Ninth Street Rookery

One of the members in the California Certified Naturalist class told us of a rookery on West Ninth Street in Santa Rosa. She said that it was one of her favorite places to watch birds in Santa Rosa.

Early this afternoon I hopped on my trusty bike and pedaled east across the Laguna to West Santa Rosa to have a look.

Biking to the Rookery 6:6:16

One would not expect to see much wildlife in an ordinary, modest suburban neighborhood like this one—particularly not in the median strip of a busier-than-ordinary residential street. But, sure enough, right in the middle of west Santa Rosa were two eucalyptus trees just jammed with nests of large wading birds—Common Egrets, Snowy Egrets, and Black-Crowned Night Herons.

Three Egrets 6:6:16

The birds seemed to inhabit a world apart from the human activity below them, and for the most part, humans seemed oblivious to their arboreal activities.

The Egret Has Landed 6:6:16

It was surprisingly easy to get close to the birds, who seemed accustomed to humans. This juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron let me approach within about 15 meters.

Juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron 6:6:16

If you happen to be in Santa Rosa, it might be worth a few minutes of your time to stop by. The rookery is on West Ninth Street between Simpson and West Eighth Streets, a short distance west of Lincoln Elementary School. To keep people from venturing under the trees, the two trees where most of the birds nest are cordoned off with orange traffic cones and plastic mesh.

I wonder why the birds use these trees for their rookery. It’s not near any obvious food source (Santa Rosa Creek is not teeming with fish as far as I know) and this site is awfully close to scads of humans. Perhaps one of my readers knows.

Estero Americano Breached; Placid Tomales Bay

Estero Americano Breached

Estero Americano is back within its banks. Two days ago waters rose so high here that it flooded nearby roadways. More than an inch of rainfall fell yesterday—enough to burst the sand dam at its mouth in Bodega Bay. It would have been fun to witness all that water rushing out into the Pacific.

EA 1:20:16

Estero Americano looking west from Franklin School Road

More than a dozen common egrets were dining in the mudflats exposed by the receding waters. One snowy egret (the smaller bird in the photo below) joined the common egrets.

Great and Snowy Egrets 1:20:16

The larger common egrets squawked at the snowy egret and made it keep its distance.

Here is a photo of the driveway to the launch ramp under the Franklin School Road Bridge. Two days ago this driveway was under water.

EA Launchwau 1:20:16

Estero launch ramp driveway

On Whitaker Bluff Road, south of the Estero Americano, four sheepdogs stood guard over a flock of sheep and lambs.

Sheepdogs on Fallon Road 1:20:16

Two of the four dogs guarding the sheep—protection from coyotes perhaps?

Biologist, Estuarian reader, and fellow paddler, Dick, writes that these dogs are Great Pyrenees.

He goes on to say, “I do believe there was a government program that encouraged local ranchers to use the dogs to guard the sheep from coyotes, and stop putting out poisons and traps. Those that participated in the program saw a dramatic drop in sheep killed by coyotes. The other problem was that indiscriminate killing of coyotes can trigger a population boom.  Normally only the Alpha female in a pack breeds, but if she dies, then all the surviving female give birth to a litter of pups.”

Tomales Bay

Tomales Bay 1:20:16

View looking northwest from Millerton Point

Tomales Bay was placid today. The only boat other than my kayak were noisy oyster farm skiffs and the quiet cutter-rigged yacht, Will o’ the Wisp, out of Pebble Beach, north of Inverness. A subtle wind barely filled its sails. Quiet conversation shared by two men in the cockpit carried halfway across the bay.

Will o' the Wisp bigger?

Cutter-rigged Will o’ the Wisp ghosts down Tomales Bay

Boats sat quietly on their moorings.

Vivian 1:20:16

Fishing vessel Vivian on her mooring

Back at Marconi Cove a model airplane pilot prepared his radio controlled seaplane for a flight in the almost still atmosphere.

Model Flying Boat Tomales 1:20:16

This aviator had no boat to retrieve his plane in the event of a “landing” away from shore.

The electric motor was quiet—as model plane power plants go. Thank goodness the internal combustion engines in model aircraft have largely disappeared.

Airborne Tomales 1:20:16

Airborne! This plane’s wingspan was less than 1 meter.

The amphibious aircraft was not so loud as to scare away the amphibious waterfowl, the eared grebes and bufflehead ducks that were out on Tomales today.

Grebe Tomales 1:20:16

Eared grebes dive with alacrity for insects and crustaceans.

Buffleheads Tomales 1:20:16

Three male buffleheads