Richardson Bay, January 31, 2017

Weather forecasts predict rainy weather soon. I was hoping to get one more estuarine outing in January.

Lyrinda emailed me to suggest a Richardson Bay outing on today’s midday high tide and in light northeast winds. I had not visited Richardson Bay since my trip with nephew John back in August, 2016.

Soon after starting we passed a snoozing Pelican.

Pelican on Piling

Many animals rest near the yachts and houseboats along Sausalito’s shore. They are accustomed to human spectators and learn to tolerate curiosity and cameras.

Lyrinda approaching a flotilla of Harbor Seals

Many harbor seals haul out on docks and logs and rafts.

Just a few of many scores of seals

North of here, where I usually paddle, hunting is common. Birds won’t let a paddler get within 200 feet.

Here, near the marinas, it’s a different story. This Western Grebe didn’t seem alarmed even though it was within about 30 feet of the camera.

Western Grebe

Cormorants were abundant.

Cormorant looking for herring, probably.

Eight or more Great Blue Herons stood watch under the Highway 101 bridge that crosses over Richardson Bay. The last of the flooding current carried us slowly toward them. Paddles resting across cockpits, cameras busy, we floated by, very near them.

Great Blue Heron under the 101 bridge

We paddled toward Mill Valley to E. Blithedale Ave. In the marshes of Bayfront Park we saw many shorebirds.

Aptly named Greater Yellowlegs

Least Sandpipers (I think.)

Least Sandpiper? This bird bobbed its tail in a distinctive way.

And many other birds as well—Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Canada Geese, and others.

On the way back we picked our way among the many houseboats of Waldo Point. We paddled for three hours and covered a little more than nine miles.

Great Blue at Waldo Point, Sausalito

If you need to escape the dizzying dismay of your daily newsfeed—as I do—I recommend getting outside in nature and looking into the eyes of wild things.

A map of our journey:

Estero Americano Dec 5, 2016

The rains have added enough water to the Estero Americano to swell the channel near its banks.

high-water-ea-dec-5

Being able to see over the banks of the channel allows for a much more pleasant trip away from the parking lot through the dairy pasturelands.

I saw a number of birds and otters on the way out, but I couldn’t approach them as closely as usual. The wild animals scattered before they came within the reach of my camera.

I did manage to get this photo a couple of dogs who were out on an unsupervised romp through the Estero.

two-dogs-ea-dec-5

The beagle brayed.

Squeaky neoprene cold-weather gloves were the reason why wildlife was so elusive. They squawked with each paddle stroke.

squeaky-gloves-ea-dec-5

Once I took them off I was able to do get better photos. Here’s a Great Blue Heron.

gbhe-ea-dec-5

All the usual residents were in attendance and accounted for today, among them: Cormorants, Buffleheads, Coots, River Otters, Barn Owls, Vultures,Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, smaller hawks I could not identify and, in the surf near the beach, California Sea Lions.

A map of the outing:

Fellow Early Riser

This cormorant allowed me to approach close enough for a picture in low, pre-dawn light.

fellow-early-riser

You can tell that the sky was not overcast that morning—see the blue light on the back feathers?

I had not had breakfast or coffee when I took this photo. This bird, I think, had not yet had breakfast either.

 

Visiting the Russian River Estuary

The Russian River Estuary is filling up now that the mouth has closed. My wife and I got up early this morning to take our canoe out to see the wildlife out there and to pick up whatever garbage we could find.

Jenner 6:3:16

It was calm when we arrived.

We paddled out to the mouth and then upriver stopping at a pasture for a break. We saw about 70 Harbor Seals at the (now closed) mouth, Cormorants, Great Blue Herons, Loons, Mallard Ducks, Caspian Terns, Pelicans, Canadian Geese, and Turkey Vultures. Although we hoped to see something a bit more unusual, specifically River Otter or perhaps, a Bald Eagle, none showed themselves to us.

All along the way, we found flotsam and jetsam to pluck out of the river and take to the garbage receptacle at Jenner launch site.

We stopped by the visitor center to buy a gift for our daughter’s best friends newborn baby girl.

A wonderful morning followed by a fantastic creekside lunch we enjoyed on our way home at Fork’s restaurant.

Map of today’s outing:

 

May 3 on the Lower Russian River Estuary

4:26:16 Windy!

Gulls across from Jenner on April 26, 2016

Last week’s windy weather at the Russian River Estuary made many birds seek shelter and kept many paddlers off the water. It was possible to observe Harbor Seals hauled out at the mouth of the river. Pups nursed.

4:23:16 Pup Nursing

April 23, 2016 Pup nursing at Russian River Mouth

Today’s weather, though overcast, proved much more favorable for observing the animals out at the mouth.

5:3:16 Western Grebes

A kayaker passes a pair of Western Grebes

Three groups of Harbor Seals numbering about 200 individuals in all rested onshore at the mouth. The largest group,116 animals, were hauled out just inside the mouth of the river; two smaller groups were a few meters upstream and included most of the pups.

5:3:16 One of 116 HS resting at the Mouth

Some of the 116 seals in the larger group

 

A pair of Sea Lions frolicked in the current flowing out into the Pacific. These Sea Lions swam with greater vigor than any of their seal cousins.

5:3:16 Sea Lion

Sea Lions have a more pronounced snout than seals.

My friend and fellow naturalist, Bob Noble, saw a single Surf Scoter near the mouth.

5:3:16 Surf Scoter?

Bob and I caught up since the last time we’d been out. We talked about Beavers. Like me, Bob feels that Beavers would do the Russian River watershed a lot of good.

5:3:16 Naturalist Bob Noble

Check out Bob’s blog. (Link on the right of this blog.)

When Bob paddled off I got out to have lunch on the beach. A group of Caspian Terns stood on the sand on the beach just north of the river’s mouth.

5:3:16 Caspian Terns

After lunch it was time to pick up trash on the beach. I’m happy to report that there was not a whole lot of trash to pick up. Still it’s a good bet you’ll find tennis balls to pick up. I found one to bring to my Naturalist class tonight.

I had thought that tennis balls got into the river when people throw them into the river for their dog to retrieve. But paddling upstream I found this tree across from Penny Island. Does anyone know its species name?

5:3:16 Tennis Ball Tree

Going further upstream I saw an assortment of birds.

Canadian Geese,

5:3:16 Canadian Geese

Female Mergansers and Cormorants,

5:3:16 Female Merganser with Cormorant

A male Merganser,

5:3:16 Male Merganser

and even a Great Blue Heron.

5:3:16 GBH at Eagle's Landing

In the sky I saw an Eagle. Large dark feathered raptor with a long, strong neck. I’m pretty sure was immature Bald Eagle. It was too far away to photograph, but it showed up pretty plainly in my binoculars.