Birds twitter in the cool morning air. A gentle breeze blows against my face.
Riding my bike today, I stop briefly on Fair Oaks Bridge to check for wildlife and spider webs. I continue on the American River Parkway trail, stopping at a shallow, narrow place on the American River. This short part of the river is lined with a thick blanket of gravel. The river’s resident Mallards come here to find food. Salmon arrive in the fall to spawn here.
Many salmon swim further upriver to another shallow place, or finish their long journey to Nimbus Fish Hatchery. I chat with several walkers who have also stopped to enjoy the view.
A Cormorant stands on a small island in the middle of the river channel. I hear a distant quack from an unseen duck once, and then again and again, as if it is calling ‘Where is everyone?’ This rocky island is a fraction of its former size before the winter 2017 flooding. Fishermen used to dock their boats here, set up a chair with their ice chest alongside, and spend a few hours fishing.
My next stop is a picnic area on the riverbank, a short distance from the bike path. I listen to the sounds of the soft breeze and hear the water gently moving downstream. The river is moving more quickly today than recent visits. Small white peaks form on the other side of the river about 100 yards downstream. Could this be where rocks hide underneath and create rapids in the river?
I ride back to the boat launch ramp to watch Mallards searching the water for bugs or seeds or something to nibble on. I sit and watch them paddle through the water and dive head first into the water searching for food. If I had food to give them, two dozen ducks would fly in from anywhere, sensing feeding activity on the river.
Have you ever seen a chicken that looks like this one?
I found this one scratching at the dirt looking for breakfast during one of my morning walks to Fair Oaks Bridge.
Three days later. . .
I returned to Fair Oaks Bridge and saw a river otter enjoying a morning swim.
Later that morning … I saw three turtles had found a fallen log at the riverbank just beneath the bridge to enjoy morning meditation in the sun.
And the next day...
Mama duck and her six new ducklings out for a swim. They were surrounded by a dozen Canada Geese aggressively searching for food. She led them carefully – as they peeped and followed in a line – to a safer hiding spot in the middle of nearby reeds.
A few minutes walk from Fair Oaks Village down Bridge Street – The American River and Fair Oaks Bridge crossing feature abundant opportunities to enjoy incredible scenic views and diverse wildlife. Great walks and bicycle rides for miles in either direction.
As I enter Fair Oaks Village this morning, I stop the car to wait for a chicken to cross the street and join a friend in the center median.Chickens are calling from all parts of the Village. I see them in parking lots, on streets and hiding near bushes.
A cool morning wind feels refreshing after a long and hot day. Glowing, hot yellow sun and a brilliant blue sky. No clouds anywhere.
I see a kayak launch into the water and watch the driver inside pressing foot pedals to move his craft around the river. The boat is filled with three people, a large bucket and other fishing equipment. Fishermen in their boats take positions in the American River for a morning of fishing.
Water level of the river continues to be slightly higher than a week ago. The river channel is relatively flat at Fair Oaks Bridge, so the water remains calm. A pair of ducks fly in and land with a splash out of sight under the bridge. Joggers and walkers pass – alone and in pairs. No one pauses to look over either side of Fair Oaks Bridge to enjoy the scenic views.
A tiny bird greets me with its good morning song. “Ti Too! Ti Too!” as it stands at the top of the bridge truss looking down at me. I see no Buffleheads swimming and searching for breakfast. I can’t remember when I saw them last. When did they leave?
A dozen spider webs stretch across the bridge rails ranging in size from 9” across to a more compact 2”.
I rarely see spider webs hanging on the west side of Fair Oaks Bridge. Why do spiders spin their webs on the east side of the bridge and not the west?
Could web placement be related to the sun’s position in the sky? Is web construction related to where the shadows fall or the temperature of a specific place? Do insects prefer to fly about on the east side and not the west?
A loud fog horn blows. Long, loud and mysterious. What is that sound? Where does it come from? Few ducks are swimming. I wonder about the female Mallard who I heard quack relentlessly every visit in January and February. Where is she? Did she have ducklings?How can I even recognize her if she swims by me?
Fair Oaks Village chickens are beloved and celebrated by many and scorned by some. Their squabbles, persistent calls to each other, and continuous patrols of Village streets and its two parks add character to the fabric of our community.
Residents and visitors take photos of chickens, feed them, and watch their antics while sitting at the park, an outdoor cafe or the Fair Oaks Deli. The Deli is one of the Village favorites for great food, company and entertainment. Cars driving through Fair Oaks Village stop and wait for chickens to meander across streets. Drivers wait, honk their horn and wait some more. Groups of two, three or four chickens often choose to linger in the middle of the street before crossing. They gather for conferences in parking lots and streets. These chickens tend to hang out in pairs or in a group – unless one has been chased away after a noisy squabble. When a chicken is alone, it crows even more.
During hot summer days, I see them resting in the shade of a tree in a park. They squabble, chase and call to each other. The biggest roosters have the longest and deepest calls. OO…OO…OO…OO…OOOO. The smallest chickens sound more like they are coughing with a scratchy throat. eh..eh..eh..eh..ehhhh…Even thin and scrawny, the smallest chickens behave as if they were the big roosters.
A chicken family lives on Bridge Street – a short street leading from the Village that ends at Fair Oaks Bridge. On one side of the street the rooster hides deep in bushes with mother hen and her five growing chicks. On the other side, two hens mingle with a small gray rabbit. The three of them emerge from the hillside lined with trees and dense shrubs at dawn and usually retreat into the hills by 730 am.
Almost every day I stand on Fair Oaks Bridge, one lone chicken calls good morning from Bridge Street, deeply hidden in bushes.
Brilliant pink clouds blanket the sky creating this morning’s dramatic sunrise.
The soft call of a Morning Dove greets me as I enter Fair Oaks Bridge. Ooooo weee ooo. Ooooo weeee ooo. After so many days of lingering daytime temperatures over 100 degrees, I feel refreshed as a cool breeze blows across my face this morning. The calm water of the American River shimmers in the early light of dawn.
The fresh scent of morning, the drama, beauty and character of this setting is a remarkable experience. I think of John Muir’s words, “These beautiful days must enrich all my life. They do not exist as mere pictures . . but they saturate themselves into every part of the body and live always.”
Two boaters prepare to leave the boat ramp. A cyclist rumbles past me, shaking the bridge. A line of Canada Geese swim quietly past the boat launch ramp. Then four more geese fly in from the East breaking the silence as sounds of their honking carries in the wind. They fly by quickly at such a high altitude, I am imagining they have a distant destination in mind.
Eight pigeons arrive for their morning rotations over the bridge. A single bird perched on the bridge truss frame sings its good morning song, Ti Too, Ti Too. I see this bird often. The frame is one of its favorite morning spots.
Dense clouds remain unchanged as the sky brightens. When the sun appears, I watch a pale yellow glow fade behind the dense cloud cover. As I watch the sky, an Egret comes into view, extending its long, silky wings to fly under Fair Oaks Bridge and land on the south shore about 100 yards west. It patrols the riverbank a few minutes and then disappears as it flies further downriver. Egrets always fly low under the bridge. Rare when I see an Egret fly over at a higher elevation as the ducks and geese.
This glorious sunrise began before I arrived on Fair Oaks Bridge and continued for more than an hour as I watched and photographed until the sun rose above heavy cloud cover. Enjoy a series of photos shown in progression as the sun light emerged and clouds and sky changed colors. Watch for the the golden rays of sunlight shining down on adjoining neighborhoods and reflected in the American River.