straw and enjoying each others company. For the last 3 years each one of the Estuary Project volunteers has added a special something to the levee habitats and I am grateful to have worked with each one. So here is to the many Estuary Project participants: Humongous Thanks for your time and efforts that resulted in the mighty impressive Estuary Project success!

SPOTTED SANDPIPER on the rock throne…

The ever busy, little SPOTTED SANDPIPER took time out to chase off the other SPOTTED SANDPIPER, who temporally had forgotten that its place was on the downstream cliff boulders from the Trestle bridge. For months the upstream terrain owner had tried to make it crystal clear that no buts and ifs would change that set-up, flying home its point by determined, wild, high speed pursuits. The other SPOTTED SANDPIPER quickly retreated, leaving the satisfied terrain trainer on its rock throne.

OSPERY greeting the morning…

The critters like to remind the Sierra Club members to be sure to send in their ballots before Jan. 12 deadline and thank the members, who voted for Erica and I.

I wish all of you a Happy New Year and may your 2020 year be sprinkled with many heart warming Nature gifts, jane

tyrants & drift…

Good Morning Barbara and Fellow Nature Cheerleaders,

The other morning I decided to brave the cold, wet morning weather, because I just had to treat my eyes to the ocean and river vista. After a few days of rained out river visits the magnetic call to the water bodies won out. So there I stood, rain soaked pants, wet eyes glasses, wind blown, taking in the wild ocean and river, feeling elated by the view. It was surprising to see very little drift wood on the beaches. Usually the strong storms litter the shoreline with all sizes of wood debris, turning beach-goers into happy driftwood collectors as they fantasize about their future craft projects. Instead there were huge kelp piles lining the sand-line. The gulls were harvesting the kelp for food, protecting their patch with screeching at any other gull intruder.

kelp only on sand-line~no driftwood…

I really appreciated your supportive words for Erica’s and my candidacy for the Sierra Club Executive Committee elections. We are both strong voices for the rights of the environment to be considered for any project’s decision and planning phase. Some see that as obstruction, which I find ironic, because not including the environment concerns into decision making got us into the current environment mess…If you are a Sierra Club member then Erica and I encourage you to read our statements, which hopefully will gain your vote approval for us. You birders might enjoy hearing that the Santa Cruz Bird Club supports voting for me, which is a chirpy honor.

puffed up migrant tyrant…

During a brief rain break I saw the feisty SAY’S PHOEBE perching on a bush twig, all puffed up and motionless, which is uncommon for this little migrant tyrant, who arrived a couple months ago. The resident BLACK PHOEBE fell out of its bushes when the SAY’S PHOEBE showed up in its terrain. It tried to explain that its presence wasn’t welcomed whatsoever by insistently chasing and bomb-diving the SAY’S PHOEBE, who was not deterred by these affronts. Instead it literally took the species family name ‘Tyrant Flycatcher’ to new heights: it would zoom high above the BLACK PHOEBE then plummet itself at its cousin, pursue it relentlessly, not allowing the local tuxedo bird to rest anywhere in its beloved terrain.

BLACK PHOEBE in tuxedo..

Lately I have not seen the BLACK PHOEBE, but the SAY’S PHOEBE is now present all the time. PHOEBES earned their family name by being tremendously territorial, so I imagine the BLACK PHOEBE is counting the days until this intrusive migrant bully flies back to its northern breeding grounds.

heading out to sea…

I was watching a feather navigating the rapid river flow as it was being dragged out to the open sea, when I noticed the male MERGANSER with a female in tow. I was surprised to see him decked out in his breeding outfit. I hope these 2 didn’t get their breeding dates mixed-up!

isn’t this the wrong time of year for the breeding outfit?

I like to invite you to join us at the Estuary Project. It takes place this Saturday- 21st- from 9am-11am at the Trestle bridge by the Boardwalk parking lot. We’ll be planting natives, spreading straw, liberating natives from their dead wood and have a good time hanging out together. Click here for more details.
Wishing you all a peaceful Merry Holiday Season and Happy Nature Bathing, jane

……..PEACE…..

busy river scrutiny…

Good Morning Barbara & all you Fellow Nature Admirers,

seal dreaming of annoying the OSPREY…

As you recall our Estuary Project had achieved finding new homes for native plants by the Trestle path. For the past 12 days I have been hand-watering them, tying them over until the expected rain could soak their roots better thoroughly. I was inspecting the plants when I the hovering shape appeared above me, which I wrote off as a gull, seeking river shelter from the arriving storm. Then the flash raced through my head that gulls don’t hover flapping their wings, so a closer look turned the gull into an OSPREY, scrutinizing something in the water. I assumed that it was hunting, getting ready for his lighting fast plunge to catch a fish, but he kept flying off, circle back and hover over the same spot. I was curious what was holding the OSPREY’s attention and so edged closer to the river bank. And there was a seal, watching the bird angler in the air. I figured neither one was excited sharing the fish breakfast table with the other one. The staring contest continued for a while until the seal slowly descended under the water surface and the OSPREY flew upriver.

the cause of my roller coaster emotions…

A few days later I was down at the Mike Fox Skatepark, frustrating myself with examining the damage the tent campers had done to the vegetation in that area. I am dealing with a situation that has taken me on a roller coaster ride of a wide range of emotions. The reason for my quandary is: community volunteers and houseless members of the Downtown Street Team have restored that site for months with native plants and liberated some of the overgrown, neglected naive plant survivors. We were all happy and proud of the plants for responding so well with new growth. Then the campers moved in and either cut down the plants to make a smoother sleeping surface or crushed the plants by storing their belongings on them. I have asked them to please not damage the vegetation, with the result that my request was ignored and more vegetation was damaged. Asking Rangers to help explain to the campers that they were damaging public property got me nowhere and resulted in the appearance of 2 additional tents. Now I was looking at 5 tents, the bare banks, which are eroding quickly due to lost vegetation, heavy foot traffic and the current rains. The financial $1000 loss of the plant expenses is hard to take, but what sends me through the roof is the waste of all our volunteer work, which were many hours of dedicated restoration efforts. Your last post was a heartwarming report about the dilemma of the houseless population, which is, without question, intensely horrible. I am well aware that houseless people vary just like family and neighbors: some are great to get along with and some hear a different drum. These campers hear a drum that hurts the environment, which I find hard to deal with.

migratory YELLOW-rumped WARBLER keeping an eye on me…

Yesterday there was a short rain break, which allowed for a dry river visit and watching the birds eagerly dashing around for food. The shy YELLOW-rumped WARBLER dared to come out into the open, pecking at some goodies on the path while keeping an attentive eye on me.

rain soaked PEREGRINE…

The wet PEREGRINE and RED-tailed HAWK were sitting in the Trestle trees, ignoring each other, because preening their soaked plumage took up all their beak time. 5 DOUBLE-crested CORMORANTS were taking advantage of the rain break. Perched on a cliff rock, they were spreading their wings wide open in the hope to dry them out. The river level is high and the water flows rapidly, making the AMERICAN COOTS swim sideways when they attempt to cross the river. The rain started again, sending me home enriched with river observations that feed my soul.

proposed Front St Project…

You might be interested in the public scoping/content meeting for the Front St. project, which is the 7 story high development adjacent to the river, current location of Santa Cruz Community Credit Union, India Joze’s, University Copy Service businesses. The meeting will address the environmental information to be included in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The development has received little community attention since it’s not affecting any residential neighborhood. Yet this project will impact the character of Santa Cruz as well as the river habitats.
The meeting takes place:
Wednesday, December 4, 2019 at 5:30p.m. at the Louden Nelson Center, Multi-purpose Room, at 301 Center Street in Santa Cruz.
http://www.cityofsantacruz.com/government/city-departments/planning-and-community-development/active-planning-applications-and-status/front-st-riverfront-apartments

Sending you river love greetings, jane

river life styles…

Good Morning Barbara and Fellow Nature Lovers,

OSPREY & CORMORANTS sharing Trestle trees…

That’s so great , Barbara, that you came downriver and got to schmooze with ‘my’ feathered friends. Although there isn’t a great distance between the Estuary and Riverine stretches, their fauna and flora are worlds apart. Your upstream Riverine section is thickly vegetated while downstream is an open area, which makes birdwatching more accessible. Whenever I stroll through your terrain I always suspect that I only see a fraction of the birds and the rest remain little mysteries, hiding in the bushes.

the male COMMON GOLDENEYES are here…

Well, the male COMMON GOLDENEYES arrived and brought with them an electric energy. The females no longer leisurely forage, visit the BUFFLEHEAD flock occasionally, join the AMERICAN COOTS for a little swim-along. That life style went down the river and has been replaced with lots of fast and furious diving by both sexes, raising their bodies out of the water, throwing their heads back, short spurt take offs and splashy landings. The water is literally churning around the COMMON GOLDENEYES flock. The BUFFLEHEADs across the river are hard at work mimicking the COMMON GOLDENEYES. That fascinated me, because they hadn’t exhibited that conduct prior to the male GOLDENEYES’ arrival. Usually the BUFFLEHEADS and GOLDENEYES display this kind of behavior shortly before they migrate back to their northern breeding grounds.
For the last week I have been spending a lot of time down by the Trestle bridge, outlining the work for the Estuary Project day. What a different bird experience that was compared to walking! I became aware of the birds’ life nuances and listened to their varied sounds with which they communicated. I learned that the PEREGRINE rules over the Trestle trees and that the CORMORANTS and OSPREY abide the Falcon’s orders. If the approaching OSPREY received one short, sharp call then she was permitted to land on the lower bare branch, two calls meant landing in the trees was denied and there were no buts and ifs about that. The PEREGRINE would resort to bomb diving the OSPREY until she left. Sometimes she circle, pretending to fly off and return the back way to a tree at the end of the grove. The CORMORANTS would loudly protest the orders, circle the trees and settle for the uncomfortable perches, huddling close together, muttering complaints deep down their throats. There were times when the PEREGRINE could have cared less who was sharing the trees and the OSPREY, RED-shouldered HAWK, CORMORANTS, KINGFISHER took advantage of it, resting peacefully in the sun.

COMMON MERGANSER gliding upstream…

And then there were the two COMMON MERGANSERS, floating around by the Trestle, obviously not interested in each other. One would drift by, heading upstream and a little later the other one would glide downstream. It is surprising to see them hang out separately since they prefer a flock life style.

the mighty Estuary Project volunteer team…

We got a lot done on our Estuary Project Saturday thanks to the Aptos High Girl Soccer Teams, DST Members and Community volunteers, including Robin, who interrupted his morning walk to carry plants for me. The girls tackled all the tasks with vim and vigor and did amazing work. Many of the girls had never done restoration work before and I was impressed how open they were to that new experience. It was a joy to see such a big group of people working together for the benefit of the river habitat, which will make the critters happy.
Cheery chirps to all of you, jane

San Lorenzo River welcomes BUFFLEHEADS & GOLDENEYES…

Good Morning Barbara and all you Nature Enjoyers,

male BUFFLEHEAD & his harem…

As you know, I my vigilant eyes have roamed the river water surface in the hope to see the appearance of migratory waterfowl, especially the adorable BUFFLEHEADS. On October 29 my wait was rewarded with the sight of 1 male BUFFLEHEAD and his harem of 4 females in tow. They had the skittish behavior of newcomers, which meant that any perceived threat sent them under the water surface. This disappearance mania eases off as they get familiar with their winter neighborhood. The goosing PIED-billed GREBE obviously didn’t approve of the new crew: it circle the small flock, dive down and stay out of sight. All of the sudden the male BUFFLEHEAD would burst into a dash away from the females, but wouldn’t dive. I couldn’t make head or tail of these perplexing speed zooms until I noticed that the PIED-billed GREBE would pop up close to the male. After 4 repeats of this scenario, the male BUFFLEHEAD cleared the water decks, because he was fed up with the sneaky gooser and his devoted harem trailed behind him upriver. Do you think the PIED-billed GREBE knew he save himself some time by chasing off the male because the 4 females would follow him?

2 female GOLDENEYES joined the BUFFLEHEAD flock…

For the last 6 years I noticed that the female GOLDENEYES don’t subscribe to the BUFFLEHEAD harem concept, because they arrive before the males, who meander in approx. a week later, decorated in their stunning plumage. I watched the 2 female GOLDENEYES checking out the growing flock of 18 BUFFLEHEADS. After swimming back and forth on the other side of the river, they decided that it was okay to join their migratory cousins. Slowly they approached. The BUFFLEHEADS were agreeable to their company and the GOLDENEYES melted smoothly into the flock.

City is opening the river mouth…

The City opened the river mouth on October 28 and drained the water below 5’5″. It used to be that the City was careful to not let the water level go below 5’5″, because that height was established as beneficial for the fish. In the past I have seen Biologists with nets, pulling out fish at the opened river mouth, but not this time.

female OSPREY on her favorite branch…

There is something gentle and reassuring to see the same river birds in their familiar places. It creates a sense of affinity with these critters as I walk the levee. There is the tiny Anna’s Hummingbird that always buzzes me as a walk by the plum tree. Sometimes it comes so close that it seems to get ready to land on me. In the beginning I was worried that I was close too its nest, but I noticed that no other people were getting buzzed like me. The TOWHEE couple by the Boardwalk parking lot forage along the path. When a person approaches, they sound alarm and both flit into their hiding spot in their favorite elderberry bush. I see them peeking down at the people, waiting for them to pass, so that they can resume their food rummaging. The royal OSPREY in the Trestle trees peers down at me as I stare mesmerized up at her. I consider my ‘feathered regulars’ a part of my extended family and I am always happy to see them.
Be sure to come to the river and welcome our migratory winter guests, jane

steelhead bonaza, levee leak, new life…

Good Morning Barbara & fellow Nature Enjoyers,

Biologists checking their catch…

The City biologists finished seining for this year. As of the end of last month their boats and nets are no longer roving in the river. The 12 month seining cycle ended in September. Now the biologists are writing their reports and we have to wait until next July 1st to read their findings. It’s darn hard to wait that long and so I kibitz as much as I can while they seine. Since I was in fishing around for any information, I welcomed Zeke’s note that on 9/ 23 Coastal Watershed Council was hosting a seining talk of the City of Santa Cruz Water Department’s Watershed Section and Hagar Environmental Science. Chris Berry, the Watershed Compliance Manager, impressed us all with his engaging presentation.We couldn’t believe our ears when he told us that at their last seining at the Trestle bridge they counted over 10000 steelheads, which was the biggest haul in a long time. The good news was that these steelheads were predominately wild, who have a better ocean survival rate than the hatchery ones. It turns out that hatchery life doesn’t steel them for the ocean. The biologists are not certain why the count was so high this year. They expect that the late rain created a higher, steady river flow and had a positive effect on the spawning and rearing. Chris mentioned this interesting observation: the biologist had tagged some juveniles down river on their way to the ocean. Later in the season they found these juveniles again up the river, which indicates they did an atypical backtrack.
Finding the Pink Salmon in the San Lorenzo caused quiet the excitement, because it was the first time since 1914. Biologists are re-evaluating their lagoon perception: a closed river mouth was thought to be necessary for the steelhead to adjust to the ocean salt water, but the river mouth stayed open for most of the year, resulting in a very high steelhead count. It will be interesting to hear if fish behavior is being trolled by Climate Change.

spreading the net for seining…

It’s a good thing that Chris is familiar with my enthusiastic bird preoccupation, because he took it in good stride that his speech was interrupted by my excited outburst: “Look there are 2 HAWKS sitting in the Trestle trees!” The HAWKS stayed for the entire talk and provided me with the perfect visual background while I listened to Chris.

2 HAWKS listening to Chris…

I don’t have any current pictures for you, because my camera is sick in the lens, leaving me photo blink-less. There are so many times, when I miss not being able to capture an image, then again there is a simple pleasure in just staying with the unfolding moment: the hunt for that perfect photo is replaced by letting Nature unfurl. Since I do enjoy sharing river images with you, would you cross your fingers that my lens can be healed?
I am getting fidgety, because my beloved BUFFLEHEADS haven’t shown up yet. Every time I go to the river, I scan the water for their presence. You all be the first to know when I see them.
The Public Works Dept. seems to have a headache on their hands: the levee has a leak. Public Work staff and Company workers are taking measurements, discussing and walking back and forth on the levee across from Jessie St. Marsh. At this point they are in the process of figuring out how to deal with it. I am happy to report that so far the native plants haven’t been stepped on.

Monarch caterpillar feasting on native Milkweed…

That was pretty thrilling to see the plump Monarch Butterfly caterpillar devastate the leaves of the native Milkweed. A few days later it was gone, hopefully turning itself into a beautiful Monarch and testifying that our Estuary Project efforts are creating enriching wildlife habitat.

Milkweed seed pod: future life…

Sending you all river greetings, jane