At dawn the usual gray overcast from the coast was absent. Camp was still and quiet. I got dressed and wheeled the canoe down to the river directly—without stopping for coffee.
The River was glassy and warm enough to send mists curling aloft from the surface and toward the sky. Dawn is magical.
A female Mallard was breakfasting in algae growing on near the island downriver not far from camp.
A Great Blue Heron worked the nearby shallows .
It was watching me carefully as I took its photo. I got too close, and it flew away downriver. We encountered each other repeatedly—like the Heron, I was making my way downriver, too.
The Heron posed again and again.
Near the end of Freezeout Road the Heron stood along a heavily wooded section of the river bank. Suddenly, out from the cover of the brushy woods, a River Otter sprang out at the Heron and came within it whisker-length of biting its legs. The Heron leapt straight into the sky, as Herons do, and flew upriver, squawking loudly and repeatedly in its hoarse, raspy voice. It had had enough of me.
The River Otter’s attack happened suddenly and was over so quickly that I was not able to capture it on film.
Cute as they may be, River Otters are ferocious creatures. This was the first time I saw a River Otter attack a bird. I have read that they sometimes hunt together and take Brown Pelicans. There is video from the River Otter Ecology Project of a River Otter in a standoff with a Coyote on Tomales Bay.
As I returned to the beach in late morning, a bird not seen that often flew overhead and landed on the island near camp: a Bald Eagle.
The rewards of paddling early in the day are well worth the extra effort.
And, after a brisk morning’s paddle on the Russian River, the coffee tasted especially good.