visitor surprises…

Good Morning Barbara and Nature Enjoyers,

dawn visitor…

The other morning the moist shore sand bore witness of night and dawn beach visitors. According to the left behind paw and bird feet prints lots had been going on while I was sleeping. I love trying to decipher what animal belongs to what print. My favorite scenario is to compare several imprints of the same species and try to figure how many individuals had been present, because~ just like us~ each animal has their unique walk. A great chewy food source for the imagination are the prints that just disappear into the no-where, because the ‘what-happened?’ plots are fun to play with.

testimony of busy MALLARD palaver…

Yes, Barbara, you are right: the Canada Geese are right on schedule for the February 1st through September 15 nesting season. For about a week I have been seeing them circle back and forth over the river, honking to high heaven and I wondered about their behavior. I think I discovered the reason for their restless river flights during my ride-along with Erica, who is on the Park & Rec. maintenance crew,. Remember last year’s CANDA GOOSE nest on the river island across the Benchland and Trader Joe’s parking lot that fit the bill( or eggs for that matter) for a safe nesting spot? Well, the CANADA GEESE parents obviously questioned the potential nest safety requirements, because the island is occupied with sprawled out camp sites. I watched one C. GOOSE land on the previous year breeding spot, crane its neck for a better look at the campers, walk back and forth and fly off. Personally I agree with the CANDA GEESE couple assessment of this situation: the island is not the right place for campers to be. I hope that the feather couple will locate a safe nesting ground.

last year’s river nesting result…

I was starring off into space, working out the logistics for various Estuary Project volunteer groups, not really paying attention to the birds flying above me. But for whatever reason I turned around and looked up, right at the OSPREY, who was hovering over the water, eyeing its future meal. She plummeted into the water, came up empty beaked and dashed off into the sky to have a discussion with a RED-shouldered HAWK, who was rocking gently in a wind current above the river. They circled each other for a while and then they both flew to the Trestle trees. The OSPREY landed on its favorite bare branch while the RED-shouldered HAWK snuggled into the foliage, where its undetectable. That wonderful interruption blew my brain fog away and if you want to see the logistic result then come and join us on Feb.15 from 9am-11am down by the Boardwalk/Trestle path. Here is more info. 

I want to leave you with a video that will make you smile and no! I won’t tell you why. So enjoy and cherish your Nature moments with gusto, jane

OSPREY getting ready for RED-shoulder HAWK discussion…

 

uniting & healing river magic…

Good Morning Barbara and fellow Nature Celebrators,

‘my’ RED-throated LOON arrived…

In my last post I was lamenting that I hadn’t seen ‘my’ RED-throated LOON on the river. One of our readers responded right away, mentioning that she saw a LOON a day prior to my post. She also brought up that the recent Christmas bird count reported a 30% decline of birds recorded, which mirrors my observation of the low migratory waterfowl presence. The day after my post I met up with my levee compadre, and I was so happy to hear that a RED-throated LOON was waiting for me upriver. We booth just about jumped up and down like excited kids. I rushed to find ‘my’ bird and sure enough there it was: preening the beautiful feathers, taking a few dips to put them in place. Once in awhile the healthy looking bird checked on me and continue its absorbing morning beautifications, resulting in a great success. Watching the RED-throated LOON I mused how remarkable it was how we are weaving this rich river community network with our readers.

RED-tailed Hawk gliding over the San Lorenzo River…

The day after my Sierra Club Executive Commission election defeat I let the river magic wash over loss wound and greeted Nature’s healing powers. And yes, the election campaign was a hurtful experience, which didn’t surprise, but was unpleasant to go through. So it was soothing to see the SPOTTED SANDPIPER at its favorite rock and it was exciting to see an other one close by, announcing the early phase of potential mate selection. The AMERICAN COOTS flotillas decorated the water surface and a few COMMON GOLDENEYES moseyed along the cliff edge, exploring the rocks for breakfast choices. I let the slow, easy life pursuit of the wildlife spread a calming, peaceful blanket over my turbulent soul and surrendered to the moment. I want to thank all of you Sierra Club members, who honored me with your vote. Your voice matters a lot to me, because it encourages and supports me to continue standing up for the environment.

AMERICAN COOT nibbling on kelp…

It was a pleasure to take a walk with Sandi, who had been introduced to me by her nephew, the prior Project Manager of the Santa Cruz Downtown Street Team(DST). He took the brilliant introduction step, because he had read my blog post that referred to his aunt’s FB report about the Seabright dog that had audaciously chased the poor SNOWY PLOVERS, which was hard for Sandi to watch since she is a dog trainer. We had wonderful, quirk filled walk that was packed with river life: the various birds, showing her the restoration work the DST members had achieved, the guy who threw his bike in the waterline bushes and flushed birds and who took kindly to my educational talk, even considering coming to the Estuary Project work day. Sandi and I even managed to find time to exchange great brainstorming ideas for the river.

OSPREY checking out fish lunch…

What is it with life that hands me a battery dead camera when I observe something astounding? I faced that dilemma as I was coming around the Crescent bridge bend where a beautiful, healthy RED-shouldered HAWK was having an AMERICAN COOT breakfast right by the waterline. As always I felt sorry for the feast victim and as usual I bridged that pity with knowing that bird hunters don’t kill for hoarding sake, but everyday survival. Satisfied I didn’t show any interest in sharing the meal, the gorgeous HAWK kept filled its empty belly, only occasionally eyeing me until I gave the RED-shouldered HAWK its eating privacy.

Tony Elliot, our Park & Rec. Director, stopping by our work site…

It will be so exciting to introduce the Estuary Project volunteer crew to the new, working tools that were donated by a river compadre, who we have impressed with our Estuary Project efforts. My compadre thoroughly, deeply enjoys the river and birds, so I can’t wait to work with the volunteers and new tools to improve the habitat further for thriving critters, who will be lovingly celebrated by the donator and all of us. And I like to assure the reader, who saw the beautiful CEDAR WAXWING at the river that more of their food sources are on the planting menu horizon.
Here is to the river that unites us with its magic!!
Cheers & chirps, jane

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