The Cormorants are Coming, Kayaking Jenner

Wednesday February 12, 2014 Jenner CA.

And the Seagulls are having a crab feed too

I’d heard that there might be some showers today, but when I checked the weather report this morning, they said they should stay to the north, so off I went to Jenner to Kayak for the day.

The boat ramp was a little muddy today, so I got a bit of mud on my shoes while putting my boat in the water. But the wind was down with some clouds in the sky and some fog trying to figure out what to do, but it stayed mostly high for the day.

I paddled across the river to Penny island and went over to check out the big log that got wedged in my little channel on the east end of the island.

Looking back to the town of Jenner as I crossed the river.jenner2


That big log is blocking my little channel

I decided to land on the island and see what this big log looked like that was now in one of my resting spots.

Here is the big log that floated in during the high water a few days ago.logjam


It looks like the big log is going to be here for quite awhile as it floated in when the water was about 9.5 feet, just before the river’s mouth opened from high water. Now, the water doesn’t’ get that high very often down here, so it’s going to be a long time before that log gets floated out, maybe years, we’ll see.

A muddy shore line

The shoreline is a bit muddy right now as the mud is settling out of the chocolate water when the water level is high from high tide,  So it’s pretty gooey. Eventually, rain and windy waves will wash it back into the deeper part of the river.

This is my kayak where I landed on Penny Island to check out the big log. It’s real muddy around the boat right now. Getting in and keeping the mud out of the boat is a challenge.mud


The cormorants are coming to feed on smolt

I got back in my boat and headed on up to Eagle’s landing. When I got there, I noticed some cormorants across the river by Paddy’s rock. There were also some male merganser ducks there too.cormorants


I’ve noticed the cormorants are on the increase in the last couple of days, likely for two reasons, well, maybe three reasons

The main reason is, around February 1st., there are big releases of smolt into the river from the hatcheries. These are fish from about six to twelve inches,  steelhead and salmon, that the hatcheries dump into the river at this time. Unfortunately, these hatchery fish are fairly dumb being raised in a pool of water and fed from the surface with pellets, so they are mostly easy prey for the cormorants and other birds and critters too.

The second reason is all the wild and native fish that have been growing in the river’s and creeks are headed to the ocean because of the high water from the rain that we just recently had, so there are all sizes of them in the river too at this time.

The third reason is the water is starting to clear up a bit which will make it easier for them to catch fish.

So, there are lots of fish in the water at this time. Last year, I counted over a thousand cormorants conservatively, there were likely more like 1,500 cormorants in the estuary, which stayed here for quite awhile, about two mouths.  I saw them here through just about the end of March. They all left after a rain storm brought the river up about four feet and I think most of he smolt went to the ocean at that time.

So, lets do some math. If a cormorant eats say three fish a day, times 1000, that’s 3000 fish a day, eaten and gone. Times that by ten days and that’s 30,000 fish. So for two months, that’s how many? 180,000 fish and that’s conservative and that’s only an estimate what the cormorants eat, not even counting what the other birds and critters eat.

It’s almost like the hatcheries raise the fish just for the cormorants to eat?

I need to be honest

Of course, they likely eat other species of fish in the water at this time and to be honest I can’t see what they actually eat, as they do it under water, but I can put two and two together as when he smolt are released from the hatcheries, the cormorants show up in ever increasing numbers. And right now, one can see smolt jumping out of the water as one cruises along in their kayak.

Some of last years blog posts on the cormorants

Kayaking further up the river

I continued on up the river on the south side, going almost up to the bridge on highway one, just taking it easy.

I turned around just below the bridge and started heading on back down the river.

This is my view as I paddled along the shoreline by the trees, looking back down the river towards Jenner.shoreline


I slowly worked my way down the river, going down the back channel of Penny Island and on down towards the river’s mouth area where the river dumps into the Pacific ocean.

This was my view as I just came out of the island back channel looking down towards the river’s mouth, where I’m headed.moutharea


Lots of harbor seals

I passed by a bunch of harbor seals taking it easy on the beach just before I got to the mouth area. I’m not sure how many smolt these guys may eat?harborseals


More sign of the cormorants presence were sitting on a rock down near the end of the river.cormorants2


The river’s mouth is wide open

The river’s mouth was really open wide as this photo shows, looking out into the Pacific ocean.mouth


It was just going to low tide, which means a lot more water is going out the mouth, so I have to be careful not to get too close and get sucked out into the ocean, which wouldn’t be too good for me. Waves were breaking into the river coming though the open mouth and my boat was getting pushed around a lot, so I didn’t stay in the area too long as I couldn’t relax with this kind of action going on, so I headed on back.

It’s low tide now, so this big redwood log is exposed and I got stuck in the mud just a little. This is looking at the town of Jenner.jenner


The seagulls are eating well

I noticed some seagulls on the mud by Penny Island and a couple of turkey vultures too. At first I thought they were just resting there, but after watching them for a bit, I found they were having a crab feed.seagullseat


There were a bunch of little Dungeness crabs dead in the mud. They likely died when the high water from the recent rains washed all the salt water out of the estuary and replaced it with fresh water. Some critters can live in salt water and some can live in fresh water. Some can live in both and some can live in  a mix. These little crabs can live in salt or brackish, but not fresh so they die.

When the water in the estuary changes from fresh to salt or salt to fresh some things die. Nothing goes to waste in the river though, as everything is food for something else.

A seagull with a dead Dungeness crab it will eat. It eats the legs off of it first, then the body. Yummm.seagllcrab


I went on in for the day after taking some photos of that. The ramp was still a bit muddy, so I did a little shoveling on it with my flat shovel I keep in the car for this purpose during this time of year. I got some of the mud off, but there is still  a bunch of it still there for the water to wash away in time, I hope.

Home for a nap and that’s it for another nice day kayaking Jenner.

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