Everyone Waits for Salmon to Arrive

Wednesday, October 31, 2018   730 am, 44 degree

            I opened my front door to see the end of the brilliant pink strips of sunrise just before they faded to gray. By the time I reached Fair Oaks Bridge, bright white and scattered clouds showed no sign of the intense colors they held only moments before. The sun was already shining yellow over the horizon.  Today the chilly air feels heavy with moisture.

Today is the final day of fishing in this part of the American River for the rest of the year. I saw so no one catch salmon and missed their leaps high enough out of the water to be seen. I missed seeing their struggles to set themselves free – seeing only a few random splashes instead.

Other bridge visitors told me that salmon were swimming out in the river, but more of them had already reached the weir at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery. I will be looking for leaping salmon at “the narrows,” passage upriver in November during the heaviest part of the fall run.

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On this last day of fishing for 2018, this fishermen sits in one of a dozen boats lining the American River and around the bend. Ducks swim peacefully through the still water, reflecting the Fair Oaks Bridge.
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Feather arrow clouds extend across the sky



I am surprised there is still no scent of decaying salmon. Nearly 100 seagulls gather and wait in the American River and on the sandbar a mile east of Fair Oaks Bridge. I watch and wonder when will the salmon show themselves?

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Hungry seagulls wait for salmon to arrive
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Great Blue Heron studies the river

Great Blue Heron Stands Alone

Friday November 9, 2018 930 am

peaceful, Great Blue Heron, American River, mornings, Fair Oaks Bridge, beauty, wildlifeThe Great Blue Heron poses like a statue in the American River. It stood on the stub of a branch before I arrived and continued to pose and study the river long after I walked off Fair Oaks Bridge. Water is still. The sky pale blue and clear. Not a wisp of a cloud. A dozen ducks swim by, creating their own wake. Pigeons fly in dancing over the bridge and quickly depart.

I walk to the boat launch ramp and see the ducks gather at the end of the ramp, looking at me with curiosity. They are likely wondering, Do you have food for us? I have no food to share. I hear an unseen woodpecker softly drumming on a nearby tree.

This peaceful place is an escape from other crises of the day. As I stand here and enjoy its beauty, catastrophic wildfires consume other areas of California – places of peace, joy and beauty where people and wildlife have lived and loved for years.

A Quiet Swim

Saturday, November 3, 2018 730 am 55 degrees

Fair Oaks Bridge, Fair Oaks, American River, water, mornings, nature, outdoors, writing, clouds, reflection, sunAll is quiet this morning. Boats are gone. Phoebe calls from the top of Fair Oaks Bridge. I finally identified the bird that greets me with Ti Too! Ti Too! I stand in the cool, moist air with no breeze. My hands are chilled. White clouds scatter across the sky reminding me of spilled milk. Clouds reflect in the American River. My camera’s eye sees the reflections more clearly than mine. Occasionally I hear a splash and look to see the concentric circles in the river – the sign of a salmon leap.

Where are the Buffleheads? I have yet to see even one swim through the center of the river channel, diving for breakfast.

A few ducks and a single Canada Goose swim downriver. Their wake extends half way across the river. Five Canada Geese fly silently overhead heading west. Then the Phoebe calls again. It is the only sound this morning besides the hum of Sunrise Blvd. traffic about half mile to the west.


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In the Quiet Smoky Haze

Friday November 16, 2018, 730 am, 40 degrees

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Layer of frost covers the deck, soon melted by warm sunlight.

Quiet river. Smoky haze. Gray sky features a hint of blue. Chilly air. 

Chickens roam Bridge Street searching for breakfast. One lone gull swims through the river, calling out to anyone to hear. So far, the gull is the only sign of wildlife this morning. A few walkers leave Fair Oaks Bridge as I walk. No one else approaches. No cyclists this morning. I walk the deck of the bridge and see no spider webs. As I walk farther across the deck, I see it coated with frost, thick enough to be slippery and marked with footprints. As I stand and write my observations, the frost is already disappearing.

I walk to the boat launch ramp where three ducks are gathered. Within a minute, two more fly in. Then two more arrive, and then four more. All of them swimming alongside the boat ramp dunking, washing, stretching and searching for breakfast. These ducks live here all year round. The Muscovy duck arrived at least a year ago and stays with the group.

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A lonely seagull calls out for a friend to join. No one answers and it flies away.

Standing on the boat ramp, it seems that the sky has cleared, I see a deep blue sky. From another vantage point, looking around the bend in the river, the smoky haze sits above the water.

The lone seagull stretches its neck one more time and calls out. No gull answers. I imagine it calling, “No one else is here. There is no food. I am leaving.” The gull flies west and vanishes.

Minutes later, flying in from the east, another gull appears to join the ducks. It lands in the water, then flies to circles the river channel, calls out and lands again.

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First sighting this season of these new arrivals

Looking into the center of the river channel, I saw for the first time this season, small black ducks. Are they Buffleheads? They do not have the same characteristic white spot. They swim in groups of two, diving in the water and reappearing 20 yards away, over and again. All at once, eight of them fly over the river and land nearby Fair Oaks Bridge. A minute later, the ducks rise up and fly back to where they were. From a distance, I hear one Quack, Quack.

The water calm. No other walkers or cyclists, no boaters and few wildlife. I do not see dead salmon laying in the river or near the riverbank, and still wonder where are they?

Morning Mist Returns to the American River

Monday, November 19, 2018, 650 am, 31 degrees

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Sunrise on the American River at Fair Oaks Bluff

Water is completely still. The mist seems to have absorbed some of the smoke. Scattered bright white cloud cover resembles strands of spun gold reflected in the emerging sunlight. Clouds of mist begin around the bend to the east and roll slowly west across the surface of the river. In my full hour out here, I see one walker and one cyclist. Fair Oaks Bridge deck does not look frosty, yet it is still slippery in places. I wear my hooded jacket and wear warm gloves.

I walk down to the boat launch ramp to watch the mist as it rolls under the bridge. A lone seagull flies overhead. One Mallard swims along the ramp calling good morning with a few quiet Quack, Quack! Likely wondering if I brought breakfast. One year ago I took similar photos at this place on the ramp – now one of them is the front cover of Mornings on Fair Oaks Bridge: Watching Wildlife at the Lower American River .

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This is the season to experience the most beautiful and peaceful mornings on the American River.

As I stand and watch the mist roll across the river and rise as it goes under the bridge, a Great Blue Heron arrives. It sounds its characteristic good morning chortle and continues its flight east.

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Mist continues to roll across the American River at Fair Oaks Bluff

The pale blue sky covered by strips of white clouds gives no hint of the smoke that blanketed skies across the region through the week. Another seagull flies over. Four ducks emerge from the riverbank. I hear a bird call from a distance. Early morning mist continues to roll slowly across the surface of the river, enveloping the corridor in a blanket of white.