Otters, Egrets, and Grebes in the Estuary on January 7, 2016

After several rainy days, morning broke today with a sunny blue sky, an invitation to go out to the mouth of the Russian River. It would be my first time out there in 2016.

The weather radio carried warnings of big surf on the coast. I drove to the overlook north of Jenner to see the mouth. Sure enough, the river was emptying dramatically into the Pacific.

Mouth 1:7:16

The current ran swiftly out the mouth. After tracking several large pieces of driftwood wash into the tumultuous ocean, I had an idea of how close to the mouth I was willing to paddle—not close at all.

When I drove to the launch ramp, Bob was already there, and Ray arrived soon after. There was some talk about bald eagles across the river, visible through binoculars from the launch ramp.

Bob and Ray paddled off towards the mouth. I found the lure of the mouth was irresistible. What is it about danger that is so beckoning?

Bob and Ray 1:7:16

Ray and Bob near the mouth

Approaching the mouth, the roar of the waves got louder and louder. The surface of the water was calm, no waves, but the pull of the current was palpable.

Waves, 1:6:2016 not enhanced

Pacific’s waves were probably 10′ high.

I didn’t stay near the mouth long. Instead, I paddled upriver towards Penny Island, looking for the eagle. This hawk sat on a snag on the west end of the island.

Hawk 1:7:16

I think this is a Cooper’s Hawk, but I’m not too sure.

I never did see the eagles from the water, though Bob and Ray did see an eagle that alighted on a tree on Penny Island after I had already paddled by.

Disappointed, I paddled up river looking for other wildlife to photograph. There wasn’t much wildlife within range of my camera; the wildlife I saw was through binoculars.

Up a Muddy River 1:7:16

Up a Muddy River in the Noonday Sun

I spent the rest of the morning paddling upstream collecting the trash floating on the river swollen with runoff from recent rain. It was my way of consoling myself about seeing so little wildlife.

By one o’clock my boat was full and my stomach was empty. A pasture across from Paddy’s Rock beckoned. In my boat was a thermos of hot tea and a lunch packed at home. I had pretty much given up on getting any good photos of wildlife when I took this selfie at lunch. Little did I know then that I would get near some otters and birds.

Luchtime on the River 1:7:16

Selfie taken on the iPhone

A family of otters swam by my lunch spot. Unfortunately, my good camera was in the kayak so getting a photograph of them swimming right by me wasn’t going to happen. The otter family swam to Paddy’s rock for a short rest from their swim upstream. While they were on the rock I retrieved my camera and took some photos of them.

Otters on Paddy's Rock 1:7:16

Two of the tree otters

On the way back to the launch ramp I happened upon this snowy egret who was fishing along the shoreline where a small brook that was running from the pasture into the river.

Snowy Egret Standing 1:7:16

Snowy Egret This one got one small fish. It was also eating something smaller than little fish, insects I think, but I couldn’t see what exactly.

Snowy egrets are tolerant of people nearby. They’re smaller, less shy, and more common than the greater, aka common egret. Snowy egrets have distinctive yellow feet.

Snowy Egret Stepping 1:7:16

This fellow let me get within about 20 feet.

Some birds are skittish around people, like these bufflehead ducks.

Bufflehead Duck 1:7:16

Bufflehead duck. He took off seconds after I took this picture.

Getting a good picture of a bufflehead from a kayak is a real challenge. They stay well away from people, I would guess about as far as buckshot travels from a shotgun. Does anyone know, are they hunted?

Grebes 1:7:16

Western Grebes

Grebes are also pretty shy. When they decide I’m too close, they quickly dive underwater.

Garbage 1:7:16

The First Haul of 2016

Here’s some of the garbage I plucked out of the river today taken about halfway through the day at lunch.

I got more on my way back to the launch ramp.


2 thoughts on “Otters, Egrets, and Grebes in the Estuary on January 7, 2016

  1. Nice photos Dan. It’s a real pity about all the plastic rubbish. You don’t have that problem on your own – here is supposed ‘Clean Green’ New Zealand I am able to pick up similar amounts – the whole planets inundated with the stuff.

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