The Lone Kayaker and Friends across the Pond. Part 2

We were completely absorbed watching the Sea Otter sprucing itself up. They are rather more easy to observe than the European Otter because they are exclusively marine and so spend their large amount of resting time floating on the water. River otters find a hidden patch of vegetation or hole along the shore to catch up on some sleep, so disappear completely.

Sea Otters look after their coat very carefully indeed because it needs to be in perfect working order to maintain insulation. Every hair needs to be in exactly the right place to keep out the Pacific chill. This enormous attention to grooming detail is very evident in these video clips.

 

 

 

 

 

Absolutely excellent.

As we took a tea break (very un-American) we drifted past a flock of resting Double-crested Cormorants:

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Double-crested Cormorant
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Double-crested Cormorant

And the Grebes continued to dive for fish only a few feet from our kayak…unbelievably tame.

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Close Grebe

I was particularly pleased to see this stunning American Avocet. The same shape and design as our own species here in the UK, but different colour scheme. In fact the same applies to most of the US wading and water birds, in that they are very similar to the ones on our side of the water but have been split up (geographically) for long enough to have evolved a plumage different enough to be classed as a separate species.

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American Avocet

Further up the estuary a pair of Sea Otters were fishing. I think they were a mother and well grown cub.

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Otter mother and cub

With their wet coat they didn’t look quite as teddy-bear fluffy and cute as our grooming otter we had just been watching.

These otters were clearly used to lots of recreational watercraft sharing their patch.And this was a very un-busy winter’s day…the people in the kayak rental place said the place is absolutely heaving in the summer.

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Unconcerned otter and paddleboard

Back at the neck of the estuary there was a raft of over a dozen otters resting in the quiet water.

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Raft of Sea Otters

Our next kayaking destination was further down the coast at Morro Bay, another very sheltered inlet providing protection from the Lively pacific swells.

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Morro Rock

It’s a really stunning location but is blighted by the three giant chimneys of the old power station. Having said that, we got the impression that the monstrosity was something of a landmark regarded with affection by the locals.

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Morro Power Station

Once again the wildlife was very confiding in the estuary. The otters didn’t blink as boats surged past a few feet from them.

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Otter lazing on back as Harbour Patrol passes.

A pair of loons called to each other as they swam a few feet in front of the sailing club pontoon, busy with weekenders talking about rigging and other sailing stuff. They didn’t notice the loons and the loons weren’t phased by them.

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Common Loon

We were amazed to sea loads of ground squirrels living amongst the rocks adjacent to the marine promenade in Morro Bay. In UK they would have been chased off, or ripped to pieces, by dogs decades ago. But here all dogs were kept on a lead and nobody seemed to want to break the rule, and there was a sort of atmosphere of pride about all the wildlife that was around. Good stuff.

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Ground Squirrel

I hired a kayak and paddled into the heart of the estuary where it was satisfactorily glassy:

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Morro Bay glass-off

An Osprey smacked into the water with an enormous splosh, and emerged triumphant, flying off with the fish suspended beneath it pointing forward (as they always do).

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Osprey

And all the time the small grebes dived for fish in this incredibly fertile place. It must have been because it supported so much wildlife. An Eared Grebe popped up with what seemed to be there favourite food, a pipefish.

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Eared Grebe with pipefish

After a legstretch on a sand-dune I headed back to admire the Sealions hauled out on a pontoon, with the youngster looking like it had been made out of wax.

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Morro Bay dune
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Junior Sea Lion

The bull sea lions spent most of their time posturing and looking as macho as possible.

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Sea Lions looking oozing with testosterone

Floating about across the skies virtually everywhere we went in California were Turkey vultures. One was eating something well rotted (judging by the wiff) as I paddled past:

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Turkey Vulture

After Morro Bay we headed inland across the deserts, and the next patch of water for the Lone Kayaker and friends to investigate lay 600 miles to the south in the Sea of Cortez in Mexico.

Just enough time to check out the Grand Canyon ( in the snow).20170425_195627

part 3, Kayaking the Islands of Loreto, Mexico, coming soon…..

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The Laugh of the Loon

The sensational wildlife encounter just keep on coming as I just keep on paddling.

Today it was my best-ever sightings of one of my favourite seabirds, The Great Northern Diver. Across the pond it is known by the very much less ‘text-booky’ name of Common Loon.

They are not uncommon around the coast of Cornwall during winter, but have now transformed from there drabbish winter plumage into absolutely stunning breeding plumage.

I will let the movies do the talking, and listen out for that loon laugh. It is a genuine sound of the wilderness and makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck every time.

 

 

 

 

They will soon be heading north to their breeding grounds in Iceland and Greenland.

I was passed by several roving packs of Manx Shearwaters. These too are special, because to see Manx Shearwaters like this you have to be a long way off shore, and to be a long way offshore in a kayak it has to be a very calm day, which as you can see, it was. You can see my launch point of Portscatho in the background.

 

 

For the return trip I paddled along the coast which was looking totally tropical:

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Towan Beach

 

and was shadowed by a cluster of seals who larked about behind my kayak, but don’t like being looked at. I felt like the pilot of a Russian Badger bomber being escorted out of UK airspace by a posse of Eurofighters. Although maybe I wasn’t wearing the right hat.

 

 

 

 

Remind me to clean the weed off the back of my kayak, and decompress my jugulars, next time.

Great fun, but today it was the Loons who called the Tune.

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Hunting Loon
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Great Northen Diver aka Loon