Sharing the River
The slough is calm during the early morning hours a ripple on the water is rare. The sun slowly rises into the Eastern sky an open invitation to the snow-white Egrets to begin their search along the far bank. Slowly working her way North as it does most mornings not stopping until she reaches the grass island in the distance. Landing in her usual spot to wait patiently until an unsuspecting morsel passes within her long reach. The Blue Heron takes to the sky after warming on top of the Levee, preening itself and warming in the morning sun. Below her in the Tule Reeds outlining the edge of the water of the rocky berm the Mallards nest holds six ducklings. Two females with one male seem to be an odd arrangement, they have been mates since the early spring. At one time two females with one male was an oddity of nature until two females with one male Canadian Geese set up house across from the Egret on Grass Island. It has been since discovered it’s not so rare.
Large River Otters are raising a brood directly across the river in the dense reeds that reach halfway to the top of the Levee. Two females with one male Otter, it’s beginning to appear as normal. Frolicking in the snowmelt fed slough is not all play for the agile animals. Diving continually searching for fish or crawdads success is frequent. After a dive, it’s not uncommon to watch the victorious Otter scurry up the slope with a fish to consume. Followed closely by his companions constantly attempting to take advantage of the successful hunt. They share everything, the den, the water, and caring for the young, but the co-operation stops when food is involved. A mere twenty paces North going unnoticed is a pair of minks, barely noticeable as their natural coats blend perfectly with the Tules. Suddenly the scene changes dramatically as intruders from 40 miles West enter the slough.
Sea Lions, again the number is three, however, it is most likely a male and female with their youngster following the migrating fish from the Ocean. Boisterously introducing themselves for all present to notice, they demand the attention of all of us on the early morning slough. Diving deep with the swarm of Seagulls overhead waiting for the chance to steal a few morsels for an easy meal. Leaping into the air, barking and slapping their fins it’s difficult not to notice them as they emerge with a large Catfish slapping it back and forth on the surface of the water. A fine delicacy not only for them but the accompanying squadron of seabirds circling overhead dipping towards the larger animals to be disappointed. A young Coyote appears on top of the rocks across the 100-yard expanse of water, searching the water as to find out what all of the ruckuses are about, satisfied he disappears as quickly as he showed up, not to be seen until the sun goes down this evening. As a copper streak runs up the Levee on the near side.
A rarely seen resident on this side of the slough catches attention running along the fence to the top of the hill on the dry side. Moving quickly it is hard to distinguish what visitor just made an appearance. With numerous California Kit Foxes in the area, it is rare when a full-size Fox is spotted, especially one that is traveling at a high rate of speed. There are two of them, generally when one is seen the other is not far behind. They moved in a year ago after the slough was at the high water mark flooding the small island used as a Marina in the center of the waterway. The docks and buildings rest above a large rock partially exposed above the waterline allowing a habitat for a colony of Rabbits.
Survival was easy for the long-eared intruders who were “set free” by well-meaning people from the city thinking they would be able to survive on their own. Which they did until the Island was flooded, some swam to the far shore 100 yards away and some to this side a mere 50 yards. Swimming to the far side was disastrous for them if they did not drown they were immediately the victims of predators waiting for their arrival in the driving rain. Those swimming to the closer Island had a better experience as they were met with fewer challenges. Underbrush with brambles greeted them offering protection from the elements and the few predators awaiting them. That was to change after the population of Rabbits exploded.
Attractive to the Foxes they joined the ever-present three Coyotes (there’s that number again) patroling the Levee in the dark of night. One Coyote remains at the foot of the dirt berm keeping a watchful eye as it’s two companions run up the hill being certain it is safe for them to hunt. Upon an un-noticeable signal, he joins his companions who are already at a full run expecting to surprise the unsuspecting prey with the long ears. Grazing on the Levee top the Rabbits most of the time are able to escape as they are alert to the ground dwellers, as another menace lurks overhead.
The Barn Owls start to patrol their vast hunting grounds, water means nothing to the very able flyers, they must capture up to 40 rodents each night to feed their growing brood waiting in the nest 75 feet to the North. Not to be outdone a much larger bird of prey, one capable of lifting the 5 pounds off of the ground a Great Horned Owl flies over the top of the grazing Rabbits. Unseeable by the furry creatures, they are unable to look skyward, the Owls have easy pickings swooping in on the unsuspecting prey.
So goes the rhythm of life on the River, co-existing from Sunrise to Sundown we all play a part in this spot of the world that releases all of our spirits free to wander the expanse of life, making the division between nature, the spirit world, and reality invisible. We are one on the River, as it is also a living contributor to the stream of life surrounding us, each respectfully making use of only what is needed. This is my home a mere 40 miles from one of the largest cities on Earth, I am a part of it and will be here forever.
Jacques Lebec Natural Self Reliance