river Cupid nibbles, WAGTAIL and what matters…

Good Morning Dear Nature Schmoozers,

these days of leisure are over…

I am here to tell you that spring is nibbling on our feathered river friends. Why am I saying that? Because in the last week the bird Cupid has been busily darting across the water, through the trees and bushes, spreading the rumor: ” Mating makes you happy!”. At first hardly any birds tested that message and now many doubters have turned into convinced believers. Take the MALLARDS: Two weeks ago there were either no or just a few MALLARDS on the lower river stretch. Back then they calmly rested, foraged alone or with their sidekicks along the shoreline. That scene changed dramatically within a week. Now the water surface is housing up to forty MALLARDS, who are fevered up thanks to Cupid’s arrows. The males are treading water as fast as they can when they sight a female, ready to convince her that they are the perfect one. They don’t bother to notice that she has another male in tow, who of course is deeply insulted for being overlooked. So the quacking discussions start and often they end up in feather ruffle brawls. The females will add her two cents worth of quacks, watch for a while and then start foraging. She won’t be enjoying that for long before a third and sometimes forth male arrives to remind her the season for pecking daintily at the Tule is over. Presently the females keep popping up from underneath males. A clear indicator that sweet little ducklings will decorate our river and make us tweet with delight. The SONG SPARROW is throwing his head in the air, opens his beak to practice his luring tunes. Admittedly they still need some fine tuning before his song becomes the aria she just can’t resist. And then there is the male HOUSE-FINCH, who is following his Cupid choice through the bushes. Obviously she is immune to the Roman god’s memo, because she pays him no attention and keeps flying off. He might have better luck if he resorted to the beautiful melody his species is well known for. Most of us think that songbirds just have to open their beak and these enchanting mating songs flutter out. I fancy that the songbirds wished that was the case, because it takes patient practice to release the song that convinces her that Cupid’s rumor is true.

SPOTTED SANDPIPER shaking off after bathing…

Well, I finally got to see the WHITE WAGTAIL. And no! I didn’t see the rarity at the river mouth as I had hoped. The white and black enchanter has frequented the river cliff area less, because the high water level has devoured the shoreline. My friend and I spotted the WHITE WAGTAIL feasting on the seaweed at Cowell beach. The delicate, elegant body was surprisingly small, about the size of a SPOTTED SANDPIPER. We had just detected the migrant when we watched in horror a beachgoer heading towards our long awaited find. We were worried that our joy would be cut short, because the elusive bird would be chased away by the beachgoer. We watched with amazement how the WHITE WAGTAIL kept flying a few feet in front of him and start foraging again. The man turned back without ever being aware how close he was to a rare bird, who attracted birders from far away such as the bird visitors we met in the parking lot and the photographer of the ‘Strutting WAGTAIL’ pic….

Mark J. Rauzon’s pic. of WHITE WAGTAIL strutting along the San Lorenzo River

I was soothing my nerves over to-day’s painful City Council agenda item #13 by pulling weeds around the native plants. The various permits for the 7-story Front St project will addressed. As you know that development brings me either to my knees or sends me straight through the roof, because of its river habitat impact. Suddenly a big flock of BUSHTITS dashed into the bush close to me. I forgot about the agenda item, because I got absorbed watching their branch acrobatics. These tiny feather balls will scour the branches in every which direction- even if it entails hanging upside down and insects shiver when they arrive. I love listening to their incessant chitchat that is delivered with chirpy trills. The flock did what BUSHTITS are famous for: they all departed simultaneously in one flash to the next bush that promised them an other tasty meal. I returned to my work, knowing that the river habitat deserves and needs more than what I was doing. Yet I see that even little improvements make a difference and that is what matters to the critters and me.
Sending you all my wish that Nature soothes everybody’s nerves for the next 8 days~ jane