A Wild and Busy Morning

Saturday, July 22, 2017   7 am  68 degrees

 I hear what sounds like a foghorn repeated three times as I sit on Fair Oaks Bridge. What is that sound? Where is it coming from?

At Jim’s Bridge a few ducks are swimming and scavenging. I pass them by and ride on to the boat launch ramp where all is quiet.  One woman stands in a boat in the middle of the river channel and casts her fishing line. Birds are calling their morning song, even though I cannot see even one. I hear a chorus of tweets and rattles.  Pigeons roost on Fair Oaks Bridge.

Mallard, American River, Fair Oaks Bridge, river, morning, water, feeding, feedOne Mallard approaches me waiting to receive handfuls of breakfast treats.  As it poses for me and waits for a bite to eat, we  both hear a quack in the distance. The duck raises it neck and listens for the sound. After a few minutes of waiting for me to throw food and discovering, I have none to give, the duck wanders back into the water.

Another day at the river without even a strip of white clouds in the sky. Looking carefully, I see faint wisps of white, as if an artist used a very dry brush on a pale blue canvas. I hear a chicken call from the distance. The calm waters enhance this peaceful scene.  Out of the quiet, a cyclist at high speed races by, rumbling across the bridge deck as he passes.

Half dozen Canada Geese patrol a distant shore. Still no Egrets. No Great Blue Heron. I search for them every time I come and they must have gone elsewhere where food supply is plentiful. No turtles today hanging out on a branch to sunbathe.

I hear a persistent cough coming from an unseen person hiding on the riverbank directly under the bridge. I have heard these coughs several times during morning visits to the bridge and rarely see the source.

woodpecker,American river,The sun is high in the sky. The morning temperature is still cool. I ride west on the American River Parkway to  my usual morning stopping point – a picnic bench on a bluff overlooking sandbars on the river.  No waterfowl there. No cyclists on the bike trail yet.

woodpeckers, American River Parkway, home, treeOn my ride home I look for the tall and long dead tree where woodpecker families call home. I see a family of four  flying from one branch to another, sitting, drumming, joining others, flying off again, sitting in a line. I focus in for a photo and they fly away again.



Ducks Dance on the American River

  Thursday, July 27, 2017   1pm

Today I watched ducks dance in the river!

My daughter and son feed ducks pretzel sticks and fruit pieces. We walk across Fair Oaks Bridge and see Canada Geese on its west side. The water is very still, and shaded green as a huge reflective pool. Dragonflies land on a nearby bush. The solo white duck joins the Mallards in a quest for food. I watch one of the ducks climb the riverbank as if it were stairs. Finding no food or anything else interesting, it turns around and waddles down the hill into the water.

We spread our beach towels on a shady riverbank in sight of Fair Oaks Bridge. Rafts are inflated. We open lunch bags and enjoy simple snacks. A few people pass on their way somewhere else. We enjoy a peaceful afternoon with no one nearby. I walk into the river to cool off and enjoy a show of dancing ducks.



Webs, Wildlife and Wonder

Wednesday, August 2, 825 am 78 degrees

destinaton, chickens, Fair Oaks Village, Fair Oaks Bridge, morning
Morning stroll in Fair Oaks Village

Walking from the Fair Oaks Clubhouse, I hear chickens call their good morning song. Met a photographer on my way to Fair Oaks Bridge taking photos of bunnies hiding under bushes. We think someone left them here to live in the wild, instead of a home.

Two ducks swim in the American River to the boat launch ramp. A group of a dozen young women out for a morning run. A lone boater casts his line. Walkers stroll by. The water under the bridge is so clear, I can see the stones lining the river bottom.

As soon as I arrive at the bridge, a cyclist begins chatting on his phone with a friend about politics. Speaking loudly, pacing back and forth, I begin my daily observations and try to ignore him. Other people walk on the bridge and cross without stopping to look at the view. They remain engaged in conversation. Occasionally I point out intricate spider webs to people who say, “Good morning.” A group of three women walk past me and admire my colorful socks.Read more

Canada Geese Glide into the River

Monday, August 7, 2017  740 am     68 degrees

Have you seen Canada Geese soar through the air changing altitude just before they glide in for a river landing?

kayaks, Fair Oaks Bridge, American River, water, morning, fishing, Canada GeeseCrossing Jim’s Bridge by bike, I see less than 20 resident ducks on shore this morning. I ride on toward Fair Oaks Bridge. The sun’s warmth is already heating things up! A flurry of boat launching action is happening at the boat launch ramp. Some boats are pulling away and another boat is backing down the ramp. Kayaks show up next. Two fishing boats already sit on either side of the bridge. Fisherman begin the waiting game. One more month at the earliest before salmon arrive at Fair Oaks Bridge after a long swim up the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta channel. The determined fisherman wait.

The water glistens. The pale blue sky is without a wisp of clouds. Sun is high and far above distant trees. A few pigeons coo. No turtles sunbathing today.  No waterfowl activity here except for a single duck, “Quack, Quack” in the distance. It approaches the bridge from the west. The American River is so still, the lone duck creates its own expanded “V” shaped wake.

ducks, Canada Geese, Fair Oaks Bridge, American River, evening, scenic, walk, observation, wildlifeCyclists begin to roll by. A few walkers stroll. No one stops to enjoy the view. Fair Oaks Bridge attracts a different crowd in the evening. Couples arrive on the bridge and stop to watch the water, the wildlife, the setting sun. Evenings tend to be more relaxed, casual and crowded.  I avoid times when the loud and disruptive “end of the party day” group leaves the riverbank.

As I return to Jim’s Bridge on my way home, I look up to see a sky filled with honking Canada Geese. They are maneuvering in the air – soaring downward and losing altitude, then rising again. Some geese turn and fly into the water for a splash landing. Others quickly fly away and disappear. I watch their morning antics before riding home.

River in Shadow

Tuesday August 8, 2017            745 pm 90 degrees

The air feels like the end of a warm day – and it is!

Chickens are calling to each other from the Fair Oaks Village. Some hide in trees. Others patrol the streets and Village Park. A few visitors come to walk on Fair Oaks Bridge. A few stop to admire the view. A boater lifts his boat out of the water, ready to leave the river. As I walk on the bridge, six Canada Geese fly swiftly overhead in their traditional “V” formation. A salmon (presumably) leaps up and out of the water three times. I see only a splash in place of the creature that created the effect.

American River, Fair Oaks Bridge, evening, shadows, twilight, water reflection
Shadows on the American River at twilight

As the sky darkens with the sunset, no sunlight casts glare down in the water. The river sits in shadows and its colors change to a rich, deep green – similar to that of deep green trees. Since the river is in full shadow, this color is not reflective of trees lining the riverbank.

Common in the evening, I see drunken young men and women staggering across the bridge. Today a very loud and rowdy skateboarder crossed the bridge several times uttering language that only the most rowdy care enjoying hearing it.

Trees hang on to the riverbank exposing their roots



Water is still tonight. The darkening sky is now tinged with a hazy, gray stripe stretching across the horizon. I watch four silent ducks swim and disappear under the bridge. Minutes later they have turned around and swimming back from where they came. A cool, gentle breeze blows against my face. The air is cooling off after the sun drops below the horizon. Sky is still void of cloud cover. In the deepening shadows of a long evening turning to dark night, I can see a long gray layer hanging over Sacramento to the west.

I am fascinated by trees with their tangled roots fully exposed on the riverbank, still clinging to fragments of soil as they continue to flourish.

The only sound I hear is the wind. Not a bird in the sky. My evening calm is rudely interrupted by the sounds of revving a distant car engine. Then I look out into the water and it is hard to tell. Is it the head of a river otter swimming by? Too small to be a duck. Salmon do not swim with their heads above water. Distant quacks sound in the warm evening air.

More people arrive, watching slowly and silently. As the sky darkens, the water loses it color and trans darker on the west side of the Fair Oaks Bridge. On the east side, the sun still reflects light, casting long shadows of trees along the shore.

boat, American River, twilight, fishing
Fishing at twilight on the American River at Fair Oaks Bridge

One last boater is in the water. Lights on and equipment ready. Two twinkling lights let people know he is still there. The air still warm. Now almost too dark to see any shapes in the water. Everything is slowly changing to shadows. I walk back to my car while there is still some daylight.

Peaceful Morning

Thursday August 10, 2017   715 am  68 degrees

Arrived at Jim’s Bridge by bike – no waterfowl. The water glistens, yet feels empty.

My next stop is the boat launch ramp where I see a dozen Mallards on patrol searching for breakfast on the ramp. They look up and see me and begin to walk toward me. Since I don’t make any throwing motions with food in my hand, they turn around and retreat back down the ramp into the water.

American River, fishing, Fair Oaks Bridge, ducks, morningA solo fishing boat carries two people, waiting. The river is especially beautiful this morning. Many weeks since I saw the water shimmer with various shades of greens and gold, reflecting the trees and the sunlight.

Ahhh! The magic of morning.

Six pigeons fly to their place on the Fair Oaks Bridge frame. The air is chilled. A gentle and cool breeze blows against my skin. When I left this morning, my arms were chilled and the car windshield was moist. I have noticed that sunrise is much closer to 6 am than 5, as it was for so many weeks during the summer.

I missed many evening bike rides because of so many 105 degree days that did not cool enough in the evening to make it possible for me to enjoy the long hours of daylight.

No clouds in the sky. A pale white moon hangs in the pale, western sky tinged with gray. Pigeons feast on remains of a biscuit left on the bridge. At the slightest movement or sound, they flap their wings unison and fly away and return a minute later to continue their meal. Off again and back until they have eaten every crumb they can find.

200 yards to the east, a single fisherman stands at the river’s edge waiting. Canada Geese have yet to arrive. They tend to be the late sleepers and the grumpiest when it comes to getting their share of breakfast. Ducks went back into hiding. Where are the otter? The turtles? P

American River, salmon, seagulls, Fair Oaks, fishing, morniingFor now, the American River is a quiet place.

In little more than a month, salmon will begin their arrival and fishing boats will multiply by at least five. The river will be standing room only for fisherman standing hip deep in water. I hope seagulls return to feast on the salmon. Maybe the Egret and the Great Blue Heron will return. Salmon provides food for many wildlife here.

I miss the Egrets and Great Blue Heron.

What a delight to see them fly in, walking gingerly at the shoreline looking food and do their best to avoid each other! Not since the flood. They have moved somewhere else along the American River.

What of the snowmelt from the Sierra? When will it come? And how much, how fast? I wonder how the American River will be challenged this fall. Too soon to think of another winter. Standing on the Fair Oaks Bridge, a few runners pass, an occasional cyclist. Today is a slow and peaceful morning on the river. The hum of traffic on Sunrise Blvd. bridge is all I hear.

Riding to the San Juan Rapids overlook I see the water level has receded so the sandbars are visible, and the rapids mild. No rafters come by on this early weekday. No waterfowl are spending a leisurely morning on the sandbar. The Cormorant I spotted several times before is absent – as are all the wildlife of the river.

Canada Geese, riverbank, American River, morningI return to Jim’s Bridge on my ride home and see two women feeding dozens of resident geese and ducks. With very quacks or honks, they quickly gobbled up the seeds, still scavenging long after the women had left. The feeding time, as always, is filled with scratch, hiss, race, waddle, and wait.

Fair Oaks Bridge and Jim’s Bridge sit less than a mile apart to provide access to the American River Parkway. Both are quiet hideaways to escape the rush of the city and enjoy the peacefulness of the river.


Rocky Remnants of a Fisherman’s Island

Friday, August 11, 2017     845 am   68 degrees

Six Canada Geese greet me with a chorus of characteristic honks as I arrive at Jim’s Bridge by bike.
squirrel, American River, American River Parkway, trees, Fair Oaks Bridge, mornings
Searching for breakfast

They join a dozen other ducks already scouting breakfast on the rocky shoreline. True to their nature the geese are late arrivals for the morning ritual. Squirrels are busy finding their breakfast in the trees.

American River, rocks, marker, Fair Oaks Bridge, monrings
Other ways to mark a place at the American River.

During a quick trip to the boat launch ramp, I see no waterfowl anywhere. No fishing boats sitting in the American River. Today I continue my ride east toward the Nimbus Fish Hatchery. This is the prime salmon spawning area come late September through early December. I used to see a dozen ducks bobbing in shallow rapids for food as I ride by. None today.

cormorant, American river, Fair Oaks Bridge, monrings, wings
Sitting on the rocky remnants of the fisherman’s island in the center of the American River corridor.

I arrive at the picnic area at the river’s edge, far off the bike trail, where last fall I saw 100 seagulls feasting on dead salmon. The small island located in the middle of the river channel that was big enough for fisherman to anchor their boats and stand alongside them in hip deep water is now two thin and barely visible stretches of rocks.

Cormorant, American River, Fair Oaks Bridge, monring, wingsI spy a cormorant sitting on a rocky island hanging its wings to dry in the early morning air. It stands motionless for 10 minutes before flying away. I see ducks hide alongside green shrubbery of a nearby island jutting out from the western riverbank.

Except for an occasional distant quack from a lone duck, this area is quiet today. Here I am far away from homes hanging on the Fair Oaks Bluffs, traffic and people congregating on shorelines. I hear a distant hum from another roadway bridge alongside the fish hatchery, less than a mile and completely out of sight.

With no homes on the opposite shore, I see a mix of oaks, shrubs and grasslands. I could say they are in a natural and undisturbed state. Little along the river channel was left untouched during winter floods. Remnants are still visible everywhere along the river.

underwater tree, American River, debris
Remains of trees swept and underwater during winter flooding. These rest alongside the shoreline in shallow water.
sign underwater, American River, flood, debris
A fallen sign loosened during the winter flooding rests in shallow water near the shoreline.












Day of the Eclipse

August 21, 2017  1015 am   72 degrees

When I looked through a telescope at a local science museum at 915 am…

The moon appeared as a bite out of the lower left hand part of the sun at the early stage of 915 am. By the time I reached Fair Oaks Bridge at 1015 am and looked again through a pair of borrowed safety glasses, the sun looked like a sliver – a crescent moon shape. Sacramento’s eclipse reached 77 percent maximum coverage at 1020 am.

Shaded river at maximum eclipse

A dozen people gathered outside their offices on Bridge Street. Another dozen people stood on the bridge, watching the sky. At least as many people gathered on the edge of the Fair Oaks Bluffs hundreds of feet above the American River. – a popular destination for panoramic view of the river and nearby community.

A very speedy duck

River photos of the during the eclipse may illustrate the odd lighting. This was an event you had to be there to get the impact. I also caught a photo of a very speedy duck. It was swimming nearly as fast as the boat that was following close behind.

Fair Oaks Bluffs, American River, Fair Oaks, cliff, eclipse
Tree hugs the cliff of Fair Oaks Bluffs

When the moon passed over the sun, the river was visibly brighter. People stored away their dark glasses and began walking off the bridge. Cyclists started arriving and passing by. Soon the bridge was empty and office workers went back to their desks. Visitors on the bluffs stayed to see the view.

My excitement over seeing the “cool” eclipse was mixed with wonder and sadness – the anticipation of seeing the sun as a sliver and the shock of learning of a tragic fall all at the same time.

I arrived on Bridge Street to see two fire engines – one a special operations unit – idling on the street. There was another fire engine in the parking area alongside the boat launch ramp. When I asked, “What happened? Why are these fire trucks here?” I was told a spectator on the bluffs fell off the cliff. Firemen picked up the person in a boat.