wildfire ashes snowing along the river…

Good Morning dear Mourners,

the sun over the San Lorenzo River on Mon. 17th @ 10am

For over a week our Santa Cruz community and environment has been in the clutches of the devastating San Lorenzo Valley wildfire that has destroyed the homes of humans and wildlife throughout the Santa Cruz Mountains. Our sky was sheathed in heavy smoke, snowing ashes far and wide, covering everything with its tears of sorrow for petrifying loss. Our sun was wrapped in an eerie, fiery orange veil, reminding us that the wildfire was devouring relentlessly anything in its path. Nature had set loose her mighty lightening force, sending us the fire demons, the messengers of unprecedented hot fires that harvested ferociously the results of our Climate Change silence. Our firefighters battled the fire beyond human endurance with reduced workforce and undersupply of equipment. If it wasn’t for their determination and heroic efforts then wildfire would be raging with apocalyptic appetite through our whole region.

black leaf with hieroglyphic imprints…

I went down to the river to water our Estuary Project plants during that week. It was remarkable to see the fire debris: intact leaves that were black and fell apart when touched. They were actually big pieces of ash, testifying of the heat the fire was generating. The remains had not gone through a slow burning process. It looked like an explosion had occurred, sending us fragments, telling us of its deed with hieroglyphic imprints.
The plants were continuing to pursue their intend to live and be part of the connecting life cycle: seduce the insects to harvest their food offerings with their brightly colored blossoms and thus nourish Nature’s web. It was uplifting to watch the will to live in spite of all the horrifying devastation around us.

WIDOW SKIMMER(googled)

In last week quite a few Widow Skimmers have been present at the Mike Fox fruit orchard. If you have seen one then you know they are exceptional big. So it won’t surprised to hear that they are cousins of biggest family of dragonflies. I have never ever seen a Widow Skimmer and was thrilled to welcome a new insect at the river levee, hoping they’ll become a regular river visitor.

distressed COMMON MURRE droopy wings…

About 2 weeks ago, I noticed that there was an increase of reports for COMMON MURRE in distress. I got curious and asked around. And that is how I found out that the Native Animal Rescue had over a 100 calls for COMMON MURRES. It’s worth noting that the birds had no waterproof and that there was a mix of juveniles and adults. Usually the young birds end up in distress and with injuries. The Calif. Dept of Fish and Wildlife will be examing the dead birds, trying to figure out the cause of their deaths. As you know the Native Animal Rescue center is doing an amazing job helping injured critters and in times like these they will love to receive our donations. Also be sure to check out their delightful blog posts.

juv. PIED-billed GREBE learning its river boundaries…

The juvenile PIED-billed GREBE is trying really hard to get along with the belligerent, territorial PIED-billed GREBE adult. The youngster is getting to the point of instantly fleeing as soon as the older one heads its way, making pitiful high pitched sounds as swims as fast as it can. The teenager is in training to accept boundaries, which is a matter of survival: as long as it is at a safe distance it is allowed to hunt and eat. I am happy to report that the adolescent is getting the hang of the ‘house’ rules on the river.

To-day we had our first blue sky in over a week and Nature withdraw her threat for more lightening, our firefighters got more help and equipment. So to-day we got to give our gratitude to the universe for being able to catch a breath of relief. And let me tell you: it was mighty sweet to feel that release!!
Sending you peace and comfort greetings~ jane

wildfire ashes caught in a San Lorenzo River spider web…

 

river fauna & flora…

Good Morning Nature Devotees,

TERNS getting ready for a feast?

I was filling the water buckets at the Boardwalk foot shower station and kept hearing muffled, high pitch sounds that I blamed on a fatigued waterline. When I stood up my ears were bathed with the typical TERN calls. Usually we hear a few migratory TERNS announcing mealtime, but this racket was a sign of a huge flock getting ready for a big feast. The elegant divers serenaded the slushing water buckets being trekked up to the levee, where I was greeted by at least a hundred TERNS by the Trestle. They were swirling through the air, sitting on the shore, swimming in the water and flying back and forth over the river. Suddenly they all landed on the river shore, veiling the sand with their white bodies, transforming that section into a mystical scenery. I was drinking in that sight and trying to id the TERN species when a couple walked right into the flock, flushing the entire mystical scene out to the open ocean. I consoled myself with watering the Estuary Project plants, who are establishing themselves nicely in their new homes. It’s always strenuous and labor intense to get them through their first summer in the clay soil with heat beating down on them. Later I found out that hundreds of birds were involved in an incredible ocean food frenzy along West Cliff an hour after I saw the river TERNS. Were the graceful divers putting out the invitation for the upcoming food extravaganza?
It was stunning to see a female MALLARD literally scamper with turbo speed across the river surface without flapping her wings for a take-off. Just before she reached the other side of the shore line a DOUBLE-crested CORMORANT popped up right behind her and tried to peck her tush just as she took shelter in the tule. The reason for not taking-off was frantically sculling towards her: 2 small ducklings eager to reunite in the tule with their amazing Mama. The peeved CORMORANT patrolled their hiding place for a while, gave up and dove down. I have never seen a CORMORANT chasing MALLARDS like that and wondered what had triggered that behavior…BTW: it was surprising to see such small ducklings this late in the year.
My river compadre told me that he had watched a young PEREGRINE in the Trestle trees, who was trying to persuade its parent to feed it. He said that the enduring food begging request left the parent cold, who was perched high up at a safe distance across the river. We both reveled in the return of ‘our’ PEREGRINE with the off-spring in tow, which explained the long absence of ‘our’ beauty. We hoped that the food weening would go well for both.

Monarch caterpillar munching Milkweed leaf…

We have a native Milkweed plant at the Mike Fox Park, which was devoured last year by a Monarch butterfly caterpillar. So I have been scanning the plant in the hope of a repeat this year since Monarchs had frequently visited the plant in the last 3 months. Sure enough the other day I saw a big, healthy Monarch caterpillar systemically shredding a Milkweed leaf at an incredible speed: a section up to the leaf stem was decimated and then the other side until both sides were even. Once that was accomplished then the whole process was repeated. The other day I couldn’t spot the big caterpillar, instead there was a small one on the plant trunk. As you can imagine it’s absolutely exhilarating to see the river critters benefitting from our restoration efforts.
Sending you river flora and fauna greetings~jane

last year’s Monarch feeding on blossom…

weeding for the future…

Good Morning Nature Freunde,

Yes~ I used the German word for friends since I am trying to broaden my worldly scope in my narrowed down everyday life. I like to invite you to send me the word ‘Friends’ in your mother language so I can use it for my next blog post.

Honey bee enjoying native GUMPLANT…

I am cutting weeds by the bags full and ad nausea, because I don’t want their seed bank to spread along the levee. It’s therapeutic work that keeps my mood and temper even keel in these current states of affaires, which tend to send me straight through the ceiling…So instead I allow myself to be enamored by the remarkable increase of the native and European bees, who are absorbed harvesting the native plants that we have put in the last 3 years. More and more there is a continuous food source available for the bees and butterflies, i.e.: the Wild Rose blossoms are starting to fade just as the Gumplant buds are exploding into ‘delicious’ blossoms. My vision for the Estuary stretch was to have an ongoing food bounty for the bee, birds and butterfly along the Estuary levee. Steadily that dream is transforming itself into reality. It’s fascinating to watch the insect behavior. It’s quite similar to the bird actions: some species get along with each other while others trigger an instant dislike and need to be chased away.

native bee harvesting GUMPLANT…

The tiny native bee tolerates the presence of the honeybee on the same blossom, but sees red when any other native bee or bumblebee lands on its food plate. The minute insect turns into an attack torpedo and always gets its way. Bumblebees love the Evening Primrose blossoms and disappear deep into the belly of the blossoms. We were fortunate to grow 5 of them~ alas, in last 2 years we lost 3 Evening Primroses, because both years somebody yanked the plants hard in order to harvest the seed pods since the stems don’t break easily~ as the person found out. The extra force required was a death sentence to its roots. Will somebody please give that obsessed seed gatherer a pair of clippers, so that the bumblebees don’t loose their food source? My latest weed location has been across from Bixby St., where the RED-tailed Hawk has its favorite perch in a Palm tree. I love to be interrupted in my task as I watch it glide off its perch and circle above me.

hard to take good pic. of RED-tailed HAWK’s take-off…

Sometimes it swoops low over me and I wondered if I was messing up its meal plans, because there is a big ground squirrel burrow at that site. Now I am not so sure about my meal take anymore. The gorgeous RED-tailed HAWK circles above me during the ground squirrels nap times. You might find this interesting: the usual HAWK hasslers are not bothering this Palm tree beauty. Looks like the CROWS assigned that task to 3 WESTERN GULLS, who come charging out of nowhere to harass the RED-tailed HAWK. The good thing is that they don’t seem to pursue their duty as diligently as the CROWS: sometimes they arrive when the HAWK is already soaring high in the sky and sometimes they don’t show up at all.

Warm River critter greetings to you all~ jane

San Lorenzo River always welcomes your visit…

Greetings to all you Nature Aficionados,

this year’s river shoreline…

This morning I was looking from the Trestle levee towards the river mouth and it struck me how differently the river shoreline looked from last year. Now there is vegetation growing in shallow water pools where once there was bare sand. The Mallards are investing a lot of time in harvesting the new development. The Snowy Egrets and Great Blue Herons stop-overs are brief, because they discover their food items are not on the pool menu. While I was watching the scene it struck me how fast life is changing for the wildlife and us humans. Will our rapid life change give us a better understanding for the speedy changes that wildlife has to adjust to thanks to our human encroachment and destruction on their habitats? Will that understanding create more inclusive wildlife consideration when development projects are designed?

CASPIAN TERNS are back…

Above me the TERNS were exchanging their screeches as they flew back and forth over the river, examining the water for the perfect sized fish. This hunter species has the opposite behavior to any other hunter I am familiar with: they insist on announcing their intent with high decimal fanfare to the prey. That does make you wonder if fish are deaf, doesn’t it? Some of the migratory TERNS arrived a month ago and now you can see their numbers increase while they are either resting on the river mouth shore, splashing in the low waterline or zooming through the air. They pilot their bodies with formidable, elegant skills that I never grow tired of watching.

to id them as juvenile RED-breasted MERGANSER or not?…that is the question

They looked like a medium length tree stump, but they actually were juvenile MERGANSER, huddled together on the shoreline. This year I have only seen one other group of young MERGANSERS and this cluster of 5 was late for the COMMON MERGANSER breeding season. Then the question flared up: are they RED-breasted MERGANSERS, who breed later than their cousin. It was hard to talk myself out of that possibility, because they looked smaller than the COMMON MERGANSER. The markings such as sharper, straighter beaks, the obvious white wing patch, the messy feather-do all screamed for the RED-breasted MERGANSER id…the problem is that they are known to breed up north! But just then the RED-throated LOON popped to the water surface, reminding me that migrants are breaking their traditional pattern~ this LOON species is supposed to leave us for the summer and frolic around with a mate up north until nature turns them into parents. So now I have to ask the bird ID guru if I am id-loony and I’ll let you know what I find out.

SWALLOW fledglings wired towards the sky…

The ‘wire to heaven’ was loaded with fledgling CLIFF and NORTHERN ROUGH-winged SWALLOWS. All of them hanging on to the wire for dear life, trying to counter the neighbor’s movement that set their precarious perch into motion. Interestingly enough no parents dropped by with food delivery, so these teenager are just about ready for their first long distance flight while we humans are COVID ‘grounded’.
Isn’t it amazing what that I enjoyed this lively river life during a 1 hour morning visit?
Does it wet your Nature appetite to check out the San Lorenzo River where you are always welcome?
Chirpy cheer to you all~ jane

young river life…

A fine Good Morning to you River-fans,

San Lorenzo River in the morning…

The CROWS were literally falling out of the tree, because a HAWK was hiding in the Trestle tree foliage. Usually the HAWKS sit high on a bare branch, making themselves targets for the CROWS’ bomb-diving exercises. This new location required for the CROWS to sit above the HAWK and then fall off the branch, preferably right on top of it. This spectacle lasted for a surprisingly long time. Usually HAWKS can only take so much of rude CROW behavior. When I arrived at the tree it was obvious why the 1-year RED-tailed HAWK was resisting the CROWS’ onslaught: its talons were nailing its ground squirrel lunch to the branch. As the attackers dropped down, the HAWK puffed up, hissed, aimed with its beak at them and spread its wings protectively over the meal. I wondered if our young river raptor had finally yielded to the parental advice: hunt for your own food! and no CROW was going to interfere with its hard earned lunch. BTW: since that day I haven’t heard its food begging call echo across the river…

1-st year Red-tailed HAWK hiding with its lunch…

The other morning the City biologists were getting ready to test the water when I arrived at the Trestle site to pull weeds. One of the biologists came over as I was eyeing my never ending task and asked me to take a look at the bird that was lying oddly on the shore. She was concerned, because the bird wasn’t moving. The other biologist thought that it was a LOON and my heart sank, because I was afraid that one of our summer visitors had become sick. As I walked over I could tell from a distance that it was a RED-throated LOON, leaning immobile to the side. That position didn’t alarm since I have witnessed that before. LOONS are pitifully helpless on land due to their leg position so far to the back of their body.

yearling RED-throated LOON on shore by Trestle bridge…

What was concerning was that it wasn’t alarmed when we were fairly close to it, looking curiously at us as we looked worried at it. We decided that we should call the wonderful Native Animal Rescue center, so that the RED-throated LOON could be taken to a safe place. Just as we finished our call, the LOON lumbered to its feet and started heading like a drunk sailor up to the Boardwalk. Although we were thrilled to see it move, we were not excited about the choice of its destination: we instantly worried that our LOON wouldn’t have a chance if an off leash dog came charging down the Trestle path. As we were talking our rescue mission subject labored back up again and struggled towards the promising amusement park. Since that didn’t bode well, I suggested we pick it up and return the fine swimmer to the river. One of the biologists walked slowly over, lifted the LOON, who he thought was a yearling, and checked the wings and body for injuries. The bird didn’t struggle being handled and uttered only 2 perturbed squeals during its examination. Satisfied that our bird seemed fine, the biologist walked out in the water and put the RED-throated LOON in the river. It looked around, raised the body briefly out of the water, shook its wings, passed the Mallard family that had kept foraging close by, and swam upriver. The 3 of us were really happy with this successful rescue finale.

this MALLARD family witnessed our LOON rescue mission…

My river compadre and I were wondering where our PEREGRINE was. For the last few weeks we hadn’t seen it on its favorite high, bare branch. Then we remembered how we had the same ‘ Where is our PEREGRINE’ exchange last year to see that familiar shape back on its perch the following week. My river compadre said: “Just wait and see…it will be back next week.” I can’t wait to tell him that our PEREGRINE must have heard us, because it was surveying the river from its customary spot the next day.
Sending you all river love~ jane

good to see the PEREGRINE again…

river oasis….

Wishing all you Nature Schmoozers a pleasant Good Morning,

Have you all staked out your favorite Nature spots, which allow you to rejuvenate and find calmness in these unsettling times? My peace oasis are my garden and – you guessed right- the San Lorenzo River. I have been working a lot in the Estuary Project section since the virus shredded my social life. This new schedule makes the weed shake in their roots and tickles the the native plants green. It’s really fascinating how this new momentum is changing my river relationship, which was based on birdwatching. Now I am low to the ground, head down, stuck in one spot for some time. This eye position eliminates a lot of the surrounding visual cues of wildlife movement. Sound has become my new, helpful tool to what is going on around me. It’s really an amazing ear opener to discover all the different nuances of the CLIFF SWALLOW chirps. The sound and frequency level vary according to the time of day. Early in the morning their voices are low and only occasional. Towards the late afternoon the CLIFF SWALLOWS turn into highly vocal chatterboxes. Listening to them I can’t help but wonder if they are Kaffeeklatsch-ing about their day.

paved in beauty…

Keeping my head down treated me to 2 delight full sights. I was pulling weeds at the Trestle site, when I stumbled on these fairy tale blossoms lined up on long sprigs along a low growth spreading plant with silvery leaves. The flowers are tiny, fragile violet and yellow snapdragons, smaller than a thumbtack. I have never seen this plant before and every time I look at them they enchant me with their whimsical daintiness.

dainty magic…

The other treat was watching 2 small butterflies getting acquainted. They crashed out of the air onto the levee path, landing facing each other motionless. After a little while they moved closer together and quickly opened and closed their wings simultaneously. Then one of them crawled to the head of the hopefully new friend and slowly, gently opened its wing slightly, hovering over the other’s head and wing. There was no reaction from the recipient, which was taken as encouragement for more winged tenderness. This required walking backwards until their bodies lined up perfectly parallel. They sat stock-still and all of the sudden the wing facing the other, quickly opened and closed. It looked like they were wing caressing each other. This wing duet came to a screeching halt when one of them backed up slowly and started aiming for new friend’s derrière, which pronto was removed by the owner taking flight.

biologists getting ready to count fish…

A friend and I took ourselves on a strolling walk along the levee, enjoying our talk and our encounters. We watched the City biologists seine fish and of course I had to ask about the steelhead count. So far the amount looked good and they would know more after they finished their last seine of the day. Unfortunately the high water temperature was stressing the fish. The biologists had to work fast to avoid straining them further by keeping them out of the river for too long. The September count will tell us if this year’s count will be as great as last year. Well, our river RED-throated LOON is no longer loon-ing alone on the river. The other migration avoider appears to meet the river’s vacationer’s approval, because they preen and dive close to each other. Their migration sabbatical seems to be turning into a perfect RED-throated LOON vacation.

steelhead count is a team effort…

Being a woman birder, I really appreciated the Audubon article about black women birders. I think you will like it too.
And remember to send in your Environment Impact Report(EIR) comments for the Front St. development by 6/24 @ 5pm.
Sending you river oasis greetings~ jane

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~