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:

Jenner December 29, 2016

This morning I took my son-in-law paddling on the Russian River Estuary in fine winter weather. We saw the pair of Bald Eagles who are often there.

It’s good to have binoculars when kayaking.

We saw Harbor Seals, Sea Lions, Cormorants, a Great Blue Heron, a few Mallards, flocks of Buffleheads, and a half dozen Mergansers.

We visited with Bob Noble, the only other paddler we saw. More at Bob at Bob’s Eyes.

The mouth of the river is open.

 

Waqqas enjoyed his first paddle.

 

 

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.

Rain, Rain, Come I Say

Weather forecasts called for rain on the Sonoma County coast late this afternoon, and they were right.

That meant a whole morning and the first part of the afternoon for paddling. A forecast for rain is tantamount to a forecast for fewer people—and more wildlife—on the river. So today it’s off to the Russian River!

I started with a tour towards the mouth of the river, but it didn’t turn up much to see, so it was time to head upstream.

A young deer was on Penny Island this morning. It foraged near a large redwood tree stump washed up on the southern shore.

Deer on Penny Island 2:3:16

Deer must have to swim to reach Penny Island.

An immature bald eagle had been perched on Paddy’s Rock, but it quickly took to the skies.

Immature Bald Eagle 2:3:16

Longer, slower wing beats make it easy to tell an eagle from a hawk in flight.

Farther upstream, near the grotto on the southern shore, a group of vultures gathered on a rocky shoreline.

TV's near the Grotto 2:3:16

They were eating something small, too small to identify even with binoculars.

Lunch was on the gravel bar in the lee of Paddy’s Rock. Unbeknownst to me as I was enjoying my sandwich and hot tea, a trio of river otters had gathered on the far side of Paddy’s Rock.

Russian River Otters 2:3:16

The tail in the foreground belongs to another otter. That tail is about 1/3 the length of the whole animal.

They were surprised to see me—the surprise was mutual—but they went about their business of catching small fish and bringing them to the surface to eat. River otters have few predators in the water. On land, however, they need to watch out for large breeds of domesticated dogs, coyotes, and mountain lions all of which are known to prey on river otters. Humans are their biggest threat.

About halfway between Paddy’s Rock and Penny Island a western grebe surfaced right in front of my kayak.

Western Grebe 2:3:16

Such a red eye!

A great blue heron walked along the northern shore of Penny Island.

GBH 2:3:16

 

To complete the day’s paddle, I returned to the mouth area. Rain began to fall, gently at first and then increasing in intensity.

I came across a sea lion holding one flipper out of the water. That flipper held high like that has an uncanny resemblance to the dorsal fin of a shark.

Because of the rain, the camera was stowed safe beneath the splash deck. There’s no photo of the sea lion to share—sorry.

The rain came in on a southerly wind. Along with the rain came the warm and friendly aroma of coffee beans roasting at Cafe Aquatica.

Rain 2:3:16

If you’ve never kayaked in the rain, add it to your bucket list. It’s a pleasure.