Recent rains in the Valley Ford region have produced enough run off in the Estero Americano watershed to greatly improve the paddling experience in the Estero. Thanks to the rains, instead of starting out paddling in a bottom of a trench for the first mile or so, the paddler sits high enough to look out on the pastures and enjoy views of the birds, cows, and ranch buildings outside Valley Ford.
Launching is easier, too. Instead of clambering down a steep bank, you can launch your kayak on a level grassy patch under the bridge. Easy.
If more rain falls water in the Estero will rise. The sand bar at the mouth is about four feet above the water level in the Estero.
The high King Tides we get this time of year combined with large waves are washing over the bar and adding saltwater (and a little bull kelp) into the Estero. You can see how waves washed over the bar on the high tide earlier this morning.
Today I was the only paddler out there. That’s not to say I was alone—many avian friends were out there, too, enjoying the sunshine on a bright day between weather fronts headed for Northern California.
Here are a few of the birds I saw:
There were several Great Blue Herons out on the estuary today. They kept their distance. The only GBH willing to pose long enough for a decent photo was this one. He must have thought his camouflage would protect him. From a distance, he was hard to see. Can you see him in this photo?
Here he is, zoomed in. He stood absolutely still in this pose as I passed by.
The Bufflehead Ducks were really hard to photograph. Every time I got anywhere near, off they flew. I managed to get only one good photo of one winging away. This one happened to fly near enough to snap his photo.
There were more than a dozen Cormorants, two or three Brown Pelicans, Western Grebes, and Eared Grebes.
This pelican dove for a fish quite near me, but didn’t stay on the water long enough for me to get a very good picture.
It’s always satisfying to get a photo “first” even if it’s not that great of a picture. I got this picture of a Surf Scoter near the closed mouth of the Estero. He was on his way back to the surf.
It took about two hours to make it out to the mouth, about a half hour longer than usual because of all the birds to photograph and because there was more headwind than the forecast had called for. I enjoyed a thermos of hot tea and a “Goat Rock” sandwich from the local Whole Foods out at the beach. There was a cool 15 mph northwesterly breeze, so the hot tea felt like a luxurious treat.
Several gulls took an interest in me when I pulled the sandwich out of the lunchbox.
It was a good day’s paddle. Here’s a map of my day. Click on the words “Estero Americano” to see the whole map.