Graceful Flights and Duck Fights

     Thursday, September 29, 2016, 6:45 am, 55 degrees

I arrive greeted by a chorus of roosters singing together all from distant trees. They were all waking at the same time and answering all at once. Cooler today. 55 degrees. I wear my denim jacket to keep the chill off my arms.

American River, sunrise, fisherman, salmon, fishing, sunriseMorning sky is awash with scattered clouds. The pale pink of sunrise is emerging over distant trees. Two boats sit in the water. Fishermen cast their lines and wait. Many of the same walkers come by every morning. I recognize some of them. Two women with hats and one of them wears a warm woolen cape.

A flock of 30 pigeons circles a dozen times around the bridge. They are so close I can hear the flapping of their wings. I wonder if they warm  their bodies by flying so fast? After many flyovers, they settle on the bridge to sleep with their heads tucked under their wing.

The sun rises above the trees with a deep orange glow that expands slowly across the sky.Read more

Great Day for a Leisurely Swim or Dip!

  Monday, October 3, 2016, 6 pm, 70 degrees

The sky is covered with what looks like strips of pale blue and white cotton candy. At 6 pm, no sun to be found. The air feels cool and I wear my zip up hooded sweatshirt.

No birds are out. A few ducks are out for a leisurely swim. I hear splashes in the water and look to the sound and see rings of concentric circles. Must have been a salmon jumped out and dove back in quickly. Since my last visit I see that rain has fallen on the bridge. The intricate networks of spider webs and flytraps are washed clean away off the bridge upright and cross beams. Not a trace is left. The air is heavy with the scent of moist dirt, yet clean and refreshed by gentle rain.

ducks, swim, swimming, American River, Fair Oaks BridgeTwo boats and a kayak sit in the water. A few cyclists pass and some walkers out for a evening stretch before sunset. I walk to the boat launch ramp and the ducks see me coming. Today I have no bread to throw.

A dozen ducks gather and walk up the ramp and wait. They look at me impatiently as if to say, “Where is the food?”

After a few minutes when they realize no food is coming, they all retreat back into the water. In minutes some have disappeared to hiding places on either side of the ramp. The dabblers decide to find food on their own.Read more

Chilly Mornings, Shorter Days and Beautiful Sunrises

    Tuesday, October 4, 2016, 635 am

Fair Oaks Bridge, American River, water, sunrise, morning, colors, pinkClouds that blanketed the sky last night are gone. A few scattered brush strokes of color hang in the sky glowing with morning light as the sun rises behind them.

I left home at 635 and see brightness to the west just now rising over neighboring trees. Streets are dark. My car windshield is covered with drops from misty air. I wear my hooded sweatshirt again this morning, long pants and warm socks. This morning’s temperature is 51 degrees. I drive with headlights into the Village. In the 10 minutes it takes me to reach the bridge, the sky is bright and daylight fills the sky. All traces of night have vanished.Read more

So Much of Nature’s Beauty!

   Sunday, October 9, 2016, 8:40 am

This morning I ride to the Fair Oaks Bridge, waiting until 8:40 when the day warms up a little more. The air blows cold against my face and I wear long riding pants and a sweatshirt. Boats are abundant this morning – nine on the west side of the bridge and three more on the east side. Seagulls are still on watch.

river1, American River, Fair Oaks, salmon, ducks, fisherman, nature,beauty Today I ride east – toward the Nimbus Fish Hatchery – on the Jedediah Smith memorial Trail that lies within the American River ParkwayA beautiful day to be at the river!

The photo shows the river as a silent pool in the foreground and fast moving rapids in the background divided by a narrow wall of rocks. Fishermen stand on the opposite riverbank – as they do many days this time of year when the salmon return home.

I wonder how many different species of wildlife – birds, waterfowl and insects live along this river? I have seen snakes, coyotes, wild turkeys, squirrels, deer and rabbits.

Fair Oaks bridge is home to both spiders and pigeons. Roosters hide in trees in Fair Oaks Village and on the banks of the river.  I keep searching the trees to find the singing roosters.  Haven’t find them yet.

Fallen logs are great places to hide. Still looking for the river otter family that lives near the fallen log near the bridge.  I can only guess that the river with its varying depths is home to frogs and crabs in addition to the ducks and Canada Geese I see daily.  Several places along the river, islands sit in the middle as a resting place for ducks and geese.  The birds and the fisherman know the shallow areas of the river lined with gravel are ideal spawning beds for Chinook Salmon.

Hundreds of cyclists and dozens of walkers are on the trail today. A line of six inline skaters roll past me.

So many sights, sounds and discoveries on this short section of the 33-mile long trail.

Preparing for Salmon to Return Home

   Tuesday October 11, 2016 – part one, 52 degrees

A beautiful fall morning of 52 degrees – a chilly wind greets me and I am glad to be wearing a sweatshirt as I ride to the Fair Oaks Bridge and along the bike trail. Only one fishing boat is left in the river. The shadows are changing and the sun bright. Ducks swim leisurely in the river. I pass by several scenic picnic areas that face the river. This overlook is a walk to river. Always crowded with fishermen. Even the pigeons know its fall and salmon are coming.

salmon, American River, spawn
Soon salmon will be jumping in the fish ladder.

I ride to the Nimbus Fish Hatchery to see the weir that blocks the river so salmon are forced up into the fish ladder. By November, thousands of salmon will be leaping up the ladder.  Soon hundreds of students and families will have line the fish ladder watching the spectacle, with their chorus of “oohs” and “aaah” and “wow!

As a former tour guide, I asked students, “How high does a salmon jump?” “Why do we have dams?” and “How can we help keep the river a healthy place for salmon and other fish and wildlife to live?”

“Will this year be a good Chinook Salmon run?” is what CA Dept of Wildlife staff may be wondering. “What impact will the drought have on this year’s salmon run?” “Is the water too shallow?” “Too warm?” “Too acidic?” “Will enough eggs survive to continue the species?”

Continued in part two

What Lies Ahead for Wildlife of the River?

  Tuesday, October 11, 2016 – part two

duckfamilyAs I stand looking at the river, I see a man that could be a grandfather walking with his young grandson. My mind instantly wanders. I wonder what lies ahead for salmon in this boy’s lifetime? What is the future for all wildlife that depends on the health of the American River – and rivers everywhere when the morning begins as a new day.

I see cyclists crossing the Hazel Avenue Bridge – a newly expanded and modernized bridge to accommodate additional cars. I see a complex network of structures – a bridge for cars and bicycle trails, the dam on one side and the weir on the other. Looking at this network reminds me that I am still in an urban area congested with traffic, people, businesses, retailers and a host of other community services and amenities. This place is less than 20 miles from city, county and state government leaders who make long term decisions that affect the health of this river and all other California rivers.

 

These intersections on the river where salmon come home, cyclists ride, and people drive, is part of the larger story of our environmental challenges – water supply, climate change, urbanization, noise and sustaining healthy habitats.  Yet, here where the salmon come home presents so many opportunities to inform, educate and inspire positive change.

Watching Wildlife

Saturday, October 22, 2016

As I approach the bridge this late afternoon, a large family poses for photos using the bridge and river as a scenic backdrop. The young women spend more of their time running after the littlest ones who are far more interested in running across the bridge, and petting dogs walking with their owners.

The sun hides behind a dense cloud cover. Fishermen in boats are waiting, kayaks launch and children enjoy feeding ducks on the boat launch ramp. Other people stand on the bridge watching the fisherman.

The evening always brings out people to enjoy the river and watch wildlife, boats and the setting sun from the bridge.

A few years ago various groups and individuals regularly enjoyed picnics on the bridge to sit and watch the moon rise and the sun set. I rarely see people picnic on the bridge. Many walkers, very few “sitters.”

woodpeckerRiding along the parkway this afternoon, I heard the distinctive sound of a woodpecker working in a nearby tree and stopped to watch. We may call it pecking. Officially, woodpeckers “drum.”  I watched the woodpecker at work near the top of the tree for several minutes until it decided to fly across the road to another tree.Read more

Rainsticks Really Sound Like Rain!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016, 7:15 am, 58 degrees

Despite the gentle rain, roosters are conducting their morning concert. They are still singing when I arrive. They crow hiding in trees from a distance of several blocks.

salmon, Canada Geese, American RiverPigeons circle the bridge. An egret begins its usual lone morning walk along the shore beginning at the boat ramp.  While standing at the boat launch ramp, my daughter and I see a goose with a cocked feather. We have seen this one before. We know these geese call this part of the river their home.

Ducks arrive quietly for their leisurely morning swim. Turkey vultures are sitting on the edge of branches at the tops of trees. Geese are busy eating the remains of a salmon. More Canada geese fly in. None of the waterfowl appear to notice the gentle rain as it falls on their backs and drops into the river.Read more

Waterfowl and Birds Soar Over the River

 October 25, 2016 – part two, 11 am, 68 degrees

Drizzle rain stops and starts again. Still very few people outside at 11 am. A warm rain. River is very quiet with cloudy skies and no rain. Ducks search the river for food, wings flap. Faint quacks. Canada geese change position and fly away. A cloudy sky and all is quiet. Boaters sit calmly in the water. The gentle, nourishing rain is a refreshing and welcome change.

Earlier boaters in their rain jackets have sped away heading east toward the weir positioned at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery where the salmon converge to spawn – either in the river or inside the hatchery. Birds patrol the sky. Turkey vultures wait patiently, ready to pounce on whatever has died. I find salmon heads cast off into the rocks. Soon these remains will be consumed by hungry turkey vultures, seagull or other wildlife that find them first.

ducks, American River, raindropsCanada Geese, pigeons, boat launch ramp, American River, Fair Oaks, mornings

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Great Blue Heron Meets Flight of Canada Geese

American River, sunrise, mist, morning, wildlife, Great Blue Heron, Canada GeeseWednesday, October 26, 2016, 710 am, 54 degrees

By the time I park the car, daylight has filled the sky and clouds are gone – all except a few random patches and streaks.  Have not seen the moon from the bridge for many days. Each morning there is so much cloud cover. There is no moon  today.

It is cool and misty outside. I wear a warm, hooded sweatshirt. My car windows are fogged – as they are every morning. I wipe the windows before leaving home and turn on the defroster.

On my walk to the bridge, I am welcomed by the morning concert from roosters in their usual places – hiding in trees. For the unaware visitor, it appears that trees talk. Without shaking a leaf, the roosters perch on a branch and sing. One lonely and very scrawny chicken emerges from a side street and sings a scratchy song for anyone to hear.Read more