Archive for the 'wildlife' Category

Mar 08 2011

Whales, Waves, Whitewater, and Wind

Whales, waves, whitewater, and wind – sounds like March in Mendocino County.

The Pacific Gray Whales are migrating along the coast of California back to northern waters. They are returning from calving or mating in the lagoons and waters of Baja. We enjoyed a spectacular southerly migration in January and enjoyed regularly seeing several in February who appeared to be hanging out here. Just last week, we started noticing pods moving northward.

It is estimated that between 18,000 and 23,000 Pacific Gray Whales pass by the towns of Fort Bragg and Mendocino on their migration. Wow!!! That’s a lot of whales!!! No wonder our area celebrates their migration each year with whale festivals.

We enjoy watching them from land and from sea. Of course a kayak is our favorite place to see them; however, waves, whitewater, and wind often have us playing elsewhere. The Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, Todd’s Point, and Mackerricher State Park are our favorite terrestrial viewing points.

Speaking of waves, wind, and whitewater. Our coastal winds are supposed to settle down this afternoon, and we are hoping to find some surf. February had us in our sea kayaks a little more than usual, and we are feeling a little rusty in our surf kayaks. Regardless of whales, waves, whitewater, or wind, we need to get the rust-out and ready for the upcoming 25th annual Santa Cruz PaddleFest. If you are interested in kayak surfing, be sure to put this one on your calendar.

And whitewater dreaming we are. We haven’t had quite enough rain to make one of our favorite Mendocino County whitewater runs – Rancheria Creek – runnable.  (You Tube Video)

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However, the Eel has been flowing. So much for kayak surfing focus, the Eel is calling my name this week, and Jeff is heading north to the Redding area to teach a whitewater class (and of course do a couple of runs while in the area).

Now if that darn wind would take a break so that we can get out for a surf. :)

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Feb 24 2011

Back to the Mendocino Coast

Charts are spread across the kitchen table and photo galleries are zooming across our computer screens as Jeff and I reconnect after our separate paddling adventures over the past week. Of course our best adventure of the week happened when we both returned to the Mendocino Coast for a sweet sea kayak rock garden session with some special guests.

Jeff just returned from the Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium. He ventured down a few days early last week to take a BCU 4 Star Assessment (yes they were the group that was on the channel 5 news jumping off the sea wall). After the 4 Star Assessment, he was there for the weekend as an instructor in their rock gardening classes.

Jeff had a great time. He passed his BCU 4 Star Assessment, got to coach paddlers in around the rocks, reconnect with old friends, and meet new ones. We are both stoked that Jeff had the winning raffle ticket for a new drysuit of his choice from Kokatat. Thanks for all the suggestions and comments that it should be a women’s size small; however, Kokatat just gave my drysuit some love and I am happy to wear it for another season.

Yes, last week was a drysuitless week for me as my suit was in the shop but not one that didn’t see me on the water. My adventures included focused work on our 2010 books in preparation for tax season (not the funnest adventure), teaching private sea kayak lessons, and playing with the Gold Country Paddlers on the Eel River.

The 2 days on the Eel were fun as significant rainfall during the week had the river running at a moderately high level. On Saturday, we did the Outlet Creek to Dos Rios Run at about 4200 cfs which made for some big waves and big hydraulics. Here’s Jerry the organizer of the weekend doing a little river surfing.

On Sunday, I joined the group for the Hearst Run – a 17 mile wilderness stretch. This is a Class II run with one Class III rapid that is known for good wildlife viewing. We were a chatty group and didn’t see a lot of wildlife but it was a gorgeous paddle at a fun flow.

I was excited to get a photo of one of the wild boars that we saw trekking up the hillside.

I also got a photo of the remains of a Wenonah Canoe on the banks. Geee . . . no roads around. I hope that they didn’t have to hike out.

The highlight of our week though was the unexpected guests that showed up at our house after the symposium. The guys had a great time paddling together and decided to indulge in a play day in the rock gardens of the Mendocino Coast on their way north. It was AWESOME to share our playground with such a talented group of paddlers. These guys definitely ROCK!!!

Dave White – P&H Team Paddler and Alder Creek Instructor
Matt Nelson – BCU Instructor and P&H Team Paddler
Bryant Burkhardt – Paddle California and instructor for California Canoe and Kayak
Paul Kuthe – Alder Creek Canoe and Kayak in Portland, OR

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Dec 19 2010

Paddling Candy Cane Lane

Arriving home after some pre-holiday travels, we were anxious for some boating close to home. We decided on an exploratory paddle of the South Fork of the Noyo River – a class 1 tributary of Fort Bragg’s Noyo River.

We have heard nightmare stories from locals trying to run this at flood stages. Our plan for the trip was to enjoy the scenery and wildlife. Being in a wooded area, log strainers are inevitable hazards so we chose a flow that would be high enough to float us down the river but mellow enough for us to limbo under logs and easily get in and out when necessary to portage obstacles.

Our journey entailed approximately 4 miles of paddling (and portaging) on the South Fork of the Noyo River followed by 4 miles down the Noyo River to our shop at Dolphin Isle Marina.

The trip met our expectations lots of log strainers and great scenery and wildlife watching. We limboed 12 logs and portaged numerous times.

Our favorite sitings of the trip were 6 Coho Salmon and numerous American Dippers. We came across a couple of the Department of Fish and Game surveyors wading the river and counting salmon. Talking to them, we discovered that the candy cane striped ribbons that we were seeing along the river were their markings of Coho Salmon sitings.

In addition to enjoying the scenery and wildlife, we realize that the run was a good preparation for our upcoming swiftwater safety class for the local fish surveyors. Check out our photo gallery for an entertaining slideshow of our adventure.

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Dec 06 2009

Land and Sea Adventures in Fort Bragg, California

Here’s our latest video creation Outdoor Adventures in Fort Bragg, California featuring some of our land and sea adventures in our home of Fort Bragg on the Mendocino Coast of California. Of course, we feature kayaking but also some of our other favorite activities on the coast and in the forest including abalone diving, mountain biking, and more.

A special thanks to Brent Reitz – master instructor of the Forward Stroke – for allowing us to use Single Care as our main song. If you have taken one of Brent’s Forward Stroke Clinics, you probably have immensely improved your forward stroke and probably heard him rock-out on the harmonica. Here’s a link to his group – Bad Habits.

We hope that you enjoy the video – we sure had fun making it.

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Jul 26 2009

Sea World Fort Bragg

Often people will compare one of our Mendocino Coast kayaking experiences to Disneyland. Lately Sea World has been the comparison. The herring and sardines are running on the Noyo River, and we are enjoying spectacular wildlife displays. Our visitors are also enjoying an escape from the fog as our Noyo River location is outside of the fog belt. This afternoon, we enjoyed a journey up the river wearing t-shirts.
Both the harbor seals and sea lions have been actively schooling fish on the river. It is pretty awesome to see the sea lions as they porpoise about in the river chasing the fish. The harbor seals are a bit more subdued by equally enjoyable. Jeff and I enjoyed our dinner one evening on the deck watching the show. Here the team from Visit Mendocino County checking out the wildlife from our deck.

Yesterday, the osprey who likes to perch in the Eucalyptus by our deck was 3 for 3 in diving for fish. I saw a different osprey snatch 2 fish from the river in one dive. This evening, a juvenile loon was enjoying some fishing time on the river. The great egrets must have heard about the plethora of fish on the Noyo as they have shown up this week. Jeff saw 4 of them this afternoon on the river.

The merganser ducklings are growing fast and the older set is just about the same size as their mother. We have several sets of late mallard ducklings that are so cute and fuzzy. The new gull chicks are starting to stretch out their wings, and we expect them to be fledging soon. It is amazing how fast they grow and develop, but they are still so far from reaching adulthood.

My odd duck – the harlequin- continues to hang around. We suspect that he is an old bird who has enjoyed wintering on the Noyo and now has selected it as his retirement community. Birders and wildlife enthusiasts continue to enjoy his presence. The mallard drakes don’t appear to mind his company either.

Our otters continue to be on the shy side. I regularly see them but they are elusive to many of our guests. Perhaps they have gotten to know me and pop up to say hi but are still wary of many people as a survival skill from years ago when they were hunted. Did you know that a group of otters is called a romp? Seems fitting.

The new born fawns have not been shy and seem quite curious about us as we quietly float by.

It has been really fun to share these wildlife experiences with all ages and many first time paddlers. Kayaking has its roots in hunting wildlife, today we are using it as a vehicle to appreciate it.

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Jun 07 2009

Wild Life

Today, I was at our local chapter meeting of Delta Kappa Gamma International, (an organization of women educators). This year I have been blessed with so many opportunities including a leadership role in our Iota Zeta chapter.

When asked today to reflect upon my doings outside the realm of public education, a smile spread across my face and Mendocino Coast WILD LIFE came to mind . . .

A fawn nursing on the coastal rocks near Point Cabrillo Lighthouse.
A pigeon guillemot escaping turbulent water.

A starfish doing pull-ups in a sea cave.

And me going a little wild – rock gardening in Fort Bragg’s Noyo Bay.

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May 30 2009

Birds on the Brain II

Yes, I continue to have birds on the brain. Yesterday, I was admiring the cormorant chicks at the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse after helping with the Point Cabrillo Breeding Birds Survey then I went to write my woman on water blog which ended up being a banter about birds. Yesterday afternoon, I was bringing gear off of the line in our back yard, and Osprey flew over me at low altitude (about 25 feet) with a nice size salmon in her talons. I was hoping for a dropsy but no such luck. I hope that she enjoyed her salmon dinner.

Prior to meeting my guests for a Sunset Bird Paddle, I warmed up on the Noyo with my greenland paddle and found myself birding again. I was stoked to have a few moments with my camera and am excited to share my shots with you. Yes, I photographed the male harlequin again and got a couple of great shots of a handsome great blue heron in breeding plummage.My favorite photo though is of the merganser and her ducklings – in this photo one was riding on mom’s back.

The swallows have been very active feeding and chittering away along the river. I had several great viewings of 3 barn swallows – close enough to see the irridescence shimmer in their blue feathers. There are a bunch of violet green swallows swooping about but elluding my camera.

And of course the mamma mallards had to parade their little ones around the marina just before we launched on our sunset bird paddle. They brought them past us in the water and then for a walk on a log floating next to the dock.

Who knows what we will see next.

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May 29 2009

Birds on the Brain

Paddle, paddle, paddle . . . I started to write my blog about a week full of paddling and ended up with more bird banter than paddle prose. Oh well, nevermymind . . . check back soon for a paddling update or take a gander at our photo gallery to see our paddling adventures.

This week, we have seen lots of great wildlife including lots of babies. On the Noyo River, the mother merganser duck and her tribe are probably my favorite, and I haven’t gotten a photo of them yet. I love the way her ducklings take turns riding on her back. The violet green swallows have been swoooping through the air eating insects and appear to have a nest in one of the pilings by our boat slip. We have seen the osprey snag fish, and the acorn woodpeckers continuing to work on their granary. Many of the black crowned night herons are in their breeding plummage, and the juveniles are just as goofy as ever.

The air around the Noyo River is filled with the melodies of happy song birds. I was really stoked to see a Western Tanager with his brilliant colors shimmering in the sun. I have been regularly hearing the black headed grosbeak and have had a couple of sightings of him. We sighted an odd duck on the river that we still need to identify. Last night when we were hiking, we saw her with ducklings on a lagoon near the river. At first we were hopeful that maybe our beloved odd duck the Harlequin had found a lady friend, but it doesn’t appear so.

Regarding the mammals on the river, we are still watching for fawns to start appearing. There is a baby sea lion traveling about these days. He looks like a skinny teenager who hasn’t grown into his body yet. We have seen some harbor seals courting and the river otters frolicing about.

I often feel as though I am immersed in a National Geographic episode but even better as there is no script.

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May 19 2009

New Photo Gallery

Here’s one of my favorite photos. I took it while sea kayaking on the Mendocino Coast just outside of Fort Bragg’s Noyo Bay.

This photo is in our new photo gallery which includes photos and videos of our kayaking, Mendocino Coast, wildlife, and other adventures.

I hope that you will enjoy my labor of love.

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Apr 28 2009

Otters and Turtles and Herons

Wild spring winds have us continuing to seek sheltered paddling conditions on the quiet waters of the Noyo River. We continue to be amazed how protected it is from the wind that seems to be whipping everywhere else on the Mendocino Coast.

The wildlife seem to be enjoying sunny, warm, spring days on the Noyo as well. Last weekend’s paddling started off with sitings of a river otter and then continued with mallard ducklings, osprey diving for fish (sometimes catching one), assorted ducks (Harlequin, bufflehead, and goldeneye), herons, egrets, cormorants, and woodpeckers. The green herons tend to be shy and elusive of our eyes on the Noyo River, but we saw 3 of them at once and then continued to see them at different points during the day. I shot a photo of my favorite harlequin duck with a bufflehead swimming behind it and behold a green heron managed to sneak into my shot as well.

Sunday afternoon, Jeff and I enjoyed a peaceful paddle on a high tide up the river to the tunnel where the Skunk Train comes through the hill and makes its first crossing of the Noyo River. The water was so clear that I was constantly scanning the bottom – no abalone to scout for here but I am intrigued by river and creek bottoms and was hoping to see some fish. I commented to Jeff that one of these days we would start seeing turtles and sure enough – he spotted one on a log. Unfortunately the turtle spotted us and slipped into the water before I could get a photo. We then saw another one who appeared to be snoozing on a log just below the river’s surface.

Being one who dislikes the wind, I have to consider this spring’s windy season a blessing because it has made us spend more time on the Noyo River and has given us more insight into the river and its wildlife. I am working on a new video of sea kayaking and the wildlife of the Noyo River that I hope to share soon.

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