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.


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,


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:
Sign up for the 5/19/20 video presentation of the 6th property for Front St. project:
Read Gillian Greensite’s article on
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?


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~

Elephants in the Ganges

Dear Lovers of Ecological Balance,

Just an hour ago I heard the inspired ecological prophetess, Vandana Shiva, report with great delight that elephants were returning to the Ganges.  I felt a distinct thrill of recognition run through me as I connected this to our struggle to protect the San  Lorenzo River from commercial and recreational development and to preserve it as a wildlife area.  No matter if the river is in India or America, when we humans back off a bit, the original inhabitants may return.  I am a little sad that the City of Santa Cruz has of today officially opened the Riverwalk.  I imagine there are wild creatures out there who have enjoyed the brief respite from humans.

Vandana was live streaming  this morning on  a Webinar sponsored by the Right Livelihood Center at UCSC on the subject of Covid19: Crisis and Opportunity.  She traces the Covid 19 crisis directly to commodifying food, commodifying nature.  Protection of the forest, protection of a diversity of seeds, protection of wildlife is required to truly protect our health, she says.  That was her message in a nutshell- that we have to change our relationship to nature, and to farming,  if the earth is to be healthy, and if all of those of us  locked down on this earth are to be healthy.    If we don’t get this balance right, we are condemned to continuing pandemics, social breakdown and of course, climate chaos.   Her message helped me make new connections and inspired me with the need for international solidarity.

Here you and I are, in an already over-developed community, trying to protect a small patch of urban river from the the growth addiction of big developers and their willing and self-interested  collaborators like the local Chamber of Commerce.  Profit-motivated designs for our river as a backdrop to upscale restaurants, hotels and luxury condos, never seemed right to most of us.  That’s why Jane and I started this blog – to see the river through the lens of its original occupants rather than through a lens of human pleasure and profit.   But it’s so helpful when a visionary like Vandana Shiva helps us make the connection between growth addiction and a pandemic like Covid 19.  It helps us understand a little better how we all fit into the larger picture.

Shiva has just widened the vision of what we are doing here in our blog, and what hundreds of thousands of small groups of people around the world are doing, to honor the natural world and stop the forces of development that threaten this world.  She is helping us understand the connection between elephants in the Ganges, an obscure and microscopic virus, and protecting wildlife wherever we find it – not only in the pristine wilderness areas, but in our own urban backyard in Santa Cruz.  She is helping us understand what it means to achieve real health in a world currently controlled by powerful anti-health forces masquerading as promoters of health, i.e. Big Pharma, Agribusiness and so many more.  The ecological disaster caused by these players has created the real pre-existing conditions, including mass poverty and ecological destruction,  that underlie the current pandemic.

Keep washing your hands and practicing physical distancing – or whatever else it takes to stay alive in this emergency – so that we can continue to create an international ecological movement for a healthy world.  That is Vandana Shiva’s vision.  I will try to include a link to her talk in my next post.

My computer has crashed again and I’m writing this laboriously with my thumbs!  I had some good stories and photos, especially about a hungry juvenile hawk and a hapless squirrel.  Those  stories will have to wait until next time.  But I wanted to tell you about Shiva’s talk right away.

As we go back into the local parks, including the Riverwalk, I know I will be even more motivated to treat the wild plants and animals with all the respect they deserve, knowing that our health and their health depend on living in balance with each other.

Amazed to be alive at such a dramatic moment in the earth’s history.






Spring at the River…

Good Morning Barbara and Nature Explorers,

DOUBLE-crested CORMORANT fishing in the river…

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

bee harvesting Calif Lilac, planted last year…

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

intimidating large wood chip pile…

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

early morning empty beach…

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

Sorrows and Joys

Dear Jane and Other Nature Lovers,

My blog voice has been silent for about a month now – first my computer crashed,  then a vertebrae in my spine compressed,  and finally the worldwide pandemic came to our  town – all three within the same month.  Grappling with the enormity of the pandemic on top of everything else momentarily overwhelmed me.

But here I am today, at my repaired computer, finally sitting up, and praying that the osteoporotic curve in my back and the pandemic curve of COVID-19 will both flatten and that all of us and our loved ones will come through this. Let’s hope this tragic time leads to inner and outer transformation throughout the world.

I loved reading about your hummingbird nest discovery, Jane.   It once again reminds me that the river is not only an eating and resting place for birds, but a place where birds  give birth.  The corollary is that it is a place we must protect as a wildlife refuge and not as a recreational area. That is the goal we set  when we conceived this blog more than five years ago, and  the one we still hold to.  PROTECT WILDLIFE.

Rufous Hummingbird, google image

Speaking of hummingbirds, I was thrilled to see two  migrant RUFOUS HUMMMINGBIRDS darting madly in and out of the huge Mexican honeysuckle bush in my neighbor Bob’s yard.  I always feel a little ambivalent when the Allen’s and Rufous hummingbirds arrive each spring from their winter home south of the border.  It is exciting to see these beautiful birds, especially the male Rufous with his orange-tinted coppery feathers and iridescent red throat.  But I always feel a little ambivalent as well, knowing that our less belligerent and year-round ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRDS will probably have their well-established territories, and maybe even their nests, usurped by the two pushy selasphorus species.

Allen’s Hummingbird, September 28, 2017, El Rio MHP, Mexican Honeysuckle, Photo by B. Riverwoman

My neighbors on the other side,  Michael Levy and Batya Kagan,  both birders,  have been discussing with me  at some length if the bird we are seeing is a Rufous or an Allen’s.  The Allen’s mostly have a green back and rufous colored belly and flanks, while the entire back, belly and breast of the Rufous is pretty much  an orange-tinted coppery color.  The throat (gorget) of the Rufous in good light is a stunning iridescent red color, while the Allen’s is more orangish.  There are exceptions but we finally agreed that what we were seeing was the Rufous.  It had to be a migrant passing through, since this species breeds mostly in Oregon, Washington, Canada and Alaska.  The Allen’s, on the other  hand, have a much more limited breeding area, confined basically to a thin strip along the coast of California. So, it was a privilege to catch a glimpse of the Rufous on its 3900 mile-long journey from Mexico to southern Alaska.

I read a little more about the  Rufous and discovered this species has the longest flight of any hummingbird in the world, and the northernmost breeding range of any hummingbird in the world. Such accomplishments may explaiin why it is also extremely aggressive, having been reported to chase chipmunks from their nests. They trace a counter-clockwise movement during their migration, flying up the Pacific coast in the spring and returning in the fall via the Rocky Mountains.  So now is the time to get a look at them.  If you miss them now, you will have to wait until next spring.  If you see a coppery hummingbird later in the  summer you can be  pretty sure it is a nesting Allen’s you are seeing.

The SCRUB JAYS have been very actively courting in my backyard, pecking each others’ beaks quite energetically as they prepare to mate.   I think the highpoint of my backyard birding during the last month has been the sight of a male scrub jay just two days ago flying towards his lady love with a big red Mexican honeysuckle flower in his beak (see photo of honeysuckle bush above).  He landed right next to her in my apple tree, brought the flower to her beak, she promptly accepted the gift and swallowed it. How I wish I had a photo of that for all of you. You’ll just have to imagine it!

Before I was laid low by a collapsed vertebrae, I caught this intriguing photo of a RED-TAILED HAWK on the levee. I knew that owls had incredibly flexible necks, but I did a double take before I could figure out that this was a red-tailed hawk whose head had  turned 180 degrees in the opposite direction. He certainly has it on me in terms of bone flexibility.

Red-tailed Hawk looking backwards, April 4, 2020, Riverine stretch, San Lorenzo River, Photo by B. Riverwoman
Same hawk, about to take flight from willows in same area. Photo by B. Riverwoman
Roadway dotted with privet berry poop, March 17, 2020, El Rio MHP, Photo by B. Riverwoman

Also, before my double confinement, my neighbor Batya showed me a huge flock of about 150 CEDAR WAXWINGS congregating on a tall sycamore tree, chattering excitedly in their high-pitched, thin voices that I almost can’t hear.  They had been feasting for days on the purple berries of a Privet tree nearby and had  created a purple polka-dotted roadway to memorialize their visit. Errhh, thanks guys.

Part of a flock of 150 Cedar Waxwings in a sycamore tree, El Rio MHP, March 17, 2020, Photo by B. Riverwoman

Batya pointed out to me that these birds are among the few that exist primarily on fruits. I began to wonder how they could find enough fruits, and also began to wonder why we either saw huge flocks of them, or otherwise none.  We did a little research and discovered that their fruit-eating ways are connected to their nomadic ways.  They have to cover huge stretches of territory, gorge on the fruits in season, and then move on to a new area where fruits are just coming in.

Jane, I loved your spelling of COVID-19 as CORVID-19.  Maybe a Freudian slip, suggesting your displeasure at certain crow behaviors?  Or was it the helpful/unhelpful work of Microsoft Word?

Here’s a bonus photo of a bushtit nest that was discovered on the ground near the Chinatown Bridge way back in 2015 on a Bird Club  walk with our beloved and deceased  bird guru Steve Gerow who identified the empty nest for us.

Empty bushtit nest discovered on the ground in San Lorenzo Park, May 16, 2015, Photo by B. Riverwoman

Be well, everyone.  Stay connected to Nature, our great teacher. We are going through something BIG together.








the rhythm of life…

Dear Barbara and fortunate Nature Lovers,

NORTHERN ROUGH-winged SWALLOW cleaning off the migratory dust…

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

ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRD fledglings dozing in the sun….

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

getting crowded in that nest….

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

empty nest…

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