The day started out quietly and overcast as we walked from home. The temperature was probably hovering around 50 with a light breeze. It was quiet enough to hear bird calls for some distance and I located a small flock of cedar waxwings and followed them when they flew up to join a larger group heading towards midtown. Lone species flying along the river included a cormorant, gull, and egret. As our group gathered and headed down to see the river up close, I lagged behind to walk a foot path through the tall grass and trees beginning to leaf out and began locating more birds that were hanging out in the dense vegetation waiting for the sun.
We got good looks at a perched red-shouldered hawk before it flew across the river. Turtles were already out where they could find perches above the high water flows. We got good looks at small flocks of geese, mergansers, goldeneyes, and wood ducks. We also saw quite a bit of courtship activities including meadowlarks, kestrels, wood ducks, kingfishers, and geese around the water. At one point, someone asked if I could tell the male from female of the two perched kingfishers across the river. Too rusty for that but when I pulled up my binoculars for another look, it was pretty obvious from the activity underway...
There was also lots of foraging activity going on as well as some mate searching and probably migration too. As the sun broke through we had a male northern harrier circling high over the water, turkey vultures doing the same over the grassy landfill mound, and a humming bird perched along the water. Closer to the ground, a white-tailed hawk and kestrel hovered in serious hunting mode over that same location. Down on the ground or around the shrubs there were other species searching for insects, seeds, and anything else that would make a good meal.
With very little effort and few trained eyes, we easily managed to find well over 30 species of birds and a number of other wildlife signs including beaver, otters, and ground squirrels in this area. No doubt we missed many others that were present or will be arriving as the area continues to leaf out. The trees are still bare enough to easily spot many nests left over from last year, including some that will be used again soon.
This was another great outing on the river with families, younger and older neighbors, and strangers all out to appreciate this great river resource and the habitats around it. (As usual, there were also joggers, walkers, bike riders, and especially dog owners roaming the area and enjoying it too. There was also a young group using the area as a backdrop for romantic photos.) It was clearly a day to remind us that spring is arriving and holds promise of much more opportunity to enjoy the Sutter's Landing river area again and again. With very little effort, walkers, bikers, and families with small children spent a very pleasant morning together enjoying the nature around us. We had time for some great conversations about how this area could be restored to a more natural habitat with greater wildlife values and the benefits that the city would gain from such efforts for many generations to come. Stay tuned for more on that subject.
When you go out this year, be sure to spend a little time looking at the wildlife around you and take a few notes and photographs of what you see as well as where you see them and what they are doing, and share this with others as we build a species list and journal of wildlife observations which will help us appreciate this area even more in the future.