meet the BEST and enjoy the river vignettes…

Good Morning Greetings to all you River Friends,

Mike, David, Gillian Rebecca and Tony were last Sunday’s BEST….

My last two weeks have been taken up with hand watering our young native plants, trying to nurse them through the dry summer and initiating the Benchland Estuary Stewardship Program for the houseless campers. I can’t help but see the similarities between the two activities. Both are trying to survive harsh circumstances according to their individual abilities.  The reason for this Program is that the stretch by the San Lorenzo River waterline has has been heavily impacted by uncontrolled camping that degraded the habitat vegetation. I know first hand that houseless people make great environment stewards because I have witnessed that with ‘my’ Downtown Streets Members, who have become a part of the Estuary Project work crew. These Members are the backbone of the BEST, aka Benchland Estuary Stewardship Team. They are the ones, who show up for the work, help brainstorm ideas to promote the Program so that fellow campers become part of the BEST. I admit that I loved seeing Tony Elliot, the Park & Rec. Director, Community and houseless members work together on helping the river habitat. They created a BEST community by helping each other out with hard and at times difficult work, they shared laughter and conversations. Nature rewarded their efforts with the passing of a MALLARD Mama and her 5 ducklings and a GREEN HERON’s fly-over. You are welcome to join the BEST every Sunday from 11am-1pm. We meet at the Benchland entry by the big, black dumpster close to the Water St. bridge.

JUNCO thanks the BEST with a song in the cleared Benchland area…

As mentioned before it has been interesting to compare the settle differences in the river habitats with my river compadres. We can’t figure out if this year’s lack of river bird diversity is due to COVID- more human and dog presence- or if we are witnessing the climate change effects. Many of us are keyed into the Nature cues to prepare us for the upcoming seasons : ducklings announce spring, SWALLOW arrival announces spring transition to summer, migration birds fledglings indicate summer and so on…The comrades’ consensus is that the observed changes leave us a little disoriented. Have you noticed bird behavior changes? And if that is the case~ how do they effect you?

BLACK PHOEBE sailing on the river…

The BLACK PHOEBE discovered that the algae is very handy river float that allows catching the insects that are attracted to the flotsam. It seemed quite enamored with the river ride, because it was still sailing the river on its green ‘boat’ when I returned an hour after. Usually this restless species zips from one perch to the next. This year there have been less BLACK PHOEBES along the river. Did they fly to a different habitat? Barbara Riverwoman will be delighted to hear that a juvenile PIED-billed GREBE is moseying around by the Riverside Ave. bridge. She has a special bond with them, so I want to let her know: the mask marked teenager is chasing its parents, who escape this danger by diving every time the youngster comes too close. Clearly they see their parent role as fulfilled. And talking about young birds: the juvenile RED-shouldered HAWK keeps calling for parental branch food delivery. Either the parents are deaf, bad hunters or weaning their youngster, because some days you can hear that meal request for hours on end. One of my river comrades saw the PEREGRINE in the Trestle trees again. The Falcon always disappears for a few spring and summer months. Now we are waiting for the OSPREY’s return, who follows the PEREGRINE’s behavior pattern.

Monarch approves the Estuary efforts…

Last not least~ We like to invite you to our Estuary Project work day this Saturday, July 17th, from 9am-11am. You find more details here: https://www.scvolunteernow.org/opportunity/a0C4T0000026cG4

It would be fun to meet you at the river~ cheery chirps to you all~ jane

introducing river treats…

Good Morning Greetings to you Nature Cuddlers,

CLIFF SWALLOWS…

In very early mornings~ when the air is still wrapped in its cool night blanket~ the SWALLOWS keep their eyes open for my arrival to water the young native plants. The first SWALLOW will spot me and start circling in my vicinity. Steadily others join until I am surrounded by a good sized flock. It never fails that some daring air zommer aims straight at my head, avoids a crash by pulling up in the last second. It took some time to get used to those nerve wrecking aerobatics! The reason they are happy to see me is that my body exudes heat, which attracts the winged insects, who need the warmed air to fly. Therefore my early morning presence signals to the insect devourers that breakfast snacks are being served. BTW: Since bats are insect eaters as well they share the SWALLOWS’ behavior of profiting from our body heat. So when they dive at dusk at your head they aren’t going to nest in your hair. They are too busy harvesting their insect food that is engulfing you.

Jenn Mahley’s photo of juv. COMMON MERGANSERS resting on San Lorenzo River rocks…

To-day I have the pleasure to introduce to you Jenn Mahley’s blog contribution. She is my neighbor, river compadre and friend. We developed a lively exchange of our bird sightings and I love her Nature curiosity and appreciation. So I am thrilled to share with you her San Lorenzo River experiences: “As I wake up in the morning I’m greeted by cliff swallows soaring outside my window. A mind filled with worry and anxiety deserves a break every now again. I allow myself time to sit and observe, listening to the calming sounds of all the different bird species for which our river provides a perfect habitat.

A mother and juvenile Red-Shouldered Hawk call to each other across Ocean View Park. The juvenile perching in several different trees, calling to mom from each, then on the telephone pole, staring intently at the ground. I’m glad the Crows aren’t around to harass them today.

The California Towhees fly from tree to tree, occasionally perching on our rain gutters, moving their heads in every direction — what could they be looking at/thinking about….spiders?

Jenn Mahley’s pic of visiting HOODED ORIOLE….

A female Hooded Oriole flies across my field of view, bobbing up and down through the air with a male following close behind. They stop in the willows for a brief moment then fly back to where they came from.

I’m triggered by a text coming through on my phone and the anxiety starts creeping back in. But before it gets too overwhelming a Great Egret and a shortly after a Great Blue Heron soar overhead and I’m reminded of Jane exclaiming “That means good luck!” I suddenly find myself with a big smile on my face and calmness re-enters.

A charm of House Finches enter the scene, fluttering from tree to tree. Then, a bird I have not seen in this area yet, though I’m sure are frequent visitors — Lesser Goldfinches! What a beautiful song they have….good luck indeed, Jane!

I feel I am one of the lucky ones to be able to find peace in the River Offerings right outside my door. No need to go looking for it in other humans, material things, or mood-altering substances. The only requirement from me is to allow The River to work its magic and remind me that I, along with everyone else, deserve to live in peace and serenity. I hope we are all able to stop, look around, listen, and enjoy the mysteries of the San Lorenzo.” by Jenn Mahley

I have an other treat for you: the Conservation International website. It’s full of engaging environment info., great Nature videos and a Quiz invite that is worth accepting. River cheers to you all~ jane

Mama MERGANSER keeping an eye on her brood…

Links: Nature Is Speaking~ Conservation International https://www.conservation.org/nature-is-speaking ~What force of nature are you quiz https://www.conservation.org/quizzes/what-force-of-nature-are-you

witnessing and sharing river changes…

Good Morning Dear River Aficionados,

enn Mahley’s great photo of ‘our’ river RED-tailed HAWK…

Well, it has become a ritual to visit with the RED-tailed HAWKS at the river mouth overlook, who never fail to show up. Sometimes one will be already perched on the cliff or the house roof. Other times a short wait is required. Jenn, a river compadre, has captured great photos of them and she noticed that one of the adults has a white spot on top of the head. Since I shared Jenn’s id tip with other river compatriots we are having fun exchanging ‘our’ HAWK’s tracking notes. If you send me your river HAWK reports/ pics I love to include them in the next blog post. I just remembered that last year our focus was the MERGANSER Mama and her 16 chicks…

MALLARD Mama keeping a watchful eye on me….

Much to our relief we can report the river presence of several MALLARD Mamas with their tiny ducklings flotillas. As mentioned previously: they are showing up really late in this MALLARD breeding season. Remember the MALLARD Mama with 13 ducklings from a month ago? Now she is surrounded by 13 ‘teenagers’. Back then we thought she was a diligent parent and her intact family proves us right, because she kept her brood safe from the many perils her offspring faced. For example there are the male MALLARDS, who chase the Mamas off the water into the air. This separation exposes the unprotected and vulnerable ducklings to their many predators such as  CROWS, gulls, GREAT BLUE HERONS, HAWKS and dogs. Some of the young Mamas are still learning the hard lesson of their new parental responsibility: being ‘hawk-eyed’ and diligent keeps the family members alive. So come to the river to celebrate the Mamas and their duckling delights.

Bumblebee landing on Rodriogo’s sleeve…

It’s always helpful to compare observations with other river friends. It’s good way to check if my rumination are reality based. When Rodrigo mentioned that this year he noticed a lot of Bumblebees along the river and less native, honey bees I quit wondering if I was right about the Bumblebees increase and bee decrease. Usually these pollinators generously share their food sources in close proximity. Right now the Bumblebees have very few food neighbors. Rodrigo and I hoped that it was just a temporary shift…In the spirit of shifts, I want to tell you about this blog from India. It offers an excellent insight into how environment issues are addressed by people and their government in far away locations.

male MOCKINGBIRD ready to announce his intention…

I was working at the Laurel bridge restoration site, listening to the male MOCKINGBIRD singing high up in the tree. A part of his tune was a perfect BLACK PHOEBE imitation. It made me wonder if birds ever got fooled by the MOCKINGBIRD’s tunes. Birders are warned to only id a bird sound when they hear it a fourth time, because MOCKINGBIRDS imitate other birds three times. This talented impostor announces his eagerness to settle down with a willing mate systematically: he defines his territory by perching on certain perimeter spots and letting loose his site specific sounds for about 10-15 minutes. Wisely he hasn’t included the frequent RED-shouldered HAWK call into his territory repertoire~ then again it doesn’t seem to hoodwink the females considering his mate search has been going on for over a month. There was an other bird call close by that I knew but couldn’t place right away. Looking up I saw a juv., healthy GREEN HERON balancing on the electric wires. It was a welcomed sound and sight that had been missing for the last couple of years. I send you cheery river chirps and maybe I’ll see you at this volunteer event~ jane

juv. GREEN HERON~ we welcome you to the San Lorenzo River…

Valley Women’s Club: San Lorenzo River Estuary Project, June 19, 9 – 11 am

Please join us to increase the growth margins around established native plants, prune back bushes, liberate overgrown natives, plant new vegetation & mingle with other wonderful volunteers. Our ongoing successful efforts are cherished by the Birds, Bees, Butterflies, other river wildlife & our Community. The Estuary Project offers you a wonderful opportunity to feel great helping improve food & shelter resources for San Lorenzo River critters. Meet at Laurel St. Bridge at San Lorenzo Blvd. For info email Jane at jmio@earthlink.net

river “Mmmh…?”

A Chirpy Good Afternoon Dear Marvelers,

juv. RED-tailed HAWK hanging out with parent

Sometimes my river experiences like to develop a theme. Recently I had week that deserved the heading “Great talks with river compadres”. So if I had to describe my river theme for the last week I would say it was titled ” Mmmh…?”. I resembled a poised dog: head kinked to the side, ears straight up, eyes focused, nose wiggling, body on alert mode. And NO! as a dog I wouldn’t chase after wildlife! Here is one of my “Mmmh..?” moments: “Will it be safe for the juvenile RED-tailed HAWK to keep landing on the river point railing and allowing people to approach as close as 5 feet?”. It’s true that the cliff below is the perfect hunting site for ground squirrels and that its presence stops most people in their tracks and delights their cameras. Although there are those times when other observers watch with disbelief how some people pass right by the calmly watching HAWK, obviously totally oblivious to the raptor.

Mmmh… that’s getting  a little too close

And what about the cozy friendship between the female COMMON GOLDENEYE and BUFFLEHEAD? They lingered peacefully together on the river long after their species comrades had responded to the breeding call from up North. The sudden water level drop of the May 16th breach seems to have put an end to their downstream river comfort, because they haven’t been seen since then. Also the question arose: “Will  the City re-introduce the 2018 breach procedures that carefully controlled the opening of the meandering river mouth?”. The 2018 method assured that the river was seined for the federal and state protected fish. Bulldozers were strategically stationed along the snaking river, ready to prevent the water force from tearing the river mouth open too rapidly and stranding fish in the sand.

2018 City biologists seining prior to opening the river mouth…..

It would be great to see the friendly 2018 fish, tule bird nesting methods return. The City breached the river mouth on May 28th. From what it looks like the sandbar was opened in a straight river line. This method is known to drain the river very quickly, which raises the question:”Did that happen on the 28th?”. The wading birds enjoyed the short lived fishing pools, because the river mouth closed again 2 days later. On the other beak the MALLARD ducklings welcome the rising lagoon level, because they were able to access their favorite foraging and hiding in the reeds.

wading BLACK-crowned NIGHT-HERON…

The best part of taking a break from my restoration work is scanning the surroundings for the various river surprises. Straight across from me, just waiting to be discovered, was the SURF SCOTER. He was resting comfortably on the rocks next to a male MALLARD, who didn’t mind sharing the river with the ocean visitor, who clearly deserved a migration breather.

migrating m. SURF SCOTER…

So I am trying to get a decent pic. of the cozy scene when a BRANT GOOSE casually floats by. Its late presence proves that this species hangs out the longest in its wintering places, which is understandable~ after all they need to gather strength to live up to their amazing migratory reputation: flying 3,000 miles up North at high altitude.  Unfortunately a dog wasn’t informed about the hard life of a migratory bird and enjoyed itself chasing off the BRANT GOOSE.

BRANT GOOSE, the amazing migrator….

Watching it fly towards the ocean I noticed far down the lagoon a biggish dot surrounded by smaller ones. I expected to view more MALLARD Mamas with her ducklings, but the dots turned out to be a COMMON MERGANSER Mama with her sizable brood. The little ones were old enough to practice the torpedo fishing technique: submerge head into the water and race at high speed in a straight line. This exercise exhausted the young flock and required ‘taking time out’ on Mama’s back. Although not all 7 could fit on her the offspring didn’t fight each other for a Mama spot. Instead they swam in an orderly row behind her. I bet many of us would love to ask this Mama how she taught her ‘kids’ that smooth behavior…cheery chirps from jane

tired ‘kids’ chilling on Mama MERGANSER’s back…

San Lorenzo River gifts us diverse bird life…

Good Morning Dear Nature Friends,

petite BONAPARTE’S gulls among CASPIAN TERNS…

The early Sunday hours saw me head to the river point to visit my favorite13″ gulls. Their ternlike bodies have been dotting the coast line, enchanting viewers with their elegant flights and gentle nature. This species belongs to the group of small hooded, migratory gulls. Stepping up to the railing I instantly spotted a good sized flock of my cherished BONAPARTE’S plus the stunning BLACK SKIMMER.

stunning BLACK SKIMMER…

A birder was scoping for the rare LITTLE GULL, a tricky look-a-like of the BONAPARTE’S. For days its surprise arrival had been triggering lively discussions among birders if they were viewing a BONAPARTE’S or the LITTLE GULL. While the MERGANSERS, WHIMBRELS entertained me a few mighty experienced birders flocked to the point, setting the stage for some high caliber bird kibitzing. None of us suspected that our prime gull watching spot would be the victim of the evening  forced river breach, requiring the rescue of a breach swept out person. Personally I enjoyed the sight of young parent birders with the little kids under their ‘wings’. Let’s face it’s heartwarming to see a future 4-5 year old Nature lover birding with his bright colored binoculars!

fledging Nature lover busy bird watching…

And staying with the happy theme: I won’t be meowing to you anymore about no ducklings on the river, because my friend Marky and I saw a MALLARD Mama parade her 13! ducklings by the Laurel St. bridge. Not only that~ there was another Mama with 2 ducklings, who kept her distance from the wide spread baker’s dozen brood. Needlessly to say Marky and I were hooting and hollering over our duckling discoveries. And of course we pointed out the the little treasures to anybody walking by innocently, resulting in some pleasant river habitat conservations. It’s encouraging to hear that few river comrades have also sighted river duckling. The presence of MALLARD families frolicking in the water is special this year, because we don’t have the usual amount of feather-balls.

PHEW! finally the river ducklings arrived…

This brings me to the male MALLARD, who determinately claimed his place in the orange legs tribe. From across the river you could see him swim back & forth, eyeing the line of male and female MERGANSERS covering the entire tree trunk, absorbed with their late afternoon preening. When one female jumped down the male MALLARD’s carpe diem moment had arrived. Lackadaisically he moseyed to the trunk, carefully tip ‘clawing’ onto it. Once safely placed he took his cue from the other preeners and started to shyly address his feather do. The female MERGANSER in the water came over to take a look at his grooming efforts and started a splattering bathing ecstasy. The MALLARD was keen on fluffing his feathers, which didn’t include this rinse. He attempted to hide his head, leaned away from the bathing frenzied female, inching closer to his neighbor, who opposed that intimacy. Not willing to relinquish his place among the orange legs tribe he decided to endure the splashing…

male MALLARD enduring the female MERGANSER’s bathing frenzy…

Our RED-shouldered HAWK is becoming quite the celebrity amongst us river friends: Robin named the raptor Russel and sent us a pic. Tommy and Chloe had a friendly encounter with the camera shy beauty, who flew off when Chloe tried to take pics.

Robin’s pic. of Russel, our RED-shouldered HAWK celebrity…

Jenn has the good fortune to have front seat RED-shouldered HAWK stories, because she lives across the river. This allowed her to witness the HAWKS successful romancing that ended in their copulating all in spite of the pestering CROW. And I got trapped in the car after restoration work by the Fruit Orchard, because the RED-shouldered HAWK plunged down on a ground squirrel just a few feet away from the car. The HAWK kept hopping around and I leave it up to you figure out why. I just couldn’t bring myself to start the engine and scare the raptor off its meal, because I have watched the HAWK failing many food hunts. Within seconds a CROW arrived, ready to share the snack. The RED-shouldered HAWK kept the CROW at bay by spreading its wings protectively over its prey while hissing. Then an other food free loader arrive, in the shape of a SCRUB JAY. These 2 birds kept busy eyeing each other while I waited for the RED-shouldered HAWK to calmly fill its belly. Sending you chirpy river bird greetings~ jane

Jenn’s front seat pic. of RED-shouldered HAWK

let’s river schmooze…

Good Morning Dear Nature Compadres,

the CLIFF SWALLOWS returned…

Since our last river schmooze I have been busy watching the return of the migratory CLIFF SWALLOWS and taming the weedy growth fiesta along the Estuary stretch. This entails cutting a 2 foot circle around the native plants then cuddling them into rice straw nests. Trial and error taught me that this method gives a clear message to the invaders: smothering the domestic flora is not an option. The TOWHEES and other ground feeding birds wait for me to leave so that they can spread the straw nests apart to search for their delicious food treasures.

TOWHEE frolicking in the straw nest…

When I see Mugwort stems bend their tops after their neighbor was cut back, I wondered if plants grieve…You have to come for a river visit and see the graceful California State grass on the steep East Laurel St. bridge bank. This big patch of Purple Needle grass is a successful testimony how joint efforts create remarkable results: two years ago I discovered a few clumps of this State protected grass on the site and asked the Field-supervisor if it was possible to mow that section after the grass seeded. We repeated that approach last year with the result that the rich seed bank spread and now the native Purple Needle gently veils most of the steep bank. You’ll be charmed by this purplish bank mantle that sways elegantly in the breeze.

Purple Needle grass~ protected Calif. State grass…

I confess that my river ducklings search continues. Two friends saw a Mama MALLARD with 6 chicks at the Crescent bridge on the same day, but that little family has never been seen again. In the meantime the MALLARD couples are spending a lot of leisure time together, which is not off-spring promising. And what is with that birder’s video of a MALLRD Mama taking her brood out to the ocean!? What is she thinking? That observation is ultra unusual since MALLARDS don’t favor open ocean excursions. Hopefully the closed river mouth will prevent the river MALLARD Mamas from such duckling unfriendly behavior.  Watch the video and tell me what you think.

is their leisure time interfering with breeding?

I just have to tell you about this engaging board game that a levee crew member introduced me to. It made my Nature heart flutter, because it asks the players to find the right habitat and food for their birds. The game is called Wingspan and this Bird magazine article gives it a raving review.

camera shy juv. MEW gull …

A while ago I promised to get back to you with an id for the camera shy gull. It  turns out that it was a 1 cycle migratory MEW gull, whose claim to fame is that it perches in trees and is not a garbage-can rummager. I am familiar with the gentle look of the adult MEW gull so this juvenile swam right under my gull id radar…

Is it coincidence that the RED-shouldered HAWK pretty regularly lands close by while I am working at the levee? It perches on the riverwalk signs, in the trees, on the lamp polls to keep an eye me. It is not bothered by any of my activities unless I pull out the camera! No other object I use results in an instant fly off.  So I don’t let myself get tempted anymore to take the most perfect RED-shouldered HAWK pic. Instead we just hang out together as I think of Lira’s grandfather’s relationship with a HAWK and Jen’s search for the HAWK’ nest. In that spirit I send you gentle river greetings~ jane

Lupine rewards aphid rescue with vim & vigor blooming…

sharing river greetings…

Good Morning Dear River Friends,

RED-Shouldered HAWK greeting you…

The sky above the river is dotted with the returned migratory SWALLOWS, so be sure to take a minute to watch their delightful, zippy, zig-zack flights. The mornings and later afternoons are the best times to catch them chasing after their insect food-source. The NORTHERN ROUGHED-winged and VIOLET-green SWALLOW species have come back and still missing on the scene are the BANK, TREE and CLIFF SWALLOWS. Once they arrive our spring messenger crew is assembled along the river, where the different species have their favorite spots: CLIFF and BANK SWALLOWS frequent the lower river bridges, VIOLET-green SWALLOWS love the stretch between the HYW 1 and Water St., NORTHERN ROUGHED-winged flit along the entire urban river reach. It always amuses me how birds and humans share the habit of returning to their preferred ‘restaurants’. The RUBY-crowned KINGLET definitely aims for very specific breakfast trees and bushes, skipping right over the same vegetation to land on its morning plate. The BUFFLEHEADS and COMMON GOLDENEYES adhere to that pattern as well. There are certain spots in the river where they always forage, ignoring other places.

rescued Lupine…

These observations are of great interest to me, because working on the levee restoration it is important to know how the birds and critters respond to the new ‘restaurant’ in their habitat. Birds don’t take new 1gal trees and bushes seriously and snub them vehemently~ not that I blame them, because the young plants are of little use for food, perching or sheltering. It takes on an average of 2 years before birds start testing the flora as a valid part of their lives. The juice sucking insects, on the other hand, are ready to explore any new plant instantly, which makes it hard to get the plants through the important 1st year. If the thirsty munchers can be controlled then the plant can establish itself solidly and is not prey to that kind of insect invasion anymore. My prime example is the yellow Lupine that I rescued from an Aphid infestation in the beginning of this year and is now in full beautiful bloom. This shows there is always room to do better for the river as our Sentinel Op-Ed suggests.

Last Saturday we had our Estuary Project work day, which was a special occasion. The Downtown Street Team(DST) planted 3 buckeyes in memory of the members, who they lost last year. Together the DST members dug the big holes, planted the trees, put straw nests around them and watered them with their messages written on water-soluble paper. Community and DST members gathered and shared time to say good-bye and know that the trees will grow in memory of these DST members.

Blue remembering his lost DST friends…

Yesterday I watched the diminished winter migratory flock of the BUFFLEHEADS and COMMON GOLDENEYES. There are about 4 female and male BUFFLEHEADS left, who seem quite content on the river. The 6 female COMMON GOLDENEYES appear unperturbed that the males already took off to the boreal breeding grounds. Isn’t it curious that the female GOLDENEYES are the first to arrive and the last winter guest to leave? BTW: the COMMON GOLDENEYE species nests in tree cavities just like the COMMON MERGANSER. This breeding behavior requires mature trees close to the chosen waterbody. This time of year the summer and winter migratory birds overlap, which generates a lot of “Welcome back!” and “Farewell ’till late fall” greetings. And yes, I am still waiting to greet the adorable river ducklings…hopefully soon. Chirpy River cheer to you~ jane

winter guest still here~ female COMMON GOLDENEYE…

San Lorenzo River missing ducklings…

Good Morning Dear River Comrades,

NORTHERN ROUGH-winged SWALLOWS…

In the last week one of our the spring messengers arrived at Riverside Ave. bridge. The migratory NORTHERN ROUGH-winged SWALLOWS have been flitting around the area, scoping out possible nesting cavities~ their preferred breeding places. This SWALLOW species is drawn to the ceiling light fixtures underneath the bridge, which were retired when the brighter bridge lights were installed. It’s pretty much impossible to catch a good view of their cavity entries and exits, because it happens so quickly. I invite to come down to the bridge and find out we share the same response: do you find yourself holding your breath as they speed towards a small opening, but suddenly execute a breakneck turn to enter an unexpected cavity? If this behavior is meant to confuse the potential predators then I am proof that their maneuvers are successful. The NORTHERN ROUGH-winged SWALLOWS differ from their other restless cousins, who hardly ever take a landing break. You can find  these new spring greetings perching on the branches and wires that are close to the water. There they take care of their meticulous preening ritual, followed by a brief, well-deserved snooze. Maybe the tiny hooks on the leading edge of their primary feathers require the intense cleaning efforts? If you see a SWALLOW shape fly extremely close over the water surface then you are watching a NORTHERN ROUGH-winged SWALLOWS on their famous dare-devil flight. And no~ they never collide with the water.

last year’s MALLARD MAMA’s pride & joy…

I just have to ask you again: who of you has seen any adorable ducklings decorating the San Lorenzo River? I have been pestering all my river friends if they have seen any and get the response: “Now that you mention it~ no, I haven’t.” Nor have I observed any nesting activity that assure us charming ducklings are on our river horizon. To this date no birder has recorded any ducklings on their e-bird ‘San Lorenzo River’ list. The CANADA GEESE are present on the river and no nest building is taking place nor has anybody mentioned goslings. In previous years we used to see ducklings arrive by middle of February. We witnessed the CANDA GEESE sitting on their nests by now. So by this date many of us had been treated for over a month by the little feather-puffs scurrying after their MALLARD Mama, because they got waylaid snagging that last quick food nibble. It’s interested to observe my reaction to the duckling, gosling absence: At first I figured I was impatient. That was replaced by telling myself I was at the wrong place, time to spot them, which didn’t hold up based on my river friends and e-bird reports. Then I was irritated that nature denied me one of my cheerful spring delights. And now I am hanging out in the deep waters of worrying of ‘what is going on with the MALLARD, CANADA GEESE breeding season?’. Frankly I can’t (nor do I want) imagine our river without these small enchanting spring thrills.

goslings from previous year…

It’s a joy to see our newly planted native greenery doing well. The last two weeks have been warm and at times windy. That weather condition mandated for the tedious hand watering to keep the plants thriving. Maybe my hopeful wish for more much needed rain will come true. After all some other hopeful wishes were fulfilled: the very busy levee maintenance crew found time to install a rope fence at the busy tourist Trestle site and filled the sink hole at the Mike Fox Park site. As mentioned before: I am so grateful for the Park & Rec. Dept. crew, who are always willing to walk that extra 500 miles to make the impossible possible to take care of our Parks and Open Spaces.

sink hole is now filled thanks to levee crew…

And now I am going to the river, because I am curious if I’ll be able to report to you that the CLIFF SWALLOWS migrated back to our river bridges…in the meantime be sure to keep an eye out for our river duckling ~ jane

San Lorenzo River cures my blues…

Good Morning Dear Nature Compadres,

Killdeer…not rocks

Several days ago I was looking down the bank by the Riverside Ave. bridge and 2 ‘pretty’ rocks caught me eye. Taking a closer look the rocks turned into 2 snoozing KILLDEER. It was a joy to see them, because the familiar KILLDEER had been absent for quite some time. Usually I don’t stare at sleeping birds, because it wakes them up, but it was hard to resist admiring their beautiful markings, shimmering in the afternoon sun. I did leave when their eyes popped open and stared right at me. Our Estuary Project volunteer group got to watch how several of us got carried away by our birding passion: we heard the KILLDEER calls, dashed instantly to the river bank, trying to locate them, which we did. Then we had to tell the others why it was so exciting to see them: KILLDEER had previously nested at the Riverside Ave. site, that their chicks looked like cotton-balls on sticks and that they had no fear of nesting on a roof slopes or busy parking lots.

GREAT-blue HERON soothes my blues…

So did you hear me wail Friday, the 12th? That was the day the California Coastal Commission voted against the Riverfront Appeal and turned the bulldozers loose to achieve the 81 feet Project’s mission of changing our Santa Cruz Downtown forever. I really got a bad case of the blues listening to one Coastal Commissioners basing her Appeal rejection on her decades old UCSC time when the San Lorenzo River was in its most neglected phase. I deeply regretted that she hadn’t been back to observe the OSPREY hunting along the river, the RED-shoulder and RED-tailed HAWK gliding over the levee banks, the native bees and butterflies enjoying their increased food sources of native plants. After the Appeal rejection I went to the river to ease my blues. The weeding calmed me down and then the calls of 2 KINGFISHER intrigued me. Of course I had to find out where the second one was perched since KINGFISHERS prefer solitude. Both of them were sitting on the Riverside Ave. wire at safe distance from each other. This wasn’t bird safety COVID distancing, but probably a timid tip-clawing of ‘Should we or shouldn’t we think about parenting?’. Their chasing each other up and down the river was partnered with their incessant, trilling calls. Every time they returned to the wire, they snuck a little closer to each other until they were only inches apart. There they sat side by side, starring off into the distance until one got bored with that and flew into a willow bush. From there it let loose a sharp call that tore the other KINGFISHER off the wire, diving into the same bush and then there was silence~ I respected their privacy and left.

KINGFISHER listening to the willow bush call…

You might be interested in to-day’s City Council agenda #23, proposing to expand the Downtown Plan south of Laurel Street in the hope of creating more height and density to the Washington, Center, Pacific, Front streets without public input process. Personally I am leery of this direction, because it re-designs a brand new Downtown that excludes the public voices.

the San Lorenzo River is the OSPREY’s home…

Today I like to introduce you to Rachel’s Nature appreciation: “I write as a bird and native plant lover and someone who cares about preserving diversity of all creatures including humans like me. Without a healthy earth, we are not healthy. Birds and plants need homes too and this project will disrupt local and migratory breeding areas and eliminate native plants that feed the insects that feed the birds that add to our overall health, not to mention delighting us. Plus, they were here before we were here… we share this town with many creatures who cannot write to you. May my voice be multiplied by theirs, egrets, willows, herons, yarrow, sparrows, California fuchsia,  bees, mugwort, butterflies, alders, flies, coast live oaks, and moths to name a few.” And these 2 volunteers elves send you special river greetings and so do I~ jane

San Lorenzo River is important to us…

A melodic Good Morning to you San Lorenzo River Lovers,

male HOUSEFINCH…

Have you been bathing yourself in the spring sounds? Isn’t this season a listening symphony? Our river visits are serenaded by the birds. Their their hoped-for-wedding announcements surround us from the trees and bushes. It’s truly amazing that their little chests and throats send such a volume of sound to their future mates. Watching them sing you can see that their chests serve as bellows to create the enchanting notes. It takes physical strength and calls for short rests paired with a little nibble on the fresh, juicy spring leaves. In the spring time the shy SONG SPARROW braves the top of a small or medium sized bush to publicize his hopes. Usually you find our SONG SPARROWS in the underbrush of the inside riverbank close to the Riverside Ave. and Laurel St. bridge. The male HOUSE FINCH isn’t familiar with shyness or holding back: he finds a tree branch that sticks way out, perches towards the tip of it, turns loose the most melodious song while his red markings catch our eyes. How fortunate we are to be part of their lives that feed our senses such splendid treats.

shy SONG SPARROW singing his tunes…

This grateful awareness was reflected in your Calif. Coastal Commission letters in support of the Riverfront Project Appeal. Reading through all the correspondence I was moved by your passionate, caring, thoughtful river protection comments. It was exquisite to read how much the San Lorenzo River means and matters to you!! My humongous thanks floats to you on behalf of the river critters and their habitats. My recent interactions in combination with your comments made me realize how many people care for the river and Nature, yet few of us know that. So in the future I’ll introduce you to other wonderful river lovers. I believe it will be an enriching adventure to share our river/Nature connections.

we are having a good time working…

Last Friday I got together with 5 friends at our Trestle site to plant new native residents and do some restoration maintenance. We have worked together for a while and specialize in diving straight into our work momentum. While we work hard, we laugh, talk, are silent, share our joy over healthy plants, mourn the deceased or trampled ones, worry over the anemic sweeties, invent protections for plants, remember the people, who helped plant at the Trestle site and solve our’s and the world’s problems. At the end of our 2.5 hrs flourish we had housed 15 new native plants, removed some ice plant and weeded around the other ones that are establishing themselves nicely. I have been starting to work with small groups again and if you like to join then leave me a blog comment and I’ll get back to you with details.

camera shy gull…

Otherwise I have been busy with allowing gulls to drive me crazy. Specifically the one that would sink its head under water every time I clicked the camera. It caught my attention, because of its light color, dark beak and small size. This gull took offense to the AMERICAN COOT foraging right ‘next door’ and kept chasing it away, although it didn’t mind a big fellow gull on its other side. The small gull became my birder nemesis, because I can’t id it from any of my bird books. Hopefully a savvy gull expert will ease the suspense. Then I had to baffle about the flat, dying tule section right under the Crescent bridge. This occurred over a very short period. The other tule areas are not effected that way. So what happened to this section? It was a favored hang out for MALLARDS, EGRETS, GREEN HERON.

flattened tule patch by Crescent bridge

It was surprising to see a group of 10 female COMMON GOLDENEYES with only 1 male~ that’s quite a sizable harem to attend to. Did the other males already migrate? And talking about migration that reminds me to tell you: The previous President’s policy that weakened wild bird protections is revoked!!! There are still some issues that need to be ironed out, but the main thrust got yanked. With this good news I wish you chirpy well until we connect again~ jane