Good morning and greetings, baseball playoff fans. There were highs and lows on our local national pastime front last week, as the A’s were losers and the Giants were winners in respective one game wild card playoffs. It was especially painful for A’s fans like my son Jason, as they seemingly had the game won three times before they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
But then again, he has the football Raiders, who with any luck, will put together a winning season before he’s eligible for Medicare.
Now at this point in my life, the regular baseball season is for the birds, as it’s a tad long and way too slow. But birds are very much a part of my so-called existence, and I’m not referring to the heaping portion of teriyaki chicken I devour for lunch down at I Love Sushi, which comes with miso soup, calamari strips, california rolls, rice and salad, all for the bargain price of $7.50.
Why such a great deal? Because that’s the way they roll.
Now here on the central coast, we are surrounded by a diverse bird population. People are a different story.
When I wake up in the darkness and feed my baby squirrels, the birds are always singing. And it’s always the males, who are looking to protect their turf while crooning for some female companionship, because that’s the way God programmed us. We just don’t want to be lonely.
When I stroll down West Cliff, there’s a group of small birds who live in the trees that are always serenading passerbyers. They are joined by a variety of gulls screaming out over the water, as opposed to the pelicans, who are much more of the strong, silent type. They fly softly, but carry a big beak.
Now according to my sources in the aviary world, which would be the Santa Cruz Sentinel and writers Terri Morgan and Donna Jones, the Monterey Bay area is a pit stop or permanent home for 250 species of birds, not including Costco’s rotisserie chicken, of which they sell 60 million a year at their 650 warehouse stores. Come for toilet paper, leave with an giant roasted bird for $4.99.
This is because the Central Coast is part of the Pacific Flyway, a bird migration flight pattern that runs from the Arctic to the tropical rain forests and dictatorships of South America. Right now, after they’ve gotten in some breeding time up north, and we all know how enjoyable that can be, the shorebirds are heading through Santa Cruz on the way to their winter feeding grounds. Come for the food, stay for the fun and surf.
Natural Bridges Beach is a happening place if you’re into birds, as you can see egrets, hawks, black crowes, woodpeckers, pelicans, penguins, blackbirds, songbirds, Larry Birds, owls, orioles, yankees and gulls of every race, creed and color. I frequently see great blue herons with their tremendous wing spans, along with a variety of red shouldered and redtailed hawks, including the great Dominique Wilkens.
So if you’re a birder, the central coast is one of the great places to be in the fall. We don’t have quite an exotic a selection of species as in the Amazon jungles, where loggers are burning down and destroying the vegetation as fast as possible, but we pack a wallop with the belted kingfisher and red breasted sapsucker crowd.
Back in 2012, birders from all over the country flocked here when a common cuckoo was spotted in the Watsonville Slough, which blended right in with the crazies we have walking the streets of our town. Which brings to mind an old Turkish proverb, “For the birds that cannot soar, God has provided low branches.”
Now over the years, I have documented a group of cormorants, who built their nests on the cliff right outside Natural Bridges. I started photographing them back in June of 2008, as they gathered their nests, lay their eggs, went shopping, and hatched babies before eventually flying off to the world tour.
So when I saw this story in the San Francisco Chronicle last week, I was naturally interested.
Caltrans is demolishing part of the Bay Bridge, which is home to a gang of double crested cormorants. They are going to spend $709,000 to build 2½-foot-wide nesting condos and studio apartments on the underside of the new bridge, in the hopes that the 800 or so state-protected cormorants would move off the old span and sign new leases.
An additional $1 million has been spent to try to lure the birds over to the new bridge, using bird decoys, cormorant recordings, the best of the Doobie Brothers CD and even nests made from discarded Christmas wreaths and Hanukah bushes.
But the birds love the view and location and have no plans to relocate, So Caltrans came up with a Plan B, speeding up demolition in the hopes of beating next spring’s nesting season, because once the birds start laying eggs, work comes to a halt.
Apparently, the cormorants have told their friends about this prime real estate spot, as consultants hired to monitor the bird population have found 533 cormorant nests on the bridge this year, which is double the amount counted during construction three years ago. According to the new estimates, this would bring the total spent on relocating these protected birds to more than $33 million, or what an invitation costs to go to George Clooney’s wedding.
The lovely Julia Roberts and Matt Damon were there for the nuptials. Afterwards, David Letterman said, “What was it, a wedding or a heist?”
In a statement, a spokesman for the cormorants said they’re sorry about the exorbitant costs of the relocation, but it’s just too foggy and cold to nest over at the Golden Gate Bridge, as the suicide attempts make them a little nervous about raising their children in that kind of an environment.
So today I am showcasing some photos from our local bird population.The first shots are the location where the cormorants built their nests on West Cliff, followed by a shot of the babies. We then move on to a red shouldered hawk, followed by a snowy egret, then a great egret and some golden godwits at sunset.
We then finish up with a great blue heron in flight, followed by a cluster of gulls just wanting to have fun at Four Mile Beach.
On to some late night humor. “The NFL recently hosted a football workshop in China. Unfortunately, most kids just ran when they heard the word “workshop.” Congratulations to Chelsea Clinton, who gave birth to a baby girl named Charlotte on Friday. Or as Hillary described the baby, “Third in line to the throne.” Chelsea Clinton gave birth to a baby girl. And get this, she’s already said her first word: “Iowa.” – Jimmy Fallon
“George Clooney is off the market. Clooney and his bride got married in Italy on Saturday, and two days later they are still married! The wedding was so beautiful, it already won six Oscars. My advice to Clooney is to remember that marriage is complicated. It starts out pretty good, but then there are long rough patches, times when you want to leave. Oh, no, wait. I was thinking of “Oceans 13.” – Craig Ferguson
“LeBron James’ childhood will be the subject of an episode of a new children’s TV series. Hopefully it’ll help teach kids a valuable lesson — that they can do anything they put their mind to as long as they’re amazing at basketball. Scientists in northern California and Oregon found that marijuana gardens are threatening the salmon population. I don’t see the problem, really. Everyone loves baked salmon.” – Seth Meyers
“After a photographer was accused of harassing the royal baby Prince George, lawyers for Prince William and Kate Middleton said that their son “must be permitted to lead as ordinary a life as possible.” They then added, “Now get away from our castle!” – Seth Meyers “Evil dictator Kim Jong Un has not been seen in three weeks. I hate it when a recluse disappears, don’t you?” – David Letterman
So enjoy this California heat wave and we’ll catch you and your CIA bipolar personality on the new season of “Homeland.” Aloha, mahalo and later, Claire Dane fans.