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.

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

Active Day for Wildlife

Saturday, November 12, 2016, 730 am 54 degrees

I love to hear roosters sing in the morning as I drive into Fair Oaks Village! No better wake up call.

Arriving at 730 is still early. Yet with Pacific Standard Time, I still feel like the morning activities are an hour later. I doubt the roosters know the difference. The sun is far above the horizon. The temperature is still 54 degrees and feels warm.

The little bird that used to greet me each morning with “ti too, ti too” has returned for a brief good morning greeting – it stays two minutes and flies away.

The sun shines brightly on the bridge deck already this morning. I  always watch the changing shadows on the bridge as the sun moves over.  Air feels fresh and crisp. Today, unlike other days, the bridge deck and rails are completely dry. Not a drop of moisture anywhere.

Canada Goose, ducks, swim, American River, Fair Oaks Bridge,morning
Diving for breakfast at the American River

River is still as can be. A few ducks swim slowly through the water. I find random spider webs attached to the bridge rails. Occasionally a salmon leaps high to form a series of ever expanding concentric circles, as if a pebble dropped into the river. Seagulls call in the distance. Ducks fly in and land as if they are on water skis. Canada Geese fly in from the east and fly under the bridge honking until they glide in for a landing. A Great Blue Heron flies in to sit on a rock at the edge of the water.

The buzz of a motorcycle carries for a mile in the wind. When cyclists cross the bridge, it sounds the same as a car’s flat tire, bump, bump, bumping over the deck. The morning has warmed to 58 degrees by the time I return to my car at 820. The roosters have flown into the streets and the park to sing their good morning songs.

New Visitors to the River

Thursday December 1, 2016   8:25 am 42 degrees

The sun is high in the sky and white puffy clouds sit along the top edges of distant trees. On my way to the bridge, I see two squirrels playing hide and seek as they dance in circles around a palm tree at the curb. Their sharp claws gripped the jagged trunk. I hear so much chatter from the tree to my left as I walk on to the bridge. Small birds chirp, flap and fly from branch to branch.

A squirrel darts up and down the trunk. I have seen this squirrel-bird conflict in other trees and I wonder if they are naturally unfriendly to each other? Are the birds defending their tree? Are they demanding the squirrel stop shaking the branches as it searches for acorns?Read more

Wildlife Returns to the River

Friday, March 3,  645 am 41 degrees

The American River is quiet once again after one of the wettest winters in 20 years.

Birds are twittering in distant trees. The entire boat launch ramp is visible, except for a wide strip of mud stretched across it. The sun rises behind thin, white streaks of clouds. I see a cyclist and a pair of walkers this morning out even earlier than I am.

pigeons, Fair Oaks Bridge, American River, wildlife returnsAs I walk to the bridge, I wonder what wildlife has returned to this part of the river.  Half dozen pigeons fly in circles over the bridge three times before deciding to settle down on the overhead frame. One flies down and wanders the bridge deck to be joined later by a second pigeon.

As I look out to the water, searching for wildlife, I hear Canada Geese honking immediately behind me. I turn around to see them sitting on a round cement support leg of the bridge (outside the upright bars), discussing what to do next. An instant later, they fly into the sky still engaged in conversation. Next I check for spider webs attached to the bridge and see several perfectly spun webs, no spider to be found.Read more

Butterfly at Rest

Sunday, April 9, 1150 am

Beautiful spring day! Far too late for an early morning write.

I walk down to the boat ramp where two men prepare to go kayaking. One kayaker was the expert and the other a novice taking a lot of instruction.

Canada Goose, boat launch ramp, American River Parkway, Fair Oaks Bridge
A lone Canada goose watches and waits

Two mallards swim in. One Canada Goose joins the swim. They all stay near the riverbank.One Canada Goose stands alone at the end of the boat ramp. The water is near still, gentle motion and a clear brilliant green. Pigeons visit the river. No Egret. No Great Blue Heron. No seagulls. Lots of cyclists and walkers are out on the river. Yesterday morning it was pouring rain. Friday we had a flash flood. Today it is a beautiful spring day with puffy white clouds.

 Two months ago, this ramp was under five feet of water and invisible. A stretch of pavement that abruptly ended in water was the only indication that a ramp was there.

The butterfly’s tiny legs grip the plant

I found a butterfly on the ground as I walked to the bridge. I picked it up and threw it into the air, thinking it needed a boost to get it going. The butterfly fell back to the ground. It lay flat with barely any movement except a little leg kicking. I carefully placed it on the stalk of a plant and it grabbed hold. I thought it may be in its final hours of life. I stood and watched it clinging to the plant. The wind blew gently against its wing. I gently moved the plant. The butterfly adjusts its legs to hold on. Still sits motionless. People pass by and no one wonders what I am looking at. I wonder if butterflies sleep?

butterfly, American River Parkway, river, Fair Oaks Bridge
Underside of the butterfly reveals its yellow spot color pattern

The American River Parkway is filled with butterflies, flying from one plant to another. This one is no longer flying. A butterfly’s life is very short. Sometimes only a few weeks. By placing the butterfly among the plants, I hope it can rest peacefully here instead of being crushed by footsteps.

A Wild Day at the American River

Sunday, April 30, 2017 9:30 am

Water is flowing fast and flooding the sandy banks, rocks and other land forms where people usually sit and picnic.
American River
This part of the river is called San Juan Rapids because this area is very rocky and usually fairly shallow. Water is always moving swiftly here. Today, far faster and deeper than any other time.

During the summer I can sit on a rock and dangle my feet into shallow water to cool off. More water will come as melted snow rushes down navigates through the Sierra Nevada mountains into the American River.

To my far left, I catch a quick glance at a family of Canada Geese emerging from the rocks and walking into a quiet, shallow area between rocks for a swim. Nine tiny goslings and their parents. My first sighting of babies this year! On my ride back home, I see a skinny little snake about 12” long in the middle of the bike path. I dragged it to the dirt and the back half of its body wriggled and curved. The top half was still. I think it was near death. I let it lay in peace.Read more

More Wild Day at the River

April 30, 2017, 6:30 pm 85 degrees

Visitors crowd the Fair Oaks Bridge taking professional photographs using the American River as a scenic backdrop. The riverbanks are crowded with people enjoying picnic dinners. All people, no wildlife.

As I arrive at the cement bench that has been sitting on its back all year (and shown in my latest blog). The bench is upright again! Did someone read my post or is this an odd coincidence?

American River, flooded, water, riverbank
During the summer, this area is usually so shallow, we can walk at least 1/3 of the way across the river as water rises to our knees. Now a dozen feet of the riverbank is underwater.

I ride on and sit at the riverbank and picnic area where in the fall I watched 100 seagulls, on the opposite shore to my right, wait for salmon to come by and ducks swim, splash and dive near an island to my left. Now the river is running so high, all the islands are underwater and unseen, the waterfowl have moved somewhere else along the river corridor. This section is far too deep and moving too swiftly to find food.

Six Canada geese fly over and disappear as they fly further west. As I prepare to leave the shoreline and keep riding on, I see a Great Blue Heron appear over the water and continue its flight further west. My first sighting of the year!

Waterfowl are here…where to look remains the big question.