Harbor Seals and Sea Lions Dining on Salmon in Front of the Visitor Center in the Russian River Estuary

Thursday October 23,2014 Jenner CA.

Off to Jenner this morning to the overlook at the river’s mouth to check it out.

The river’s mouth did blow open at the low tides last night. When it blows out, the river level drops rather fast, all the way up past Monte Rio.

Here is the blown out wide open river’s mouth as I saw it from the overlook this morning.rivermouth

 

Compare the above photo to the one yesterday of the channel they cut through the sand which starts this blown out process, which usually takes place when the ocean goes to low tide, which causes the sand in the channel to flow like water opening up the mouth deep and wide.pacific

 

Of course I shot the bull with all the people at the overlook for a bit, then went on over to the visitor center launch ramp and put my boat in the water.

Right off the bat, just off the boat ramp, I noticed a harbor seal with a big fish, likely a big salmon as that is what spawns most at this time of year. That seal showed me a nice big fish, but  then dived down and I lost it and wasn’t able to get a picture of it.

But I noticed there were more harbor seals with fish, around five or so in the immediate area and at least a couple sea lions swimming around hunting too.

Watch for big splashes

One of the first signs I see that a seal might have a big fish is big splashes repeatedly.splash

 

And the other indicator even if I don’t see any fish is there are usually one or two seagulls sitting on the water waiting for and eating little pieces of fish the seals drop as they eat the fish under the water. Harbor seals do most of their eating under the water. When they come up for air, which is sometimes only for a few seconds, I try to get a picture of the fish they are eating, if they show it, sometimes they keep the fish hidden, so it’s hard go get pictures of them with the fish, but I try. Good thing digital film is mostly free as I get a lot of pictures of the water while trying to get pictures of the seals with the fish.

Sea lions are even harder to get pictures of as they usually only surface for a second and are under the water again and they move a lot faster than the harbor seals.

This harbor seal just surfaced and then was back under the water.sealeats

 

I didn’t do too well getting pictures of this fish eating, but I did try  hard.

Here’s another  seal with what’s left of a big fish.seal3

 

And another seal pops up covered with water, just for an instant and then was under the water again. I watch where the seagulls are as they are usually on top of the feeding seals waiting for scraps and they do pretty good as the seals tear into the fish.seal

 

River’s mouth area

After trying to get pictures of the fish being eaten, I left them to it and headed down to the just opened river’s mouth area.

I passed these preening brown pelicans as I entered the mouth area.preening

 

Avoiding boat ramp rage

I hung around the mouth area watching for quite some time before heading back to the boat ramp. There were a bunch of boat trailers parked at the ramp. Even though some of the people  were coming with boats, these guys were blocking the ramp, about forty five minutes before any of their boats showed up. Rude.ramp

 

Not wanting to get a case of ramp rage, I paddled back across  the river to Penny Island and into the little channel at the east end for a good rest.

Then I paddled up the river to eagle’s  landing passing this little grebe on the way.grebe

 

I also passed this harbor seal, now full of salmon and needing a bit of a nap. They sure  have large whiskers, likely for feeling around under the water when visibility is bad?whisker

 

Boat ramp still plugged up

Eventually, I paddled back over to the boat ramp to see if the guys there had become any more considerate of the other people that might want to use the ramp.

They still had the ramp blocked up good and there were still quite a few people of the bunch that were still out, so I paddled back over to Penny Island trying to wait them out.ramp2

 

I paddled back into the little channel of the east end of Penny Island and took it easy.channel

 

Then I paddled back up the river to this spot just ahead and just floated around in my boat and rested with the harbor seals.upview

 

I floated around near these two resting harbor seals until almost five PM, when I finally saw all the boat trailers leaving the boat ramp area.harborseals

 

That was my clue to head on in for the day. I had avoided boat rage, but people that don’t think and hog the boat ramp bug me, especially commercial people such as this.  You’d think they’d respect using an area and be more considerate. Unfortunately, they are mostly just ignorant of what they are doing thinking no one else wants to use the boat ramp, just because no one is baring down on them to use the ramp. Sometimes I do bare down, but then I get ramp rage and that always ruins the rest of the day for me, so I usually try to avoid that.

Still, a nice day out kayaking with the harbor seals and watching them enjoying their salmon.

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Russian River Estuary is Breached by the Sonoma County Water Agency Today

Wednesday October 22, 2014 Jenner CA.

And we had a nice paddle too

Knowing that they’d likely breach the river’s mouth today, I headed on down to the highway one overlook to see what was going on. I didn’t see any excavator out on the sand, but did spy it still in the parking lot down near Goat Rock, still loaded up.escavator

 

I looked around for someone that might know what’s going on and I saw Andy the  biologist seal lady all set up down on the end, so I went over to see if and when they would start the breaching process.

Turned out, the guys were waiting for the ocean to settle down a bit at high tide which was just coming up, as we talked. Sleeper waves are very dangerous and can wipe out people and machines so it’s good to be very cautious.

I went back over and let the other local guys down there know what was going on and shortly, I saw the excavator out on the beach. He’s about in the middle of this picture, coming from the left where the above picture was taken. This is looking south off the overlook to Goat Rock. Nice day.goatrock

 

Here is the excavator that will do the job. The two guys are marking the spot to start the ditch to breach the sand bar. They will watch as spotters during the operation to keep an eye out for big sleeper waves or any sand starting to move unexpectently.

ditchsite

 

He drives into the river to start the channel at this spot.startditch

 

And then goes back far enough to make a little dam to keep the water out of the ditch while he’s working on the rest of the ditch. He’ll remove the little dam after he completes the ditch and let the river water flow into the ocean, thus breaching the sand bar.ditchdam

 

Here are some of the spectators watching the operation from the overlook area., looking up river. This is where we do a lot of information exchange with people we don’t always run into every day,which could also be called, shooting the bull. :O)overlook

 

Here he is working his way to the ocean, where we decided to leave him and go kayaking. He will breach the sand bar shortly, but it’s rather anticlimactic until it goes to low tide when it will really blow the sand out and that’s when it might get a bit exciting. Otherwise, it’s just a small ditch into the ocean and the estuary doesn’t hardly drop, until the low tide.bigditch

 

Headed off to kayak

Ray, his brother John and I put our boats into the water. John’s left arm is in a sling for a recent shoulder operation, but he does ok paddling with one arm, so we headed on over to Penny Island and on up the river to eagles landing at a slow pace, which made it real enjoyable.

Just as we were leaving the boat ramp, Mary a lady who lives just up the river and kayaks, paddled out hollering my name. Turned out she had a kayaking book she wanted to give me so I asked her to leave it on top of my car and we continued on our way.

Heading on up to eagle’s landing in this picture, just ahead. A bald headed eagle flew overhead, but I just couldn’t keep it in the view finder so didn’t get a picture of it. Seems I accidently focused on a turkey vulture that was also in the sky near it.paddle

 

We took our time shooting the bull all the way. The wind was really down to a light breeze so we moved along slowly, enjoying the day, if I haven’t mentioned that already? :O)

Channel on the cow pasture

From eagle’s landing we crossed over the river to the north side as I wanted to enter the water channel that had formed on the ranchers land where the cattle roam. The channel is only available to paddle when the water is real high like it is now, today. Tomorrow, the water will be down and it won’t be high enough to get into, so today was the day.

Just as we approached the channel entrance, I spied this killdeer on the shoreline watching our approach.killdeer

 

Ray took us through these sticker bushes to enter the channel, which goes off to the right. We made it in, after a bit of maneuvering with the boats, around a big cement covert.channel

 

Just before the covert, these birds where taking it easy. A coot in the water, some cormorants and two merganser ducks on the right. They had a nice spot.birds

 

And just past those birds I spotted this bird which if I remember right is a yellow legged willet.willet

 

This is our view of the flooded rancher’s field that we paddled into. Also known as a cow pasture.kayaking

 

We sat around in that for a bit, shooting more bull of course, then headed on out towards Jenner, which can be seen in the background , as we headed on out the channel.jenner

The takeout ramp

As we approached the take out, a guy I meant before, Denis, was just putting his paddle board into the water or getting ready to.

And Mary with the book she wanted to give me came by and put the book on my car hood, under one of my tie down ropes.

We loaded our boats and said we were all going down to the overlook to see how the open mouth was doing and  Mary headed that way also.

It takes a low tie to blow open the mouth

This was our view of the breached river sand bar as we looked out over the Pacific ocean. The sand bar is breached, but not blown open yet. That usually happens at the low tide, which is just about the time this picture was taken, but the sand was just starting to move and it would be a while yet.pacific

 

Darn, the book

I was standing here taking this picture when I saw Mary and her husband standing over there, looking over the side. So I started to go over to talk with them when I remembered, I hadn’t put the book inside the car. In fact I forgot about it completely and worse of all, I also forgot to tie that rope on top the book to the boat to help hold it to the car. Lucky I have lots of ropes, just in case and the boat stayed on the car.onlookers

 

I remember just as I approached Mary so I admitted to my forgetfulness and headed back to the boat ramp, pretty sure I’d find that book along the road somewhere.

Ha, there it is on the curb, just driving into the parking lot. Someone had put it up on the curb for me. I think it might have been Denis, on the paddle board as he was just closing up his nice light blue great looking Toyota land cruiser, that I had admired as I left the parking lot.

I thought about going back to the overlook, but I needed to get some propane gas tanks filled up so I decided to go home instead. That was a hard decision as I knew things can start to get interesting when the mouth really blows wide open at the low tide. Volumes of sand flow out into the ocean, just like the water, which makes sand waves in the flow and then it all goes out and the river estuary drops rather fast. In a few hours, it’s drained.

Propane tank  forgetfulness

So, I headed on home and got the tanks and went on down to the local hardware store where they fill tanks.

I knew the guy there filling tanks, so we shot the bull some while he filled the tanks. I paid and left, but on the way home, I realized I had left one of the tanks there on the ground, so turned around and got it. Just one of those days, I guess.

A monumental thing to finish off the day

The day ended on a very good note though. I have a big pile of old computers and monitors and TV’s and printers outside under a tarp, that I finally got out of my house this summer and was looking for some organization to pick them up and wasn’t having much luck. I was about ready to load them in my car and take several trips to the city to get rid of them.

Some more searching on the internet and two phones calls and I was in business. The first call, they needed fifty computers to come out, I only had about twenty, so that didn’t work.

The next call, things all came together and they will come out to get them. I’ve collected all these old broken down computers over the years and they were taking up a lot of space in my house that I could use for other purposes, besides making it hard to clean around all the stuff, so this was monumental. :O)

Nice day, even with the mishaps.

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