Coots

Last time I paddled the Russian River at Jenner was on Halloween.

I was able to get some photos of a group of American Coots who swam by as I was looking for a coyote in the pasture near the Highway One bridge. In the photo you can clearly see that coots eat plant material that they gather from beneath as they swim in shallow water.

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Coots with grass in their mouths.

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More grazing coots

By reading online, I learned that American Coots are omnivorous. They are happy to eat small animals as well as plants when they can. I have not seen that yet.

Breeding Habits

I also learned a little bit about their breeding habits.

According to Wikipedia, American Coots are sexually monogamous throughout their lives.

Coots incubate their clutches of eggs in floating nests. Female coots do the building of nests. Wikipedia does not reveal what the males are doing while the females are doing construction work. I have yet to see the nest of a coot, but now I know to look for them next spring during breeding season.

Sexual intercourse lasts about 2 seconds.

The females will lay about 9 eggs, not all of them in her own nest. A good percentage of her eggs, 13% according to Wiki, will be deposited in a nest of another female. And, while she’s away, another female coot may return the “favor” of laying an egg in her nest. This behavior is called “brood parasitism” by people who know more about it than I do. (So much for coot monogamy!)

Coots are preyed upon by other birds, among them bald eagles, owls, crows, and gulls. Mammals enjoy eating coots as well—including raccoons, foxes, coyotes, and bobcats. These predators can be found in the Russian River estuary. So we can thank our coots for attracting a lot of the wildlife we see in the RRE.

Hudson River Estuary

I’ve been traveling along the East Coast of the United States to visit my brother, my son, and my daughter.

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The Hudson River near Rhinebeck, New York

 

Among many other things, I got to ride the Metro North train up the eastern shore of the Hudson River from New York City to Poughkeepsie to visit my brother and his wife. I got there just in time to see the last of the splendor of the autumn leaves.

The Hudson River is actually an estuary all the way to Troy, New York—past Albany, more than 150 miles or 240 km from New York Harbor—and is navigable the whole way. In spite of its having been used as a shipping and railway route (both the eastern and western shores are lined with railroads ) it can be quite beautiful, especially in the fall. It’s as much as a mile wide in places and cuts through hilly terrain following a glacier-scoured north-south path to the Atlantic Ocean.

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Skywatcher

From the lower Russian River you can look up and see a rock formation that, I am told, was called Skywatcher by the first people. If you use your imagination, you can see the face of a human lying on his/her back, looking up at the sky. Can you see Skywatcher’s visage?

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Fox, now Coyote, at Noon

When I want to see wildlife, I try to paddle alone, preferably on weekdays—early in the morning. This way I’m as close to alone on the water as I can be during daylight hours, anyway.

Last Halloween I got out late on a fine Saturday morning. There were  lots of talkative tourists in rental boats. Noisy humans tend to scare off wildlife.

Despite my human companions, I kept an eye open for whatever wild animals might be out. I did not expect to see much wildlife.

Then, up by the cow pasture near the Highway One bridge, I saw a tawny brown figure slinking low in the grass. I thought it might be a domestic cat. But I quickly grabbed my camera and snapped this much-enlarged shot. I think it’s a fox coyote looking back at me. It’s my first photo of a fox coyote, the first of many more, I hope.*

*Bob Noble sent me a photo of a coyote he took recently, and I’m pretty sure I took a photo of the same guy. In his photo, the animal is clearly a coyote.

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Paddling with a Mission

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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Well. I’ll reuse this bag.

In Bob’s November 4 post he talks about having a mission for his last kayak trip on the Russian River—in this case recovering a large redwood board for the visitor’s center at the Jenner launch ramp.

I like to have a mission (or missions) for my paddles sometimes, even if the “mission” is to not have any mission other than to dwell in the presence of the natural world.

Who knows? Maybe just doing nothing is the most important mission of all.

SS. Estuarian

SS. Estuarian

On my most recent paddle from Jenner, one of my missions was to pick up every piece of garbage I could.

The river does not have a whole lot of trash on its shores. That’s probably not for lack of litterbugs, but because there are other people like me who pick up the garbage they see.

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Anyway, on the paddle along the lower between the mouth and Willow Creek I collected a dozen pieces of litter including two tennis balls and a soccer ball from a cow pasture. I had to land my boat and get out and walk to pick up the sporting equipment.

It felt good to stretch my legs.

The guy who’s inspired me to pick up trash is Richard James whose blog, Coastodian is well worth a visit. I am a fan of his work and his blog. Go ahead, and click on that link to his blog.