Rain, Rain, Come I Say

Weather forecasts called for rain on the Sonoma County coast late this afternoon, and they were right.

That meant a whole morning and the first part of the afternoon for paddling. A forecast for rain is tantamount to a forecast for fewer people—and more wildlife—on the river. So today it’s off to the Russian River!

I started with a tour towards the mouth of the river, but it didn’t turn up much to see, so it was time to head upstream.

A young deer was on Penny Island this morning. It foraged near a large redwood tree stump washed up on the southern shore.

Deer on Penny Island 2:3:16

Deer must have to swim to reach Penny Island.

An immature bald eagle had been perched on Paddy’s Rock, but it quickly took to the skies.

Immature Bald Eagle 2:3:16

Longer, slower wing beats make it easy to tell an eagle from a hawk in flight.

Farther upstream, near the grotto on the southern shore, a group of vultures gathered on a rocky shoreline.

TV's near the Grotto 2:3:16

They were eating something small, too small to identify even with binoculars.

Lunch was on the gravel bar in the lee of Paddy’s Rock. Unbeknownst to me as I was enjoying my sandwich and hot tea, a trio of river otters had gathered on the far side of Paddy’s Rock.

Russian River Otters 2:3:16

The tail in the foreground belongs to another otter. That tail is about 1/3 the length of the whole animal.

They were surprised to see me—the surprise was mutual—but they went about their business of catching small fish and bringing them to the surface to eat. River otters have few predators in the water. On land, however, they need to watch out for large breeds of domesticated dogs, coyotes, and mountain lions all of which are known to prey on river otters. Humans are their biggest threat.

About halfway between Paddy’s Rock and Penny Island a western grebe surfaced right in front of my kayak.

Western Grebe 2:3:16

Such a red eye!

A great blue heron walked along the northern shore of Penny Island.

GBH 2:3:16


To complete the day’s paddle, I returned to the mouth area. Rain began to fall, gently at first and then increasing in intensity.

I came across a sea lion holding one flipper out of the water. That flipper held high like that has an uncanny resemblance to the dorsal fin of a shark.

Because of the rain, the camera was stowed safe beneath the splash deck. There’s no photo of the sea lion to share—sorry.

The rain came in on a southerly wind. Along with the rain came the warm and friendly aroma of coffee beans roasting at Cafe Aquatica.

Rain 2:3:16

If you’ve never kayaked in the rain, add it to your bucket list. It’s a pleasure.

8 thoughts on “Rain, Rain, Come I Say

  1. Great selection of birds Dan.

    I concur with your description of boating in the rain. Ab diving in a light rain is equally sublime.

    We need to plan the group effort to go pick up the mouth of the Russian.

  2. Thanks, Richard. There’s something strongly counterintuitive about paddling in rain. Sitting in at home by the fire in your den drinking coffee on a rainy day it just doesn’t seem like it could be remotely fun to be in a kayak in the rain. But once you get out there, the warmth of the kayak cockpit, the sibilant hiss of the rain falling into the water, the reduced visibility, and the drumming of the raindrops on the brim of your hat all combine to make it a sublime experience.

    Let’s find a time to go out picking up the river’s mouth. How about Sunday, February 14?

  3. Thanks, Beachmama. The otters are fun to watch. Something about how they go about their lives make them seem playful and happy.

  4. It’s the contrasts that make this whole boating marlarkey interesting, varied and exciting. I remember when I was a lot younger (about 150 years ago) my friends and I would deliberately go sailing on the Christchurch estuary in gale conditions – just for the fun of it.

  5. Those were the days! I have similar memories of loving gales, but I mostly THOUGHT about going sailing in winds like that. I rarely actually went out when it was blowing more than 25 knots, and never really enjoyed it that much. These days, it’s all about serenity. Pleasure outings.

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