The colors of sunrise change by the minute in strips of burning oranges and yellows that cast dark shadows on the American River.
An Egret glides low across the water. A Great Blue Heron soars silently under the bridge. Buffleheads dive in the center of the frigid waters of the American River. Canada Geese honk as they arrive flying quickly over my head. Others fly under Fair Oaks Bridge and all I can see in their shadows on the water until they pass me – still honking.
I see small clouds of mist forming on the river bend, rolling slowly across the water. White puffy, clouds reflect like a mirror in the American River. I roam along the riverbank finding faces and shapes in the trees and branches.
Water is completely still. The mist seems to have absorbed some of the smoke. Scattered bright white cloud cover resembles strands of spun gold reflected in the emerging sunlight. Clouds of mist begin around the bend to the east and roll slowly west across the surface of the river. In my full hour out here, I see one walker and one cyclist. Fair Oaks Bridge deck does not look frosty, yet it is still slippery in places. I wear my hooded jacket and wear warm gloves.
I walk down to the boat launch ramp to watch the mist as it rolls under the bridge. A lone seagull flies overhead. One Mallard swims along the ramp calling good morning with a few quiet Quack, Quack! Likely wondering if I brought breakfast. One year ago I took similar photos at this place on the ramp – now one of them is the front cover of Mornings on Fair Oaks Bridge: Watching Wildlife at the Lower American River .
This is the season to experience the most beautiful and peaceful mornings on the American River.
As I stand and watch the mist roll across the river and rise as it goes under the bridge, a Great Blue Heron arrives. It sounds its characteristic good morning chortle and continues its flight east.
The pale blue sky covered by strips of white clouds gives no hint of the smoke that blanketed skies across the region through the week. Another seagull flies over. Four ducks emerge from the riverbank. I hear a bird call from a distance. Early morning mist continues to roll slowly across the surface of the river, enveloping the corridor in a blanket of white.
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.
One seagull stands alone on a rock next to the ramp. It calls out and I imagine it saying, Where is everyone? Where is the food? Two seagulls circle overhead and vanish.
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.
I am the only one on Fair Oaks Bridge to enjoy this glowing sunrise in shades of pink and yellow, and scattered clouds reflected in the water. Mist rises above the surface of the water far off around the bend as I look east. I feel the air heavy with moisture. Both the river and the air are still.
One cyclist speeds past me, focused straight ahead, One chicken repeatedly calls out on Bridge Street. Many birds greet the morning with songs. I hear chirps, some of them sound like rattling – zzzzzzz. A woman arrives walking her dog. She focuses straight ahead and says nothing as she passes.
I always wonder why so many people walk, run or cycle across this bridge without looking left or right. Some focus on their conversations, others intently hold back their dogs. Very few stop and watch the scene. Some share a quiet good morning greeting as they pass.
A group of ducks emerge from their evening hiding place to swim quietly across the river, each leaving small ripples in the water behind them as they swim. No pigeons are out this morning. I have not seen pigeons in many days. No tiny bird lands to call out its good morning song on the bridge truss over my head.
I hear the loud honk of Canada Geese from a long distance away. Then six geese appear, reminding me of arrowheads shooting across the sky. They are followed shortly by two more geese In seconds, they vanish. Their sound continues to carry through the still air. An Egret soars quietly under the bridge and continues flying around the bend. One more cyclist passes by wearing shorts – I wonder why shorts?
As I stand on the bridge watching the sky, the glowing colors of sunrise reflected through dense clouds fade to a pale pastel orange visible at the horizon. I hear birds continue greeting the morning with their songs.
I walk to the boat launch ramp to enjoy a different view of the river. A large group of cyclists cross the bridge talking so loudly, I hear their voices on the boat ramp. Seagulls have left this part of the river. The fall salmon run ended weeks ago. The few seagulls that have stayed spend their days upriver where they are more likely to find a plentiful supply of food.
Several ducks emerge from the riverbank. Canada Geese are already out. Three dunk into the water, quietly searching for breakfast. I watch them paddle their webbed feet to help keep them afloat.
As I watch the geese and ducks during their morning rituals, I hear the sound of a single duck quack. And quack and quack. She is relentless. I wonder is she the same one I heard last January and February that kept up her calls without stopping as long as she was swimming? Long after she is out of sight, she continues to swim upriver calling without stopping. What is she saying?
(Even when she was one out of two pairs of ducks a year ago, she quacked while the others were silent.) As soon as the Canada Geese begin honking, her voice is barely audible. The geese quiet down. She keeps on quacking. I hear her calls continue as she swims upriver 50 yards and more. I listen intently as she continues her quacks until her voice fades into the distance.