starting new beginnings…

Good Morning to all you Nature Adorers where ever you are,

Most birders have encountered the ‘Little-brown-bird’ species, who specializes in avoiding cameras and precise identification. A member of that species was having a grand time harvesting bugs in the 2 foot high Calif. Fuchsia. It kept disappearing into the bushy foliage and only a quiver of the plant’s stems disclosed its location. It would pop up with a raspy chirp, hop ever so briefly on the ground and vanish underneath the leafage again. Just as I saw some movement in the tree above the California Fuchsia ~ the bird flew off. I don’t know if it was the species’ elusive companion, but after its departure no more raspy chirps were vocalized. As the ‘Little-brown-bird’s’ was scurrying from one hiding place to the next, never staying out in the open, I was harvesting its details as quickly as I could: tail held high like WREN, beak too thick for a WREN, but too small for a SONG SPARROW, legs light colored, brown breast streaks, size approx. 4-5 inches. I flashed on a LINCOLN’S SPARROW, but dismissed that because they usually migrate through our area in the winter time. So long story short: Obviously bird watching is always fascinating for me. I couldn’t resist watching the purposeful movements, secretive behavior and petit physique of this ‘Little-brown-bird’.

SONG versus LINCOLN’S SPARROW:Nemesis Bird

We are going through heartbreaking times and I salute all the people, who reach out to us with their art, ideas, innovations to inspire hope in us. I celebrate the Nature enthusiasts, who unit us by sharing their passions. Therefore I am enamored with @BlackAFinStem and their program for this week. Ever since a friend sent me the link for the #BlackBirders Week their program I have been spreading the word far and wide. You can learn more about black birders in these articles: HighCountry News interview with Sheridan Alford’s, BirdWatching, Guardian and check out the Twitter #BlackBirders Week. This is a much needed outreach to share our birds, experiences and love for Nature.

Jason and Jeffrey Ward and Corina Newsome are among the well-known Black birders involved in the project. Photos courtesy of the Ward brothers and Katherine Arntzen/Georgia Southern University ~ Black birders raising awareness this week

Kairos, the Greek god of timing, would agree this moment is ripe for new communicating platforms to connect, which fosters listening to each others observations, which results in fruitful back and forth exchanges. And let’s face it: we are starving for honest new beginnings!! Personally I trust Nature as my soothing healer, patient teacher and a soul caretaker, so I welcome her as a base from which to explore our birder kinship and build birder community diversity. I want to hear what it’s like for black birders to discover birds, Nature and how it feels to encounter white people, who threaten to call the police because of skin color. This program is an important call for white people to face that we need to stand in solidarity with black birders and allow the birds unit us. And maybe I should have posted my mystery bird for the #PostABird Challenge and added that SONG SPARROWS and LINCOLN’S SPARROWS nest on the ground underneath bushes.

Black-Birders-week_schedule

In that spirit I leave you with this Nadine Anne Hura’s poem, which the high caliber New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, shared publicly: For Papatūānuka-Mother Earth~ Namaste~ jane

nature protects our sanity~ will we protect her?

Good Morning Barbara and you staying safe Nature Adorers,

Gorgeous male COMMON MERGANSER…

Have you been soaking up sanity time in our City, County Park/Open Spaces in the last 2 months? Did you visited these places and were surprised find so many fellow open air seekers on your path as you squeak by each other, trying to keep the social distancing intact? So many people have been benefitting from our Park systems, which is being attended to by a truly amazing skeleton crew! People are discovering Nature: her soothing beauty, her magic web, her calming outreach. Studies have shown that spending time in Nature unruffled agitated nerves and allows better decision making. It’s chirping good news that birdwatching is the prime hobby during the COVID stay safe situation. It is the perfect pastime to take up, because people can watch birds anywhere, everywhere~ out their windows, walking in their neighborhood, sitting in the backyard, strolling in a park. May people’s newly discovered Nature infatuation enrich their present and future everyday life…

Mama with her independent offspring…

My duckling wait has been rewarded by seeing more MALLARD Mamas parading their little golden & brown fluffy-brigades along the river water edge. 2 Mamas faced a confusing moment when their offsprings mingled with each other. The little ones were oaring their tiny legs hectically in circles until some serious Mama quakes sorted out the tangled crowd. 1 Mama took off with 9 fluff-balls and the other Mama had 1 in tow, who proved to be quite a wing-full. It hadn’t read the Duckling Guide for beginners and saw no reason to stick close to Mama. It went far ahead, out into the open water, climbed unattended ashore, lagged behind~ long story short this little rascal tried to pile as many duckling ‘No-Nos’ on its life plate as possible. Mama’s response was to either chase after the chick or go her own way and ignore her brood. I did get concerned when the Mama went ashore to preen herself while the young was heading straight for the ocean. Thank heaven after a while it turned around and foraged by itself until Mama joined it.

will the RED-throated LOON be our summer river guest?

I was happy to see the RED-throated LOON swimming down the river towards me. Over the years it has become such a familiar sight that it took me a moment to realize that this migrant should have left for its breeding grounds. True! some have stayed with us over the summer and maybe this one has decided to remain on the river for the coming season…

a taste of the San Lorenzo River future: Riverside Ave. Project half a block away from the river compared to Front St. Project adjacent to the river…

Okay! You already know that I have a hell of a time with the massive Front St. development, because last year I meowed to you about effects that project will have on the San Lorenzo River habitats. Now comes the next round of facing that massive project. The EIR for 5 project properties has been released at a time when public meetings are via videos, making public commenting difficult. I wish the City would wait with their approvals of huge development plans and their EIRs until we can have public meetings again. After all EIR approvals are forever and development plans approvals are transferable and can be sold for a lot of money. Don’t these humongous river, City developments, EIRs deserve thorough community scrutiny, input, feedback?
Therefore it is important that we weigh in on the Front St. projects by clicking on the link to review the Front St. EIR and sending in our comments by 6/24/20: http://www.cityofsantacruz.com/Home/Components/BusinessDirectory/BusinessDirectory/62/2849
Sign up for the 5/19/20 video presentation of the 6th property for Front St. project: http://www.cityofsantacruz.com/Home/Components/News/News/8822/
Read Gillian Greensite’s article on https://brattononline.com
Isn’t it time we own this situation: We and Nature are in this together helping each other! Let’s protect her and in return we’ll keep our sanity by receiving her soothing nerve balm.
Embrace your heart song greetings~ jane

‘Be an Everyday Hero’ is a drawing of my daughter’s childhood memory & yes: she is the amazing artist KATHARINA SHORT~

river tapestry…

Good Morning Barbara and all you Nature Admirers,

wishing you fruitful recovery…

Ohh…Barbara!!I I am so sorry to hear that you are dealing with some health issues. I am sending you soothing healing wishes. Our fellow Nature compadres and I will miss your rich, lively blog posts while you are recuperating. May your recovery be swift so that your current health situation turns into a vague memory.

glittering beauty…

It’s interesting how my relationship with the river life has changed since I have been working so much on maintaining the newly placed native plants. I am not walking along the levee, but stay put in one place for some time. Now the critters around me are disclosing their relationships with their surroundings and weave a tapestry of their daily activities: The presence of the beautiful Red-tailed Hawk is squawked to all by the CROW, who has a vocal cord issue. It sounds like announcer has a slight case of laryngitis. Maybe that is why only 1 or 2 other CROWS arrive for the co-mopping session. The Red-tailed Hawk knows the drill, flies into the Sycamore branches until the CROWS give up on chasing reinforcement and abandoned their dive bombing scheme. Then the raptor positions itself on the lamp pole, surveys the hunting grounds along the levee banks for the best prey options. The Mike Fox ANNA’s HUMMINGBIRD accompanies me on my work route, watching calmly from above, perching on its favorite branches along our course. The HAIRSTREAK butterflies really don’t like sharing their chosen plants and its blossoms. When an intruder arrives their antennas get busy wiggles and the butterfly turns to face the nervy new-comer for a proper assessment. A fellow HAIRSTREAK is most definitely not welcome and the message is delivered by a landing attempt on top of the schmarotzer, who takes off, only to return to its newly discovered morsels. This claiming dispute can go on for minutes and usually the original plant owner gets to stay.

claiming ownership of blossom…

Finally I saw my first 3 MALLARD ducklings of this year. I had looked up from weeding, because I heard repeated wing splashing on water, which is rarely a good sign, and I saw 2 male MALLARDS ruffling their wings back into place, swimming innocently along the tule line. There was movement in the tule, but it was impossible to see who caused it. One of the males charged at the shifting reeds and solved the mystery movement by flushing out a Mama MALLARD with her 3 tiny ducklings. Male MALLARDS can make life hell for a Mama MALLARD when they get it into their heads to chase after her. This Mama was unwilling to accept hell and started to attack the males, who swam away from her out to the open river. The furious Mama pursued them, followed by her 3 tiny ducklings. Now they were all in the middle of the river without the protective tule shield for the brood. I saw the RED-tailed HAWK swoop off its lamp pole and descend at rapid speed towards the water, aiming for the MALLARD group. The duckling mother had her back turned to the hunter and her beak embedded in one of the male’s wings, who was getting alarmed by this development. He flung himself sideways right next to the ducklings, thus foiling the predator’s target. The warrior Mama had a few more quacks to say, took her little ones back to the sheltering tule, the males swam upstream, looking for more trouble and the HAWK returned to the lamp pole for further hunting possibilities.

my 1st duckling sighting for this year…sorry for bad pic.

I am so happy to tell all of you that our Dave from the DST group is no longer houseless and that he now works 2 jobs. For over a year he shared his gentle smiles with us on our Estuary Project Saturdays as he enjoyed learning about restoration. He succeeded conquering a hard road and I hope he is darn proud of his achievement for which I salute him wholeheartedly!!
Greetings from the river tapestry~ jane

searching for river answers…

Good Morning Barbara and stay safe Nature Wanderers,

CLIFF SWALLOWS in the sky…

Your delight of listening to Vandana Shiva took me right back to attending her interview up at UCSC a few months ago. My friend urged me to go with her, saying that I would love this Ecofeminist, because we spoke the same earth language. After her first sentences I felt like I had known her forever, although I had never heard of her nor read any of her books. It was the most curious experience~ this woman was meandering through my core and carefully harvesting my innermost earth truths and saying it out loud to a big audience. It’s wonderful that Vandana Shiva touched us both so deeply. It did amuse me that she said my truths with an Indian accent instead of my German one.

no weeds: Calif. Lilac snuggled into rice straw…

Okay..I might bore you with my planting episodes, but you have to bear with me just one more time: on Saturday the last of over 300 native plants got housed. That feat was achieved in approx. 21 days with some friendly help and our arms tell the tale of toiling with heavy clay soil and rocks. The new native plants are doing very well, because the rain spirit sent her life giving cheer after each planting. Now you get to hear the result of our rice straw experiment on the levee by the Trestle parking lot. We tested 4 rice straw applications: thick, medium, little and no straw mulching. The thick straw layer has no weeds coming up and the native plants are thriving. The results deteriorated according to the amount of straw applied. The plants with no straw nest grew the least and look a little anemic. I am glad we did that experiment, because it shows that rice straw is an excellent weed suppressor plus it enhances native plant growth. Now I have to convince the Boardwalk maintenance crew to leave the straw in place and not remove it…may they get used to the new straw look!

my watering & weeding set-up: wagon thanks to a kind donator & debris sack is re-purposed Verve burlap bag…

The river life has a season rhythm that I swear has crept into my blood. By the end of February I find myself searching for the ducklings in the tule along the water edge, where they are feverishly discovering what the river menu has to offer them. So you can imagine what state I am in, because I have not seen 1 duckling in the Estuary this year. In all my river years I have never encountered no downstream ducklings. So I asked my levee compadres if they had sighted any lower river fluff-balls and they hadn’t. There were very few San Lorenzo River duckling reports on e-bird and now we wonder what is going on…The nice discovery was that e-bird reports mentioned birds hanging out in the plants we put in.
This year there is very little nest building activity going on in the Estuary section. I wonder if that is due to the greatly increased COVID-19 levee traffic. No matter what time of day I go to the levee, there is a constant flow of people either walking, biking, skating, jogging etc. Plus a lot of people walk with their dogs, who are mostly leashed. BC(Before COVID) there were parts of the day with no or very little path traffic. The COVID levee hustle coincided with the bird breeding season and maybe the future parents went looking for a quieter neighborhood? But where?

NORTHERN ROUGH-winged SWALLOWS…

There are 2 PELAGIC CORMORANTS loafing around by the Trestle bridge. Up to now they share a friendly sibling relationship and breeding seems the furthest thing from their mind. Maybe they are building a deeper connection or are actually siblings? Many times a male MALLARD in his bright orange galoshes stands close by on the rocks. Is he vying for their tree trunk or keeping them company? They do make an interesting Trio.
Enjoy your leisure nature visits as you discover critter magic~jane~

Spring at the River…

Good Morning Barbara and Nature Explorers,

DOUBLE-crested CORMORANT fishing in the river…

It’s so good to read you post again, Barbara! What a month you had~ that pain sounds intense. I gather your backyard became your Nature paradise, which helped your recuperation nicely. Aren’t you glad that Nature enjoyment is high on your list? Just looking out the window offers you spring blossom greeting and stepping outside you hear the birds serenading the season in excelsis. I am sure your stay safe walks are filled with happy gratitude to see that Nature is continuing her ancient cycles while our lives are upside down. As we are wading through our creative resources of how to entertain ourselves and stay well, Nature is busy hosting a grand coming out party for her leafy, furry, feathered, scaly debutantes. Now isn’t that a splendid omen for our new future?

bee harvesting Calif Lilac, planted last year…

I guess you could say that spring is pulsing through my veins, because I have been busy with pulling weeds in the Laurel St bridge island, so that the newly planted native species have room to grow and spread unhindered. As I mentioned our Estuary volunteer Project got cancelled, which not only left over a 150 native plants begging for soil housing, but also an impressive wood pile, aching to be spread. So I turned my daily stay safe virus walks into habitat improvement activity. This entailed staying put in one area and getting to know the daily walkers, their dogs and kids, drug dealers and their clientele, the lovers and their happiness. Since this site is right by a light signal intersection, I was treated to a wide range of loud music. Over the last 2 weeks I learned that young men mostly listen to angry, hard core or whining music. Young women listen mainly to love yearning tunes. Many truck driving men like country tunes. It seems that once people reach their forties, they no longer turn up their radio dials, so I have no idea what they are listening to. I have been on a mission to get all this work done, because I observe the benefits of the native plants for the river critters: the bees feeding on the blossoms of now established Calif. Lilac and the moth resting under the Gum-plant.

intimidating large wood chip pile…

I think you would be proud of me, Barbara, if you saw how seriously I take our ‘Protect Wildlife’ motto. I am absolutely without prejudice when it comes to pointing out that certain conducts are harmful to the river habitat. This includes insisting that the camps get removed from the waterline in order to protect the waterfowl’s breeding grounds or preventing anybody walking up or down slopes so erosion and ground nester disturbances are avoided. Who knew that protecting wildlife was an exercise of daily civil courage and education. You be happy to know that we have planted more Toyon bushes in order to increase the CEDAR WAXWING food sources in the Estuary section. This species adores the red Toyon berries~ a flock of these little beauties can strip a bush bare within 20 minutes. We have 5 more big Toyon bushes ready to be planted, which hopefully carry fruit by coming winter. I think our efforts are having the wished for results, because people have mentioned that the CEDAR WAXWING presence has increased along the river.

early morning empty beach…

Slipping a “R” into the COVID-19 could very well be a Freudian slip since I feel the same about the virus and the CROWS. I am just not fond of overwhelming, invasive traits, although the sound of COVID-19 is surprisingly beautiful. The interesting thing is that CROW population is way down on the beach and along the river. Then again less people, less tourists means less food litter thus putting a dent in the CROWS food supply. The RED-tailed HAWKS are benefitting from not being mobbed by up to a dozen CROWS. The harassment of one or two CROWS doesn’t interfere with their courtship flights right above me. A few CLIFF SWALLOWS have returned and they are examining last year’s nests, determining what remodeling is required for successful breeding. My wish for you is that you stay safe and well while you enjoy the Spring cycle~jane~

the rhythm of life…

Dear Barbara and fortunate Nature Lovers,

NORTHERN ROUGH-winged SWALLOW cleaning off the migratory dust…

Barbara, I hope you got your computer fixed. I sure missed reading your post last week and hope you’ll be back in the blog saddle with your next river report. Did no computer and cancelled meetings allow for lots of time outside?
Aren’t we lucky that our passion is Nature as we are facing times when we are asked to adjust to a ‘new norm’ and deal with uncertainties on so many levels. I do feel badly for my fellow humans, whose passions are confined in the ‘stay safe’ cage such as Team Sports. It’s easy for us to keep the CORVID-19 required social distance when we visit Nature. Never has it felt so endearing to be outside, enjoying the buds explode into enchanting beauties, watch the future bird parents flit through the scenery, looking for the perfect nesting material, listen to the bumblebees’ buzz as they stumble from one blossom to the next, welcoming the NORTHERN ROUGH-winged SWALLOWS back. Being in Nature is a wonderful reminder that life wants to live and that in all this chaos the rhythm of life continues to hum.

ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRD fledglings dozing in the sun….

There was a fair amount of river event adjustments to deal with in the last 2 weeks. I have this restoration project rule that our volunteer work should not disturb any breeders during nesting season. Therefore I had asked a biologist to check for active bird nests in the area for the big volunteer event. Serendipity worked its magic when that event was cancelled within hours that I found out that there was an active ANNA’S Hummingbird nest right smack in the middle of that site.

getting crowded in that nest….

We would have roped off the nest kingdom, minimized sound and activities, but, let’s face it, so many volunteers close by would not be a bird’s mother dream come true. Instead the nestlings were allowed to enjoy an unbothered chick-hood. They must have fledged because the nest was empty 2 days ago.

empty nest…

Since 2 volunteer planting events were cancelled over a hundred donated plants got stranded on my friend’s truck bed and in my garden. It was a daunting sight that made me instantly tired. I started to plant a few a day, but that didn’t seem to decrease the truck bed load. Fortunately the plants are being housed and 1 day I’ll tell you how…
Now I am on a mission to locate the elusive BUSHTIT nest, because I have been seeing a future parent hunting for the perfect nesting goodies.
Sending you all good health river-greetings, jane

River relationships weave their magic…

A pleasant Good Morning to you, Barbara, and all you Nature Devotees,

I’ll miss the AmeriCorps & DST crew…

It has been a while since my last meandering river saunter. I have I been frequently to the river~ just in a different format as you might recall from my previous disclosure. Last Thursday was the grand finale of the AmeriCorps & DST members working together for 6 weeks. The members did a fabulous job of completing our goal and our accomplishment looks spectacular~ okay…since I might be a little bias, you should go and check it out for yourself. I admit that I got melancholic as I watched them walk away, because during the 6 weeks we got to know each other quite well and built relationships. I will miss each one of them and our good collaboration as a crew.
So this morning was my first-in-a-long time river visit. It was so superb to slide into my familiar river mode, which always bathes me in peaceful joy. Well, actually I splashed into my bliss when I spotted the juv. RED-tailed HAWK in the Trestle trees, watching me cross the street. Having watched the youngster hunt for some time I can attest that its skills have greatly improved due to lots of practice. It’s a relief to observe that the juvenile is mastering the food supply issue, because starvation is one of the causes that many juvenile HAWKS don’t survive their first year.

introduction to bliss…

Then the BUFFLEHEADS & COMMON GOLDENEYES captured my attention, because their behavior shows that they are preparing to migrate up north for breeding. Both species were clustered in large, head bobbing groups, no longer intermingling nor dotting the river with small batches. It’s intriguing to watch the males’ heads bob up and down, then perform their vertical beak stretch. From my perspective the movement sequence is arbitrary, then again the 2 species might find that assessment clueless to the finer nuances mating conduct. Then there is that quirky male BUFFLEHEAD behavior: males spend a mighty amount of time and energy on fighting over a female, who keeps distancing herself from them and who they have to chase all over the place. They ignore several perfectly suitable females in the flock, who seem to be willing and able to enter a relationship.

BUFFLEHEADS getting ready to migrate…

As previously reported: we have been using rice straw for mulching and I have been keeping my eyes open for critters in the straw section. Lately ground foraging birds are pecking in the straw, an indicator that insects are present, which is good sign for birds and insects~ considering that the insect population dropped 40% and we lost 1 in 4 birds in last 40 years. The weeds are either absent or minimal in the straw mulched soil. Interestingly enough our wood chip places are absent of ground foraging birds as well as snakes and lizards. It will be great if the declining ground feeders such as TOWHEES, JUNCOS, ROBINS, BLACKBIRDS, migratory SPARROWS will benefit from the straw mulching.

Calif. Lilac snuggled into rice straw…

We like to invite you to join us for our habitat restoration work. The Estuary Project will meet Saturday, the 21st from 9am-11am and click here for details. It will be great to welcome you.
My intent starring at the gulls made a levee promenader curious what I was watching. I told him I wasn’t sure if I had spotted a rare gull or a common one, changing its feather decor for its next year cycle. We ended up having a great conversation that entailed him going down the steep bank to pull a jump bike out of the river after I meowed about the bike battery in the water. He instantly became a Hero in my river book and he proved my point: the river invites us to meet good hearted people. River magic greetings to you from jane

ground feeding BREWER’S BLACKBIRDS…