I finally acknowledge the passing of summer’s long, warm days when the cool mornings of October arrive. With sunlight and bike rides along the American River that last until 9 pm. Dew covers my car windshield in the morning now. The air is chilled at 645 am. My first Sunday morning on Fair Oaks Bridge, I wore shorts and a t-shirt, warmed quickly by the sun. Today, Friday I wear my denim jacket and slip on a pair of jeans. Yesterday’s morning temperature was 55. Today it is 53. As days grow shorter, and fall blends into winter, morning temperatures will drop further to 45 and then 35 and sometimes the high 20s. I will enjoy these mornings on the bridge before the chill of morning gives me a reason to stay longer at home.
Usually I wake gently as I walk to the bridge, listening to the morning symphony of roosters. Today my morning explodes with deafening sound as I walk down the street as a motorcycle with his radio turned up comes up from behind. I am jarred awake. My morning “fog” instantly evaporates.
Determined fisherman sit in their boats waiting. I have no idea when they arrive. Each morning they are already here. They must come before dawn to catch the salmon as they rise for breakfast. I notice the moon in the sky. During my first Sunday, the moon was full. Today, hardly a week later, the moon is now half visible.Read more
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
From my front porch, I see a flaming glow of sunrise filtered by heavy cloud cover.
At 610 am, I force myself out the door to catch the early morning sights on Fair Oaks Bridge. Far too warm this morning! A breeze blows on my warming skin. The morning chicken symphony is long and loud, hiding in unseen trees. I am surprised by a loud call from a tree branch directly above my head as I open my car door to get out. A large white chicken is greeting the new day.
One duck squawks when I arrive at the bridge. Have not seen Canada Geese in many days. They may be wandering around the riverbank at Jim’s Bridge for their morning meal. Jim’s bridge is closed until September 1 to replace the broken fence from our winter flood, so I have not ridden my bike there to check the morning activity.
Why Do Pigeons Circle the Bridge Before Landing?
A dozen pigeons circle Fair Oaks Bridge several times and land on the overhead frame to rest. I still wonder if their flying in circles warms the air or their bodies before sitting down on a cold bridge to rest?
I need to research this. Some don’t rest for long, they are up and flying about. At the faintest of movements, they rise up as a group in a flutter of feathers and fly away and return to circle again minutes later.
Another boater arrives to join the one already in the water. The owner eases it down the boat launch ramp and cruises to a prime fishing spot.
I watch a pair of ducks lazily floating under Fair Oaks Bridge. They look around and float with the current, with no effort. Another pair floats the opposite direction. One pair must be paddling, since the current flows in one direction.
The sun’s rays are glowing through the heavy cloud cover. Three boats sit still in the river and two fishermen stand out in the river corridor in this quiet river waiting for their catch of the day to emerge. The sun rises. The breeze blows softly. By the time I leave the bridge at 715, I can feel the morning air heating up and feeling heavy. Checking the temperature, it is 81 degrees.
Mornings are much cooler now, well into October. I am surprised it has not rained yet.
Usually it rains the weekend we decorate our home with outdoor Halloween decorations. I wear jeans, long sleeve shirts, long socks, and a jacket or sweatshirt on my morning visits. My hands are chilled. I have yet to put my gloves on. Mist covers my windshield and the moist air stays on. Despite the cold, people are out walking their dogs.
Standing on Fair Oaks Bridge, I see white jet streams crossing the sky leaving a pattern of stripes across a pale blue sky. Today, no visible trace of gray smoke, yet my head remains congested in response to the poor air quality from so many fires some 90 miles north.
This morning, as all mornings, the same small, skinny chicken calls out “I am awake” in chicken speak and scratches the dirt to find breakfast. I can hear it call all morning from the center of Fair Oaks Bridge.
Two young adults are huddled in a blanket are engaged in vibrant conversation as they point to photos in an album. They continue to review their photos all the time I stand on the bridge and do not see them looking at the water or the landscape. Fair Oaks Bridge and the American River underneath create a space for so many different activities. Watching the sunrise, sunset, fishing, running, walking, cycling, kayaks, nature observation, feeding wildlife and picking berries.
When I arrive a cluster of fishermen sit in boats on the American River as if they were holding conference. I wonder if these are same people out every day or if different ones show up. Unlike the woman I encountered last visit who screamed down to them waving a flier about her lost cat, I leave them alone to watch early morning action on the river.
Today I see my first seagull of the season landing near the boat launch ramp. I smell the faint scent of dead salmon in the air. As November draws closer, seagulls know food is plentiful here and they wait.
Two hungry turkey vultures fly overhead. My first spotting for this season. I saw a dozen of them along the American River last year. More signs the salmon have returned. The seagull takes flight and glides through the air toward the bridge, scanning the water. After circling twice, it vanishes. Far more food lies about half a mile upriver. I wonder if the seagulls will be there yet? I see dozens of seagulls waiting during my bike ride later in the day.
A dozen pigeons approach and land on the bridge overhead Truss frame to rest a while. With the coming of salmon, I expect to see far more salmon jumping and splashing. So far, I see only a few in an hour of watching the river. A Cormorant arrives and flies under the bridge headed west. I follow its flight close to the riverbank and then lose sight as it blends into the distant landscape. Moments later, this elegant bird returns to circle the bridge.
I watch a seagull float gracefully over the bridge and land in the river near the boat launch ramp. Unlike ducks that splash down with wings spread and feet extended as if water skiing, seagulls land sitting down, wings tucked in without a ripple. When I hear the seagull call, I wonder is it calling for others to join? Where is the food? Or locate its flock?
Immediately after hearing the seagull, the lonely chicken calls from Bridge Street. Where else can you hear the call of a seagull and the rousing good morning from a chicken in the same place and time?
I leave the bridge knowing the cooler days of fall and the salmon are here. The wildlife of the American River in fall are ready and waiting.
Clouds sit way off on the distant eastern shore. The pink glow of sunrise reaches the bottom edge of the clouds.
These low lying pink strips of clouds surround me from every viewpoint as I stand on the Bridge.
Chickens near the bridge are calling from trees where they hid for the night. I listen closely to the voice of each chicken. Each one has a different volume and pitch. Some chickens have deep voices. I never thought of chickens being either Altos or Tenors. Others in the crowd sing with very high pitched, fragmented voices – a chicken singing soprano?
Some crow with more syllables than others. Others start strong and loud, then their voices fade at the end. I hear another voice that reminds me of an engine that grinds before it starts. “Er, Er…Er, Er…Er, Er, ooooo roooo.” Every day 2, 3 or 6 chickens are wandering the dirt alongside the street scratching for food, chattering among themselves.
Boat lights twinkle in the darkness in the slowly brightening dawn.
As the sun rises In the shadowy light of dawn, I see a fog bank and a line of boats near the shore. An Egret glides under the bridge from the east, flapping long pearly white wings. I follow its flight path and lose sight 100 yards to the west. I see two splashes just below the bridge. Salmon are coming in greater numbers. I have yet to see one jump! Another boat launches.
At 730, two dozen pigeons arrive and circle 30 times around Fair Oaks Bridge flapping wildly. Their circles grow wider and wider the entire group of birds vanish in the western sky. Three mallards fly in and settle down quickly. As the day brightens, I can more easily see the line of boaters and a kayak. Suddenly a dozen cyclists race by.
The sun emerges as a bright yellow fireball. Four pigeons return to the bridge and a tiny bird sings its traditional chorus, “Ti Too!” “Ti Too” from the top of the bridge truss work.
When I arrive on the bridge, I see seven boats lined up on the American River (running from east to west). I find it curious the boats are always in a straight line on the eastern side of Fair Oaks Bridge. Boats always stay on the north side of the river. I am guessing the water level is deeper to support the boats. The south side where the boat launch ramp is located tends to be shallow almost half way out.
Two walkers pass. An older man calls out to me, “It is cheaper to buy salmon at the store than to go fishing in the cold. It is freezing out there on the water.” I turned and replied, “Then you miss the experience. You cannot buy the experience.”
I rarely have the opportunity to ask fishermen why they venture into the cold river before dawn to catch salmon. For devoted fishermen, catching a wild salmon, watching it jump and wriggle and try in vain to escape is the culmination of both joyful anticipation and planning. Some salmon get away. Their struggle to escape is stronger than the fishing line. At the final moment when the salmon is caught, skillful hands cannot hold on. The salmon wins the game to fight another day. Watching the sunrise, eating breakfast on portable grills on the boat are experiences no one can buy in a store.
I watch the fishermen as they find the best spot, cast their lines and share fish stories between boats. I come outside to experience the chill in morning air, listen for a distant, yet unseen “quack, quack, quack,” and honks from Canada Geese, the graceful flight of seagulls and their calls to each other from the river.
Even after visiting this bridge more than 100 times, I continue to marvel at the beauty of this place.
Arriving at Fair Oaks Bridge, I always do a spider web check. This morning I marvel at two empty spider webs. These webs are meticulously attached to the Truss frame of the bridge. I watch the ripples in the water as ducks swim past me. Next I watch a circle of pigeons flying above the bridge. Canada Geese swim under the bridge. An egret flies and lands on the boat launch ramp. Ducks are busy finding breakfast on the boat launch ramp and under the water. I remain in awe how various species of birds take flight and land, using their wings and feet in different, yet very precise ways. Many waterfowl gather to feed on salmon. I don’t smell the scent of their decaying bodies as much as I have in the past. Two dead salmon lay at the river bottom below the bridge.
I stand and watch a series of circles in the water created by Canada Geese who rise and flap their wings in the air for 20 yards before ever lifting out of the water and rise into the sky. I listen to the sound of a tiny bird, “Ti Too. Ti too.” These birds return regularly to rest on the overhead truss of the bridge.
Last night’s rain washed the air clean. I see sharp clear lines on the trees, landscapes and structures.
Even after the rain has come and gone, I still see spider webs clinging to the rails of the bridge. Today is a crisp and warm morning. White billowy clouds cover the sky. River is still and seems empty.
As I stand on Fair Oaks Bridge, the small bird that favors its observation post at the top of the frame calls out a good morning greeting. An usual morning because so far, I see no ducks swimming, no seagulls flying overhead and no Canada Geese honking or approaching from any direction.
By this time of year, I expected to see many salmon jumping out of the water. Instead, see very few.
I imagine them swimming slowly and intently beneath the visible surface. Are they swimming deeper, so I miss them? Salmon are easier to spot at the shallow, rocky area about a mile upriver to the east. I wonder how many salmon stop to spawn in the waters of the American River before they reach Fair Oaks Bridge?
I hear many people remember, as do I, the years when salmon lined the weir at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery. So many, they formed their own solid bridge. No more. Their numbers are far fewer these days. It is common to see a handful jumping at the weir (gate on the American River).
Later in the morning, a dozen ducks swim in from about 100 yards away upriver. A few walkers pass and a solo cyclist. I hear one splash down at the river. I walk to the “shallows,” pictured here, where salmon spawn. As many as 30 seagulls float in the water looking for salmon treats to nibble on. Canada Geese fly in here to check status on a variety of tasty food sources.
I wonder why the Egret and the Great Blue Heron always arrive alone and stand apart from other wildlife. They always keep their distance from each other and stand on the opposite side of the river from the gulls, geese and ducks. Both are easily disturbed.
It seems that November is one of the “stillest” months for mornings on the American River. Leaving the wildlife alone to find food at their leisure without boaters getting in their way. During the week, driving down city streets, as seagulls fly overhead, I wonder are they headed to the American River looking for salmon.
Do seagulls carry maps in their head, in a way similar to salmon use their powerful sense of smell to find their home river from hundreds of miles away? I imagine this a seasonal migratory habit leading them to find salmon year after year.
When a dozen ducks finally arrive they “own” the river, swimming down its center of the empty water, leaving a wake behind each of them. Sun has finally risen over the wide cloud cover with a brightness that hurts my eyes. Today I hear a new bird call, in addition to the others I hear regularly each morning visit. This one is a shrill whistle – Whoo – oo—oo. We ee uu.
Every morning a different experience visiting Fair Oaks Bridge.
Morning begins with hearing the calls of a single chicken hidden in bushes on Bridge Street. It repeats every 2-3 minutes reminding me it is still there, calling to anyone to hear. American river is quiet except for the sound of birds greeting the new day. A fisherman floats in his boat on the sparkling water. Pigeons walk the upper frame of Fair Oaks Bridge guarding their territory. The sky is pale blue without even a wisp of clouds.
I notice a dozen intricately woven spider webs clinging to the sides of Fair Oaks Bridge. Dozens of tiny insects lay trapped inside. Their fates sealed by sticky webs. Besides a dozen pigeons arriving at the bridge, the spiders are the only creatures I see moving this morning.
I continue to wonder how spiders acquire such precise weaving skills. Are they born with internal maps? Where do they begin to weave? How do they measure the length of each strand and intersecting line? Do they view their handiwork from a distance to see their progress?
A beautiful day with clouds in shades of gray and puffy white set against a clear sky blue background. The wind chills my hands and face. No chickens run anywhere near the bridge. I stand briefly on Fair Oaks Bridge. No wildlife on the scene as water rushes down the river, flooding riverbanks even more than yesterday.
I walk to the boat launch ramp where a gathering of Mallards and Canada Geese are scavenging. Today I see a duck limping and wonder if this is the same duck I photographed months ago. The non-stop quacking female duck I met a year ago is also part of the group. She carries on for 10 minutes. First she listens. Then she talks. What could she be saying – “Where are you anyway?” “What took you so long? You were supposed to be here for breakfast?”
She calls the male duck swimming in the water and they quack together in harmony and a quick call and response. Her whole body shakes as she sings her song. Eventually she tires of this distant conversation, flies off the boat ramp to swim downriver and continues to quack on.
Flooded riverbanks and trails cut the rest of my walk short. Notice “in standing water” location of the No Bicycles marker for the horse trail and new pond in the middle of the walking trail.