the shifting world of river birds

Good Morning to my Fellow Nature Lovers,

Jenn Mahley’s took this pic of a dramatic sun setting…

I was watering the young native plants by the Trestle bridge when a bicyclist stopped to ask what we had planted. We had a wonderful connection talking about the river, birds and nature. He mentioned that he lived right by the Soquel Creek. That triggered my question if he had noticed few MALLARD ducklings there, which he hadn’t. The Soquel Creek had plenty of them and he was surprised to hear the San Lorenzo River didn’t. It’s so interesting to find out that just a few miles away Nature weaves a different story.

water splashed caused by diving duckling…

And please bear with me as tell you about about yet-an-other MALLARD ducklings incident. To set the stage for this observation, I like to point out: your average MALLARD doesn’t dive and swim under water. So there was a MALLARD Mama surrounded by her 4 little ones, who kept disppearing under water and pop up in a different spot, indicating that her ducklings were actually ‘un-average’. They were budding young divers! Now the interesting part is that Barbara Riverwoman and I observed this MALLARD behavior back in 2016 and 2017, exactly a year apart. For 4 years we didn’t see that behavior again until now. It’s worth noting that this river family is the only one featuring blossoming divers. 

Remember when I asked you if you noticed bird behavior changes? I received several replies from you, reporting birds were shifting and changing their behavior. Some of you observed that these alterations varied from settled to drastic. Yet overall the consensus was our feathered friends are required to make adjustments due to habitat loss, a transformed weather environment, loss of food sources due to pesticides, etc. Personally I miss the birds that I enjoyed seeing frequently on my river walks. Now I am lucky to briefly encounter the KILLDEERS, who used to nest for several years by the Riverside Ave. bridge. The BREWSTER’S and RED-winged Blackbirds are a vague memory. A ROBIN has become a fleeting river appearance. The large flocks of STARLINGS are absent. The always present GREEN HERON is now a rare sighting. It makes me realize how precious our birds are. 

Our MERGANSER family is growing up rapidly. It’s funny to watch them explode out of the water and see a CORMORANT emerge in the middle of them. Both species feed on fish and so there hunting grounds overlap…Or is the CORMORANT profiting from the MERGANSERS fishing strategy, which is to herd the fish together for easy feeding?

CLIFF SWALLOWS chattering about their upcoming adventure?

The SWALLOW flocks are thinning out. The sky is noticeably less decorated with their little bodies and chirpy sounds. A week ago the fledglings were sitting on the bridge ledges and the phone wires. They chattered a great deal at high volume. I wondered if they were discussing excitedly about their upcoming adventure~ going on a migratory trip. While I was watching the young chatter boxes, I sensed that somebody was watching me. I turned around and there was the RED-shouldered HAWK looking straight at me, perched in its favorite tree.

our river RED-shouldered keeping an eye on me…

This morning a large bulldozer was moving sand around by the river mouth, which was open. That made the water level really low. The wading birds like SNOWY EGRETS welcomed that and the diving CORMORANTS were clinging to the few deep water channels.

Thanks to Kelly our Estuary Project day was featured on the Parks & Rec. Facebook page and we send her a big Thank You for creating such a fine post.

Kind river chirps for all of you~jane