Birds, Harbor Seals, and a Gray Whale

I got out to Jenner for a paddle today on the lower Russian River. When I arrived the river was very quiet, just a couple of paddlers in rental kayaks taking their boats back to the launch area.

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Great Blue Heron

 

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Double Crested Cormorants

 

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Red-breasted Mergansers

 

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In the fog, the Brown Pelicans looked gray

Several harbor seals at the mouth were leaving the river to crawl over the sand dam on their way back to the Pacific on the other side.

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Great camouflage at least on a foggy morning.

There was a lot of seal activity as I made my way up the river to my lunch spot. I got some video of it, but I do not know how to upload video into this blog yet. I’ll learn, I hope.

I ate lunch at my usual place across from the camping sites along the river at Willow Creek Campground. At lunch the sky cleared a little bit. I packed an almond butter sandwich and an apple.

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Lunch spot looking downriver

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Estuarian’s paddle craft

After lunch I packed up my kayak and headed back towards the launching ramp.

A large school group from Los Angeles were paddling aluminum canoes from Duncans Mills to the mouth. For a good while after they passed, I could hear the kids’ voices and the CLANG! of plastic paddle blades banging on the canoes.

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Charter school field trip

But good for them to get outdoors to see a beautiful part of this world.

As I was getting ready to go home, a launch from the Sonoma County Water Agency was taken out of the water. I had seen this boat three times earlier in the day tending to the buoys in the river (there are 10 buoys in all, I think). I learned that the SCWA maintains buoys to track salinity, temperature, bacteria levels and more the better to know how to manage water flow for the benefit of the Steelhead Trout and Chinook Salmon fisheries.

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Sonoma County Water Agency’s launch for tending the buoys on the Russian River

I learned that salt water from the ocean gets as far upstream as Duncans Mills (about 5 miles). That’s the part of the river system that is officially deemed to be estuarine. However ocean waves can build up the beach sand enough to make the river rise more than 7 feet (2 meters) above sea level. At that height the SCWA official told me that the river backs up all the way to the summer crossing below Vacation Beach, about halfway between Monte Rio and Guerneville. He said it’s basically a pond that far up the river.

He also explained “layering” of salt and fresh water in the estuary, something Bob Noble (of Bob’s Eyes Blog) has told me about before. Salt water sinks to the bottom of the river while fresh water floats above. This is another thing that the SCWA is monitoring.

Just before driving away, I stopped in at the Visitor’s Center at Jenner to talk with the volunteer. She told me that a Pacific Gray Whale had washed ashore at Blind Beach. I was intending to take a short walk on my way home, so now I had my trail. I drove the short distance to the Blind Beach parking lot and walked down the short trail to the beach. Biologists had dissected the carcass to investigate the cause of death (I was not able to learn if they had come to any conclusions. The carcass was quite a sight.

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Gray whale carcass, about 8 meters long

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