Jim Marsh writes:
“I taught at Village Oaks School for many years and routinely watched the wildlife in & near the ditch you mention in your story with great interest during that time and since.
“Frequently–usually during the half hour after lunch when I always read aloud to my kids–I’d watch all the hawks in the oaks outside my classroom windows. Redtails, Red-Shouldereds and Kestrals have likely bred in those native Valley Oaks continuously for millennia.
“Nesting Acorn Woodpeckers and Flickers were common. Just about every spring the natural hive of honeybees in the hollow oak out near the back fence would get active and we’d have to call the beekeeper to remove a swarm or two.
“That particular LUSD schoolyard was especially rich in migratory birds & waterfowl as well. Flocks of Wagtails visited in season along with the Brewer’s Blackbirds, Meadowlarks, Sparrows, House Finches, Robins and invasive Starlings. Whenever rains were heavy and the water in the ditch was high it would back up into the schoolyard.
“On those few days each winter we’d regularly see Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Mallards, Woodducks and Canada Geese wading and paddling about in the playground lake. They could be found anytime, just over the fence in that drainage ditch.
“The other reason I found the story significant is that you nicely underscored a point I think is often lost on city dwellers. Namely that there really still is wildlife in urban environments. And that “insignificant features”…drainage ditches…the channel of The Calaveras…vacant lots…are mini-wildlife parks hidden in plain view.
“Urban settings and wildlife habitat aren’t mutually exclusive. You don’t have to drive to Yosemite or Yellowstone to experience some really interesting wildlife.”