Jenner by the sea – Same as it ever was

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Once in a lifetime may we all see such beauty as Drakes Estero at dusk, surrounded by hundreds of godwits. Serenaded by a single loon. In this respect my life is complete.

On the first day of 2015 I was blessed with the beauty of Drakes Estero sans mariculture.

1 January, 2015 - Black Turnstones over Drakes Estero. ©Richard James

1 January, 2015 – Black Turnstones over Drakes Estero. ©Richard James

On the last day of 2015, I had the company of Dan Gurney, fellow boater and nature aficionado as we toured the estuary at the mouth of the Russian River.

This is a common venue for Dan and my first trip to these calm waters.

We put in at the boat ramp near the visitor center and made our way towards the mouth, careful not to venture out to the sea. Our boats and skills not suited for the crashing waves.

Besides enjoying the birds, seals and sounds, our destination was the beach north of the mouth, covered with driftwood and countless pieces of plastic, bottles and other mindless items. Inquisitive harbor seals swam close to us, noses in the air, inspecting us for food or threat, then silently sliding back beneath the cloak of the sea-surface.

We beach our boats, bags in hand we set off to the north, ready to return the scene to a more fitting state, free from out trash. Though we would later learn we had not pulled our boats far enough out of the rising waters.

Dan and I had previously met 2-3 times on Tomales Bay, he with a larger group of boaters, and I out walking the shores, filling my boat with trash, oyster farming debris and derelict drifting duck decoys. This was the first time he and I had boated and walked the shore, intent on cleaning up the place.

Instead of 10-15 minutes and back in the boat to paddle up to Penny Island for a bite to eat, we spent the next 90 minutes gathering foam bits, tennis balls, plastic and glass beverage containers and this lone steelhead.

A large meal, unnoticed by gulls, vultures and eagles. The all white gums of this fish told me it is a steelhead, chinook are all black, coho are black & white.

A large meal, unnoticed by gulls, vultures and eagles. The all white gums of this fish told me it is a steelhead, chinook gums are all black, coho gums black & white.

Perhaps the sand coating had sealed in the scent sufficiently to hide this meal from being discovered. I carried it out to the surf and the gulls and vultures quickly took notice.

Dan was a bit worried, as we had left our boats unattended for quite a while (and had not secured them very well either)

After piling up trash into caches for retrieval later, we hustled back to find our boats swirling in an eddy, off-shore, being herded by Dan’s good friend Bob. Bob boats here nearly every day and knows the land, as well as the boats. He was kind enough to push them to shore where we secured them and spent a while talking about all manner of seaside topics.

After returning to our caches to recover them, lashing everything (except one large truck tire we left up high for another caring individual to pack out), we carefully made our way to Penny Island for a late lunch.

Dan was nice enough to share his sandwich, for I had only arrived with drinks and pastries from Tomales Bakery. We devoured our meal as buffleheads and mergansers floated by.

Once the sun had dipped behind the ridge, the temp dropped and my wet wetsuit became downright chilly. (the day started out quite chilly, the drive up from Inverness was on ice-coated roads. My usual put-in along Walker Creek was occupied by Cheda’s tow truck hoisting the Hog Island Oyster delivery van from the creek, a sheepish driver pacing the shoulder)

Dan and I quickly paddled to the boat ramp to disgorge our discoveries and load boats back on to cars for the drive back.

 

See below what washes down the Russian River on a daily basis.

 

Same as it ever was…Same as it ever was…Same as it ever was…
Same as it ever was…Same as it ever was…Same as it ever was…
Same as it ever was…Same as it ever was…

Water dissolving…and water removing
There is water at the bottom of the ocean
Carry the water at the bottom of the ocean
Remove the water at the bottom of the ocean!

Letting the days go by/let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by/water flowing underground
Into the blue again/in the silent water
Under the rocks and stones/there is water underground.

Letting the days go by/let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by/water flowing underground
Into the blue again/after the money’s gone
Once in a lifetime/water flowing underground.

 

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56 tennis balls on second ever ikea bag. This one in great shape, sure to help haul hundreds of pounds of trash off many beaches.

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56 shoes, soles or footbeds

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Second syringe of the litter season.

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First ever unicorn.

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Marin coho salmon and steelhead, do they have value?

Click on the title of this post to read it and see a related header image.

Monitoring, studying and protecting salmon and steelhead are what brought me north to the wild and quirky climes of West Marin. Even before moving here I was observing and recording images of them laying eggs before they die.


Coho eggs from a female likely killed by a river otter.




Steelhead eggs still in the skein, Redwood Creek – Muir Woods.




Coho and Steelhead young of the year – Redwood Creek, Muir Woods.




Since moving here I’ve seen firsthand the friction created when humans and their activities express themselves in an ecosystem in which greed has no meaning. An innkeeper from San Geronimo Valley that has for years been moving fish from Sonoma waters to “his” fish pool on San Geronimo Creek. Environmental groups that move fish within a creek system to save them from certain death in drying pools, and possibly from other waters for the same reason. The same enviro-groups’ leader(s) seemingly flaunt the same construction rules they hold creek-side dwellers to with great fervor. (This sort of hypocrisy I have noticed is common in West Marin environmental committees and clubs)

Humans care about how big their house is and what “value” it will have when they go to sell it or transfer it to their offspring.

I do not know if salmon care. I do know the females expend great effort to find and prepare the right spot to place their future offspring’s embryos. A place whose gravel has not been mined or covered with silt from clear-cut forestry or creek-side development and road-cutting. She seeks a place where the riparian foliage is present and will keep the water cool. The same water that has hopefully not been impounded by a dam, or pumped far and wide to nourish alfalfa or other crops in what historically was a desert. The same water that is, water; not tainted with pesticides, herbicides, plastic softening agents or fire-proofing treatment, for example.

We all live in a watershed. Everywhere the rain soaks into the ground, attempting to find the nearest creek or river so it can return to the sea and someday fall as rain once again. Those that live nearest, or on the creek often complain of the rules being adopted to attempt to slow the decades of damage humans have wrought upon the arteries of the land.

Those closest to the banks most directly enjoy the benefits of a healthy creek. The same that can most directly damage that same creek with ignorant practices. I wonder if the rare and gravid female coho, struggling upstream looking for just the right sized cobbles, the cold, unpolluted water, the woody debris for her and her spawn to hide under, has any sense of what “property values” are?

Put another way, How does the value of property compare to the value of not going extinct?

Surely we can live simply and within the carrying capacity of this fragile planet so that we are not the last to enjoy her diverse beauty.


Coho and Steelhead young of the year




From 2004 through 2010 I assisted the NPS with monitoring of all phases of the salmonid attempt to escape extinction. I learned a great deal about the life-cycle of these gorgeous creatures as I labored alongside a number of gifted and determined professionals.


Coho smolt




Steelhead smolt




Coho smolts




Steelhead from Scott Creek, Santa Cruz county




Below are a variety of video clips I have gathered. The first clip is some of the finest spawning footage I have recorded so far and was shown in a previous post. The rest are from previous years. I also include a clip showing rainbow/golden trout hybrids spawning on a high elevation (~11,000 ft ASL) lake in Kings Canyon National Park.


Steelhead caudal fin – Redwood Creek, Muir Woods




I hope you enjoy the fruits of my years of enjoying these fish firsthand. I also hope after watching them in action you’ll be inspired to contribute to their survival so that those that come after us can see and enjoy the offspring of these fish.



Coho below Peters dam at Leo T. Cronin viewing pools – 9 December, 2012



Coho on Lagunitas Creek, Samuel P. Taylor Park – 10 December, 2010



Coho on Lagunitas Creek, Samuel P. Taylor Park – 10 December, 2010



Coho below Peters dam at Leo T. Cronin viewing pools – 10 December, 2009



Coho on Lagunitas Creek below the inkwells – 14 December, 2009



Coho below Peters dam at Leo T. Cronin viewing pools – 6 December, 2005



Rainbow trout and golden x rainbow hybrids spawning on lake at 11,000ft. in Kings Canyon National Park – 9 July, 2009


Male coho salmon remains – Olema Creek




The end of two species of rare fish