Monitoring the Laguna de Santa Rosa

The rains that have fallen in California are not nearly as intense as the historic flooding rains now inundating low lying areas in Lousiana, Arkansas, Mississippi and surrounding parts of the south.

Laguna 3:11:16

That said, it’s been unusually wet in the Russian River watershed. After a morning of solid rain, midday brought thinning clouds and even little bits of blue sky.

Eager to get outside after being cooped up yesterday, I mounted my trusty yellow bicycle and rode off amidst intermittent showers. The mission was to monitor the nearby the Laguna de Santa Rosa.

In the summer months visitors to the Laguna might look out upon it and reasonably ask, “Where is it?”

Most of the year the Laguna is dry: parkland, pasture, vineyards, and farm fields planted in a variety of crops including blueberries, corn, and vegetables. Running through all this is a thin ribbon of water choked by invasive weeds. During the summer you cannot see water in the Laguna except by looking straight down from the bridges that cross it.

Today there’s no way to miss seeing the Laguna de Santa Rosa. It’s swelled so much that it covers Sanders Road which runs along its eastern side.

Sanford Road Closed 3:11:16

Santa Rosa Creek, which feeds into the Laguna a little ways north of where this photo was taken is full as well.

Santa Rosa Creek 3:11:16

The water in Santa Rosa Creek is a mere trickle in the summer. Today it’s running fast, about 7 miles per hour at this point, into the Laguna on its way to the Russian River and eventually the Pacific Ocean.


California Certified Naturalist Program

Breaking Weather News for Northern California

At this moment Northern California is being lashed by a strong El Niño-powered rains. Sebastopol, my home town, is currently under the “atmospheric river” streaming in from the eastern Pacific. More than 40 mm of rain have fallen in my backyard rain gauge since midnight.

It’s forecast to rain for the next several days. The National Weather Service has posted both a Flood Advisory and a Flash Flood Watch for this region. California needs the rain, but maybe not quite so much in so short a time. It will fill our estuaries, that’s for sure.


California Certified Naturalist Program

I greatly admire John Muir and Charles Darwin. Both men were naturalists—people who observe, study, and interpret nature.

John Muir JPEG

John Muir

In retirement, I have felt drawn to becoming a naturalist. Almost every day—even when it’s raining—I find myself outdoors in nature. (If they continue, today’s torrential rains may make this day a rare exception.)

I’m learning to become a more attentive and patient observer. On each outing I try to see something new. When I get home from my outings, I often delve into my small library of field guides or go online to learn more about what I’ve observed. The more I learn about nature, the more I want to learn.

Charles Darwin JPEG

Charles Darwin

I started this blog to share what I see and learn on my paddling trips. I go hiking and mountain biking just as frequently, but I don’t blog about those outings unless they happen to be in estuarine settings.

Up to this point I’ve been an autodidact. Soon, though, I’m beginning formal instruction. I enrolled in the University of California Extension’s California Certified Naturalist Program offered through the Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods in Guerneville. The program, I hope, will teach me to become a more skillful, careful, and disciplined observer and interpreter of the natural world.

Becoming a certified naturalist involves ten class meetings, two field outings, and a camping trip. Here’s the schedule.

CA Naturalist Certification Program Location & Dates
Stewards Office, Armstrong Woods State Natural Reserve

2016 Class Meetings:
All Classes 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM
March 29
April 5, 12, 19, 26
May 3, 10, 17, 23, 24

2016 Field Trips:
Day Trips 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM
April 3
May 15
Camping Trip 10:00 AM Sat – 3:00 PM Sun
April 23-24

If any readers of this blog want to sign up for the training, here’s a link to more information.

Cormorant Video

Yesterday I took a half minute video of the roosting Double crested Cormorants, mainly to capture a recording of their voices. Words cannot easily convey their wonderful guttural music. They have their own wonderful song that is reminiscent of Tibetan throat singers, and, well, bullfrogs. Accompanying the cormorants’ concert are some songbirds and a distant gaggle of Canadian Geese.

Listen and enjoy!

With apologies for the shaky camera handling that results from overzooming while kayaking.

Laguna de Santa Rosa March 8, 2016

The Laguna de Santa Rosa stands at a little more than 60 feet above sea level today. Enough water for good paddling over the flooded farm fields north of Sebastopol. When the outing began it was 48° F  with partly cloudy skies and very little wind.

The Laguna 3:8:16

There was not much activity on the Laguna this morning. It was quiet at first. Then some bird activity from afar caught my attention.

At the north end of the Laguna pond about 30 pairs of Double crested Cormorants are nesting in two trees at the northeast corner of the largest pool of water in the Laguna near Delta Pond.

Cormorant Rookery 3:8:16

They were active. One bird of each pair sat on the nest while its mate went out into the reedy areas nearby to retrieve materials…..

Cormorant Tree zoomed in 3:8:16

to make the nest just a little more comfortable.

Cormorant Nest 3:8:16

Roosting Double crested Cormorants make low croaking noises reminiscent of bullfrog song—a Cormorant choir concerto that went on and on. You can hear a recording of their roosting sounds here. Click on the button labelled “Various calls by adults at roost.”

Double crested Cormorant 3:8:16

The double crest can be seen plainly here.

By late morning, a dark cloud blew in from the Pacific and delivered a vigorous rain shower It was wet enough to chase the camera below deck and bring the outing to an end.

The map below shows no water because this area is dry land in summer. But it is navigable in winter and spring after good rains.

Laguna de Santa Rosa, Estero Americano.

Runoff from the recent rains have filled the Laguna de Santa Rosa. It is now a little above 60 feet above sea level. That’s the threshold for good paddling there.

Laguna 3:7:16

The access to the Laguna de Santa Rosa today. Very limited parking, about 6 cars, max

I’m planning to paddle there tomorrow morning, leaving from this spot on the eastern edge of the Occidental Road bridge that crosses the Laguna just north of Sebastopol. The aim is to get some wildlife photos, especially of a bald eagle pair that is said to be nesting about a mile north of this launching site. On the water by 8:55.

Estero Americano

Rain also filled up the Estero Americano again. It was windy there this afternoon. There is enough water near the launch site to flood the field on both sides, east and west.

Estero 3:7:16

Launch site, looking east, towards Petaluma.

EA-2 3:7:16IMG_2840

Looking northwest from Franklin School Road, now a causeway, a few yards north of the bridge.

If you like paddling (or sailing) a kayak in strong wind, you missed a good day out there. Otherwise, this was not the day to be out on Estero Americano.

EA 3:7:16

View of the bridge from the launch spot.

It’s up to you to speculate how long the water will stay this high.

More rain is forecast to fall here later this week.

There’s a good chance these brown waters will soon breach the sand dam at the mouth—where Jono fixed an Estuarian hot toddy on his backpacking stove on February 25. If it does, the scenery at the Estero launch site will change dramatically.