Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Birding by Kayak

On June 25, Liquid Fusion Kayaking and the Mendocino Coast Audubon Society (MCAS) teamed up to offer a birding by kayak trip on the Noyo River.

It turned out to be a fantastic day - warm and sunny with a great group of folks and lots of bird activity. Late spring/early summer is one of our favorite times of the year for birding because of all the nesting and breeding activity.

On our kayak birding trip, we were treated to lots of singing as well as observing some newly fledged belted kingfishers, common merganser ducklings, and an active osprey nest.

For those that missed the trip or those who can't wait until next year to do the trip again, stop by and bird with us from our deck over the Noyo River at Dolphin Isle Marina. Lately we have been enjoying Downy Woodpeckers, Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Anna's Hummingbirds, Wilson's Warblers, and Black-headed Grosbeaks in the alder tree over our deck. Or get out on the water and bird on one of our kayak tours or on one of our rental kayaks.

You can also check out our facebook page and our blog about birds and wildlife that we are seeing from our kayaks on the Noyo River and other Mendocino County waters including sea kayak trips in the ocean and whitewater trips on Rancheria Creek and the Russian and Eel Rivers.

Here is a link to our photo gallery from the day and a list of bird species from our trip (please comment if I missed any): Pelagic Cormorant, Double Crested Cormorant, Black-crowned Night Heron (juvenile), Green Heron, Great Blue Heron, Canada Goose, Mallard, Common Merganser, Red-shouldered Hawk, Osprey, Western Gull, Mourning Dove, Band-tailed Pigeon, Stellar's Jay, Anna's Hummingbird, Acorn Woodpecker, Belted Kingfisher, Violet-green Swallow, Barn Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Rough-legged Swallow, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Western Wood-Peewee, Black Phoebe, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Black-headed Grosbeak, Swainson's Thrush, Orange-crowned Warbler, Wilson's Warbler, House Finch, Purple Finch, Goldfinch, and Western Tanager.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Tour de Mendo - June 2011

We love running Tour de Mendo trips. Each trip is different with different venues and different paddlers. The primary goal of the Tour de Mendo is to explore and play in kayaks along the Mendocino Coast - FUN, FUN, FUN!!!

Our most recent group of paddlers came from San Diego, Orange County, and LA. Of the 6 paddlers, only one had paddled the Mendocino Coast before with us so Day 1 was an instructional tour day. We launched from Liquid Fusion Kayaking headquarters on the Noyo River and headed out to the coast. Once in the ocean, we started with teaching (reviewing for some) the basics of kayaking in ocean rock gardens including safety and play.

And of course enjoyed lunch on a beach.

And lots of rock garden play.

Day 2 was a paddle out of Russian Gulch. This is probably one of the most spectacular stretches of the Mendocino Coast to explore by sea kayak. We explored many of the sea caves, tunnels, arches, and hidden coves as we paddled north to the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse.

It was an outstanding day with lots of wonder and awe as well as lots of play. Everyone's highlight of the day was negotiating some technical routes that through rock gardens with chaotic waters. It is super fun to lead a group of skilled paddlers through these tight, technical passages.

This year it was fun to have the group staying in the vacation rental at Dolphin Isle. It is a great space for a group of paddlers. A large private deck is perfect for drying gear and the location is within 50 yards of LFK headquarters.

It was also a great staging point for food preparation for an evening potluck and campfire at LFK.

We had a very special trip in mind for Day 3. It is definitely off the beaten paddle, and we were looking forward to having a group with the skills to share it with. However, the Fog Bug that has been plaguing our cameras decided to envelope us for the day. We shifted gears and decided to go paddle and play on the Noyo River.

It was a nice relaxing rest day for the group followed by our Eel River Paddle to the Sea presentation at Silver's at the Wharf.

We had been having unseasonably calm conditions. Wind and rough seas are typical for June so we were fortunate to have had a couple of calm days with small swells. Day 4 was more typical of spring paddling on the Mendocino Coast. The wind and the seas had kicked up. We enjoyed some really fun technical meandering along the Fort Bragg Coastline with a little bit of rock gardening and surfing play.

We returned to the Noyo Beach for some play in short boats (whitewater kayaks). This was an introduction to some members of the group and conditions had picked up so we kept things on the mellow side.

The Tour de Mendo is one of our favorite trips to guide. It is fun to share our backyard with a group of competent sea kayakers. This trip was special because it was the first one that Jeff and I got to guide together. We are looking forward to guiding more Tour de Mendo's together (If you want to join us, we have a couple of spaces left on our September Tour de Mendo's and offer custom/private trips).

Here is a link to our photo gallery from the trip.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Kayaking Sea Caves

We get a lot of questions about kayaking in the Mendocino sea caves. Lately, we have gotten a few requests for knock your socks off photos of kayaking in Mendocino sea caves. I realized how few quality sea cave photos we had.

Part of the problem is our limitations shooting good photos in the lighting of sea caves. The low lighting and contrast of bright and dark are very hard to capture well with our waterproof point and shoot cameras. Also, the reflective tape of most sea kayakers' lifejackets and paddling gear reflects the flash. Many of our photos end up grainy or with freakish streaks in them.

If you have any tips for shooting in these conditions, please share them with us.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Wildlife Viewing by Kayak

It is a great time to be on the Mendocino Coast. The wildflowers are blooming and the birds are singing. Of course we are biased, but we think it is a great time to be kayaking too.

The wildlife on the Noyo River has been quite busy. We are seeing birds carrying nesting material, feeding, hunting, caring for young, and even some mating. The turtles have been out sunning themselves on logs. There is a lot to see from shore and from our deck but to see it from the water is a whole different perspective.

Much of the habitat of the Noyo River is riparian meaning alongside a river. Riparian habitats tend to be rich wildlife zones. The vegetation of a riparian habitat is often dense so sometimes the best way to see it is to see if from the water. Here's a black crowned night heron tucked away in a fir tree along the river.

Everyone comments how they see things differently from the seat of a kayak on the water. It truly is a different perspective on the landscape. The wildlife often views us differently as well. They can feel threatened by us if we approach them. But if we exercise care by going slow, paddling parallel and avoiding looking directly at them, they are content to watch us paddle by. (Harbor seals in the water are a different story as they seem to like to follow us around).

Our Tracks to Kayaks Trip has been regularly seeing turtles.

Our Sunset Bird Paddles this week have been just spectacular. The evening lighting has been ethereal and everyone has enjoyed mellow meanders with lots of wildlife displays. We have had many first timers out that have become hooked on kayaking.

On last night's paddle we saw at least 3 green herons. We've been regularly seeing an adult across from our deck and suspect that there is a nest across from us in the thick vegetation. The green heron continues to be one of my all time favorite birds as it is the one that captured my interest in birding.

We haven't seen any fawns yet but expect to start seeing them soon. We had a pair of deer swim across the river in front of a family who had rented kayaks from us. They were so surprised. This photo is taken from our deck where the deer often swim across the river.

The 5 osprey nests within a 1/2 mile of our shop at Dolphin Isle have been very active. We are optimistic that we are going to be watching quite a few young ospreys in a couple of weeks.

It is definitely a busy time of the year. We hope that you get outside to enjoy it.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Black Oystercatcher Survey

It was raining so we took Friday afternoon off to help out the Audubon Society with a black oystercatcher survey. I guess most people take a sunny afternoon off to go to the beach or something, but we live life a little out of the box.

The black oystercatcher is a species of concern. They are coastal birds that are almost prehistoric looking with their jet black bodies and bright red bills, pink legs, and glowing yellow eyes. They live on coastal rocks and feed on mollusks like mussels. With lots of rocky reefs and coastal rocks, the Mendocino Coast is a prime habitat for them. The California Audubon Society decided to organize a citizens in science project to survey the oystercatchers with special attention paid to nesting behaviors.

Of course kayaking is our favorite way to explore coastal rocks so we loaded up our sea kayaks and took them to Noyo Beach. Our survey area was Noyo Bay and the area just to the north and south to the southern headlands of Hare Creek. We had unbelievably calm ocean conditions. It was fun to meander through the rocky passages that are often inaccessible due to waves exploding through them. We had binoculars, our waterproof tablets, waterproof camera, and GPS.

We found 4 nesting pairs of oystercatchers in our survey. We knew of 2 of the pairs from watching them over previous years. We also saw quite a few Western gulls and pelagic cormorants sitting on nests in our survey area. We saw a common raven nest with 3 young as well as a couple of common ravens raid a couple of cormorant nests. The ravens swooped in and scared the brooding parent off the nest and rifled through the contents of the nest.

We haven't been out in our sea kayaks much so this was a great way to get some of the rust off our long boat skills before our June Tour de Mendo. We used our greenland paddles because they are stealthy and quiet for wildlife watching. Of course we had to surf a couple of waves at Hare Creek and ride a couple of pour-overs and slots. I took advantage of the south swell for a fantastic ride over a wash rock with a gorgeous cascading backside (Of course - Jeff didn't have a camera). Here's Jeff coming over Nick's Nightmare.

And Jeff blasting through Angie's Angst.

After our paddle, we drove up to Pomo Bluffs with our spotting scope to scope out several of the nests that we had seen. From on top of the headlands, we had a better vantage point to see the oystercatchers in their nests.

The Mendocino Coast Audubon had local birders covering most of the coastline during the 4 day survey period. It is great to see people rally to help out with these citizen science projects. We were happy to be able to help out with a portion.