The PEREGRINE and OSPREY are back!!!

Good Morning to you Nature Embracers and welcome back to Barbara,

You certainly hit the ground running after your time off: diving right into the annual Flood Control Work and its various issues. I can’t wait to read your observations on that topic and it’s good to have you back.

San Lorenzo River in 1965…

I am sure you all shudder looking at the above picture of the San Lorenzo River! Often people say that the present river is just a draining ditch. Personally I vehemently disagree and the old picture proves my point. Aren’t we all grateful that the river was liberated of its concrete ‘chains’ by dedicated people, who worked hard to find the best possible solutions? Can any of you imagine our life without this view?

San Lorenzo River in 2019…

The other day 2 Raptors were sitting side by side in the cypress tree close to the Kaiser Stadium. It was such a peaceful visual as they preened themselves, then taking in the scenery together. They were too far away for identification. Watching them I wonder if they had paired up to embark on their parenthood experience, because Raptors’ meet-ups and mating start around this time of year. It would be elating to have raptors nest by the river, wouldn’t it?

2 HAWKS enjoying each other’s company…

I was standing at the river point, scanning the trestle trees and my heart skipped a beat when I saw that beloved silhouette way up on the bare branch. I raced over to the trestle and the coveted sight was gone. Disappointed I made my way to the bridge, where I noticed small feathers raining down. Scanning the area I spotted my hoped for treasure: the PEREGRINE was back, eagerly devouring its meal on high voltage power pole. I was so happy to see the Falcon again after such a long time and felt sorry for the bird, to whom I offered my gratitude for sustaining the PEREGRINE’s life.

PEREGRINE eating breakfast…

Later that morning I was talking with my neighbor at the bridge when Jon, a river compadre, walked up. Right away he told me that he had finally seen the PEREGRINE again. My poor neighbor tried to make sense of our Falcon exchange since our words flew giddily back and forth, fueled by our excitement that the river PEREGRINE had returned. It didn’t help that we used short cut references to our previous conversations, which left my neighbor in the dark. We slowed down and explained why we were so enthusiastic. She was thrilled to learn that we had such a wonderful bird at the river since we told her more than she ever expected know about a PEREGRINE. The 3 of us parted with Falcon joy in our good-bye smiles.
That same morning I returned from watering the Estuary Project plants, where the butterfly was feeding on a blossom.

Monarch feeding on a blossom…

Jon saw me, waved and pointed up to the trestle trees. Instantly I stopped the car and found out that he had just spotted the OSPREY on its favorite branch. I knew Jon understood why I took off like lightening: I was on a mission to find ‘our’ OSPREY.

The river OSPREY has returned!

When my eyes found him, my whole being filled with happy relief: the beauty had reappeared after 10 months of absence. It was a special treat to watch him for a long time!! Going back to the car, I couldn’t find my keys…after searching around, it dawned on me that I had dashed off, leaving them in the ignition at a busy street…the bird spirits had watched over me: the car was waiting for me with the keys ready to go! What a wonderful, magically morning Nature had gifted me: the sightings of the elusive PEREGRINE and OSPREY, a great exchange with Jon and my neighbor and an un-stolen car.
Sending you all magic river greetings, jane

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San Lorenzo River steelhead update…

Good Morning to you Nature Enjoyers,

breaching action…

You won’t believe what my eyes saw again!! At 6:40 am last Saturday 3 men were hectically digging a trench, trying to breach the river mouth that had closed 2 days ago. One of the shoreline fishermen was yelling at them and I chimed in with a furious “NO BREACHING!!!”. The men’s heads snapped up to the river point, where I was floating in a cloud of anguish for the fish’s safety. Any summer lagoon breaching is bad for the steelhead and the sudden artificial breaching is particularly harmful: The water literally gets sucked out of the river and the fish get stranded on the rocks and shores. The ones that avoid that fate get sucked out to the ocean, where many are unable to survive. The reason being is that that steelhead have to transition from freshwater to saltwater over time. Therefore the abrupt breaching denies them to acclimatize naturally to saltwater. Furthermore the saltwater rushes in and displaces the slow downstream freshwater flow, impacting the water conditions for the steelhead still moving downstream. Click HERE for further info. and keep your fingers crossed for the steelhead welfare.

fish tail rings…

Fish are jumping and the water is low~went through my head as I was watching the many silver darts exploding out of the water. The little fish bodies pierce the water surface straight up, arch gracefully and dive back in, leaving their ‘fish rings’ to tell their tail tale. The City Biologists have been seining the San Lorenzo River for the last 3 months and experience has taught me that these summer months will deliver the steelhead numbers. So I turn into fish Pavlov dog at t his time of year, salivating for any fish news morsels I can devour. Of course I would love to join the biologists as they count, measure, clip the fins of the steelhead. I tried that a few times and learned that was a really bad idea. So instead I pestered the Chris Berry, the Watershed Manager of the Santa Cruz City Water Dept., and his crew, who patiently indulge me with fish news via e-mail. I found out that June had a lot of juvenile steelhead in the SLR lagoon, which didn’t hold true for July.

steelhead make my heart sing…

August was a steelhead bonanza that included some very small young-of the-year steelhead, which is unusual. This sometimes happens, because they may have been fish that came from the late run spawners, implying that spawning occurred in May of this year. Although this year’s river hydrology was pretty atypical, it is very good for anadromous salmonids like steelhead. The reason that the water quality and flow are good this year is due to the frequent, moderate precipitation events this winter and late spring rain in particular. So far the water condition has remained good, because the cold temperature dissolves the oxygen well. It will be interesting to see how the water condition changes as the swell picks up and the river flow drops off through the rest of the dry season.
Now the waiting begins for the release of the final yearly report, which takes place after all the reported details have been vetted that were submitted in July.

Biologist carefully returning counted fish to the river…

Last week I was intensely absorbed, watching, who I think, was the only remaining CLIFF SWALLOW at the Riverside Ave. bridge. It flew to nest, deposited food quickly, dashed back into the sky, almost immediately returned with more food supply. It was truly astounding to watch that little bird speed feed the late hatched offspring. All the other CLIFF SWALLOWS had left in stages approx. 2 weeks ago. This year the CLIFF SWALLOWS arrived in 2 separate batches at different times. Consequently some of them started building their nests when the others had already completed theirs.

last CLIFF SWALLOW at Riverside Ave. bridge…

So this last migrant parent was ultra busy getting the kid(s?) on the sky road and it looks like the effort paid off, because now no CLIFF SWALLOW is gracing the air anymore until next spring. Soon our winter migratory guests will turn the page on the next river life chapter and I am eager to see that story unfold.
River greetings to you all, jane

bonding with the river life…

Good Afternoon to you Nature Appreciators,

spring arrival of tree trunk…

Well, I am still on a Lupine rescue mission. You can find me in the early morning spraying them down with water. These plants deserve my saving efforts, because they so wanted to live: growing big, setting blossoms that bloomed beautifully until the aphids attacked. It looks like a few plants will pull through. After washing the sticky aphid gook off my hands, I always check on the big tree trunk that had been washed down by one of the heavy winter storms and is now a cherished hang out spot for the birds. I am very fond of the stranded giant, because it testifies that its life force is determined to flourish. Its leaves stayed alive, although a powerful rainstorm ripped it out of the ground and forced it to take a wild ride downstream. Now the BLACK PHOEBES are thrilled to be able to hunt its insects right over the water. The MALLARDS and COMMON MERGANSERS schnoz safely inside of the branch tangles. The GREAT BLUE HERON frequents it for its lengthly preening sessions. Obviously the birds treat this tree trunk as a welcomed addition to their daily lives.

tree trunk is now birds favored hang out spot…

I like to invite you to come this Saturday 8/17 to the ongoing Estuary Project and join our restoration improvements. You’ll get to meet good people and enjoy making a difference together. Click here for more info.

Firecracker Skimmer…

It was truly astounding how many dragonflies were whizzing around at the Mike Fox Park by the Riverside Ave. bridge. Counting them was impossible, but I estimate that there were at least 50 of them. There was amazing variety of species present: Firecracker Skimmers( don’t you love that name?!), Blue Dasher, Common Green Darner and dark brown, purple, bronze ones that I had never seen before. The sunshine made their shiny wings glitter in the air and sparks would explode off the bushes when they moved. It was like standing in a fairy tale scene.

our beloved river point ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRD…

The Jamaican man and I have shared our a silent love for the ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRD for over a year. Whoever arrived first at the river point would point out wordlessly its location, because we didn’t want to scare it off. Then we watch it together quietly until little beauty had enough of being starred at and zoom off. We smile at each other and give each other a thumb ups good-bye. I hadn’t seen the ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRD nor the Jamaican man for a couple of weeks and wondered what happened to both of them. Then the Jamaican man was back and he asked if I had seen our shared love. When I told him that I hadn’t, he bend his head and sadly said:”The bird is dead”. I suggested that the A. HUMMINGBIRD might have found a different food source. He din’t think so since our bird hadn’t looked well the last few times he had seen it. Its feather look dull and it was puffed up. A couple of days later a friend of mine told me that she missed seeing the A. HUMMINGBIRD at the river point. It touched me that the little feather-ball had been a joyous part of our lives.

KINGFISHER enjoying her perfect perch…

I hadn’t seen the KINGFISHER for a while, so it was a treat to see her sitting on the wire that crosses the river. The changed shoreline had me worried for this impressive fishing bird, who prefers perches close to or above the water. But now the sediment created wide sandbanks and her perches are no longer close to the waterline. The KINGFISHER has an unusual nest preference: they excavate a 1 to 8 feet long tunnel with their specialized long, flat toe and sharp claws into sandy banks. As you can imagine this accomplishment takes several weeks and the KINGFISHERS reuse their channel nests for years. It’s interesting that SWALLOWS figured out that they can co-nest with the excavators by digging small chambers into the walls for their nesting needs.
To-night,Tuesday 13, I’ll be talking about the river on Bruce Bratton’s ‘Universal Grapevine’ radio show. So turn your dial to KZSC 88.1 to catch our talk~ until then cheers to you, jane

San Lorenzo River’s many joys & a few ‘yikes!’

Good Morning to all you fellow Nature adorers,

I want my PEREGRINE back!

Ever since the Trestle bridge construction I haven’t seen the PEREGRINE perch on its favorite, high perch in the Eucalyptus tree. I keep looking up in the hope to see the sight of that beautiful Falcon. This shows optimism, because during the bridge building the CROWS moved into the lower branches, from where they could easily harvest the workers left overs. Then a RAVEN couple build their nest a few trees over, much to the chagrin of the CROWS, who have been endlessly complaining about the RAVENS’ nest location. Yet both black, loud vocalizers would unit in a second to mob the PEREGRINE, should it attempt to return. Their attacks are scary as the juvenile RED-shouldered HAWK found out, who had been chased out of its safe Jessie St. Marsh nursery perch when the huge soil drilling equipment moved in. The young Raptor kept ducking lower and lower on the branch, trying to keep its balance. If this was its first encounter with ceaseless dive bombing then it got a royally baptism to the bane of its future life.

fairytale GREY HAIRSTREAK…

Right now the seed eaters are feasting on a wide variety of seeds. The BUSHTITS, HOUSE and a few LESSER GOLD FINCHES favor the seeds of the native Mugwort. Did you know that the oil of its crumbled leaves relieve the poison oak itch? A dainty, lite-blue Butterfly rested on the Mugwort, long time enough for me to fall in love with its fairytale physique. Thanks to Santa Cruz Critters, Ken and Andy identified it as a GREY HAIRSTREAK. The ground squirrels are eagerly munching on the grass seed pods, which makes me wonder if they could be enticed to mow the levee, thus eliminate the heavy equipment.

ground squirrels eating weed seeds…

Remember the observation that we had more Ladybugs this year? Well, I am glad about that, but they are clearly overwhelmed by the aphid infestation on our Lupines, who had been doing magnificently well until the aphids literally sucked the life out of them. So now I am on a rescue mission: every second day I remove the aphids from the surviving Lupines. And yes, I leave the areas alone that have Ladybugs or their larvae on them. I caught 2 Ladybugs taking a break for some important leisure time.

Ladybugs enjoying leisure time…

Jeb Bishop from Groundswell Coastal Ecology and I enjoy swapping our Project observations. Recently he reported a wasp at his Seabright beach site that I had just seen in my Estuary area. Obviously our efforts are making a difference since we both noticed an increase of critters species.
Quoting Jeb: A cliff buckwheat (a native, Eriogonum parvifolium) near our work site was alive with quite a few insects.  We spotted a new species on it, the striking wasp in the photo.  Tiffany identified it for us as a Great Golden Digger Wasp (Sphex ichneumons), and posted it on iNaturalist where you can get more info. Thanks, Tiffany!

Great Golden Digger Wasp…

Last Saturday morning I was down by the Riverside Ave. bridge, planning to get ready for the Estuary Project work day when I heard the familiar CANADA GOOSE honk. And of course my curiosity won out over my prep-task. It turned out that an adult didn’t like a good looking, slender one that was trying to approach the group. Wayne, our City tool delivery man, joined me. Together we watched how the heavier set C. GOOSE extended its neck low above the ground and charged at the resisting intruder, who waited to the last moment to execute a nonchalant retreat. Satisfied the winner webbed footed back to the group, not realizing it was being followed. The honk from an other C. GOOSE gave the friendly invader away and the same scene repeated itself 4 times until the group took to the water and swam away, leaving a lonely GOOSE behind. After giving it some thought, it opted for waddling down the sandbank in the same direction, then decided swimming was more efficient for catching up with the others. Wayne and I regretted to see a re-run of the same scenario. The next day I was greeted at the Trestle bridge by the honks of a lonely C. GOOSE. Then it spotted a MALLARD couple and decided to try its ‘Let’s be friends’ move with them. Feeling overwhelmed by this overture they escaped to the cliff rocks. After several attempts the GOOSE clambered onto the slippery surface and stood next to the couple. Together they watched me, watching them until I felt like an intruder, so I left…wishing them and all of you magical encounters, jane

CANADA GOOSE exploring friendship…

 

get ready…

Good Morning to you all, who enjoy the wonder of Nature,

SNOWY EGRET having breakfast

I was standing stock-still on the bank in the early morning, because a fly was busy entertaining me with cleaning its 2 front limbs. This required rigorously scrubbing them back and forth, short pause, tongue action on each limb, then rubbing them again thoroughly. The SWALLOWS kept zooming really close to me and I knew I was serving as their welcomed breakfast warmer, because my body heat and breath was supplying the close by insects with the warmth they need for flying. SWALLOWS only eat insects, consuming an amazing amount of them, so I served as their food provider. In the cool evenings bats harvest insects that surround people, because the human body heat keeps the insects flying. People freaked out when the bats dive at them, thinking they are being attacked, not realizing that actually they are being saved from insect attacks.

it’s not cool to breach the river mouth…

Going to the river is a surrender to surprises. Not only was I surprised, but stunned by the man, who brazenly was breaching the river mouth that morning. He was trench digging while his dog raced excitedly around him. The river water was slowly slithering towards its mighty friend, the ocean. Unfortunately I was standing on the top of the river point and my only option was to yell down to him to close up the channel. He looked up, waved, kept digging. I screamed some more and he gestured he couldn’t hear me-yeah, right! I knew, he could! Since I don’t own a cellphone, I raced home and made my tattle calls. When I went back an other man was filling in the trench and a Police Officer arrived to help him. Of course the digger and his dog were gone. I have an aversion to breaches, because the river water literally gets sucked out and the fish suffer from that sudden water level drop.

man & Police Officer closing up the river mouth…

I was checking on the newly housed native plants when I heard CANADA GEESE honks in the air. Looking up, I saw 10 heading towards me at the Riverside Ave. bridge. They landed across the river, organized themselves into a single file, facing upriver, obviously watching something I couldn’t see. Then I heard a CANADA GOOSE honk upriver. The flotilla started a long, eager honk conversation with the other invisible honker. Finally I saw a group of 9 CANADA GEESE swim around the river bend, heading towards their waiting friends. This caused a loud salutation exchange and the arrivers accelerated their speed. I realized that the younger geese were being escorted downstream from the San Lorenzo Park, because they couldn’t fly yet. Both groups mingled together, then assembled into an orderly V formation, younger ones tucked in the middle, and swam to a spot, where they all could line up and mow the grass.

CANADA GEESE forming greeting line…

It’s always excruciating hard for me to look at the Front St. proposed development along the river and hear that this immense 75’-85’ high project is looming over our City future. It’s triggers severe wiggles of all my river protective antennas, because the buildings will change the river visuals. The fauna and flora habitats will be impacted by the building mass. Extensive time, money and planning went into the project and I bemoan that environmental protection planning ranked low in that process. Russell Brutsche’s new, great-as-always painting gives you a vivid taste of our future. Be sure to check out his art work that will make you smile and cry.
www.russellbrutsche.com

Russell Brutsche: art of a “developed” car-centric downtown

Lately the RED-shoulder HAWK call has become a familiar river back drop. Usually I hear this vociferation in the late winter, early spring, when HAWKS stake out their breeding territory and advertise for a mate. So I couldn’t figure out why that call was echoing now across the river. It wasn’t our river RED-shoulder HAWK, because our beauty would be people watching at the river as the sound would reach us from a safe distance. One day the call visited my neighborhood, a few streets away from the river. Then last week I was standing with a birding friend outside my house, when we heard that call. Both of our heads turned to the sky, scanning for the RED-shoulder HAWK. My friend calmly announced: “ Oh..there it is!” “Where?” “Right behind your house on the pole”. And sure enough there was a juvenile RED-shoulder HAWK, looking straight at us. The mystery of the unabating calling was solved: it’s the young raptor begging for food. In my excitement of finding out that we have this teenager by the river, I squeezed my friend’s arm, apologizing instantly. We both stared at it until it got tired of that and flew off. I love to know if our river RED-shoulder HAWK is the parent.
Sending you all sunny river greetings and inviting you to join us this Sat.,the 20th from 9am-11am for the Estuary Project. Click here for more details:
jane

juvenile RED-Shouldered HAWK-image from All About Birds

migratory shift is here?

Dear Nature Compadres,

2 migratory CANADA GEESE enjoying the river point…

Well, here we are! Waltzing through the rest of the summer without our Barbara, who is taking a posting sabbatical. We’ll dearly miss her river stories, insights & information tidbits. Upon her return, she’ll will delight us with her posts again. In the meantime my bi-monthly river observations will float your way.

female COMMON GOLDENEYE is here?

I was watching three shapes moseying along the tule edge. I had no problem identifying 2 of the trio as a MALLARD couple, but the third one had different shape and movement. When I tried to get better view of it through my monocular, I couldn’t find it: the rascal had disappeared! Assuming that it must be hiding in the tule, I kept scanning the vegetation. Finally I decided to write the bird off as a mystery appearance, walked on and found myself starring at a migratory COMMON GOLDENEYE, preening herself on a log. Her sight surprised me, because this duck diver was out of sync with her river timing. She is supposed to arrive in the fall and leave in the spring. True, 3 summers ago we had an injured female COMMON GOLDENEYE, who spent the summer with us. I figured that she had been well enough to migrate up north with the others since I hadn’t seen her in a year. It’s so frustrating to not be inter-species lingual! I wanted to ask her, if she was our river COMMON GOLDENEYE or a very early fall arrival. And if she was our river Mam’selle, where had she been hanging out?

RED-throated LOON makes CROW nervous…

I was walking towards the migratory RED-throated LOON, who was dragging itself ashore while keeping a watchful eye on me. I stopped to let it find its comfy spot, because the migratory bird was ready for its usual early morning siesta on the sand. The foraging CROW didn’t appreciate being so close to a long, pointed beak and flew off. I was honored to be regarded as non threatening, because after settling into the perfect position, the eyelids slowly closed, the body melted into relaxation as the dawning sun spread her magic. The RED-throated LOONS are a common sight during the winter and this spring/summer they have become an unusual regular appearance on our river. And yes, a peaceful joy descended on me as the 2 of us rested in each other presence.

CLIFF SWALLOWS are gathering nest mud now?

When I saw all the SWALLOW activity by Laure St. bridge, I gathered that the fledglings were practicing flying, landing and screeching for the parents to feed them. This is the normal behavior for this time of year. But then I noticed that the flight pattern was really close over a mud patch at the lower bank. Taking a closer look, I was dumbfounded to see that adult CLIFF SWALLOWS were picking up mud and dashing off towards the Riverside Ave. bridge. What were they doing, racing around with nesting material in their beaks? Did somebody forget to tell them that this not the time for nest building, but getting ready for their migratory departure? After-all the bridge ledges and phone wires are occupied with SWALLOW offsprings, preparing for their first long migratory journey.

resting CASPIAN TERNS …

Upriver 2 CASPIAN TERNS were walking around amongst a big group of gulls, dodging the mischievous teenage gulls, when fireworks detonated on the levee, causing the river birds to explode in every direction into the air. They flew off as far and as fast as possible, ending my bird watching morning! I waited a while to see if they come back, but then the silence and the bird empty scenery made me misty and I left, feeling sorry for the birds that have to pay the price for people’s amusement. I am keeping my fingers crossed that the fireworks turn out be all duds, which would a great treat for all critters. Sending you all peaceful Nature wishes, jane

CLIFF SWALLOW musings & critter feet…

Good Morning Barbara and River Lovers,

critter gloved hands…

I was sorting through my mystifying CLIFF SWALLOW observations when I sensed that I was being watched. I looked around expecting to see a human in the vicinity, but there was nobody. Then I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye in the bush next to me. Our eyes met and I would be lying if I said it was love at first sight, because this is an old love story that began with setting sight on the WESTERN FENCE LIZARD ‘hands’. Their feet seem to have got hold of some fancy knight gloves and they are refusing to take them off. We stared at each other for a while. It stopped opening and closing its mouth when I proved to be a bad LIZARD conversation partner. Finally the little critter got to watch me walk backwards so I wouldn’t disturb its sun-bathing.

CLIFF SWALLOW nests under Crescent bridge…

And I returned to my CLIFF SWALLOW musings at the Crescent bridge. As I mentioned in a prior post, the CLIFF SWALLOW had been busier then ever building their nest there, but after the rains they disappeared. After 2 days waiting the air was still empty of the zoomers and the time for further investigation had arrived. I was happy to see Alan’s City maintenance truck by the bridge, because I felt safer in his company to take a closer nest look underneath the bridge. The 2 of us walked the length of structure and only saw a few finished nests, which seemed odd considering the prior CLIFF SWALLOW nest building frenzy in that location. There were quite a few broken nests and in some areas only the rim of nests was visible. Alan and I wonder what to think of our findings and I feared that somebody had knocked the nests down. Then it crossed my mind that the nests might have been compromised because of the mud quality that was more sandy this year. I was curious if the CLIFF SWALLOW numbers were going to go up again, which they didn’t. I had seen a few of them fly underneath the bridge and on Sunday I went underneath to check for active nests. There were about 15 to 20 that were smaller than the usual size. In the early morning hour 6 nests had parents flying in and out. Later in the day I might have located more active nests, because their food source, flying insects, would be available. It seems like there is more CLIFF SWALLOW musings on my horizon….

081-eucalyptus-tortoise-beetle-paropsis-sp-rr-713- googled

A few months ago Leslie Keedy, the City’s tree arborist, and I were talking at the Trestle bridge when this cute bug visited us. It wore quaint, yellow footwear and its back featured a intricate pattern. My bug delight was short lived when Leslie identified it as an Australian Tortoise Beetle, who enjoys re-designing the leaf edges of the Trestle Eucalyptus trees. I had forgotten about the ‘cute bug’ until I figured out that I wasn’t celebrating Ladybug larvae on the Trestle railing but facing Australian Tortoise Beetle larvae. Needlessly to say I am not excited to discover who they are.

YIKES! larvae of the Eucalyptus leaf re-designer on the move…

Here are some other river tidbits:
The City biologists were seining on Friday and Monday. It will be interesting to hear about the results.
The MALLARD Mama’s are still showing off their new brood arrivals.

MALLARD MAMA’s pride & joy…

The HOODED ORIOLE keeps bringing the teenage offspring to the river. The parent is getting to the stage of ‘ feed yourself’ as it tries to escape the demanding teenage food pursuit.
The RED-necked LOONS can be found foraging in the water when they are not resting on the shore bank.
A few CASPIAN TERNS fly over the river as they scan for fish, but I don’t see them dive for their meal. Then again the water is shallow and they need more depth for their plunges.
On the other beak the COMMON MERGANSERS are enjoying the shallow water level, because it makes for highly successful foraging. Every time they go down they come up with a fish in their beak.

bad feather day…

The heavy fog drizzle confronted the Red-shouldered Hawk with a bad feather day, which it endured with downcast patience.