Bald Eagles & Other Birds of the Estuary

Bald Eagles two

Forecasts are calling for Northern California to get some much-needed and very welcome wet weather in the days ahead. Knowing this, yesterday I got out on the Russian River for a full and rewarding day of paddling. There was a lot of wildlife out enjoying the sunny and mild weather with me.

After launching in Jenner I paddled across the river to the shore of Penny Island. A Great Blue Heron was wading and fishing along its shore.

Heron 12:16

Herons don’t mind photographers who approach them very slowly and quietly. This bird walked down the shoreline to keep a comfortable distance away from me.

Heron Walking 12:16


Both the heron and I passed a group of eight or so vultures resting along the shore of the island. My guess is that there was something dead nearby that they were cleaning up, but I didn’t get out to investigate.

Vulture 12:16

Regular readers of this blog know that it’s been my hope to photograph a bald eagle down at the mouth of the River. This day was no exception, though I’ve learned better than to get my hopes too high. The eagles have visited the area several times when I’ve been elsewhere. On this morning I was the only person paddling on the river (Bob and Steve would arrive later) so I hoped that today might be the day.

It seemed that the mouth of the river would be a good place to start looking, so that’s where I headed. I proceeded carefully, avoiding the several Sea Lions who joined the resident harbor seals fishing at the open mouth of the river. Much warmer than usual waters off the California coastline have made the fish the sea lions eat harder for them to find. Having been bumped by harbor seals when I’ve gotten too close to their dining table, I was careful not to impose myself on the much larger sea lions.

Sea Lion 12:16

I made my way past the open mouth of the river (the tide was flooding) and down to Haystack Rock at the northern edge of the mouth. Sure enough, perched on the top of that rock, I saw this pair of Bald Eagles.

Eagle Pair 12:16

They mostly ignored me, but in this photo you can see they did keep an eye on me.

I stayed twenty minutes or so admiring these birds. They seemed content to perch there on the rock, so after taking fifty photos of them I headed upstream to see who else was enjoying the day. These Western Grebes were fishing the waters between Penny Island and Paddy’s Rock.

Western Grebe 12:16


I stopped for lunch and a thermos of hot tea on the sand/gravel bar in the lee of Paddy’s Rock.

Lunch Spot

A female kingfisher came by to give me another try at photographing this most elusive of birds.

Female Kingfisher 12:16

After lunch I paddled further upstream and encountered some Goldeneyes.

Goldeneye 12:16

It’s not hard to see how these birds got their name.

Merganser males change colors in breeding season. This is the best picture I’ve gotten of one of these guys.

Merganzer in Breeding Plumage?

Just before I went in I heard some voices on the water. Across the river, in the late afternoon shadows along the southern shore, I could just make out two other kayakers—Bob and Steve—who were out enjoying the fine weather. We rafted up in the middle of the river and talked awhile before I paddled back to the launch ramp area.

It was a great day out on the estuary yesterday.

14 thoughts on “Bald Eagles & Other Birds of the Estuary

  1. It was magnificent out on Doran as well . . . but you were gifted with far more wildlife sightings than I was . . . so great you finally got to see, and shoot, the baldies!

  2. Congratulations on getting your shots of some bald eagles – nice photo. I think my favourite (favorite) though is the female Kingfisher.

    Parts of your landscape (as in your lunch break photo) look very much like areas in New Zealand – and I feel reassured that there are other people who take little stools for sitting on when they go exploring LOL!

  3. Thanks, Alden. Yes Northern California and the Northern Island of New Zealand share quite a lot in common in many ways. The Kingfisher resembles the Kookaburra in Australia, I think they’re cousins. Do you have a similar both on New Zealand?

  4. We certainly have Kingfishers in New Zealand but we don’t have a Kookaburra equivalent here – but as a former teacher who sang every day with kids in a classroom we have sung for decades a well known childrens song called “Kookaburra Sits In The Old Gum Tree”. The Kookaburra has a very distinctive laugh – not unlike the laugh of Australians when they beat us at Rugby and Cricket LOL.

  5. Possible. I don’t know if it has trouble with longer comments or not.

    But your shorter ones are definitely coming through.

    Maybe try posting the longer comment again? I know in the past you’ve posted some longer comments that did go through.

  6. I guess that wasn’t it. Hummm. You can delete these if you wish. :O) IT’s also possible that when I type a long one, I time out somehow? I’m not in the mood to type a long one right now. :O)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.