Starlings are common residents in my city landscape. In appearance they are kaleidoscopic, polychromatic, iridescent, resplendent. In song, they are whistles, chants, murmurs and twitters. Every spring, they find ways to reconfigure urban structures into sanctuaries for their nests -- structures like this corrugated metal framework.
This isn't the first time I've seen an Osprey napping with a fish in his talons. Last year, while observing the platform way across Seattle's long-abused-but-recovering Duwamish River I watched a male Osprey land on a utility pole, clutching a half-eaten meal. A crow who'd been tailing the Osprey, landed alongside. The Osprey perched, adjusted -- then appeared to doze off.
The flight path started at distant patches of seaweed which passing cormorants would pick off the water and carry back to their nesting towers. In the image below, a Pelagic Cormorant with characteristic white flanks, handed off a seaweed prize to his lady love. Since both male and female incubate, I'm not 100 percent sure of the sexes here, but the gift bringer did seem the larger of the two, which would suggest a male.
It seems like common sense ... to slow or stop the car if you see an animal on the road. But, in recent weeks, I've had several incidents where birds were clearly in harm's way and people refused to either stop or take even 30 seconds off their commute to let an animal exit the roadway.
During the week after I first documented the branch-bearing herons, I returned to the park to watch the avian house builders again. I posted to my Facebook page that I stood for an hour that first day, mesmerized by this testament to renewal. In the end, there were 40+ new nests and trees full of heron chatter.
For a few weeks at the end of April and beginning of May, hundreds of thousands of migrating sandpipers, Dunlins, plovers, dowitchers and Red Knots feed and rest on the Refuge's mud flats and along the tideline. On the day we went, a volunteer estimated 15,000 birds were foraging on the plateau in front of us.
When thousands of shorebirds frolic on the mire, their wingbeats rattle like seashells strung in the wind ... just the lightest of chimes, near silent except for the rush of air over 15,000 pairs of wings. They become a coil, spiraling sometimes at 40 miles per hour into shape shifters, turning their plumage from dark to light to flashing white to confuse the hunting Peregrines.
In this regenerated, re-planted Bolsa Bay, bird calls and murmurs bubble up from the terns, Sanderlings, scoters, avocets, grebes, plovers, pelicans, sparrows, Willets and egrets who call this haven home. The marsh is barely shielded from Pacific Coast Highway, with just a parking lot and thicket separating refuge from roadway.
It begins with a twig in the bill and the throaty croak of the swamp. They're creatures of the marshes, the Great Blues, now on ascent to a season in the trees where nests incubate eggs, and where clumsy young legs will soon dawdle on branches until they get their wings.
Raptors Are the Solution (RATS) grew from the grassroots of my home turf -- Berkeley and the East Bay (San Francisco Bay Area). The mission of RATS is to get anticoagulant rodenticides off the shelves. And, in affiliation with Earth Island Institute, they're working with cities and counties in California to adopt resolutions which discourage the sales of these dangerous products.