January 17, 2017

Northern California has been drying out since last week’s big storms.

As I write this entry Tuesday evening, an atmospheric river of rainwater stretches halfway across the Pacific and is taking aim at this part of North America. We’re in for more drenching rains. At least 2 inches—and perhaps more—is forecast to begin falling tomorrow.

This morning I drove out to Estero Americano to see how high the water level is. The mouth is open and the Estero’s water level has fallen dramatically. Runoff from the coming storms will be able to rush down the Estero’s channels and drain out into Bodega Bay. The bad smell that had been pervading the place has diminished.

I decided to paddle at Jenner today. Wildlife enthusiasts would have been rewarded by the sight of many animal residents present in the Russian River’s estuary today. People watchers, however, would have had to settle for seeing only one specimen floating on the estuary today—the Estuarian.

Small flocks of Bufflehead Ducks were scattered about.

Two male Bufflehead Ducks. Note the iridescence on their heads and necks.

Just downstream of the launch ramp a River Otter climbed up on a rock. It didn’t see me at first, but once it did, it quickly dove back into the river to swim upstream past the interpretive building and out of sight.

River Otter on its way upstream from Jenner

Many Gulls and Seals gathered near the mouth. I stayed well back so as not to disturb them and, just as important to me, to keep myself out of the strong currents running downriver and out into the Pacific.

Gulls and Seals

As I made my way back to Penny Island some Goldeneye Ducks swam by. Two types of Goldeneyes are common on the west coast, Common Goldeneyes and Barrow’s Goldeneyes. The fellow on the right, I believe, is a Common Goldeneye. The bird on the left in this photo is one I cannot identify. My best guess: immature female Common Goldeneye.

Goldeneye on the right side of this photo

A mature female Common Goldeneye Duck swam by.

Female Common Goldeneye

A pair of Western Gulls joined my solo tea party on a gravelly beach on the western end of Penny Island. They each got a little bit of a RyVita cracker as compensation for posing.

One of a pair of Western Gulls

Further upstream a Great Blue Heron stood among rocks along the river’s north shore.

Great Blue Heron

Several pairs of Merganser Ducks commandeered the gravel bar in the lee of Paddy’s Rock. The males are in their black-and-white breeding plumage.

Mergansers on Paddy’s Rock’s gravel bar

Three hours after starting out it was time to head home. Some Western Grebes ventured near enough to get some photos.

Western Grebe soon to be in breeding plumage

In a few weeks these birds will develop breeding plumage that will improve their looks. The whites will be whiter, the darks darker. The line down the neck where the white feathers meet the dark feathers will sharpen.



4 thoughts on “January 17, 2017

  1. Dan, good photos, you are becoming quite proficient. I feel I am pretty familiar now with the natural world around Jenner and the Russian River in your neck of the woods – a pictures worth a thousand words – I have developed a bit of a soft spot for those Buffleheads – ‘cute as’ (NZ saying).

  2. Thanks, Loren. River Otters are among my favorite animals to see when out on the estuaries and rivers around here. I’m also partial to large birds. I’m aware that other people find other life forms interesting, fish, say, and smaller life forms, for example invertebrates like insects. I try to cultivate interest in those, too. But for me it’s natural to notice and appreciate birds and mammals and I end up photographing mostly them.

  3. Alden, I’m glad to know that the blog is familiarizing you with my neck of the woods. If you ever visit California I will show around for a firsthand look. Your blog has done much to familiarize me with NZ, especially the sailing scene there.

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