My friend, David, and I went for an afternoon paddle at the mouth of the Russian River on Friday, November 27. We were hoping to see and photograph the bald eagles that have been visiting the mouth in recent days. We didn’t.
When we arrived the launching area was surprisingly busy. It was hard to find a place to park, even in the 10-minute loading zone. There were ideal conditions for paddling, just a mild breeze blowing in from the ocean and the sun shining brightly. A number of kayaks plied the waters. With crowds of people like this, getting a good photo of a bald eagle seemed unlikely. That turned out to be true; we saw no eagles on this outing.
We paddled out to the mouth of the river, still open from the breaching work that was completed Monday.
When the river’s mouth is open, fish swim back and forth between the river and the ocean through a narrow channel which makes for relatively easy fishing for seals, pelicans, cormorants, and other pescatarians.
A whole bunch of rather well-fed seals gathered at the mouth after feeding to rest. The seals seem to have enjoyed their own fishy version of a Thanksgiving feast.
Apart from keeping an eye on human gawkers, the seals will occasionally groom themselves. In the photo below one seal is scratching his mussel with his fore foot. Look at those fingers!
We stayed near the mouth for a while being careful not to get too close to the area where the current begins to run swiftly into the ocean.
Almost straight across from the open mouth a kingfisher flew by and alighted on a stick along the right bank. He was a good distance away and flew off before I could approach any nearer.
We paddled down the back channel of Penny Island, hoping to see some birds, but a lot of the wildlife had departed because of the many people who had visitied this part of the river.
We landed on the eastern point of Penny Island, beaching our kayaks on a gravel bar that gets submerged when the mouth is closed.
We opened our hatches and grabbed sandwiches and hot tea in thermoses for our late lunch.
We got back aboard in the last hour of sunlight to paddle upstream in the hope of seeing an eagle, now that most of the other river kayakers had gone in.
No eagles, but a kingfisher tantalized me, flitting in and out of sight at the far edge of my camera’s range.
As darkness began to fall, we paddled back to the launch ramp, loaded our boats in the fading light, and drove back to Sebastopol.