When I arrived at the river this morning, the ghost of a full moon was sinking behind the hills to the west, pale and white against the bright sky. The sun was still low, peeking through the trees and reflecting off the river. I stopped to look at a Great Horned Owl nest in a tall cottonwood tree — home to a few fluffy owlets earlier this spring, but now empty. By early June, many birds have chicks in their nests, and if you sit for a minute along the riverbanks, you can see birds carrying small insects and other food items back to their nests to feed their young. Some, like the owls, have already learned to fly and left the nest.
Many Red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) have chicks in their nests right now, which should fledge very soon. Last week, I took a shift watching a Red-tailed hawk nest for the Reno Hawk Project. Justin White (who I wrote about an earlier blog post, On the Road with the Reno Hawk Project) and his team of interns have been watching more than 50 hawk nests all over Reno and Sparks this spring, with nest cameras on about 20 nests, and they have some awesome photos on their website right now. They are gathering information about what the hawks feed on, and how hawks adapt to life in an urban environment. The nest that I watched was as urban as I could imagine — situated on a wooden palette on top of a pole near McCarran Boulevard in Sparks, with a steady stream of traffic and construction vehicles going by in front of it. This nest was featured in an article by the RGJ earlier this spring, and is now home to two hawklets. By 11am, the two fluffy white chicks sat with beaks wide open, hiding in the shade of their parent and looking miserably hot. Hopefully they will fly soon (and not into the road), so that they can get to some shade as the days grow hotter.
Back by the river in Mayberry Park, I sat down on a rock and waited for something to happen. In front of me, a thin current of water rushed through a riffle of rounded cobbles. Upstream in a deeper pool, a male mallard appeared, tipping his body forward to feed on something underwater. A Brewer’s blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus) hopped down to the riverbank near where I sat, watching me with his bright yellow eye. Overhead in the cottonwoods, birds chirped and chattered. From across the channel, a California quail called, “Chi-ca-go! Chi-ca-go!”; a Spotted sandpiper (Actitis macularius) flew by, traveling upstream; unidentified insects drifted in lazy patterns over the shimmering water; and a pair of Western kingbirds (Tyrannus verticalis) chased each other from tree to tree overhead. Up and down the channel, weeds and wildflowers are blooming, and all is lush and green. Lots of life here, lots to learn.
What have you seen along the Truckee lately?