The Russian River Estuary is an excellent place for anyone interested in seeing a variety of wildlife. Today’s canoe outing started out slowly, but finished spectacularly.
A lone Great Egret waded along the north shore of Penny Island catching small fish to eat for a midday meal.
About a half dozen harbor seals swam just inside the mouth where more than 200 seals were hauled out on the sand and resting. Among them were many pups. Some were nursing.
Mama seal nursing her pup. I took this picture from the overlook after the paddle. I saw similar scenes from the boat, but to avoid disturbing them, I didn’t approach close enough for a good photo.
Among the harbor seal colony there was a group of about a dozen Cormorants and several times that many gulls. A couple of sea lions barked in the surf zone just outside the mouth.
Paddling back towards Penny Island, a pair of Common Goldeneyes took note of my boat’s approach. They swam off to keep a comfortable distance away.
When lunchtime came, I pulled the canoe out onto the gravel bar along the eastern (upstream) shore of Penny Island. A group of Buffleheads didn’t notice me right away and came close enough for me to make a move for my camera. My movement caught their attention and they started to swim away.
The one furthest from the camera is an adult male. Not sure if the others are his harem or what.
There were only a few other paddlers out today. When the river’s practically empty of boats, the deer feel it’s safe to come out to browse on the grasses along the shore of the island. This deer didn’t hear the very slow and quiet approach of my canoe. There was time to take its picture. As soon as it saw me it tip toed back into the brush and out of sight.
Along the way I also saw gulls, Crows, Turkey Vultures, Mallards, and Red-winged Blackbirds, but didn’t get photos of any of them worthy sharing here.
At about 3:00 I decided to return to the launch ramp and rack the canoe on the car. As an afterthought, I decided to drive up to the Highway One turn-out that overlooks the mouth. From that vantage point, using binoculars, I could accurately count the harbor seals in the colony. There were 234 seals, not including the dozen (or more) in the river and ocean.
Ken Sund drove into the turnout and we talked a little bit when he saw a Gray Whale spout in the waves just outside the mouth of the river. There was a mother and her calf, I think perhaps more: two mothers and two calves, perhaps?
Ken explained that the Russian River’s outflow is significantly warmer than the ocean water. Calves enjoy lingering in these warm Russian bath waters, a bit of wine country luxury on their 8,000 kilometer journey to their feeding grounds in the frigid Arctic seas.
These whales were right along the beach, the closest to shore I’ve ever seen Grays approach.
Ken and I told others visitors who had stopped at this overlook about the whales. Most people stopped there to look at the seal colony. A few had stopped simply for the view of the ocean.
Everyone was pleased to see the whales who put on a good show, spouting and holding up an occasional pectoral fin. A calf spy hopped, but, alas, this photographer wasn’t quick enough to get pixels on the memory chip.
Eventually Ken took off to launch his kayak, paddle to the beach at my feet and then walk out on to the beach for a closer look.
Ken photographing a marine mammal in the waves. Not sure if its a seal, sea lion, or whale.
I stayed up on the overlook for 90 minutes. I told everyone who came to look for the whales and pretty soon quite a crowd gathered, intently watching the whales.
It was fun acting as a Roving Docent.