As I arrive on my bike at the Fair Oaks Bridge, I see a flock of 50 seagulls gather on the north side of the river. More fly in to join them.
Seagulls gather at two prime locations along the river waiting for their chance to nibble on remnants of salmon after spawning. Turkey vultures circle overhead. All looking for salmon.
The river’s resident egret flies in, squawks and lands on the smooth riverbank searching for food. The wildlife living at the American River are left alone with no fishing allowed. A few salmon jump and splash down. A warm day for riding, despite the cloud cover.
I wonder is the fish ladder open yet? I ride to the Nimbus Fish Hatchery to find out. Yes! Salmon have returned home. Salmon are leaping into the ladder from the open gate. A group of salmon all already crowding the holding tank at the top of the fish ladder – the last stop before salmon move into the hatchery for spawning. Crowds of people line the fish ladder to watch each salmon leap each one level upward and capture the moments in photos.Read more
I pass by two ducks on a walk for food during a short bike ride on the American River Parkway. They stop to investigate what morsels they find in the dirt. Finding nothing, they cross the path. I continue to monitor the river to see what waterfowl have returned. The river is still too deep and the search for food remains a challenge.
Decaying salmon provide food for seagulls on the American River.
When riding my bike along the American River Parkway bicycle trail, I walked down to the sandy shore of the American River at the San Juan Rapids. I watched two seagulls perched on an island sits at the edge of the. One seagull fiercely guards a dead salmon. Occasionally, the gull pulls a nibble of meat off the badly decayed fish. Five yards away sits another gull, alone, watching without food. I wonder what this second one could be thinking, knowing the other seagull is guarding a feast enough to feed half dozen gulls.
The winds shift suddenly and the air carries the smell of rotting salmon. The familiar scent has brought vultures to check out the scene. Two circle in the pale blue sky, set against of background of blue and gray puffy clouds.
I see a flock of Canada Geese fly in 100 yards downriver and take their places along the riverbank. Two Mallards swim by me. More seagulls arrive to float on the water. How could there be so much salmon and almost none of them jump out of the water? This is my puzzle for today as I leave the American River Parkway and return home.
A warm afternoon and ideal weather for a bike ride.
One of the best viewing spots to see seagulls waiting and salmon jumping is about a mile east of Fair Oaks Bridge, where the American River Parkway bicycle trail meets a paved road leading to a picnic area overlooking the river. I often visit here to watch the fishermen, the seagulls and ducks at play. As I arrived, I saw a fisherman walked toward me carrying a large salmon laying in his net that I estimated weighed between 25-30 pounds.
Thirty seagulls were gathered on the island in the center of the river. All waiting and watching for a tasty salmon meal. Last year when I visited this spot during prime season, I counted 100 seagulls gathered at the island. Today a dozen turkey vultures circle over my head. I only see vultures flying overhead during the fall run of salmon.
Suddenly all of them flapped their wings and lifted into the sky. The seagulls flew so high, they looked like glittering white stars, blended in with a few black dots that were the vultures.
The seagulls flew in circles for two minutes until the entire flock flew west and vanished from sight. A dozen of them returned minutes later. A dozen Canada Geese flew in, honking loudly as they arrived and landed with a loud splash all at once close to the north shore.
A single fishing boat floats leisurely in the water. Men periodically check their lines Occasionally, I hear a “plop” as a stray salmon lifts is head above the water and quickly falls back down. More seagulls arrive at the island.
I rode back towards home looking for more gulls flying around the river. Salmon remain hiding underwater.
Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 2017, 9 am 57 degrees
People of all ages enjoy a morning outdoors on Fair Oaks Bridge.
Families are out walking, joggers shake the bridge as they pass and I hear cyclists on the American River Parkway less than 100 yards away. The air is warm, with no breeze, yet filled with the calls of birds hidden in trees that hug the riverbanks. With heavy cloud cover, the sun barely shines through.
People climb the Fair Oaks Bluffs to enjoy the panoramic views, cross the bridge, stop to enjoy the river and see the wildlife at play and at work.
Seagulls call as they fly over the river, some landing in the water to call again. One bird song reminds me of a calliope with its high pitched whoop. Buffleheads skirt the water, leaving ripples as they rise out of the water and fly low across the river. Watching the river all year long, I only see these daring little ducks in fall and early winter. I presume they live somewhere else during other parts of the year.
Do birds know today is a holiday for people because we show up in larger numbers than other days?
This looks like one more workday for them in their ongoing search to find breakfast. A woman arrives on the boat launch ramp to throw seeds. Nearly 20 birds and waterfowl rush to get their share. Seagulls call out to each other. One gull lands in the river to nibble at a dead salmon floating slowly downriver. A very busy day on the American River.