Harbor Seals On the Hunt and Biologists in the Russian River Estuary

Thursday September 11, 2014 Jenner CA.

It looked like the wind would be down today, according to the weather guys, which is always a good thing, especially if they are right, which they were today.

Once I had my boat in the water I headed on across to Penny Island and sat for a bit. The day was a bit overcast with a  light wind and not many people out on the water except for the biologists.

I entered the little channel on the east end of the island as it was high tide and the channel had enough water in it to get through it.

Just as I entered the channel, I spied some kind of medium sized bird up in the tree and couldn’t make out what it was the way the light was hitting it.bluejay

My guess is a Steller’s jay, maybe a young one?

I continued on up the river on the south shoreline, passing these birds as I do most days. Cormorants, merganser duck and a seagull.birds


Hunting harbor seals

All of a sudden, three harbor seals swim by on the fast side. When they swim along the edge of the river moving fast and coming up often for air, sometimes looking a bit like a porpoise, it means they are on the hunt and they are only on this kind of hunt when the big fish start coming into the river to spawn, which is just starting for the year. Salmon are the first to start spawning, so my guess is they are starting to come into the estuary. The salmon don’t stay in the estuary long as they are heading up the river to spawn and the harbor seals make sure they keep moving.

Biologists mining data

A biologist went by in  a boat and stopped up ahead, so I thought I’d go talk with him. On the way, I saw these geese on the opposite shoreline.geese


This is Jeff, a biologist. He checks and collects data from the devices on some of the buoys in the estuary and other places on the river as well. He was having a problem with the buoy being hung up on something under the water. He was wrestling with it as I approached.jeff


I chatted with him as he worked and then left him at it and continued on up the river to musk rat beach where I sat around for a good spell.

I’m headed on up to musk rat beach in this picture.paddle


After I got tired of sitting around that area, I started back down the river and stopped for awhile in the Penny Island channel on the east end.

Salmon must be coming into the estuary

On the way, the hunting seals passed by me again. Eventually, I’ll be in the right place at the right time and should see them devouring a big fish. Things are just starting.

I stopped in the little channel at Penny Island.island


Spied the fish tracker biologists tagging fish to be tracked

While sitting there, I noticed some more biologists working across the river by the café.bios


These are the fish tracker guys implanting some new fish tracker tags. The new implanted tags have a battery in them that lasts between ten and fifteen days. The tags transmit where the fish is and also it sends the fish temperature, so they can tell at what depth the fish is as the water is colder deeper. They can also tell if the fish is in fresh or salt water as the temperature of these two waters is different.biologists


The river’s mouth or not?

I worked my way along the north side of Penny Island, trying to decide whether to go down to the river’s mouth area or go home.

I compromised and took some photos of the mouth area from Penny Island and then headed on in for the day.

Looking down to the river’s mouth area from Penny Island.jenner


And one more, showing the mouth is wide open to the ocean and a bit foggy down that way too.mouth


Chatted with the fish trackers

I headed on in to the boat ramp and the fish tracking biologists pulled in to take their boat out so I chatted a bit with them.

Seems they also noticed the harbor seals are on the hunt and some big fish must be coming into the estuary.

One of them said the small steelhead fish they are tagging are getting hard to find as they are big enough to head out into the ocean and he thinks that is where a lot of them have gone. A lot of them are around the six inch in size and large enough to handle the salt water.

A fish that can handle the salt water is called a smolt and different species can handle the salt at different lengths. I think most of the salmon are smolt around three inches and the steelhead are smolt around six inches, as I understand it.

Went on home

I had intentions of doing a few chores around the yard, but a nap took over and I didn’t get much else accomplished the rest of the day. I just sat around the yard and thought about this and that and how I was going to do some of my up coming projects.

Nice day out on the water.

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