Photos during Earth Day week at Sutters Landing Park by Robert
Western Meadowlarks are seen most of the year on the fenced off mound area at Sutter Landing Park. With the warm spring-like weather we’ve been enjoying, we think these ground nesters will soon be sitting on eggs. This mound is the only place I see these birds in such large numbers near our Midtown home. Their bright yellow breast and melodious calls have been the reason some have taken up the adventure of becoming birders.
Though they spend much time on the ground, they are strong flyers. A week ago as I walked along the upper levee road, I paused to take in the sounds of a flock of them calling / communicating in a river bank tree. A couple of others also stopped to listen in.
Being ground nesters that have to be good in the use of camouflage. As a person approached this bird, it simply positioned itself between two dry plants, crouched down and froze in place. When he passed it resumed feeding.
Like this one, look and listen for their call next you walk along the bike trail on your way to the river.
The length of their strong beaks is well suited to dig and probe for insect larvae and for catching grasshoppers. Normally your best chance to see these birds is when they are in flight, moving from one area of the mound to another. Good luck. Robert
NOTE: A good source of California information comes from California Partners in Flight Grasslands Conservation Plan by Bob Allen. Meadowlark info: http://www.prbo.org/calpif/htmldocs/species/grassland/wemeacct.html
Osprey fishing at Sutters Landing Park, Feb. 2nd morning. This was my first sighting of osprey fishing this lower part of the American River. NOTE: Robert has some great mushroom photos too & they are posted separately...
I first saw two Ospreys fly down river this morning
Later this one returned
Several low passes back and forth above the river
My first sighting with a catch
Not until I enlarged the photos did I realize it had two fish!
Where to perch now?
saw it finally head up to the protected area of the mound, there one fish was dropped to the ground, out of my sight. Obviously it could not land to feed until one talon was freed. Lucky for it no gulls where around.
Please Note this meeting has now been rescheduled for 3/7/13 at city hall.
Th., Feb. 7, 2013, 7 pm
Monthly meeting of City of Sacramento Parks & Recreation Commission
First annual Community Forum on Sutter’s Landing Park
Proposed agenda items for the Forum currently include:
1. City Staff Presentations/Project Updates: Proposed Solar, Prop. 84 Grant, Tree Removal Mitigation, Two Rivers Trail planning, adjacent properties, other proposals, Landfill status
2. Public Comment
3. Commission Discussion
Feel free to pass this information on to others who may be interested. If there are any specifics you would like to make sure are covered by staff, please share before the meeting.
Just east of the former landfill at Sutter's Landing Park there is a triangular parcel wedged between the freeway, river, and RR tracks. This location is intended to be where the city will do a mitigation replanting project to compensate for the recent nearby removal of a stand of trees. The city owns a portion of the parcel now and the RR owns the rest.
This week, I noticed some newly cut trees at the site as well as some bright pink staking. I inquired to find out if the mitigation project was starting up and to find out more about the vegetation removal done. It turns out that the city has put staking in place recently to identify the limits for the upcoming planting. That work did not include any vegetation removal. After more inquiries, it was learned that a company that leases some the land from the RR for a large billboard was recently onsite & removed some "volunteer" growth.
I hiked out to this corner of the property today and found that the vegetation removed included some mature elderberry shrubs and other cover that provides some of the best habitat on the parcel currently. The city indicated they have no control of the area in question and have no plans to plant any new vegetation there. It does seem that the owner and leasee would need a permit from the city for the billboard and there is certainly a need to protect elderberry habitat which may host the federally endangered valley elderberry longhorn beetle as well as provide good habitat in an area where there is the primary goal. Clearly, more thought and follow-up is needed...
Looking west along the freeway & back towards the former landfill. Note the billboard and recently cut vegetation
Recently cut elderberry have been present for years at this location
Looking across cut elderberry towards the area to be planted by the city
Meanwhile, on the other side of the former landfill, a lone elderberry remains after a project recently removed all the stockpiled soil and graded the area bare. Previously, vegetation there provided cover for foraging and movement along this side of the river. Future habitat restoration is needed here too.
This important old snag tree is home for many cavity nesting birds. I’ve heard frogs in the thickets at its base too.
Tree Swallow in the snag tree.
A Tree Swallow coming out of a nest cavity, with no room to spare. I wonder if they are just claiming a home, it’s still winter in Feb..?
Male Nuttall’s Woodpecker.
Red-shoulder Hawks, Owls and other raptors, rely on this river-bank meadow area to hunt small rodents. This habitat is adversely affected in large part by illegal off-leash dog traffic. Lastly, this is the first year I have not seen or heard ground nesting California Quail in this area, but I trust they'll return if given half a chance.…Robert on the River
Those of you who have seen my chronicles on the wildlife side of the lower American River over the years, know how I’ve marveled at the little Goldeneye diving Ducks, who spend their winters with us. They are one of the last to arrive but they add a splash of color before they fly back to the far north USA, Canada and Alaska to nest.
From these photos you can see why they have been so named, but it’s not as easy to see the males dark iridescent green heads. As striking as the males are now, I wonder what they look like in breeding season? Today the males where displaying by throwing their heads all the way back like some fancy dances.
When you come up to see them, bring your binoculars and a friend. Listen to hear their whistling wing beats as they fly by. They are shy, so enjoy the scenery and waiting for them to come your way. Good luck!
Any one know where they roost at night?
Another duck I saw looks like the female GE. It’s called the Pied-billed Grebe, also a diving duck, but even smaller. Some of them spend their winter in S. America. ………. Ah to have a ticket to Fly!
I saw several couples today such as the White-tailed Kites which could be heard vocalizing from across the rive on the north bank. Probably discussing Michael’s inaugural party dress.
I saw a couple of handsome Green Herons, which I seldom see on the river.
A couple of stately Great Egrets flew by a couple of times.
A couple plus one, Red-tailed Hawks did some fancy flight maneuvers high over the north bank.
A Belted Kingfisher was so noisy that it sounded like a couple having a republican verses democrat debate.
I saw a small flock of American Pipits feeding along the upper leave road, but so far I haven’t seen the large numbers I’ve seen in years past. For such slim little birds I marvel at the distance some of them migrate to nest in Alaska and even the Arctic. SL is a welcomed habitat for migrators.
Finally I saw a lone Sea-river Lion working its way back down river, probably after another successful day of fishing.
My last sighting of the day was of a person flying above the west end of the Park, in a three-wheeler winged contraption! What a cool way to fly!
The Rive never disappoints an “open-eyed visitor!”
Robert, Friends Of the River Banks
It is obvious to anyone who spends much time on the bike trail or other parts of the parkway that fires have increased and are causing the loss of many mature cottonwoods and other important vegetation. There are several extensive burned areas at Sutter's Landing Park and in many other areas along the river. This needs attention and questions are being raised including a proposal to start a task force to work on the problem. A secondary question has come up about whether or not the extensive stands of wild grape could contribute to the intensity of these fires or cause other losses to cottonwoods and other vegetation sometimes heavily covered by this native species known to be important for wildlife in the area.
I made an informal review of wild grape cover along the American River and nearby section of the Sacramento River recently. Here are some preliminary thoughts and observations about whether these or other vines are causing habitat destruction along the river. Wild grape along the river.
We need to be able to gather more information on the causes and solutions for the increase fires along the river. This would also be an opportunity to learn more about the role wild grape may play in and around these burned areas as well as other areas along the parkway. We can all pay more attention to these questions and look for solutions too.
The 6th annual FORB gathering had some 50+ folks come out for a beautiful crisp New Year's Day morning. We enjoyed seeing old friends and making new ones while we warmed up with hot beverages and oatmeal cookies. The nature walk along the river was fun and gave as all a good reminder of what a special place this is to have in our neighborhood. Some notes and photos were posted at the new twitter account (@FORB2013). Here are a few more from Robert Sewell. He reported seeing "about six Western Blue Birds feeding near the river, along with several Yellow-rumped Warblers and a male Northern red-shafted flicker carving out a nest cavity in clear sight of the lower river road. We’ll watch to see if it will actually nest here this summer. Most of them migrate up to the mountain in the spring".
Welcome to 2013! It seems like FORB could use a new tool or two to help share information. FORB now has a twitter account, @FORB2013, where we can send and receive real time input from those interested in our surroundings at Sutter's Landing Park. Among other things, anyone with a smartphone can now post a wildlife observation or other information by sending a brief tweet to this account. This can include a photo, short video clip, or web link for more details too. There is also a temporary email account, firstname.lastname@example.org, which will be used to monitor FORB and Sutter's Landing Information until a more permanent address is created.
Anyone interested can follow FORB on twitter and receive news and information of interest that way too. It's likely we'll keep a running summary of this information available on the website in the near future too.
OK, let's plan to tweet in the new year together tomorrow at the river. See you there!