Best time to begin a paddle?
Before the sun gets up.
Beach at Duncans Mills Camping Club September 26, 2016 just past 7:00.
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.
Part Two, I talked a bit about the fish I saw in the Estero Americano on the most recent trip.
With fish you’ll usually see critters that eat them, especially birds:
Great Blue Herons,
Several Osprey (which have recently been absent from Estero Americano as far as I know)
Cormorants, Brown Pelicans, and Great Egrets as well, none of which posed close enough for a good photo.
A Black-necked Stilt was hanging out with White Pelicans near Whale’s Tail. This one was a solo operator.
A Red-Tailed Hawk landed on a bush on the Sonoma County shore a little more than halfway to the coast.
As I took this photo I wasn’t sure of what it was, so I leaned on the experts at iNaturalist to help with the bird ID.
A young deer got separated from its mother and ran back and forth along the Marin County shore making plaintive cries to call her back.
With all the fish in the Estero, I had hoped to see a River Otter or two or three, but none showed themselves that day.
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.
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:
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.
Today’s weather, though overcast, proved much more favorable for observing the animals out at the mouth.
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.
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.
My friend and fellow naturalist, Bob Noble, saw a single Surf Scoter near the mouth.
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.
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.
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?
Going further upstream I saw an assortment of birds.
Female Mergansers and Cormorants,
A male Merganser,
and even a Great Blue Heron.
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.