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…