the SWALLOWS are back…

Good Morning to my Fellow Nature Inter-minglers,

last year’s NORTHERN ROUGH-winged SWALLOWS fledglings…

The only explanation for this scene is pure bird excitement: I was checking on my BEST crew at the City sanctioned camp that is right next to the San Lorenzo River. I got sidetracked with talking to one of the houseless campers. All of the sudden I saw 2 birds zipping behind him and my conversation focus totally collapsed. The way the birds zigzagged made me think “Those are SWALLOWS”, which indicated an early arrival date for these migratory spring messengers. All of the sudden there were about 20 in the air. I realized that they were NORTHERN ROUGH-winged SWALLOWS, which triggered my grabbing the surprised man’s arm and squeezing it, shouting:”OMG! They are back!!” “Who is back?! Where are they?” was his nervous response. He scanned his surroundings at eye level and saw nothing that warranted my outburst. I pointed up behind him at a moment when the little torpedoes had disappeared. “What are you talking about?” was his slightly annoyed, confused comment as he looked at an empty sky. Just as he was turning back to me a SWALLOW flew low right by him as I excitedly squealled:” Did you see it?”. “See what?” “The bird that flew almost into you. That was a SWALLOW!” “What’s a SWALLOW?” was the perfect opening for me to make a birder out of him. I told him they are the first SWALLOWS to arrive and that they build their nests in cavities and that they repurpose the light fixtures underneath the bridges for safe nesting. Furthermore the NORTHERN ROUGH-winged SWALLOWS will actually perch on bushes, which the CLIFF, TREE, BARN SWALLOWS very rarely do since they spend 99% of their time in the air catching insects. I did apologize for grabbing his arm and getting so tweaked over seeing the first spring SWALLOWS. He smiled and said that I did scare the hell out of him, because he had no clue what had come over me…and he thanked me for telling him about the SWALLOWS, because he likes knowing who they are.

resting NORTHERN ROUGH-winged SWALLOWS…

The spring migratory birds are arriving and the 6 winter migrants are still lollygagging on the river. Their BUFFLEHEAD comrades left a couple of weeks ago for their northern breeding sessions, leaving the 4 males and 2 females to enjoy the river. They don’t seem to be possessed by the usual mating behavior of bobbing their heads up and down, bending their heads all the way back, which occurs just before they head to their winter location. Maybe they took a lesson from the CANADA GEESE and decided to forgo the tedious flight up north?

BUFFLEHEADS still on the river…

In these intense times I take heart in the positive outcomes, which spread hope and a sense of sanity. I so I like to share with you that women ranchers are successfully combining ranching with bird protection thanks to the Audubon’s Conservation Ranching Initiative. The Center for Biological Diversity and an other group sued the ‘chemical giant BASF’ over their Pesticide product that contains trifludimoxazin that is harmful to fish. BASF just agreed to cease manufacturing and selling that product, which is great news for our river endangered steelhead and coho.
The river invites you to visit its delights with this Rainer Maria Rilke quote ~
Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.
SWALLOW happy jane

FYI: 3/19 is our next Estuary Project work day from 9am-11am. Come & join us @  River-path south of Riverside Ave. bridge above San Lorenzo Blvd. across from the Budget Hotel

SAT. 19th location

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