Wildlife Returns to the River

Friday, March 3,  645 am 41 degrees

The American River is quiet once again after one of the wettest winters in 20 years.

Birds are twittering in distant trees. The entire boat launch ramp is visible, except for a wide strip of mud stretched across it. The sun rises behind thin, white streaks of clouds. I see a cyclist and a pair of walkers this morning out even earlier than I am.

pigeons, Fair Oaks Bridge, American River, wildlife returnsAs I walk to the bridge, I wonder what wildlife has returned to this part of the river.  Half dozen pigeons fly in circles over the bridge three times before deciding to settle down on the overhead frame. One flies down and wanders the bridge deck to be joined later by a second pigeon.

As I look out to the water, searching for wildlife, I hear Canada Geese honking immediately behind me. I turn around to see them sitting on a round cement support leg of the bridge (outside the upright bars), discussing what to do next. An instant later, they fly into the sky still engaged in conversation. Next I check for spider webs attached to the bridge and see several perfectly spun webs, no spider to be found.

A pair of pearly white Egrets fly in from the west. Their wings spread wide and flap back and forth slowly and gracefully. They are beautiful in flight as they are to watch after they land. One keeps going and the other stops to rest on the eroded riverbank. No ducks are out swimming today.

The sun has risen high over the trees now. More walkers pass me on the bridge wearing caps, jackets and gloves.  A pair of geese approach from the east, flying side-by-side. They fly under the bridge and quickly vanish into the sky.

Egret, American River, Fair Oaks Bridge, morning, wildlife returnsThe lone Egret at the riverbank flies to the opposite shore, scouting for breakfast. The riverbank is so steeply eroded and stripped of its vegetation from recent flooding, there is little food to be found anywhere. Clusters of large spiny, dead branches hold fast to riverbanks on both sides. Birds are plentiful – chirping, twittering, and flying from place to place. Their music fills the air as a morning symphony. One bird calls out in a high, shrill voice in a rapid fire series of zzz, zzz, zzz, zzz.

My fingers are chilled. The rising sun is beginning to warm the air. A dozen of early morning cyclists whizz by in a hurry.

I walk down to the boat launch ramp to see if any ducks are hiding in bushes. I see one duck standing on a patch of dirt directly above the ramp staring out in the distance. It appears to be wondering, “is the right time to go for a swim.” I watch as the duck waddles down a short hill to the boat ramp and settles into the water. All the while, “Quack, Quack, Quacking.”  Then a second duck emerges from the bushes, looking out at the distance just as concerned about swimming as the first one. This duck also waddles down the boat launch ramp to go swimming. Next both ducks carry on a conversation by bobbing their heads as they swim. I watch a while before walking back up one the bridge to return home.