Green Herons, Killdeer, Kingfisher, Otter, Osprey & Mergansers

This morning a strong northwesterly wind swept down the Sonoma County coastline and pushed its way into the lower Russian River estuary. Strong winds tend to keep wildlife hunkered down out of sight. I decided to alter the plan to paddle near the mouth in favor of paddling the upper reaches of the estuary near Monte Rio where the wind would be more manageable and the bird life more abundant.

It was a good choice. There was a lot to see.

Green Herons waded along the shore in the water primrose (Ludwigia peploides, an invasive species) which flourishes in the Russian River anywhere the water is fresh, warm, shallow, and slow moving. Whatever those smaller herons were eating was down the hatch before I could see what it was.

Whole Green Heron 6:14:16

When approached Green Herons freeze in place to avoid being noticed, a strategy that works pretty well. This behavior also makes them ideal subjects for the amateur photographer.

Green Heron Face 6:14:16

Many of the birds today were in out pairs. A couple of killdeer patrolled Sheridan Beach where I stopped to quaff a thermos of hot black tea.

Killdeer Couple 6:14:16

A little further down the estuary a female Kingfisher alighted in a tree close by. These birds usually fly off long before they get within range of my kayak-born camera. On this occasion she was paying so much attention to a nearby male that she didn’t mind my close approach.

Kingfisher Female 6:14:16

Kingfisher Pair

Male is on the left, female on the right

A river otter did its best to stay out of sight.

River Otter 6:14:16

I paddled as far as the pole-mounted osprey nest installed on Ryan’s Beach. A pair of Osprey kept watch from above. I saw Ospreys nesting on a trip to Lake Sonoma earlier this spring in March I wondered how long the nesting season is for Osprey.

Nesting Osprey 6:14:16

The paddle back to Monte Rio was both with the wind and against the current. The two fluid currents nearly cancelled themselves out, providing a pleasant journey back to the launch ramp in Monte Rio.

A Mama Merganser was teaching her offspring how to get a midday meal out of the river. I got a little bit of video of it that you can see on Youtube.

Solo Lake Sonoma

I ventured a few miles upstream of the Russian River estuary today to paddle out of Lake Sonoma’s Yorty Creek launch area near Cloverdale.

Yorty Creek 3:24:16

On weekdays it’s quiet and peaceful there. Except at the launch area, I saw only one other boater on the Lake the whole day in more than 10 miles of paddling.

Ospreys were about. This one was occupying a nest built on top of a tree standing about 8 feet above the lake.

Osprey on Nest 3:24:16

Another was trying to catch a fish.

Osprey in Flight 3:24:16

There was enough ambient noise from brooks tumbling into the lake and from wind in the trees that it was possible to approach turtles without them hearing the kayak. This one dove into the water soon after the camera shutter clicked.

Sunning Turtle 3:24:16

A killdeer stood on a rock near and let me drift in quite close for this picture.

Killdeer 3:24:16

Acorn Woodpeckers were busy in their pantries doing what they do best: storing acorns.

Sideview Woodpecker 3:24:16

Acorns stored in the holes

Woodpecker at Work 3:24:16

Cormorants were working the lake today too.

Cormorant 3:24:16

After years of drought, it was good to visit Lake Sonoma again and see it so full of water, and so empty of noisy boaters. Friends in the Petaluma Paddlers may go up to another part of the lake on Sunday. They’re in for a treat.

Map of the trip: