Katie’s Sightings

By Katie O’Hara Kelly

Taken with permission from northyubanaturalist.blogspot.com

Sierra Spring

Common Merganser (male) – Mergus merganser

Just this week, many of the waterfowl that left last Fall have returned to the North Yuba River! The first ones I saw were the Common Mergansers. They probably spent the winter in southern California or Arizona. They will stay here to breed and raise their young. The males are so striking in their black & white feathers, red bills, and orange feet!

Common Merganser (female – male – female) – Mergus merganser

At first I only saw one male, but within a few days more males and females arrived. They are primarily monogamous for the breeding season. The nests are usually made in tree cavities, where 6-17 eggs are laid. Only the female broods and cares for the young, which are born precocial.

Wood Duck Couple – Aix sponsa

To my astonishment I spotted a pair of Wood Ducks near a male Common Merganser on the river! I’ve never seen a pair of Wood Ducks on the river before! I haven’t seen this pair again, so maybe they just flew up from the foothills for the day. Wood Ducks usually live on ponds, marshes, and waterways in the foothills, valley, and coast of California year-round. They are usually serially monogamous. Like Common Mergansers, nests are made in tree cavities, where 10 to 22 eggs are laid!!!

Canada Geese Couple – Branta canadensis

Depending on the severity of winter, about four Canada Geese live here year-round. Lately, more Geese have shown up. I heard them making a racket on the river a week ago, so I went to investigate. There were three geese below the bridge. Two were obviously a couple, and the third (most likely a male) was trying to lure the female away, I THINK! The lone male was honking and honking until the other male took off after it, chased it upriver and landed on its back in the river! The intruding male was submerged by the other male! I watched the submerged intruder “swim” underwater and surface downstream! Other than losing a few feathers it looked okay! From there it flew off downstream! Now THAT was fascinating to watch! WOW!

White American Pelican – Pelecanus erythrorhynchos

A lone American White Pelican was hanging out on an island in the river this week! It probably spent the winter on the California coast or Sacramento Delta. It was most likely migrating to its breeding ground in Pyramid Lake, Nevada, when it landed on the island. Sometimes they don’t make it, due to lack of food. These Pelicans don’t dive for fish, they herd them to shallow waters and scoop them up. The North Yuba River isn’t a good area for that style of fishing. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that somehow it keeps going. It’s not easy surviving out there in the wild.

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