Two fishing boats sit waiting in the water on this chilly first day of the year.An Egret flies in from the west and settles briefly on the riverbank before flying to its next stop upriver. A few Buffleheads swim in the center of the river corridor. The resident Mallards stay close to shore.
The true highlight of this New Year’s morning is the resident chickens celebrating with songs and a small parade to greet the day.
I hear their loud chorus on Bridge Street from the middle of Fair Oaks Bridge. Two fluffy chickens roam the street. A rooster is perched high in tree branches and another sings loudly while completely unseen. Their chorus goes on and on all the time I stand at the bridge.
I rush to Fair Oaks Bridge this morning expecting to see it covered in fog. No hint of fog and very little mist on the water. Instead I enjoy a pale yellow sunrise masked behind dense strips of white clouds.
Minutes after I arrive on the bridge, a crowd of cyclists rumble past me riding from the bicycle trail on the American River Parkway on their way to Fair Oaks Village. A few walkers pass by enjoying the cool morning. Birds twitter unseen in the distance.
I hear the sounds of Canada Geese honking far off in the distance east of the bridge. What sounds like the whistle of a train echoes immediately west of Fair Oaks Bridge. Intervals between the “call and response” echo of the geese and the train get shorter and shorter, until they are both honking and blowing very loudly at the same time. Two geese finally arrive and continue honking as they fly over the bridge.
A gentle wind blows against my face. I expected the air to be far colder, dressing in leggings, jeans, sweater, jacket and gloves. Instead the air feels warm. The sun slowly emerges from behind heavily blanketed cloud cover to reveal a glowing yellow fiery ball of light. The train whistle continues and the Canada Geese keep up their honking as they swim across the river channel. What a noisy morning! I always wonder what are these geese saying to each other?
A few more walkers pass. Another lone cyclist rides on. I walk to the boat launch ramp to get a closer look at the wildlife. All is quiet here. Three ducks walk up the boat launch ramp. I have no food to serve them.. The same noisy pair of Canada Geese swam over to dunk for breakfast.
Diving ducks swim calmly in the center of the American River. Now you see them. Now you don’t. When you do see them again, they have surfaced somewhere else.
Swiftly moving water under a densely clouded sky and bitter cold are my morning greetings. Whoosh! Whoosh! Is what I hear as the water bubbles and swirls under Fair Oaks Bridge.
Walkers and runners dressed in warm layered clothing engage in their own conversation as they pass facing forward without stopping for a second to look left to right. A single bird calls. I hear honking Canada Geese in far off in the distance and then they quiet down, still unseen. The waterfowl are still hiding so far. Two ducks flap their wings on the riverbank to my left (north). Most have left the area for calmer and shallow water.
Folsom Dam releases water in response to recent storms. Water rushes through the Lower American River and through the gates of Nimbus Dam. The water level under Jim’s Bridge half a mile downriver appears only a foot or two below the deck. I suspect with more storms, the entire bridge may temporarily disappear under the river.
This activity or the absence of it, is common for winter on the river. All spider webs are washed clean. Grass grows between every board on the bridge deck from one end of the bridge to the other side. When was the last time I saw turtles sunbathing on the river? The long branch that extends from the riverbank over the river just under the bridge is empty. Where did the turtles go?
A single bird calls. I hear the sound of Canada Geese honking in the wind and then silence. They remain unseen. Wildlife hide in nests safely away from the rising river. All spider webs have vanished. Do not remember the last time I saw turtles on the fallen branch that rests directly under Fair Oaks Bridge. As I stand observing the river, a succession of runners dressed in red t-shirts, all ages from new parents to older adults walk and run in training for a run.
At the boat launch ramp, resident ducks and Canada Geese search for tidbits of food. They find little – all washed away by the rain.
A beautiful day with clouds in shades of gray and puffy white set against a clear sky blue background. The wind chills my hands and face. No chickens run anywhere near the bridge. I stand briefly on Fair Oaks Bridge. No wildlife on the scene as water rushes down the river, flooding riverbanks even more than yesterday.
I walk to the boat launch ramp where a gathering of Mallards and Canada Geese are scavenging. Today I see a duck limping and wonder if this is the same duck I photographed months ago. The non-stop quacking female duck I met a year ago is also part of the group. She carries on for 10 minutes. First she listens. Then she talks. What could she be saying – “Where are you anyway?” “What took you so long? You were supposed to be here for breakfast?”
She calls the male duck swimming in the water and they quack together in harmony and a quick call and response. Her whole body shakes as she sings her song. Eventually she tires of this distant conversation, flies off the boat ramp to swim downriver and continues to quack on.
Flooded riverbanks and trails cut the rest of my walk short. Notice “in standing water” location of the No Bicycles marker for the horse trail and new pond in the middle of the walking trail.
On this chilly morning, I am alone to listen to the gentle sounds of birds waking up the morning with songs. Again, I hear the female Mallard I hear many days at Fair Oaks Bridge. Wonder what she could be quacking about this time?
Walking to the boat launch ramp, I see the water level continues to expand beyond its usual boarders at the riverbank. The bike path is closed at the parking lot near the boat launch ramp.
The Muscovy duck and a partner walk up the ramp expecting food when they see me. They quietly turn to face the river and ponder where to go next. It seems that they are staring at the swollen river and bare riverbanks and left wondering. Then with a great whoosh of feathers, both ducks rise up and fly to the other side where they vanish from sight.
Two Canada Geese arrive, skidding into the river before approaching the boat ramp. Shortly after the first geese arrive, two more arrive, honking wildly.
The first two quickly argue with the new arrivals, flap their wings and squawk. The intruders get the message to scram and fly away in an angry huff, honking all the way.
Finding nothing to eat at the ramp, the geese approach me expecting a handout. I have nothing to share. More geese fly in heard and unseen. I hear two Canada Geese honking behind me. They round the bend of the river unseen, honking loudly. One duck sits in the middle of the river corridor and lets the rapid current carry it downstream and under the Fair Oaks Bridge. Another arrives minutes later, dives, pops back up and continues its floating adventure downstream.
The natural world has its own rhythms and it teaches us to be patient. Nature is no hurry.
Even as I stand and listen to the swoosh of swiftly moving water, the ongoing buzz of traffic from Sunrise Blvd. bridge and the occasional honking of Canada Geese in the distance, the setting is still peaceful and quiet. No chilling wind blows on my face. I stay standing on the boat ramp looking and listening. I stand still to allow this peaceful experience to enter my body and relax the tenseness and the stress that lies within.
The boat launch ramp nearby Fair Oaks Bridge has its own stories. Featured below are photos taken before and after the rain. Together they reveal a small part of the stories of this place.
This is where visitors feed ducks and I watch them play, dunk, wash and search for bits of food. Fishermen launch their fishing boats here and others climb into their rafts for a ride on the river. I often see people come to sit on the bench, or park their car to watch and enjoy this peaceful setting. This is the ideal vantage point for all my bridge photos.
I often mention this ramp in blog posts because it is the site for so much activity watching ducks, Canada Geese and seagulls. They search for food, they argue, they shout and listen for others to join them.
Flooded boat launch photo taken from Fair Oaks Bridge in between rainstorms after large releases of water rushed down the American River. Two other photos shown were taken in early February.
A cold and very frosty morning! Slipper ice lines the deck of the bridge.
Sunrise emerges behind clouds that envelop the sky in a huge, gray blanket. A quiet and peaceful morning. A few walkers are out and we are all bundled in jackets and gloves.
I hear birds and wildlife that remain unseen. The river seems lower than this morning – water is periodically being released from Folsom and Nimbus Dams during winter rains raising the level of the river and expanding it on the riverbanks and up the boat launch ramp. I hear the sound of the water and the wind as my face is chilled in the morning air.
During walks on Fair Oaks Bridge and along the American River Parkway I enjoy taking note of how visitors mark memories of this beautiful place. I also caught a rare close up of a squirrel pausing long enough while eating to pose for this photo.