Diverse Wildlife Wait for Salmon

Friday, September 15, 2017, 630 am    62 degrees

What a beautiful morning!

A soft orange glow peeks behind clouds. Cool, moist air leaves dew on my windshield. I wear jeans and need two layers of shirts for the first time. Clouds stretch the eastern sky in wisps as the sun casts a pale glow behind them.

diverse wildlife, morning rituals, Fair Oaks Bridge, American River, pigeons,
Fair Oaks Bridge is a Truss Bridge completed in 1909. As many as 40 pigeons rest here each morning.

One lone boater sits near the end of the river. Three boats sit a few yards away from Fair Oaks Bridge engaged in conversation. This morning I see more boats on the river than waterfowl.

Ducks greet the morning with their persistent quacks. Pigeons sit in their usual spot. Other birds join them.

I see the Great Blue Heron return to the boat launch ramp this morning. My second sighting. It stands on the boat launch ramp watching the river, rises up with a chortle and flies to the opposite riverbank. A few minutes later, it returns to the south side of the river, this time landing at the water’s edge a few yards from the bridge and walks the edge until I can no longer see it. I suspect this arrival at 630 will become a morning ritual for the season. I wonder what the Great Blue Heron will find to eat this morning?

Diverse wildlife returning to the Fair Oaks Bridge is yet another sign of the changing season and expectation that salmon will be arriving soon.

fishing, fishermen, salmon, American River, Fair Oaks, diverse wildlife, morning, Fair Oaks Bridge, patience, waiting, water, chillExcitement builds on the American River waiting for the salmon to come. Now four boats line the river and three cluster around the bridge. Everyone sits and waits. Some stand in the water past their knees and watch for movements. Kayaks arrive and launch. A group of Mallards emerge from hiding to greet the passengers.

It amazes me that fishermen can rise long before dawn to launch their boats and sit or stand for hours on the river waiting for a tug on their fishing pole. I imagine that being at the river in this especially quiet place slows people down and willing to wait for nature’s time.

I wonder with all the rains and flooding and disruption of habitat, with the warming climate, will there be enough salmon to last a full season this year? Will there be enough to feed the wildlife, to supply the fisherman, and for all the other places and people hungry for salmon on their menu? I continue to wonder about the long-term survival of the salmon with so much other life depending on them.

Two Canada Geese fly swiftly overhead. I imagine they plan to travel long distances because they are so much higher in the sky than I usually see them. The sky is striped with jet streams left by distant unseen airplanes.

A cyclist passes me. He looks sideways and says, “Beautiful,” and races away.

A loud noise erupts from the Sunrise Blvd. bridge and 30 pigeons react with their own eruption of feathers flying immediately to the sky, circling the bridge and vanishing. I have yet to discover why pigeons are so nervous, or why they fly in circles only to land again moments later. I witness this event every time I visit the bridge, so it must be their morning ritual. In the afternoons, only a few pigeons sit on the bridge.

diverse wildlife, Mallard, salmon, American River, water, Fair Oaks Bridge
Morning meditation

Still the day is extraordinarily quiet. The river is very low. Canada Geese have been conspicuously absent from the river lately. Usually they are the late arrivals. For weeks, I have seen them fly overhead and very few land. They are usually feeding at Jim’s Bridge or farther west on the river

By 7:20 am, the sun has risen above the trees on the south shore and I feel its warmth as I walk off the bridge. On the north shore trees, I catch a shadow of the bridge and myself standing on it. I have a few moments to take one quick photo before the sun rises further and the shadow vanishes.

Beavers Swim at Daybreak

Monday, September 18, 625 am 60 degrees

Some mornings hold more “magic”  than others. Today is one of those magic mornings.

sunrise, mornings, Fair Oaks Bridge, American River, American River Parkway, nature, writing, wildlife, walkers

The air is laden with chill instead of heat. Dense morning clouds hold the bold, vibrant colors of sunrise at the break of dawn. For nearly an hour I watch the colors change as the sun emerges from the horizon. My view from the Fair Oaks Bridge is a full circle of color. The intense, burning oranges and grays in the east spread north and south, fading to white and pale blue in the western sky.

I imagine that walkers, cyclists and fishermen are the ones who seize this opportunity to enjoy this daily display of one of nature’s miracles. Do wildlife enjoy this morning spectacle?

Fair Oaks, Fair Oaks Bridge, chickens, skinny, morning, American River, Bridge Street, breakfast, beaver, river, wildlifeMy favorite mornings are those when I listen to a choir of chickens sing still hidden in the trees where they sleep. Without any visible conductor, they call out their good morning songs to one another in rapid succession. As dawn breaks and the day brightens, chickens patrol the park and village streets crowing loudly where ever they go. Some chickens are robust with loud strong “ERR, ERR, ERR, ERR!” The skinnier, smaller chickens sound hoarse. “Er…Er…Er…Er.”  It is the smaller chickens that roam Bridge Street trees, plants and curbs scratching for breakfast and repeatedly calling out to no one for about 30 minutes after I arrive on any morning.

One this day, six bicyclists have crossed Fair Oaks Bridge shortly after I arrive.  630 am and the bridge is crowded with people! Morning temperatures are dropping into the 50s and 60s. I wear blue jeans, and a lightweight denim jacket and sneakers. A light breeze blows and I feel the air heavy with chill instead of the heat that roasted the air all summer long.

Three fishing boats are sitting in the river quietly waiting. I have seen one person catch a fish. The salmon are coming. Fisherman catch the early arrivals.  Water level of the American River is the lowest I have seen it all year. Could this be because the salmon need the shallow water to spawn?

Pigeons take their stations on the overhead frame. Two of them perch on the outside edge of the bridge, watching the river. None stay for long. The slightest movement, the faintest sound, they fly up and away in an instant. A tiny bird greets me with “Ti Too! Ti Too!” from its place at the top of the bridge.

Where is the Great Blue Heron this morning? I may be too late to see its patrol from the boat launch ramp to the north side and back with a chortle to the south riverbank. Canada Geese are flying high overhead. I imagine they are flying a distance without stopping. Another boat arrives and backs down the ramp. Mallards are still sleeping.

beaver, morning, Fair Oaks Bridge, American River, wildlifeMy first time seeing a beaver swimming in the river! I walk to the north side of the bridge to follow it and and see two more! My two photographer friends are here this morning. They point out a man climbing down the near vertical slope of Fair Oaks Bluffs. Why? How? We have no idea.

Two more groups of Canada Geese fly over. Then 30 runners cross the bridge together out for an early morning sprint. The sun finally emerges over the clouds, but the sky remains a flat gray.

shadow, morning, Fair Oaks Bridge, American River, sunrise,


As I walk off the bridge, I see my shadow moving through the trees on the north riverbank. This unexpected shadow play lasted about two minutes before the sun changed position and vanished.

Morning temperature rose to 66 degrees. Chickens are still calling “Good morning!”