I look forward to every morning sunrise on the Fair Oaks Bridge, and the American River Parkway to discover and celebrate the gifts of the outdoor world.
The American River Parkway is “The Jewel of Sacramento.” Fair Oaks Bluffs are the “Crown Jewels.”
One Sunday morning in September I decide to get up early and watch the wildlife wake up at the Fair Oaks Bridge. I arrive at dawn before the sun rises over the trees.
This morning wake up is now a regular activity, generally spending an hour or more to watch, listen and write. I can easily ride my bicycle to the bridge along the bike path – an activity I usually reserve for later in the morning.
“I don’t know where it is possible to love the planet or not, but I do know that it is possible to love the places we can see, touch, smell and experience.”
David Orr, Earth in Mind
The Fair Oaks Bridge was completed in 1909. It is a “Truss” bridge and an icon for the community of Fair Oaks. Fair Oaks Village is widely known for its chickens, whose wake up calls provide music each morning and continue throughout the day. Chickens are featured throughout blog posts in photos and video.
The bridge connects Fair Oaks Village with the American River Parkway, stretching 37 miles through suburban communities of Sacramento and into the city. The bridge sits alongside the Fair Oaks Bluffs – also displayed in many photographs within blog posts. Fair Oaks Bridge is one of those places for me to see, touch, smell and experience! The community of Fair Oaks is located about 15 miles northeast of the city of Sacramento. Our family home for more than 20 years and Fair Oaks Bridge remains one of my favorite places.
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
Water is flowing fast and flooding the sandy banks, rocks and other land forms where people usually sit and picnic.
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
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?
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.
It is barely dawn and cloudy. Will there be a sunrise today? A strong, cool wind blows and street lights still aglow.
Chickens hidden in trees for their night’s rest are calling out this morning in rapid succession. Today, instead of wearing shorts, sandals and a t-shirt, I wear jeans. Two cyclists pass with headlights flashing as the night passes and morning emerges. Three cars pass me on the street. The Hot Yoga studio lot is completely filled and double stack parked. As I approach the bridge, the sky is still cloudy gray.
One lone chicken hides in bushes on Bridge Street and calls out good morning to no one. It continues to call out most of my morning on Fair Oaks Bridge and I wonder who else is listening?
Haven’t checked for spider webs on the bridge for several visits. I find a huge web without its spider.
Four fishermen sit on the east side of Fair Oaks Bridge waiting. Another fisherman backs down the ramp. I see a flock of Canada Geese fly over in complete silence, flapping wildly.
Two photographers set up their cameras on tripods to capture the sunrise and the wildlife of the river. All I can see are boats sitting quietly. The chicken is still calling and waiting for someone or something to respond. Ducks have yet to emerge from a night’s sleep. The day brightens. There is no sun anywhere. Pigeons coo from a distance unseen. The chicken is still crowing.
I am watching the river and see a Great Blue Heron fly in – first of the season. It blends with the colors of the river and I can barely see it from the bridge.
I walk down to the boat launch ramp and the Heron stands watching the river in a frozen pose. Then it flies off, chortling, to the opposite (north) shore and lands on the riverbank.
Ducks swim. I brought no food. I need to bring something next time. Mallards swim peacefully. They search for breakfast, clean their wings and watch the river.
As fishermen continue to float by, any traces of early sunrise are gone. Cloudy, gray skies cover the sun.
A soft orange glow peeks behind clouds. Cool, moist air leaves dew on my windshield. I wear jeans and need two layers of shirts for the first time. Clouds stretch the eastern sky in wisps as the sun casts a pale glow behind them.
One lone boater sits near the end of the river. Three boats sit a few yards away from Fair Oaks Bridge engaged in conversation. This morning I see more boats on the river than waterfowl.
Ducks greet the morning with their persistent quacks. Pigeons sit in their usual spot. Other birds join them.
I see the Great Blue Heron return to the boat launch ramp this morning. My second sighting. It stands on the boat launch ramp watching the river, rises up with a chortle and flies to the opposite riverbank. A few minutes later, it returns to the south side of the river, this time landing at the water’s edge a few yards from the bridge and walks the edge until I can no longer see it. I suspect this arrival at 630 will become a morning ritual for the season. I wonder what the Great Blue Heron will find to eat this morning?
Diverse wildlife returning to the Fair Oaks Bridge is yet another sign of the changing season and expectation that salmon will be arriving soon.
Excitement builds on the American River waiting for the salmon to come. Now four boats line the river and three cluster around the bridge. Everyone sits and waits. Some stand in the water past their knees and watch for movements. Kayaks arrive and launch. A group of Mallards emerge from hiding to greet the passengers.
It amazes me that fishermen can rise long before dawn to launch their boats and sit or stand for hours on the river waiting for a tug on their fishing pole. I imagine that being at the river in this especially quiet place slows people down and willing to wait for nature’s time.
I wonder with all the rains and flooding and disruption of habitat, with the warming climate, will there be enough salmon to last a full season this year? Will there be enough to feed the wildlife, to supply the fisherman, and for all the other places and people hungry for salmon on their menu? I continue to wonder about the long-term survival of the salmon with so much other life depending on them.
Two Canada Geese fly swiftly overhead. I imagine they plan to travel long distances because they are so much higher in the sky than I usually see them. The sky is striped with jet streams left by distant unseen airplanes.
A cyclist passes me. He looks sideways and says, “Beautiful,” and races away.
A loud noise erupts from the Sunrise Blvd. bridge and 30 pigeons react with their own eruption of feathers flying immediately to the sky, circling the bridge and vanishing. I have yet to discover why pigeons are so nervous, or why they fly in circles only to land again moments later. I witness this event every time I visit the bridge, so it must be their morning ritual. In the afternoons, only a few pigeons sit on the bridge.
Still the day is extraordinarily quiet. The river is very low. Canada Geese have been conspicuously absent from the river lately. Usually they are the late arrivals. For weeks, I have seen them fly overhead and very few land. They are usually feeding at Jim’s Bridge or farther west on the river
By 7:20 am, the sun has risen above the trees on the south shore and I feel its warmth as I walk off the bridge. On the north shore trees, I catch a shadow of the bridge and myself standing on it. I have a few moments to take one quick photo before the sun rises further and the shadow vanishes.
Some mornings hold more “magic” than others. Today is one of those magic mornings.
The air is laden with chill instead of heat. Dense morning clouds hold the bold, vibrant colors of sunrise at the break of dawn. For nearly an hour I watch the colors change as the sun emerges from the horizon. My view from the Fair Oaks Bridge is a full circle of color. The intense, burning oranges and grays in the east spread north and south, fading to white and pale blue in the western sky.
I imagine that walkers, cyclists and fishermen are the ones who seize this opportunity to enjoy this daily display of one of nature’s miracles. Do wildlife enjoy this morning spectacle?
My favorite mornings are those when I listen to a choir of chickens sing still hidden in the trees where they sleep. Without any visible conductor, they call out their good morning songs to one another in rapid succession. As dawn breaks and the day brightens, chickens patrol the park and village streets crowing loudly where ever they go. Some chickens are robust with loud strong “ERR, ERR, ERR, ERR!” The skinnier, smaller chickens sound hoarse. “Er…Er…Er…Er.” It is the smaller chickens that roam Bridge Street trees, plants and curbs scratching for breakfast and repeatedly calling out to no one for about 30 minutes after I arrive on any morning.
One this day, six bicyclists have crossed Fair Oaks Bridge shortly after I arrive. 630 am and the bridge is crowded with people! Morning temperatures are dropping into the 50s and 60s. I wear blue jeans, and a lightweight denim jacket and sneakers. A light breeze blows and I feel the air heavy with chill instead of the heat that roasted the air all summer long.
Three fishing boats are sitting in the river quietly waiting. I have seen one person catch a fish. The salmon are coming. Fisherman catch the early arrivals. Water level of the American River is the lowest I have seen it all year. Could this be because the salmon need the shallow water to spawn?
Pigeons take their stations on the overhead frame. Two of them perch on the outside edge of the bridge, watching the river. None stay for long. The slightest movement, the faintest sound, they fly up and away in an instant. A tiny bird greets me with “Ti Too! Ti Too!” from its place at the top of the bridge.
Where is the Great Blue Heron this morning? I may be too late to see its patrol from the boat launch ramp to the north side and back with a chortle to the south riverbank. Canada Geese are flying high overhead. I imagine they are flying a distance without stopping. Another boat arrives and backs down the ramp. Mallards are still sleeping.
My first time seeing a beaver swimming in the river!I walk to the north side of the bridge to follow it and and see two more! My two photographer friends are here this morning. They point out a man climbing down the near vertical slope of Fair Oaks Bluffs. Why? How? We have no idea.
Two more groups of Canada Geese fly over. Then 30 runners cross the bridge together out for an early morning sprint. The sun finally emerges over the clouds, but the sky remains a flat gray.
As I walk off the bridge, I see my shadow moving through the trees on the north riverbank. This unexpected shadow play lasted about two minutes before the sun changed position and vanished.
Morning temperature rose to 66 degrees. Chickens are still calling “Good morning!”
Not a single chicken in sight when drive into Fair Oaks Village. Yet the morning symphony is as loud and as long as ever.
The songs of Fair Oaks Chickens are my favorite way to start the day – far better than a wake me up beverage!
Today is a cool morning! It is only 55 degrees. I wonder if the cool temperatures wake them earlier and inspire them to begin calling each other.
The brutal 100-degree days of summer are behind us. What a change from two weeks ago when morning temperature had not dropped below 72 degrees at 630 am. I wear a light jacket and jeans. For the first time, my hands feel chilled in the moist morning air.
Loosely scattered clouds define this morning’s sunrise. I missed yesterday’s fiery orange sunrise behind a dense cloud cover and hoped for a repeat. Not today. I watched yesterday’s sunrise from afar as the brilliant yellow ball emerged from the clouds a full 45 minutes after the first glow rose from the horizon.
Fair Oaks Bridge is one of few places where I can find joy when my days are filled with too much drama. I always hope others can find peace in sharing these morning walks on the bridge and the river’s edge.
I look west from my front door and WOW! A rare sunrise glowing orange through clouds at 620 am.
I leave the house quickly and drive toward the sunrise. The dark sky is a blanket of deep gray clouds and shades of orange. I hurry to the Fair Oaks Bridge to catch the sunrise and hear the lone chicken singing from its tree on Bridge Street.
Village chickens greet me with a rousing symphony this morning. So many awake and singing early.
I shoot a dozen pictures to capture the changing light as the sky brightens. I stand and watch the sky change as the sun slowly rises over distant trees. The clouds turn to gray and then white as vibrant colors shift and fade. Two women cross the bridge quietly holding flashlights. Then I am alone to treasure the colors of morning light with the fisherman below. Three boats sit on the east side and two on the west. The sun I still rising and hidden by long blankets of heavy, dense clouds.Read more
By the time I arrived at Fair Oaks Bridge this morning, the glorious orange and pinks of sunrise were already faded. I drove toward the sunrise enjoying its brilliant display by car instead. I listened to the “Fair Oaks Village symphony” informally conducted by at least a dozen chickens. Then I heard even more singing on the bridge.
I gazed into the American River and saw small white patches of clouds reflected from above. Seven Canada Geese flew over the bridge against a backdrop of fluffy white clouds.
Fishermen were in their places, fishing nets hanging off the side of their boats and kayaks. I watched a Great Blue Heron at the boat launch ramp take a careful stroll along the riverbank until it disappeared under the bridge. Its soft blue and gray coloring blended into the landscape from a distance. Staying focused on this majestic bird took constant concentration.