Bright light reflects on the water. A cool breeze blows across my face. Today, unlike yesterday, a loud hum echoes from the Sunrise Blvd. bridge crossing as early risers drive to and from Highway 50.
The roosters have already finished their morning wake up calls. A few stragglers are still crowing. Two men float in their boats with fishing lines cast. More cyclists ride by than the same time yesterday. Walkers are out with their dogs. As I walk onto the bridge, an egret flies in on the west side and quickly hides in the shrubbery at the shore. Ducks swim in pairs, searching for breakfast nibbles on insects. Tomorrow I will bring bread to feed them down at the boat launch ramp.Read more
So many ways to celebrate and enjoy the outdoors at the American River on any day.
Today’s post highlights my morning bike ride on the American River Parkway. I call this site “my peaceful spot” because it is one of many favorite stops to enjoy the view, watch the San Juan Rapids and get my feet wet.
A dozen squirrels leap across the bike path searching for acorns to store for the winter. One clings to the trees beside my bike. It stops to stare, holding the acorn in its mouth and decides to run off and disappear from view. Squirrels are amazing creatures to watch. They crawl, leap, and stop to chew when they think no one is watching. Then off they go again climbing up the next tree.Read more
As 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.
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.”
Riding 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
Continuing my afternoon bike ride traveling to the east side of the Fair Oaks Bridge. I approach a tall and long dead tree on the side of the path that I have passed by hundreds of time. The trunk is ghostly gray with a dozen dead branches laying at its feet. Why is this tree still standing?
Riding by the tree I hear knocking and stop to look. A family of three woodpeckers are lined up on the trunk drumming on the tree. The trunk from the ground to the uppermost remnant of the trunk is covered with scars from the woodpeckers. At the very top of the tree are two more woodpeckers. They have created a nest out of the hollow at the top of highest branch. From now on, I will be on woodpecker watch passing this tree.
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.
I rush to Fair Oaks Bridge this morning expecting to see it covered in fog. No hint of fog and very little mist on the water. Instead I enjoy a pale yellow sunrise masked behind dense strips of white clouds.
Minutes after I arrive on the bridge, a crowd of cyclists rumble past me riding from the bicycle trail on the American River Parkway on their way to Fair Oaks Village. A few walkers pass by enjoying the cool morning. Birds twitter unseen in the distance.
I hear the sounds of Canada Geese honking far off in the distance east of the bridge. What sounds like the whistle of a train echoes immediately west of Fair Oaks Bridge. Intervals between the “call and response” echo of the geese and the train get shorter and shorter, until they are both honking and blowing very loudly at the same time. Two geese finally arrive and continue honking as they fly over the bridge.
A gentle wind blows against my face. I expected the air to be far colder, dressing in leggings, jeans, sweater, jacket and gloves. Instead the air feels warm. The sun slowly emerges from behind heavily blanketed cloud cover to reveal a glowing yellow fiery ball of light. The train whistle continues and the Canada Geese keep up their honking as they swim across the river channel. What a noisy morning! I always wonder what are these geese saying to each other?
A few more walkers pass. Another lone cyclist rides on. I walk to the boat launch ramp to get a closer look at the wildlife. All is quiet here. Three ducks walk up the boat launch ramp. I have no food to serve them.. The same noisy pair of Canada Geese swam over to dunk for breakfast.
Diving ducks swim calmly in the center of the American River. Now you see them. Now you don’t. When you do see them again, they have surfaced somewhere else.
Soft sunlight glows through dense cloud cover. The air is chilled and heavy with moisture.
I hear Canada Geese honking while swimming in the American River as I arrive at Fair Oaks Bridge. The geese fly across the river calling to each other, land on the riverbank nearest the entrance to the bridge. They rise again to settle back down into the river, now joined by another pair of noisy Canada Geese. I notice that all the spider webs have been torn apart by the wind. I walk downhill to the boat launch ramp.
The bike path and driveway in front of the ramp are the center of this mornings’ activity.
A squirrel dashes across the trail, while the resident rooster patrols the street. The rooster walks beside me at first then wanders the dirt alongside the pavement. As I walk toward the boat launch ramp, it rushes to stand beside me. His feet scratch the pavement and feathers swish. As I watch the wildlife at this intersection of driveway and bicycle trail, the rooster continues to shout to no one in particular, over and over again.
Three ducks waddle down the center of the bicycle trail. Two Canada Geese wander in the dirt alongside. As I return to Fair Oaks Bridge. I watch one Canada Goose sit at the top enjoying a sweeping view of the river.