Chickens Greet the Day

Wednesday, August 23, 2017   630 am 65 degrees

Fair Oaks Village, chickens, roosters, sing, symphony, morning, Fair Oaks Bridge, American River
Good morning Fair Oaks!


The chickens are singing loudly this morning! Their symphony carries on and on from one tree to another – everyone hiding and singing. This pair took their turns listening and singing.

Two early morning hikers slid down the steep trail from the Fair Oaks Bluffs nearly falling on top of the surprised and annoyed rabbit in the photo. The rabbit scampers to this safer spot away from the trail and near a bush.


Those falling hikers were a rude start to my morning!

I arrive at Fair Oaks Bridge to cloudless sky with a faint smoky haze surrounding the rising glowing, yellow sun. Morning temperatures still feel cool. No breeze blows. The air is still. Last night the air was so filled with smoke, I shut all windows and doors. Today all traces of smoky scent are gone.

That mysterious foghorn sounds again this morning.

Four chickens scratch and peep on the opposite side of the road. Scratch. Scratch. Looking for breakfast. They walk away after a thorough search. No ducks emerge from the riverbank for their early morning swim. Pigeons are still in hiding. One flies in to rest on the bridge. Fishermen sit in their boats sit and wait. Some roam to the opposite side of the bridge for a better position.

I feel the sun heating up the air as the sun rises higher over the trees. The air feels heavy already. A few individual walkers and a lone cyclist are out. The water reflects the clusters of trees that cling to the shoreline as a mirror.

Today the only sound is the persistent traffic hum from Sunrise Blvd bridge and an occasional twitter from an unseen bird. I remember the single small bird that used to land on the overhead frame of the bridge last fall. It sang its good morning song each day I visit the bridge. I have yet to see or hear it.

A group of four ducks swim under the bridge. A second straight line of four ducks swim by. One sounds a morning call, “Quack…Quack…Quack.” No pigeons in sight. They have left white droppings on both sides of the bridge deck as reminders of their long residence here. Very slowly, the wildlife residents nearby Fair Oaks Bridge welcome the new day as the sun rises over distant trees.

In the Moment of Sunrise

Sunday August 27, 2017, 72 degrees, 615 am

From my front porch, I see a flaming glow of sunrise filtered by heavy cloud cover.
fire in the sky, Fair Oaks Bridge, American River, morning, sunrise, writing, photo, nature, fisherman, boat, clouds
Clouds begin to spread as the sun rises. A lone fisherman watches and waits.

At 610 am, I force myself out the door to catch the early morning sights on Fair Oaks Bridge. Far too warm this morning! A breeze blows on my warming skin. The morning chicken symphony is long and loud, hiding in unseen trees. I am surprised by a loud call from a tree branch directly above my head as I open my car door to get out. A large white chicken is greeting the new day.

One duck squawks when I arrive at the bridge. Have not seen Canada Geese in many days. They may be wandering around the riverbank at Jim’s Bridge for their morning meal. Jim’s bridge is closed until September 1 to replace the broken fence from our winter flood, so I have not ridden my bike there to check the morning activity.

Why Do Pigeons Circle the Bridge Before Landing?

A dozen pigeons circle Fair Oaks Bridge several times and land on the overhead frame to rest. I still wonder if their flying in circles warms the air or their bodies before sitting down on a cold bridge to rest? pigeons, American River, Fair Oaks Bridge, mornings, sunrise

I need to research this. Some don’t rest for long, they are up and flying about. At the faintest of movements, they rise up as a group in a flutter of feathers and fly away and return to circle again minutes later.

Another boater arrives to join the one already in the water. The owner eases it down the boat launch ramp and cruises to a prime fishing spot.

I watch a pair of ducks lazily floating under Fair Oaks Bridge. They look around and float with the current, with no effort. Another pair floats the opposite direction. One pair must be paddling, since the current flows in one direction.

The sun’s rays are glowing through the heavy cloud cover. Three boats sit still in the river and two fishermen stand out in the river corridor in this quiet river waiting for their catch of the day to emerge. The sun rises. The breeze blows softly. By the time I leave the bridge at 715, I can feel the morning air heating up and feeling heavy. Checking the temperature, it is 81 degrees.


In the Moment of Morning

Sunday, August 27, 2017   615 am

Who is Paying Attention and Who is Passing Through?
sunrise, morning, cross, attention, observation, Fair Oaks Bridge
Being in the moment of sunrise or passing through?

Seeing so many walkers and cyclists cross the bridge everyday, I find myself wondering why so few people ever stop to see the activity happening on the bridge. I have seen a lot of sleepy walkers cross the bridge. Very few people ever stop to watch activity from the bridge in the morning. Afternoon visitors are far more like to wander, watch and stop, if at all.

I believe the act of walking or cycling is far more interesting if it includes paying attention to what is happening where you are. When crossing the bridge, I wonder who is making a choice to “be where you are” or “be diverted with conversation or random thoughts until you are where you are going?”

Cyclists arrive by 630 am on any given day. Most of them race by at top speed as if this were their personal raceway, inattentive that anyone else uses the bridge. They look straight ahead, neither to the left or the right.Appears they are also focused on passing through – that the destination or a resting spot when they can ride no further is the only place where they will notice?


Evening Shadows

August 30, 2017, 730 pm, 95 degrees

Heat still hangs heavy in the air. A gentle breeze passes by offering a sense of relief.

boater, fisherman, fishing boat, American River, Fair Oaks, Fair Oaks Bridge, salmon, shadows, sunset, darkness, river, ducks, swimmingShadows lengthen on both sides of the river. Sun is below the riverbank. The sky is ringed with a pale pink panorama. Is it smoke filled air or the varied pinks of the sunset?

Four Mallards swim at twlight, sharing the river with the two fisherman.

A boater sits, casting his line into the shadows. A few walkers cross Fair Oaks Bridge, glowing red with sunburn. Others out for an evening stroll. An exuberant cyclist proclaims “descent” on his way across the bridge. The white Pekin duck joins his friends for a float trip. Likely abandoned by its human family, the Pekin has found a new home.

A dog barks. The next sound I hear is a faint and distant chorus of quacks. A group of six ducks float under the bridge as the sun sets below the horizon and shadows turn into darkness.

Music of the Morning

Sunday, September 3, 2017, 620 am   74 degrees

Chickens are singing their morning songs in harmony today.

Fair Oaks, chickens, morning, crowing, singing, harmony, sunrise, American River, Fair Oaks BridgeEach chicken is still hidden away for the night in tree branches and crowing without end. The two chickens pictured believe they are still hiding. The morning sunrise is barely visible behind clouds. A cool breeze blows on me – it feels like the air is already too warm for so early in the morning.

Three cyclists rumble past me on Fair Oaks Bridge as fast as they can move. I see one turn his head to the left and looks to the American River. The others are focused straight ahead.

Five boats sit in the river and another boater arrives on the boat launch ramp. This one plays music far too loud. Far too early for me to hear music – especially when I watching for wildlife and listening to their morning calls. I hear John Denver singing “Born a County Man,” from the boat ramp more than 100 yards away.

sunrise, morning, Fair Oaks Bridge, American River, water, writing, nature, wildlifeI watch as the burning pink sunrise spreads across the sky and changes colors, reflecting on thick white, puffy clouds. Thirty pigeons land on the bridge all at once. Where are the ducks today? Where are the geese? Everyone is out of sight. I hear some distant quacks. They could be 100 yards away or more.

The hot orange sun rises above the trees – Another HOT day. At 710 am, morning temperature is already 82 degrees.

What Sounds Go Unheard?

September 8, 2017, 635 am    64 degrees

Mist covers my car windshield. I wonder if this morning chill will continue in mornings to come.

My mornings of wearing shorts, a t-shirt and sandals are certainly to become less frequent. Chickens that provide daily wake up calls in Fair Oaks Village are still slumbering. I see three cars as I walk through the village streets. Hot Yoga parking lot is double stacked with cars – located on the street about 100 steps from Fair Oaks Bridge.

chickens, morning, sounds, greet, Fair Oaks Bridge, American River
Okay, take the photo so I can finish crossing the street.

Today is a cloudy morning. By the time I wake up, any color in the sky from the sunrise has vanished. A trio of chickens wake up and stand in the street on the way to the bridge. Only one greets me with a good morning crow. The others are far too busy scratching the dirt to find breakfast. On my walk to Fair Oaks Bridge, one small chicken is raising a panic. Instead of crowing to greet the day, this chicken sounds more like it is complaining over and over again.

What other sounds does the morning air hold that I am not hearing?

American River, Fair Oaks Bridge, water, sounds, erosion, fisherman, river, morning, salmon
Fisherman sit beneath the Fair Oaks Bluffs and alongside trees uprooted during flooding early this year.

Three boats sit a few yards away on the east side of the bridge. The fishermen wait. Everyone prefers the east side. They are so intensely committed to catching fish, they arrive before dawn and wait for hours. I often see men in each boat talk to each other, swapping stories of who caught what and where, what bait they use and other conversation as they wait. Two more boats sit 100 yards farther east.

For a moment, the same tiny bird that greeted me each morning last fall with “too, too” returned to its post at the top of the bridge. Not intending to stay for long, it took a look around and flew away. The glowing yellow sun emerges in the eastern sky over the heads of trees lining the American River  No waterfowl are out yet this morning. Not even one. As I sit and listen in the still air, I hear a distant call of a Canada Goose, and then a quack and then silence. I wonder how far away are the geese?

After nearly a year of observation, I have a baseline of observing what happened each month. Yet, as the fifth year of drought concluded with heavy rain and flooding, I wonder what is usual and customary on the river? How will activity on the river change this coming fall? Will the waterfowl return? How many salmon will come? Will other wildlife return to feed on the salmon as they did last fall?

American River, trees, erosion, ducks, morning, Fair Oaks Bridge
One of several trees with exposed roots clinging to eroded riverbank.
chicken, ducks, erosion, morning, Fair Oaks Bridge
Scavenging the shallow water to find breakfast

Four ducks emerges from their evening hiding places and swim under the bridge heading west. They swim past fallen trees laying on the river bottom visible in the clear, shallow water. They pass trees with exposed roots along the eroded riverbank. These prominent features are a few of many ways flooding and erosion over time has shaped and scarred the integrity of this river channel.

The fisherman continue to sit and wait and I see nothing jumping in the water. The water is as still as it can be in this flat section of the American River. Birds are twittering unseen. I do my regular spider web check and see no evidence. I look for the fallen tree that was once an ideal sunbathing spot for turtles. It has fallen farther into the river. Where have the turtles gone? Another visitor to Fair Oaks Bridge remarked there were a dozen turtles or more. I saw only two. Now they have moved somewhere else.


Reflections on Wildlife

Sunday September 10, 2017, 630 am   68 degrees

From my front porch, I watch the orange glow of sunrise above towering trees and behind scattered clouds. 

sunrise, morning, American River, Fair Oaks Bridge, ducks, fishermen, boatsA tiny bird greeted me this morning, with ‘Ti Too.”

I ride to Jim’s Bridge hoping to see a crowd of Canada Geese and ducks engaged in morning rituals and scavenging for breakfast. They hang out on the south side of the riverbank first. Often women come to feed them seeds. When alone, they poke at the rocky shore and swim in shallow water, looking for worms, insects and other morning nibbles.

So few waterfowl are swimming near the Fair Oaks Bridge and nearby boat launch ramp. It is disappointing to visit the bridge and see only boaters. The river today is home to no life beyond that. I remember the Egrets that sat on the north riverbank each morning and the Great Blue Heron that came for an occasional visit. I remember the Egret flying farther east to avoid the Heron as it arrived. I think back to when the Canada Geese and the Mallards fight over food and fight among themselves. Geese hiss and bite. Mallards quack and complain, then chase away who they don’t like.

I arrive at Jim’s Bridge and all the waterfowl are here! The abandoned Pekin duck has joined the Mallard families. Quack! Quack! Quack! The ducks are quietly waking up, swimming, cleaning, quietly poking their head into the water searching for a morning meal. Occasionally one duck will rant, Quack! Quack! Quack! Quack! Quack! Quack! and no one pays attention. The geese and the ducks are expecting a morning handout.

Mallards are so unlike chickens that call out to each other all day long, and call when no one is there to hear. When I hear ducks voice their opinions, no others respond.

In a moment, three ducks rise and fly quietly to the opposite shore. They are too far away and too fast to photograph. Watching them gives me a chance to take a big breath in, feel the chill on my skin. I look up in time to see 20 birds sitting on power lines above the Sunrise Blvd. bridge.

Temperatures are getting warmer already. I ride on to Fair Oaks Bridge. The parking lot for the boat launch ramp is filled with pickup trucks and utility vehicles equipped to tow their boats. I count seven boats in the river, all on the east side of the bridge. I see nearly as many fishermen on the American River as there are ducks.

ducks, American River, swim, ducklings, waterA mother duck leaders the way for her two young ducks. They casually swim by boats, leaning trees and those uprooted and fallen into the river. They pause their morning a few moments before moving on. So many birds twitter, unseen. So many times, I see feathers on the ground. I pick them up and wonder how did the birds or the chickens or even an owl lose their feathers? Was it a battle or an argument? Or was losing a feather a natural part of their growth? How do birds lose their feathers?

I believe that ducks, geese and birds exercise far more patience than people. People are often in a rush to get anywhere –  pack in as much into the day as possible before  dropping off to sleep or not even sleep. Waterfowl take their time to swim, to play, and to clean their feathers…and of course, finding food. A duck’s days are for sunning, sleeping, eating, relating to other ducks.

I sit here and wonder what is my role in helping to preserve this peaceful spot where wildlife can thrive?

If more of us sat down to wonder about the miracles of the natural world, would we enjoy more forward thinking environmental concerns and actions? Would more collaborative actions and few disagreements make a bigger difference? I am surprised at how many are just passing through, not noticing the scope of what is here. Envisioning a positive future is rarely a casual visitor’s first thought.





Wonder and Joy

Sunday, September 10, 2017    840 am

Each day is a mix of wonder and joy!

I arrive back at Fair Oaks Bridge after a bike ride on the American River Parkway. I rode to the San Juan Rapids one mile or more downstream to the west. I stop to enjoy the view at my farthest destination for the day. No wildlife here, no people, cyclists pass.

Rivers are complicated. They provide so many benefits and serve so many needs. By regulating flow levels, the river can meet the needs for healthy habitats and retain water quality for all.

Fair Oaks, Fair oaks Bridge, American River, ducks, wonder, joy, morning
Duck dunks its head in the water scavenging for food.

As I arrive at the bridge, I continue to see cyclists pass. One carries a small dog tucked inside her sweatshirt. Others walk dogs, large and small. Many people walk on the bridge and very few pause for even a moment to look to one side or the other. I marvel each morning at the scenic panorama and mysteries of the natural world I am part of.

This feeling of wonder and joy appears lost on many others.  Visitors who pause to watch and those hold cameras are on the bridge to be observers. I engage in conversation about when they come and what they see and learn more about the river and its history.


Morning of Peace on Sept. 11

September 11, 2017   620 am   72 degrees

Enjoying the serenity of the morning on Fair Oaks Bridge, I am very conscious of the time and place – on this             anniversary day of the disaster that rocked the country to its core.

sunrise, morning, Fair Oaks Bridge, American River, peaceful, fishermenI arrive at Fair Oaks Bridge with the morning light still in shadows. I hear a single chicken boast his wake up call. A cool breeze blows. The air feels crisp, even at 72 degrees. The sun is emerging. A scattered orange glow of excitement for the new day spreads across the sky.

As tired as I sometimes feel waking up in the morning, the cool air, the scenic views from Fair Oaks Bridge always wake me up. I wake to the sound of enduring and hidden chickens, sight of radiant orange sunrises, and the touch of gentle breezes.

A lone fisherman waits on the river. A second one prepares to launch. Three Canada Geese fly silently high over the bridge heading west. Many walkers are out early this morning. A third boater arrives and launches. A lone chicken continues its solo. A full chorus of birds sing unseen in the distance when the chicken pauses its song.

I see something emerge from the water – a salmon, a otter, a duck, a beaver? Movement is too sudden to get a good look. With the glow of sunrise faded away, deep gray shadows hide morning clouds stretched like spun sugar.Read more

Great Blue Heron Returns

Thursday, September 14, 2017, 620 am  64 degrees

 It is barely dawn and cloudy. Will there be a sunrise today? A strong, cool wind blows and street lights  still aglow.

Chickens hidden in trees for their night’s rest are calling out this morning in rapid succession. Today, instead of wearing shorts, sandals and a t-shirt, I wear jeans. Two cyclists pass with headlights flashing as the night passes and morning emerges. Three cars pass me on the street. The Hot Yoga studio lot is completely filled and double stack parked. As I approach the bridge, the sky is still cloudy gray.

One lone chicken hides in bushes on Bridge Street and calls out good morning to no one. It continues to call out most of my morning on Fair Oaks Bridge and I wonder who else is listening?

spider web, morning, Fair Oaks Bridge, Great Blue HeronHaven’t checked for spider webs on the bridge for several visits. I find a huge web without its spider.

Four fishermen sit on the east side of Fair Oaks Bridge waiting. Another fisherman backs down the ramp.  I see a flock of Canada Geese fly over in complete silence, flapping wildly.

Two photographers set up their cameras on tripods to capture the sunrise and the wildlife of the river. All I can see are boats sitting quietly. The chicken is still calling and waiting for someone or something to respond. Ducks have yet to emerge from a night’s sleep. The day brightens. There is no sun anywhere. Pigeons coo from a distance unseen. The chicken is still crowing.

I am watching the river and see a Great Blue Heron fly in – first of the season. It blends with the colors of the river and I can barely see it from the bridge.

Great Blue Heron. Faor Oaks Bridge, morning I walk down to the boat launch ramp and the Heron stands watching the river in a frozen pose. Then it flies off, chortling, to the opposite (north) shore and lands on the riverbank.

Ducks swim. I brought no food. I need to bring something next time. Mallards swim peacefully. They search for breakfast, clean their wings and watch the river.

As fishermen continue to float by, any traces of early sunrise are gone. Cloudy, gray skies cover the sun.