Estero Americano: Owls, Coyotes, Whales

It’s not always necessary to go far from home to see wildlife. The closest paddling venue for me is Estero Americano. 10 miles away, it takes about twenty minutes to drive there.

Few people go there to paddle. If you go solo during the week, you may be the only human out there. Today was just such a day.

The launch site is in agricultural land, mostly dairy, cattle grazing, and poultry operations, several miles inland from the coast. You’re gonna see cows.

Dairy Cows, EA 5:17:16

After a couple of miles of paddling, you begin to see California native wildlife. Cormorants are a common sight.

Cormorant 5:17:16

California Buckeye are in full bloom in mid May.

Blooming Buckeyes 5:17:16

White Pelicans are eating the same small smolts that the Cormorants are eating. There were two groups on the Estero today, one with five birds and another with ten birds.

White Pelicans 5:17:16

Deer come down to the water for a drink.

Deer 5:17:16

Song sparrows sing along the banks for almost the whole five and a half miles out to the coast.

Song Sparrow? 5:17:16

Along the southern shore about two thirds the way out to the coast is a wooded cliffy shore. A barn owl makes its home in the trees the grow there.

Barn Owl 5:17:16

After lunch on the beach, I picked up a kayak full of trash. One piece that had been stuck in the mud was too big to stow under the deck so I put in on the deck. Little invertebrates fell off the trash and came to rest on the deck of the kayak. These are the creatures that sandpipers eat, I think.

Invertebrates 5:17:16

I noticed them last week, too, in the tidal mudflats along Richardson Bay.

Garbage Scow 5:17:16

To keep my hands free to collect trash I had left my camera in the kayak—a mistake,  I realized, when an amazing show of Pacific Gray Whales came up and swam right along the beach. They were playing just outside the waves. Every few minutes they would hold a short pectoral fin in the air—that’s how I knew they were Gray Whales.

I wanted to capture those fins waving hello to the shoreline with my camera. But, alas, by the time I hurried back to my boat to retrieve a camera, the whales had moved north almost out of sight and much farther off. This was the best photo I could manage to get. Still, it was a thrill to see them so close.

Pacific Gray Whale 5:17:16

EDIT: I just learned that Orcas attacked a Gray Whale calf near this location last Saturday. A Gray Whale calf washed up on Salmon Creek beach Monday. Link Press Democrat story here. (There’s a graphic video of the attack in the Press Democrat article. You may not want to see it.)

It’s could be that migrating Gray Whales try to avoid Orcas finding them (by echolocation) by hugging the coastline.

This could explain why I’ve seen so many Gray Whales so near the coast in recent days. (I saw Grays off Angel Island in San Francisco Bay on Sunday, May 8 and just off the beach at the Russian River on Friday, May 13.) And now, on Tuesday, May 17, this sighting.

On the paddle back I passed a young coyote. She didn’t see me until I was quite close.

Coyote 5:17:16

Such a beautiful animal!

Coyote 2 5:17:16

It was such a good day that I think I’ll start another project on iNaturalist focussed on Estero Americano.

6 thoughts on “Estero Americano: Owls, Coyotes, Whales

  1. Thanks for grabbing all the trash Dan! Did you paddle all the way to the end of the Estero and that is where you saw the gray? Haven’t hiked down that far in a couple months and haven’t done the Estero in years. I see that the cows still have unfettered access . . .

  2. Thanks, Loren. Right before the coyote appeared I had been hoping to see something unusual, and my hopes were fulfilled by its presence so close to shore.

  3. Yes. I launched by the bridge near the Marsh Road/Franklin School Rd junction and paddled the five or so miles out to the beach. It takes about 2 hours stopping along the way to photograph the wildlife.

    You noticed the cows unfettered access! I’m planning to do a little post about that soon. There should be fencing to keep cows out of the water, at least 100′ back, like they have on the organic Clover dairy further upstream we visited earlier this spring.

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