Squeals of a Seagull

Thursday, December 28, 2017, 820 am, 39 degrees

Winter is the time to experience quiet on the American River. Calm waters. No fishing allowed. River is too cold for rafting or swimming. The wildlife enjoy this serene setting all too themselves all day long.

cyclist, American River, experiences, Fair Oaks Bridge, mornings, wildlife, waterfowl, walkers, seagulls, Regardless of season, Fair Oaks Bridge attracts walkers, cyclists and visitors to enjoy the scenic views by foot and by car all day long. On colder days, people take a little longer to arrive. I meet so many different people on the bridge. Cyclists are always in a hurry. Joggers are out for exercise. Walkers and those with dogs are usually open to exchanging “good mornings.”

I shared experiences with a woman who has lived on the Fair Oaks Bluffs for decades. We talked what we love about the bridge, the spectacular views, the community, gardening and wildlife. She greets two friends out for a jog and we talk about the uniqueness of Fair Oaks Village.

The sky gives no hint of either the glowing orange ribbons that painted the sky or the dense fog that rolled across the river only an hour ago. Yet it is still cold enough to see my breath. Two Goldeneyes diving for breakfast are the only wildlife out this morning. Pigeons settle on the bridge truss for their morning rest. I watch several seagull pairs fly over the bridge at a very high elevation, ready for another migratory journey. Other pairs circle the bridge with wide, sweeping elegance before settling down into the water or to wander the boat launch ramp for a quick snack. Steelhead will be arriving soon. They bring far less excitement and food supply than the fall run of salmon.

Arriving at the boat launch ramp, a dozen ducks and a crowd of pigeons rush in. They expect a breakfast gift to be served. One Mallard shouted  a series of angry “Quack, quack, quack,” at me to complain I came empty handed once again. Once the ducks got over their disappointment, they paired up and began their mating rituals. I watched as some ducks swam out into the river,  bob their heads up and down in unison to signal their readiness to create spring ducklings.

Gulls continue their swim in the river and call out to one another from the boat ramp and at a distance unseen. I always wonder what each gull could be saying.

Lingering Fog and Frosty Mornings

Sunday, December 30, 2017, 715 am, 36 degrees

So cold this morning, the chickens are still sleeping in the Village. They have yet to utter a sound.

I hear no shouts good morning walking past the park and the trees that provide nighttime shelters for so many Village chickens. Three chickens scratch and complain searching for breakfast a few yards from the bridge entrance – their favorite hangout.

Fair Oaks Bridge, fog, morning,The bridge deck is covered with white, slippery frost. Clouds above me resemble spun sugar in shades of gray and soft white. As the wind blows, they stretch into thin wisps of white. Fog washes over the eastern section of the American River. As with other days, I watch as the mist rolls down the river channel and under the bridge. On this particular chilly morning, mist is still sitting on the river well beyond 9 am when I prepare to return home.

Visiting the American River at Fair Oaks Bridge is a gift to enjoy and share. The most impressive days of winter for me are the peaceful mornings listening to seagulls call and seeing them soar gracefully through the sky, following fiery orange sunrises, and watching the fog as it blankets the river and reflects golden sunlight through the trees.

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Fog blankets the eastern section of the American River at Fair Oaks Bridge and rolls slowly west. Boat launch ramp is on lower right side of photo.

Each day brings a new cloud formation, each day a new way the wind blows them apart to create a kaleidoscope of color at dawn to announce the new day. I love watching fog blow slowly down the river. I stand watching in amazement at the way fog bathes and nourishes the Fair Oaks Bluffs and the sun’s yellow light shining through the trees along the American River Parkway. When I walk to the boat launch ramp, I see how the fog surrounds the Fair Oaks Bridge and drifts slowly west beneath the deck.

Seeing Fair Oaks Bluffs shrouded in fog reminds me of “Brigadoon,”  that magical, mysterious place that emerges out of the fog once every few years.

I think of Peter Pan’s Neverland where fairies and other magic is commonplace. This is a place of peace where you can hear the distant call of seagull and see birds emerging slowly out of the fog. Two ducks swim in the center of the river. All others are still in hiding and come out much later when the temperature warms to 45 instead of 36 degrees. Many walkers are out this morning. First two, then two more, then two more all bundled up and enjoying the morning. A speeding cyclist passes by pedaling as quickly as possible.

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Egret flies through fog on the American River alongside Fair Oaks Bridge

An Egret flies in and lands in its preferred spot on the riverbank beneath the Fair Oaks Bluffs. Soon there are two flying together and move on further downriver. I always marvel at its graceful flight and sleek, straight body.

Most of the seagulls, ducks and the Canada Geese have moved on farther downriver where food is more plentiful. I see more than 50 seagulls on the riverbank at Jim’s Bridge crossing and farther downriver. Canada Geese roamed the shoreline at Rossmoor Bar, an overlook and rocky beach two miles from Fair Oaks Bridge, popular for rafters and picnics.



Sharing a Salmon

Sunday, December 30, 2017 830 am, 45 degrees

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How did this salmon get to the boat ramp?

My last stop is the boat launch ramp to check for morning wildlife activity. I find a partially eaten salmon lying at the end of the ramp. How did it get here? How long has it been here? Why did everyone wait until I arrive to eat it?

With plenty of meat left, the salmon captures the attention of two seagulls and two ducks. They take turns tearing at the salmon. Their strategies to tear apart the remains differ from gentle poking to serious ripping. In the end, they all get something to eat – except one seagull. The ducks eat first, then the seagull drags the salmon into the river while the other gull wails and complains.

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Enough to share with everyone
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The Muscovy duck works the hardest, spending five minutes pulling and scooping meat from the salmon underside.