Discusses the curious qualities of Canada Geese and ducks as they relate to each other through their unique style of communication. And the idea that their lives are far less hurried than that of the people who watch them.
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.
Saturday, July 22, 2017 7 am 68 degrees
I hear what sounds like a foghorn repeated three times as I sit on Fair Oaks Bridge. What is that sound? Where is it coming from?
At Jim’s Bridge a few ducks are swimming and scavenging. I pass them by and ride on to the boat launch ramp where all is quiet. One woman stands in a boat in the middle of the river channel and casts her fishing line. Birds are calling their morning song, even though I cannot see even one. I hear a chorus of tweets and rattles. Pigeons roost on Fair Oaks Bridge.
One Mallard approaches me waiting to receive handfuls of breakfast treats. As it poses for me and waits for a bite to eat, we both hear a quack in the distance. The duck raises it neck and listens for the sound. After a few minutes of waiting for me to throw food and discovering, I have none to give, the duck wanders back into the water.
Another day at the river without even a strip of white clouds in the sky. Looking carefully, I see faint wisps of white, as if an artist used a very dry brush on a pale blue canvas. I hear a chicken call from the distance. The calm waters enhance this peaceful scene. Out of the quiet, a cyclist at high speed races by, rumbling across the bridge deck as he passes.
Half dozen Canada Geese patrol a distant shore. Still no Egrets. No Great Blue Heron. I search for them every time I come and they must have gone elsewhere where food supply is plentiful. No turtles today hanging out on a branch to sunbathe.
I hear a persistent cough coming from an unseen person hiding on the riverbank directly under the bridge. I have heard these coughs several times during morning visits to the bridge and rarely see the source.
The sun is high in the sky. The morning temperature is still cool. I ride west on the American River Parkway to my usual morning stopping point – a picnic bench on a bluff overlooking sandbars on the river. No waterfowl there. No cyclists on the bike trail yet.
On my ride home I look for the tall and long dead tree where woodpecker families call home. I see a family of four flying from one branch to another, sitting, drumming, joining others, flying off again, sitting in a line. I focus in for a photo and they fly away again.
Thursday, June 28, 2018, 830 am 68 degrees
A lazy river moves gently down stream today.
Light breeze, warm sun. I watch a line of Canada Geese swim slowly and quietly across the American River. Leaves fallen from trees on the riverbank float in the water. Other leaves flutter through the air and land softly on the deck of Fair Oaks Bridge.
A man in a kayak floats under the bridge from the west. A boat launches from the ramp on the east side of the bridge. Not a cloud anywhere.
This morning I joined the Walking Sticks for a short walk to the bridge. They crossed Fair Oaks Bridge and kept on walking. I stopped to enjoy the peaceful moments of this beautiful morning on the river. The water glistens with silver tips. I watch the sparkling patterns on the water change as it moves under the bridge. I hear birds twitter in the trees nearby. Then the hoot of an owl…or is it a Morning Dove greeting the new day?
I am surprised to see even the cyclists are moving slowly.
Friday December 7, 2018 710 am, 38 degrees
Chickens are quiet in Fair Oaks parks. None of them are out searching for food on Bridge Street. Birds whistle and chirp, hidden in trees near Fair Oaks Bridge. Ice clings loosely to the car windshield. I wear my hooded jacket, leggings and gloves.
Heavy mist hangs in the air as if suspended by invisible wires. The blanket of mist begins behind a curve in the river corridor at far right of photo. Ducks create their own wake as they swim in the still water. I hear the call of a seagull in the distance. So few of them are watching and waiting near the boat launch ramp. I have seen far less salmon this year than last year or the year before.
I watch the mist cloud roll slowly forward along the surface as waves gently cover the shoreline at a beach.
Thin strips of golden clouds line the sky just above the emerging yellow sun. Bridge deck is dry even though the air is filled with moisture. Strips of water crossing the deck marking the site of upright posts is the only clue of moisture in the air. A dozen cyclists pass by. No walkers. I walk to the boat launch ramp to enjoy a closer view of the ducks and random seagulls flying in.
I see a Bufflehead swimming in the center of the river. Then three appear, swimming together in the swirling mist. Another bird calls. Scattered clouds in the eastern sky form the shape of a cyclone in the sky on this peaceful morning.
Saturday, March 16, 2019, 710 am, 41 degrees
Entering the bridge, I look around and wonder where are the pigeons? I cannot remember the last time a dozen of them were perched on the overhead bridge truss to rest. Today I hear one coo and see none. Pigeons have always been the first birds to arrive, dancing in the sky, circling several times over the bridge before landing.
Not a single spider web stretches across the bridge side rails. I wonder where have the spiders gone?
Grass still grows through the deck boards. A duck flies solo under the bridge, as two airplanes let out a jet trail of smoke behind them as if they are drawing a long, then stripe on a blue chalkboard in the sky. A few runners pass, people walking their dogs and two cyclists speed by. The morning is so quiet I hear the sound of a vehicle driving over the gravel in the boat ramp parking lot. The air is chilly with no breeze. Occasionally I see my breath float above me into the air. The sky is pale blue without no clouds. Far different from the day before when white stripes, tinged with gold crossed the sky.
Standing at the boat launch ramp, I to see a group of eight ducks swimming toward the ramp. Suddenly most of them dive and disappear. They reappear, and as if they were on cue, rise up at precisely the same moment, flying low and swift to disappear around the river bend. One lone Canada Goose stands at the foot of the ramp, watching, waiting, or maybe wondering.
When I walk back on the bridge, I see a goose standing on the top of the truss. Rare to see waterfowl fly and rest on the top. I walk further and there is a goose resting on a pier. However, it makes a quick exit when two other loudly honking geese arrive and land on the pier and rest comfortably. Apparently, the pier is not big enough for three.
Two geese on the pillar continue to whisper. I wonder what they could be thinking about the conflict at the riverbank from their vantage point?
Eight Canada Geese arguing over territory shatter the silent morning. On the south riverbank, geese are honking and flapping wings and chasing the intruding geese away – first off a small spot of land and then shooing them away in the river. This continues until the geese split up. Some stand on the riverbank. Others swim alone in the river.
The sun sits far above the trees now. All hint of mist on the river has vanished. More ducks have come to dunk and search for breakfast. The two Canada Geese on the pier stand quietly, engaging in morning cleaning rituals, watching, resting and enjoying a panoramic river of the American River.
Saturday March 7, 2020 630 am
This morning was another busy day at Fair Oaks Bridge. A dozen geese flew in honking and circling. One landed on the concrete pillar. Didn’t stay long. Did not like being watched. The relentless quacking duck was there too. I could not see her. A chorus of birds sang in the trees behind the boat launch ramp for at least 10 minutes.
Suddenly, it got very quiet. I saw about 50 birds fly up and away out of the trees and over the bridge.