tree branches and missed its catch of a sizable fish which I saw going down that looong throat!
Thursday, January 8th, was a busy fishing day for many species of birds at Sutters Landing Park on the American River!
Common goldeneye, Double-crested cormorants & Common mergansers looking things over.
Gulls spend most of the day on the river pirating from diving fish hunters.
Osprey, another fishing expert, flew in from up river!
Blue heron rapidly flew in from down river when the action intensified!
The heron took a spot close by on the bank. I couldn’t focus on it through
tree branches and missed its catch of a sizable fish which I saw going down that looong throat!
A female merganser just caught a big fish (top left)! At times when the flock was in swift pursuit of fish I could hear the water churning far away. That's when herons, egrets & gulls gather close by on the banks.
She’s got the fish by its head. See it’s dorsal & pectoral fens?
I could see just enough of the bright yellow belly and fins to make me think she caught a bluegill.
She held on to this large fish, keeping her back to the others & me.
Just what the gulls were waiting for!
She’s still got it, barely!
As the gull closes in, she lost it!
Was it just too large?
She dove for it again but I lost sight after that.
The fishing party ended when dogs chased the Blue heron from the banks.
Lions, beavers, and otters…oh, my! And a marshmallow recipe.
Wow!!! Three rare and wondrous sightings, plus homemade marshmallows and hills to play on…a fabulous adventure to start the year!!!
We warmed up with cocoa and amazing homemade marshmallows (thanks, Eli!) (recipe available). The walk down to the river felt great in the crisp morning, and then we started seeing wildlife. First, a flock of goldeneyes in the water. Then some disturbance upriver…a dog? With a flipper? It was a friendly sea lion playing with its salmon breakfast, breaking it up by repeatedly hitting it on the water. Several gulls gathered round to help pick up the pieces.
The sea lion moved on after a while, and we continued up the trail. A lump on a log across the river turned out to be a beaver. It stayed in that position the whole time we were there, showing off its best profile. Then, who should swim by but a river otter! We've never seen all three of these celebrity aquatic mammals in one day—trifecta!
In an embarrassment of riches, we also saw a Northern flicker fly into the bailer building (and out again), a pair of courting Anna's hummingbirds, an osprey, plus a female wigeon, Spotted sandpiper, American kestrel, bufflehead, Common goldeneye, Common merganser, Pied-billed grebe, Great egret, many species of sparrows, Yellow-rumped warblers, and a Belted kingfisher.
Meanwhile, a happy pack of kids moved beyond wildlife sightings; they climbed and slid down hills of sand, playing, exploring, and enjoying the wild terrain to the fullest.
Our Sutter's Landing stretch of the American River is fabulously rich in wildlife and their stories, and a place where kids can experience nature and wildness. Join us next month in this ongoing adventure.
NEXT MONTH: Valentine's Day Fungus Hunt! Join us on February 14th to look for mushrooms and other fungi at Sutter's Landing. Ryan LaPorte, our favorite mushroom expert, will lead the group in a search on and under trees, in the grass, and all the other places fungi hide. We'll start at 10 am so you can sleep in a bit. Details to come.
Photos by JoEllen Arnold:
Robert Sewell went back to Sutter's Landing on Jan 2nd & 3rd and got more great photos:
Team Otter was well represented once again at Sutter’s Landing Park while participating in the American River Natural History Association’s (ARNHA) 30th annual wildlife count along the American River Parkway. For the last few years, Sutter’s Landing Park has been included in this count. The count has gone on in the Parkway for 30 years now and continues to be an all volunteer effort, rain or shine, and enjoyed by all who participate. Long term information like this helps understand and monitor the health of the Parkway and its wildlife.
The sun shined brightly after an early morning rain and the team tipped their field glasses to late friend and team member Don Schmoldt who enjoyed participating in this count and all other birding adventures and would certainly have raised count totals today.
The event was this year on 12/6 under bright sunny skies as the recent and much needed storm ended. The 9 people on “Team Otter” today enjoyed great conditions for wildlife viewing. The group counted nearly 50 species of birds, a coyote, beaver sign, non-native fox squirrels, a feral cat and 20 unleashed dogs as well as another 20 that were legal. The diversity of wildlife seen at Sutter’s Landing Park is amazing and makes for a very good way to slip away from downtown Sacramento for a little while to relax and enjoy nature.
The data collected from this count is submitted to eBird a global online tool for reporting and sharing bird observations. This information can be seen and updated by all and is an excellent example of the type of citizen science that is possible and much needed with the types of pressures that wildlife and their habitats face. Plan to join us next year and share any new wildlife observations while visiting at other times of the year too. More information on the species seen during the count this year as well as a complete list of wildlife that have been observed at Sutter's Landing Park can be found at this link.
Have you ever had the experience of stepping in dog waste left behind by others? Unfortunately, it’s a common experience these days when one is outside home, elsewhere in the city, or other places wherever there is a concentration of human activity. Unfortunately, one of these areas is Sutter’s Landing Park in the vicinity of American River access and the nearby parking lot.
Is it important to clean up after your dog in such places? There are local regulations that require owners to do so in public places. What about when you are enjoying nature? Wildlife certainly don’t clean up after themselves. There are situations where it is necessary to do so when it affects human health and safety or wildlife. A local example is the pond at McKinley Park where water quality has declined due in part to larger numbers of waterfowl concentrating and human feeding occurs.
It seems clear that such dog waste areas exist along the American River Parkway and other local areas based on current recreation activities. Identifying these areas is an important step in taking action. The following Nature Conservancy article gives a good overview of the problem, a tool the public can use to identify these problem areas and encourage people to come up with solutions. Picking up after your dog is more than a courtesy; it’s conservation.
What is PooPower!?
By Lisa Feldkamp, senior coordinator, new science audiences, The Nature Conservancy
Remember the last time you stepped into a pile of dog excrement? Chances are, it’s not a pleasant memory.
Now think about that stinky, smelly mess – in your drinking water.
It’s a BIG problem. In America, pet dogs produce about 10 million tons of poo each year.
If that poo doesn’t get properly scooped and disposed of, it ends up going untreated into our stormwater and from there it can end up in drinking water.
That’s not just a big mess; the bacteria in dog waste could have serious implications for the environment and human health.
“The problem is universal and the simple act of cleaning up after your dog has environmental benefits as well as personal health benefits. Yes, the environmental benefits of reduced pollution in our parks, streets and waterways are apparent, but many people are unaware that the bacteria in dog waste are potentially a hazard to us as well,” says Duncan Chew, Project & Community Engagement Manager of PooPower.
PooPower! is a project that started in Australia using citizen science to map dog poo ‘hotspots’ and encourage people to come up with solutions. They are working to transform the poo problem into an energy solution with biogas made from doggy doo.
Why is PooPower! Important?
Dog feces has a lot of bacteria, more even than human feces. The EPA has many resources on best practices for disposing of waste and reasons to do so. One fact sheet notes “a day’s waste from one large dog can contain 7.8 billion fecal coliform bacteria, enough to close 15 acres of shellfish beds.”
Excess nutrients in the water from dog waste could also contribute to algal blooms that are bad for fish, other aquatic life, and our drinking water.
“In extreme cases eutrophication [excess nutrients] will deplete the waterway of its oxygen and impact the health of plants and animals,” Chew explains.
Picking up after your dog is more than a courtesy; it’s conservation.
Recommended disposal options for dog poo (flushing, trashing, and burial) are often imperfect. Flushed dog stool can overwhelm the sewage system and with both trash and burial there is still a chance that the feces will wash out into the water system.
That is why projects like PooPower! are working on using dog poo for biogas. This solution keeps the poop out of the water system and provides an alternate, renewable energy source.
PooPower! also taps the potential of dog feces to get kids excited about science.
Dog poop is part of our every day lives, easy to find, and it ties in to many science and social science topics.
Starting from dog poo, teachers can lead into discussions of watersheds, bacteria, social systems and much more.
How Do You Get Involved in PooPower!?
Get started finding dog poo hotspots in your area with the iPhone app.
“People have the best sense of humour when it comes to dog poo and the Poo Power! iPhone app is the best example of that. Citizen scientists around the world are quite happy to take photos of dog poo to be publicly published and GPS-tagged on our map,” says Chew. Then learn more about the options for disposing of dog waste in your area. If you’re not satisfied with currently available options, go to your city government with ideas for improvement.
Don’t be afraid to educate your neighbors (politely).
“What people can do is support each other in improving the cleanliness of our parks and streets. If you’re out walking the dog and see someone who doesn’t clean up after them, offer them one of your dog poo bags as a gentle reminder to do the right thing,” Chew advises.
You might get some strange looks when you’re taking pics of dog poo, but give it a try. It may lead to some very productive conversations.
More recent research on how our canine companions impact local ecology.
On a calm and serene Saturday morning, FORB and thirty or so friends and neighbors 'Welcomed the Salmon back' on their annual return to the beautiful American River. Though we did not see or hear the sea lion that follows the salmon, we did see a couple of salmon jump out of the river. We also saw Geese, Turtles, Comorants and were happy to see a graceful Great Blue Heron fly just over the water.
We were blessed to have Laura Drath, a California Department of Fish & Wildlife interpreter from the Nimbus Fish Hatchery, return to discuss the life cycle of salmon and educate the children about what other fishes can be found in the American River. She assisted the children painting rubber salmon and trout which were then flipped over onto paper to make an imprint for them to take home. It was so interesting that a couple of adults went over to the painting table and decided to create their own works of art. Laura also brought an educational fishing pole where the children use a magnet at the end of a string and pick up a fish that has a paper clip on it. The back of the fish had its description and where it is be found on the American River.
This year, our neighbor Tom Biglione paddled over in his canoe and told the group about what can be seen from the perspective of being in the middle of the river. He said during this time of year, a canoeist or kayaker can be surrounded by very large salmon from now till November. He gave examples of how to paddle (its all in the back-not just the arms) and showed us that even close to shore, there are eddy’s that one needs to compensate for when paddling. Tom gave a sense of romanticism to canoeing on our rivers for which many were appreciative of. He answered questions about where he drops off, the type of canoe he has and the equipment he carries when out on the water. We really enjoyed his informative and casual way of speaking about his adventures on the river and will look forward to hearing from him again in the future.
A special thanks goes out to Laura and Tom for coming out today and a big thank you to Betsy Weiland for bringing cookies, coffee, water and helping children (and adults) make Salmon Hats! Thanks also goes to Lyvonne Sewell, who helped set up, had our visitors sign up and helped with handing out brochures and the all important Acorn cards. All in all, it was a very peaceful morning with many happy children enjoying all that the river has to offer.
Article and Photos by Kathy 10-11-14
Saturday, September 13, was a very batty night for Friends of the Riverbanks. We got a chance to get up-close and personal with live bats and all of us now have a much better appreciation of just how amazing these flying mammals are and just how vital and important their niche in nature is. Did you know that a single little brown bat (Myotis lucificus) can eat up to 1000 mosquitoes in a single hour, and is one of the world's longest-lived mammals for its size, with life spans of almost 40 years? Or that bats are more closely related to humans and other primates than they are to rodents? Now you do!
Our local amateur bat authority and neighbor, JoEllen Arnold, has done several presentations for FORB before and each year they are more informative and more amazing! For instance, when was the last time you've ever been face-to-face with a live bat? People knew they were in for something special, because the turnout was really large, over seventy people and about half were awestruck kids. A Brownie Girl Scout troop joined us and some children and parents from nearby Courtyard School were there as well.
Seeing a bat face-to-face can be a life-changing experience. There are 17 species that live in Northern California, each an important contributor to the health of our ecosystem.
JoEllen's teaching skills were very helpful with so many energetic kids on hand, but just being on the banks of the mirror-like river at dusk, turning into dark, was magical in itself. As always, some children scooped up wet sand and got their shoes a little wet in the water, while others listened to the echolocation device which detected bats flying near-by. Five species were heard foraging over the river while we talked: Hoary Bat, Mexican Free-tail, Silver Haired Bat, Red Bat, and Myotis volans, the Long-legged Bat.
All delighted in meeting three local species of bats: a Pallid Bat, a Big Brown Bat, and a Mexican Free-tail Bat. These three “Bat Ambassadors” are wild bats which each suffered an injury or birth defect which makes them unreleasable—they cannot fly and would die in the wild. JoEllen volunteers with NorCalBats, which provides rescue services and education about bats including the Bat Ambassadors which are permitted by the State of California to be used for educational programs. You can learn more about NorCalBats at www.norcalbats.org. For lots more fascinating information about bats worldwide, check out Bat Conservation International at www.batcon.org.
The Bat Ambassadors are now resting up after a busy week helping humans understand how important they are. The Mexican Free-tail is at the top, the Pallid Bat in the middle and the Big Brown Bat is at the bottom. They love to be warm and are snuggling in a denim pocket in their soft house.
We so appreciate our Sutter’s Landing Park Ranger, Robert, for coming by to meet our neighbors and to say hello to the bats. Thank you very much Ranger Robert.
The bat evening is one of our special annual events you'll want to attend each year. You will be a bat expert yourself after spending a bat filled evening with Friends of the Riverbanks.
Mark your calendar for October 11th to join us for our annual "Welcome Back the Salmon Day!" More activity info will be sent later.
:-) Robert & Lyvonne' of FORB
Friends Of The River Bank welcomed back Greg Kareofelas, our Dragonfly and Damselfly (D&D) expert, who brought his knowledge and wonder about this wonderful insect group.
I went out to look at the latest burn on the lower Parkway this evening. It appears that roughly 10-30 more acres of mostly grassland habitat burned in this fire across the river from Sutter's Landing Park on 8/2/14 while I was away. The area that burned in this fire likely overlaps with part of the larger Woodlake fire that burned here about a year ago. There have been many such fires on the lower American River Parkway recently and these fires have resulted in much habitat loss and wildlife impact. The impact to riparian forest and oakwood land habitats are especially destructive and will be slow to restore.
There also benefits from fire including the production of herbs and forbs as new ground cover and forage. This is the case now at last year's Woodlake fire where quite a bit of new vegetation is visible. I saw some raptor activity at the newest burn nearby today but didn't have my binoculars to confirm sps. Very little new vegetation growth was seen within the recent CalExpo (Bushy Lake) fire except for bermuda grass which doesn't have much wildlife value and is nonnative. I have seen at least one of the pair of White-tailed kites that recently nested there but don't know how the rest of this family of raptors fared in that large burn which destroyed much important habitat. Many wildlife likely were able to flee into the adjacent unburned areas where they would have to try and establish new homes and compete with other animals already present. Young wildlife are less likely to be able to escape or survive such fires which can impact future populations.
As I rode back down the bike trail through the Woodlake burned area I spotted several deer and stopped for a closer look. Two young forked horn bucks were casually foraging in the new growth. I watched them for awhile and they were soon joined first by a spotted fawn. A little while later I saw a second fawn and adult doe nearby. A few more fuzzy deer photos can be seen here. This appears to be a single family unit, perhaps with young from the last couple of years. Deer sightings are uncommon in this area of the Parkway but likely to be more common now as new vegetation returns. There is other increasing wildlife activity in the burned area now including a number of turkey flocks and other avian species. Take the time to look closely when you are in these areas and share them.
A group of 25 people, including at least six youngsters, flocked to the FORB event on Saturday, July 12 to learn about the birds and their habitat along the American River at Sutter's Landing Park. We identified 30 species of birds, including some young birds that were being fed by their parents. It was great to imagine that birds, such as tree swallows and ash-throated flycatchers, were hatched somewhere along this stretch of river and that the trees that were providing us with shade were also providing all of these birds with a home.
Along the river, we saw a gaggle of Canada geese floating by and several white-faced ibises flying overhead. As two belted kingfishers flew by we learned that the females of this species are more dazzling than the males, which is an exception in the bird world. We also saw mallards, a double-crested cormorant, great blue heron, and great egret. Swainson’s hawks are usually found nesting near this stretch of river and were seen high overhead during this outing. Nests of several other species were noted too. We then climbed up the bank to the cottonwood thickets and heard Nuttall’s woodpeckers, which are common in the tree canopy of Boulevard Park. Still wandering around the trees, we saw fly-catching birds, including black phoebes and Western kingbirds.
Our guide on this adventure, ornithologist Hillary White, is a Senior Wildlife and Restoration Ecologist with H.T. Harvey & Associates and works on projects that benefit birds and other wildlife.
The full list of bird species we saw was recorded on eBird and can be viewed there if you set up a free account. eBird allows birdwatchers to compile and share data with researchers to better monitor species. FORB contributes to this effort and the observation list from this outing is also copied below. For a list of all birds and wildlife that have been viewed at Sutter's Landing Park visit the "What's There" link FORB’s web site, www.friendsoftheriverbanks.org. For more about all things ornithological, check out www.allaboutbirds.org, a comprehensive web site maintained by the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology.
American River Parkway--Sutter's Landing Park, Sacramento, US-CA
Jul 12, 2014 9:00 AM - 10:45 AM
Comments: Friends of the River Banks monthly walk.
Canada Goose 45
Double-crested Cormorant 5
Great Blue Heron 1
Great Egret 1
White-faced Ibis 12 flyover
Turkey Vulture 2
Red-shouldered Hawk (California) 1
Swainson's Hawk 2
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) 8
Mourning Dove 6
Black-chinned Hummingbird 1
Belted Kingfisher 2
Nuttall's Woodpecker 1
American Kestrel 1
Black Phoebe 3
Ash-throated Flycatcher 2
Western Kingbird 7
Western Scrub-Jay 3
American Crow 2
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 1
Tree Swallow 40
Oak Titmouse 2
House Wren 1
American Robin 1
Northern Mockingbird 3
European Starling 2
Spotted Towhee 2
House Finch 4
Lesser Goldfinch 2
FORB plans to host similar events in the future.
The CalExpo fire and crews fighting it surrounded Bushy Lake on the 4th of July. Neither seemed to acknowledge that this designated nature study area in the American River Parkway received special recognition from the state legislature. Fire frequency and intensity have increased in recent years while Parkway and Fire department budgets have decreased. County crews recently enlarged existing dirt roads as fire breaks around the area. The goal being to facilitate emergency fire response efforts and allow better access for vehicles and better protection to existing habitat.
In the heat of the well organized and comprehensive response, no mention of Bushy Lake's status was heard over fire department radio frequencies monitored. During the fire, a bulldozer widened existing firebreaks and created new ones and towed trucks that became stuck in areas beyond existing access.
A helicopter provided direction to help crews working quickly under thick smoke and limited visibility. The high voltage lines through the area could not be shut down during the fire and crews were concerned that sparks could arc in those smokey conditions. The comprehensive response restricted the fire from reaching most areas below the towers and lines as well as the fairgrounds. The relative priorities seemed to be protect existing utility infrastructure, the nearby state fair grounds with scheduled events and then Parkway habitat in that order.
The scene still smoldered with hot spots to watch so access was restricted along the bike trail the day after. The trail was opened again on the 6th. The area burned was actually much larger (163 acres including riparian and oak woodland habitat) than the 40 acres of "brush"initially reported. This is the largest and perhaps most damaging recent fire in the parkway and includes some backfire areas burned to help control the fire.
The state fair complex across the levee was threatened by this fire and evacuated hours before the scheduled $50,000 firework display and soccer match. The soccer match was rescheduled but the firework show went on that night. What else to do with all those purchased explosives? There was some damage to a few parked cars but otherwise the fire did not reach the structures or large eucalyptus trees present. Parking for the evening fireworks event was restricted due to smoky conditions which likely put more pressure on nearby areas such as Sutter's Landing Park. Several days after the fire, vehicles associated with the livestock programs for the upcoming state fair are again parking on areas that recently burned.
Biking along the levee between the fair and burned area the day after it was noted that personal fireworks had been lit there near the eastern edge of the fire. Could this have been the cause of the CalExpo fire? Headlines about other fires being fought nearby reported that embers from one city's annual firework display was thought to have caused fires in another county at their fairgrounds no less.
I learned yesterday that the CalExpo fire is thought to have started from a small fire that occurred earlier in the week and the same location and was being monitored by fire and park staff. It is not clear yet how the monitored fire could have resulted in this much bigger problem. This needs to be reviewed closely to determine what can be done to avoid such results in the future.
It is also important to evaluate the effectiveness of the measures taken in the Bushy Lake area during this fire. Was habitat protection adequate or should other steps be taken in the future? Will habitat restoration be a priority? An overall question in the midst of this drought is whether personal fireworks should be more tightly managed too.
Special thanks and kudos to all fire response personnel who handled the CalExpo fire in a professional and effective manner while being at risk due to difficult conditions.
More photos of this and other recent Parkway fires are available at this link.