Morning Rituals of Fall

Friday, September 22, 2017            635 am   55 degrees

Not a single chicken in sight when drive into Fair Oaks Village. Yet the morning symphony is as loud and as long as ever.

morning, rituals, Fair Oaks, chickens, Fair Oaks Bridge

The songs of Fair Oaks Chickens are my favorite way to start the day – far better than a wake me up beverage!

Today is a cool morning! It is only 55 degrees. I wonder if the cool temperatures wake them earlier and inspire them to begin calling each other.

The brutal 100-degree days of summer are behind us. What a change from two weeks ago when morning temperature had not dropped below 72 degrees at 630 am. I wear a light jacket and jeans. For the first time, my hands feel chilled in the moist morning air.

Loosely scattered clouds define this morning’s sunrise. I missed yesterday’s fiery orange sunrise behind a dense cloud cover and hoped for a repeat. Not today. I watched yesterday’s sunrise from afar as the brilliant yellow ball emerged from the clouds a full 45 minutes after the first glow rose from the horizon.

Fair Oaks Bridge is one of few places where I can find joy when my days are filled with too much drama. I always hope others can find peace in sharing these morning walks on the bridge and the river’s edge.

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Rare Vibrant Sunrise!

September 29, 2017   60 degrees, 630 am

I look west from my front door and WOW! A rare sunrise glowing orange through clouds at 620 am.

sunrise, mornings, Fair Oaks Bridge, fishermen walkers,
Rare sunrise colors the sky with orange, purple and pink long before the sun emerges. Clouds hang like woven baskets in the sky. This sunrise lasted 45 minutes before colors faded to shades of whites and grays.

I leave the house quickly and drive toward the sunrise. The dark sky is a blanket of deep gray clouds and shades of orange. I hurry to the Fair Oaks Bridge to catch the sunrise and hear the lone chicken singing from its tree on Bridge Street.

Village chickens greet me with a rousing symphony this morning. So many awake and singing early.

I shoot a dozen pictures to capture the changing light as the sky brightens. I stand and watch the sky change as the sun slowly rises over distant trees. The clouds turn to gray and then white as vibrant colors shift and fade. Two women cross the bridge quietly holding flashlights. Then I am alone to treasure the colors of morning light with the fisherman below. Three boats sit on the east side and two on the west. The sun I still rising and hidden by long blankets of heavy, dense clouds.Read more

Mallard Speak

October 1, 2017 630 pm 72 degrees

A beautiful fall evening capping a warm, breezy day – a fragment of stronger winds of earlier today.

mallard speak, American River, Fair Oaks Bridge, morning, salmon, Cormorant
A year ago, this island was large enough to support fisherman docking their boats, bringing a folding chair and ice chest. Now there is barely enough island for Cormorants to stand on.

I stand on Fair Oaks Bridge wondering where the spider webs? I do not see a single one. On a bike ride earlier today, two Cormorants rested on an island in the middle of the river channel. From the bridge I see an Egret return to the riverbank. It huddles on the north side.  Egrets and Great Blue Herons are almost always alone. I wonder why?

narrow, American River, Fair Oaks Bridge, salmon, ducks, swim, morning, Mallard speak
American River winds downstream. This is the narrow and shallow area of the river, offering the best viewing of salmon jumping upstream and others spawning in the shallow water.





A few ducks swim around the boat launch ramp – a favorite spot. They are always found in groups or at least in pairs. The ramp is where they are most likely to find a human visitor providing them an easy meal. I rarely see Mallards alone. Even the domestic white Pekin duck, likely released into the river by a family, joins the crowd.

Several Mallards speak, arguing loudly in duck speak language that I do not understand.

Pigeons repeat their circles near the bridge. Once, twice, three times before settle and quickly depart for another destination. All is quiet on American River today. One fishing boat sits. Clouds dot the other side and blanketing the west in overlapping strips of white. The eastern sky resembles an artist palette of pale blue, tinged with gray at the horizon, and pinks and white stretching across the sky.

I hear a splash in the water. What was it? I am not fast enough to see if it was a salmon, beaver or otter? Usually, salmons are the noisy ones. Otters and beavers surface and vanish with hardly a ripple. As I stand on the bridge, I hear a single chicken call. Its voice is loud enough for me to hear standing at least 50 yards away. People are walking dogs.

Six ducks fly under the bridge and I miss photographing their landing. I love watching ducks land on the river. Each time, they stretch out their legs and ski into the water with their webbed feet laid flat, creating a huge splash. Then before two seconds have passed, they fold their legs and wings, settling into the water. Then all is calm.

The pink sunset spreads across the horizon and I watch the blurred edges of dusk transform the landscape into dark shadows.

Spider Geometry in Motion

October 7, 2017,  730 am 51 degrees

Chickens have emerged from their evening hiding places in Fair Oaks Village. They scurry through the parks, linger in the streets, calling out their version of “Good Morning,” At least a dozen are roaming through the park at this early hour.

Eight boats are lined up on the east side of the bridge. Some are 20-30 yards apart, stretched all the way around the bend in the river. A kayaker meanders slowly through the river as the fishermen are all managing their fishing lines.

In a cloudless sky, the sun radiates its yellow light and a huge white aura surrounds it. A dozen birds call sitting on the overhead structure of the bridge. Pigeons arrive to settle for their morning rest. No ducks yet.

mornings, Fair Oaks Bridge, American River, spiders, spider webs, prey, predator, water, nature, outdoors, bridge,Some days I see huge spider webs and other days – not one. I continue to be amazed at their miracles of geometry. I wonder how a spider weaves them so perfectly.spider, Fair Oaks Bridge, mornings, American River

More than a dozen joggers approach and run off the bridge to the Village. A man sits on the bridge wearing a purple Lakers sweatshirt, wrapped in his sleeping bag. He is reading out loud to himself. A shopping cart alongside him is loaded with bulging black plastic trash bags.

More cyclists whizz past and more runners. A woman runs on to the bridge screaming at the fishermen on both sides, “I lost my cat. Let me know if you see it. There is a reward. Look for me on the Internet.”

I see the runners return walking back to the Village. They run five laps. One recognizes me. “I have seen you in the hiking group!” Yes. I have been there. Amazing, the range of people I meet regularly on the bridge.




Where Salmon Swim, Seagulls Fly

Sunday, October 15, 2017   7am     46 degrees

Mornings are much cooler now, well into October. I am surprised it has not rained yet.

Usually it rains the weekend we decorate our home with outdoor Halloween decorations. I wear jeans, long sleeve shirts, long socks, and a jacket or sweatshirt on my morning visits. My hands are chilled. I have yet to put my gloves on. Mist covers my windshield and the moist air stays on. Despite the cold, people are out walking their dogs.

jet stream, sky, morning, Fair Oaks Bridge, American River, fishermen, salmon
Jet streams cross the sky at sunrise

Standing on Fair Oaks Bridge, I see white jet streams crossing the sky leaving a pattern of stripes across a pale blue sky. Today, no visible trace of gray smoke, yet my head remains congested in response to the poor air quality from so many fires some 90 miles north.

This morning, as all mornings, the same small, skinny chicken calls out “I am awake” in chicken speak and scratches the dirt to find breakfast. I can hear it call all morning from the center of Fair Oaks Bridge.

fishermen, boats, American River, Fair Oaks Bridge, morning
Year after year, fishermen return to this site east of Fair Oaks Bridge to catch salmon coming upriver to spawn

Two young adults are huddled in a blanket are engaged in vibrant conversation as they point to photos in an album. They continue to review their photos all the time I stand on the bridge and do not see them looking at the water or the landscape. Fair Oaks Bridge and the American River underneath create a space for so many different activities. Watching the sunrise, sunset, fishing, running, walking, cycling, kayaks, nature observation, feeding wildlife and picking berries.

When I arrive a cluster of fishermen sit in boats on the American River as if they were holding conference. I wonder if these are same people out every day or if different ones show up. Unlike the woman I encountered last visit who screamed down to them waving a flier about her lost cat, I leave them alone to watch early morning action on the river.

Today I see my first seagull of the season landing near the boat launch ramp. I smell the faint scent of dead salmon in the air. As November draws closer, seagulls know food is plentiful here and they wait.

Two hungry turkey vultures fly overhead. My first spotting for this season. I saw a dozen of them along the American River last year. More signs the salmon have returned. The seagull takes flight and glides through the air toward the bridge, scanning the water. After circling twice, it vanishes. Far more food lies about half a mile upriver. I wonder if the seagulls will be there yet? I see dozens of seagulls waiting during my bike ride later in the day.

seagull, salmon, morning, Fair Oaks Bridge, American River, water, fishermen
A group of seagulls sit upstream at a shallow and rocky part of the river – a prime location for salmon to spawn

A dozen pigeons approach and land on the bridge overhead Truss frame to rest a while. With the coming of salmon, I expect to see far more salmon jumping and splashing. So far, I see only a few in an hour of watching the river. A Cormorant arrives and flies under the bridge headed west. I follow its flight close to the riverbank and then lose sight as it blends into the distant landscape. Moments later, this elegant bird returns to circle the bridge.

I watch a seagull float gracefully over the bridge and land in the river near the boat launch ramp. Unlike ducks that splash down with wings spread and feet extended as if water skiing, seagulls land sitting down, wings tucked in without a ripple. When I hear the seagull call, I wonder is it calling for others to join? Where is the food? Or locate its flock?

Immediately after hearing the seagull, the lonely chicken calls from Bridge Street. Where else can you hear the call of a seagull and the rousing good morning from a chicken in the same place and time?

I leave the bridge knowing the cooler days of fall and the salmon are here. The wildlife of the American River in fall are ready and waiting.

Salmon Return Home

Sunday, October 15, 2017   1:30 pm

Nimbus Hatchery Fish Ladder Opens

turkey vulture, salmon, seagulls, American River Parkway
Turkey vultures on the prowl for dead and decaying salmon

During an afternoon bicycle ride, I go directly to a narrow section of the American River shallow enough for salmon to spawn and ducks dive for tasty tidbits. No one there yet. The picnic area facing a small island is a favorite feeding zone for seagulls. Indeed, 60 of them are sitting in the water and waiting to eat.

Later in the season, 100 seagulls will be gathered here. Since mid-October is still early in the season, these gulls maybe the “early birds.”

The Nimbus Fish Hatchery opened the fish ladder and filled it with water. Two dozen large, red and decaying salmon swim at the top level delighting visitors of all ages. Fishing season ends October 31. Time is running out to make a catch.

The river canyon at the weir (barrier stopping salmon from swimming any farther up river.) is as steep as the Fair Oaks Bluffs. Yet, some still climb down to risk fishing on the cliff. They get a rude surprise when the Game Warden catches them where they don’t belong, and fishing in a prohibited area.

salmon at hatchery, fish ladder, American River, spawn
Top level of fish ladder, waiting to spawn

Fishermen continue to fish and catch salmon at the Jim’s Bridge, Fair Oaks Bridge and farther upstream. Yet, I see very little jumping out of the water yet. Will the salmon run be strong this year considering increasing challenges to their habitat?

My last stop riding home is Jim’s Bridge where Mallards love to hang out. I watch them dunk and dive for food.

Each duck paddles it webbed feet, sometimes doing a little dance to move around underwater dirt, then a straight vertical dive for about five seconds and comes up with something to nibble on.

At the hint of food somewhere else, ducks rise in unison, flap their wings as fast as they can possibly move and fly from one side of the river to the other. Could be people standing and throwing bread, or other ducks finding nibbles on the opposite shore, ducks rise up and fly in a great hurry to land with a splash on their webbed skis.


Reflecting Clouds

Tuesday, October 17, 2017 730 am, 49 degrees

By the time I arrived at Fair Oaks Bridge this morning, the glorious orange and pinks of sunrise were already faded. I drove toward the sunrise enjoying its brilliant display by car instead. I listened to the “Fair Oaks Village symphony” informally conducted by at least a dozen chickens. Then I heard even more singing on the bridge.

Great Blue Heron, clouds, fishermen, fishing nets, American River, Fair Oaks Bridge, morning, writing, nature, outdoors, wildlife
Great Blue Heron walks at boat launch ramp

I gazed into the American River and saw small white patches of clouds reflected from above. Seven Canada Geese flew over the bridge against a backdrop of fluffy white clouds.

Fishermen were in their places, fishing nets hanging off the side of their boats and kayaks. I watched a Great Blue Heron at the boat launch ramp take a careful stroll along the riverbank until it disappeared under the bridge. Its soft blue and gray coloring blended into the landscape from a distance. Staying focused on this majestic bird took constant concentration.

Seagull Stands Guard

October 18. 2017 245 pm 75 degrees

Decaying salmon provide food for seagulls on the American River.

When riding my bike along the American River Parkway bicycle trail, I walked down to the sandy shore of the American River at the San Juan Rapids. I watched two seagulls perched on an island sits at the edge of the. One seagull fiercely guards a dead salmon. Occasionally, the gull pulls a nibble of meat off the badly decayed fish. Five yards away sits another gull, alone, watching without food. I wonder what this second one could be thinking, knowing the other seagull is guarding a feast enough to feed half dozen gulls.

seagull, salmon, American River,
Standing guard alongside decaying salmon
Pulling a snack off the luncheon plate







The winds shift suddenly and the air carries the smell of rotting salmon. The familiar scent has brought vultures to check out the scene. Two circle in the pale blue sky, set against of background of blue and gray puffy clouds.

I see a flock of Canada Geese fly in 100 yards downriver and take their places along the riverbank. Two Mallards swim by me. More seagulls arrive to float on the water. How could there be so much salmon and almost none of them jump out of the water? This is my puzzle for today as I leave the American River Parkway and return home.


Early Morning Fog

Friday, October 20, 2017   6:50 am, 50 degrees

Clouds sit way off on the distant eastern shore. The pink glow of sunrise reaches the bottom edge of the clouds.

These low lying pink strips of clouds surround me from every viewpoint as I stand on the Bridge.

Chickens near the bridge are calling from trees where they hid for the night. I listen closely to the voice of each chicken. Each one has a different volume and pitch. Some chickens have deep voices. I never thought of chickens being either Altos or Tenors. Others in the crowd sing with very high pitched, fragmented voices – a chicken singing soprano?

Some crow with more syllables than others. Others start strong and loud, then their voices fade at the end. I hear another voice that reminds me of an engine that grinds before it starts. “Er, Er…Er, Er…Er, Er, ooooo roooo.” Every day 2, 3 or 6 chickens are wandering the dirt alongside the street scratching for food, chattering among themselves.

fog bank, morning, American River, Fair Oaks Bridge,Boat lights twinkle in the darkness in the slowly brightening dawn.

As the sun rises In the shadowy light of dawn, I see a fog bank and a line of boats near the shore. An Egret glides under the bridge from the east, flapping long pearly white wings. I follow its flight path and lose sight 100 yards to the west. I see two splashes just below the bridge. Salmon are coming in greater numbers. I have yet to see one jump! Another boat launches.

At 730, two dozen pigeons arrive and circle 30 times around Fair Oaks Bridge flapping wildly. Their circles grow wider and wider the entire group of birds vanish in the western sky. Three mallards fly in and settle down quickly. As the day brightens, I can more easily see the line of boaters and a kayak. Suddenly a dozen cyclists race by.

The sun emerges as a bright yellow fireball. Four pigeons return to the bridge and a tiny bird sings its traditional chorus, “Ti Too!” “Ti Too” from the top of the bridge truss work.