Where is Breakfast?

Friday, December 1, 2017, 7 am   39 degrees

As we move closer to winter, morning temperatures are low enough each day to bring a heavy layer of fog into our neighborhoods and watch the mist as it rolls across the American River.

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Where do I search for breakfast today?

Yet, the boat launch ramp and the riverbanks are clear today. A single seagull circles the bridge and flies west. The salmon run is nearly over and soon all the seagulls will be leaving for the season.

I will miss the morning calls of seagulls and the joy of watching them circle slowly and gracefully over the American River.

My fingers are chilled from the breeze. I wear gloves and a heavy jacket to stay warm on this frigid morning! Ripples in the river trace where ducks swim through the center of the channel. Low laying fog rolls slowly along the river, moving underneath Fair Oaks Bridge. Fog continues to roll under the bridge as if they were billows of steam rising and falling in a huge simmering pot.

On one October day when visiting wildlife at the boat launch ramp, a fisherman who was preparing to drive away with his boat saw me walking towards him. He paused long enough to call out from inside his vehicle, “The best things in life are those that you do slowly.” I smiled back and thanked him. How else can we truly be “in the moment of experience”?

His words keep coming back to me during the past few weeks. Setting aside dancing and running, I cannot think of anything else I want to do in fast motion.  Pausing to observe morning wildlife rituals, their focused efforts to search for a meal, seeing how they relate to their own kind and other wildlife, and the waiting game to catch a single fish needs time and patience.

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Muscovy duck is uncommon at Fair Oaks Bridge. Native to Mexico, Central and South America.

I am amazed to see resident ducks and Canada Geese come out from their evening hiding places to swim in the river, even in the coolest, wettest weather. They seem to talk less in colder temperatures. Today, as every morning, I hear a soft quack of at least one duck, swimming out in the unseen distance. One swims alone, dunking for breakfast and speaks to no one when it comes back up. (See video below) Fair Oaks Bridge rumbles as a dozen cyclists race across the bridge on their way uphill to Fair Oaks Village.

Two walkers stroll by and ask, “How is your journaling going?”  We have met several times on the bridge. Depending on the day, I meet the same walkers and the same cyclists. Walking down to the boat launch ramp, resident waterfowl come to greet me – especially if they think I might have a quick snack.

The Egret stands in its usual place on the north side of the river away from all other wildlife, to enjoy morning breakfast without company or interruption. When the Great Blue Heron shows up 10 yards downstream, the Egret flies away to escape the intruder. As the sun rises well above the horizon, the magic of morning at Fair Oaks Bridge lingers on for a few precious moments longer.

Stillness of Morning

Saturday December 2, 2017,   7 am  39 degrees

Sunrise glows a soft orange through heavy fog and a blanket of white clouds.

Streets are empty and quiet. The American River is nearly still. A few random leaves float lazily down river. I hear a splash to my left standing on Fair Oaks Bridge. I look over too late and see nothing. My hands are chilled, even in gloves and shake them out to get warm. As the sun rises at the horizon, the sky resembles a tapestry woven of grays, blues and a brush of the palest orange. Air streams from airplanes cross a wisp of dry gray clouds resembling a skein of unspun yarn. The orange at the horizon grows deeper as the sun begins to emerge.

stillness, still, morning, Canada Geese, American River, Fair Oaks Bridge, nature, wildlife, outdoorsA single gull flies west and disappears into dense fog. A jet stream crosses the sky. Two walkers emerge out of the fog on the bridge. A single jogger passes.

More gulls fly west. Their elevation is so high, I wonder if their bounty of salmon meals is coming to an end? The salmon run typically ends by mid-December.

Two Buffleheads huddle along the north riverbank, not ready for their morning swim. A few ducks are braving this chilly morning to swim in the center of the river channel. Canada Geese swim in a line swim toward the bridge. I have not seen geese in a few weeks here. I hear the distant call of one chicken living on Bridge Street, calling to anyone who can hear.

 

 

Who Left the Skull on the Boat Ramp?

Thursday December, 7, 2017   2 pm

The day is peaceful and quiet. I sit alone on the boat launch ramp with the seagull, the Canada Geese and ducks paddling around the river on this sparkling, clear and cloudless blue sky.

One very unhappy seagull calls out over and over again while standing one the end of the boat launch ramp. Fifteen ducks swim and fly in shortly after I appear on the boat ramp thinking I have food. I throw a mandarin orange segment on the ground that was quickly rejected by several ducks. Pigeons and seagulls arrive waiting for their handouts.

seagull, seagull calls, morning, Fair Oaks Bridge, American River, water, feedingWhile the ducks are busy scavenging the boat ramp, the seagull bends its head backward and screams out in frustration. I can only imagine the meaning of its calls, “Where is everyone? Where is the food? Why am I alone out here?” A few more gulls fly in to swim all looking for a meal.

Pigeons fly off the ramp and circle overhead before returning to boat ramp three separate times before they finally settle again. Ducks waddle down the ramp, returning to the river. The gulls make a quick exit, soaring through the air with wings extended to catch air currents. The lonely gull stays standing on the ramp, contemplating and calls out again. Two Canada Geese arrive and wander the boat ramp looking for something to eat.

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Of the many dead and discarded salmon I have seen floating in the river or left at the riverbank, this is the first salmon skull I have seen. Finding this on the boat ramp, I wonder what creatures feasted on this and how did it get here?

 

Walking for Food

Monday, December 18, 2017,   840 am   42 degrees

I arrive long after the brilliant orange glow of sunrise has faded from the sky. No chickens are up yet to call their good morning songs. So many birds I hear, yet do not see. The bird singing the calliope tune, others chirp and hiccup.

seagull, salmon, morning, Fair Oaks Bridge, wildlife calls, Fair Oaks Bluffs, Fair Oaks Village, wildlife, writing, Winter mornings are quiet here. Seagulls stand on the boat launch ramp and call out to others that can hear. I watch several seagulls fly a few feet over my head as they cross the bridge in wide, sweeping circles.

As I hear the calls of seagulls, I wonder if they are asking, when will it be time to leave the river? Or, is there salmon left to eat here?

There is no clue here of the hustle, bustle activities of days before Christmas here. The parking lot behind the boat launch ramp filled with pick up trucks and other vehicles to tow fishing boats is near empty. The sound of a distant quack carries in the gentle breeze. Resident Mallards prepare to mate to produce spring ducklings. I see pairs of ducks bob their heads in unison each time I come signaling their interest in mating. Goldeneyes reside at this spot on the American River during fall and winter.

pigeons, seagulls, American River, wildlife calls, Fair Oaks Bridge, Fair Oaks, Fair Oaks Bluffs, mornings, river, wildlife, rituals, breakfast, feeding, I see an Egret fly in and land on the riverbank at the foot of Fair Oaks Bluffs. Egret sightings are rare these days of winter. Their search for food takes them away from this part of the river.

Pigeons walk the deck of Fair Oaks Bridge searching for crumbs or seeds or remains of a sandwich, cookies and other food left behind.

Fire in the Sky

Friday, December 22, 2017, 645 am, 37 degrees

I arrive at dawn to catch the sunrise, dressing snugly in my hooded jacket, long pants, long socks and gloves. Today’s icy wind is just enough to keep frost off car windows and grass. Frost coats the bridge deck and I feel its slippery surface beneath my feet. One duck braves the cold for an early swim back and forth across the river.

Why is the sun bright yellow when looking at it in daylight; yet at sunrise and sunset, we see shades of orange from pale pastel to dark and fiery?

Every morning brings a new set of cloud formations and different ways to diffuse and reflect the sun’s brilliance. Today clouds are woven as if they were a heavy gray blanket hanging over the river. Patterns of light change and spread as the sun edges closer to the horizon, painting the sky at dawn with brilliant colored light a full 30-40 minutes before the sun shows itself.

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The colors of dawn emerge
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Fire in the sky

Lingering Fog and Frosty Mornings

Sunday, December 30, 2017, 715 am, 36 degrees

So cold this morning, the chickens are still sleeping in the Village. They have yet to utter a sound.

I hear no shouts good morning walking past the park and the trees that provide nighttime shelters for so many Village chickens. Three chickens scratch and complain searching for breakfast a few yards from the bridge entrance – their favorite hangout.

Fair Oaks Bridge, fog, morning,The bridge deck is covered with white, slippery frost. Clouds above me resemble spun sugar in shades of gray and soft white. As the wind blows, they stretch into thin wisps of white. Fog washes over the eastern section of the American River. As with other days, I watch as the mist rolls down the river channel and under the bridge. On this particular chilly morning, mist is still sitting on the river well beyond 9 am when I prepare to return home.

Visiting the American River at Fair Oaks Bridge is a gift to enjoy and share. The most impressive days of winter for me are the peaceful mornings listening to seagulls call and seeing them soar gracefully through the sky, following fiery orange sunrises, and watching the fog as it blankets the river and reflects golden sunlight through the trees.

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Fog blankets the eastern section of the American River at Fair Oaks Bridge and rolls slowly west. Boat launch ramp is on lower right side of photo.

Each day brings a new cloud formation, each day a new way the wind blows them apart to create a kaleidoscope of color at dawn to announce the new day. I love watching fog blow slowly down the river. I stand watching in amazement at the way fog bathes and nourishes the Fair Oaks Bluffs and the sun’s yellow light shining through the trees along the American River Parkway. When I walk to the boat launch ramp, I see how the fog surrounds the Fair Oaks Bridge and drifts slowly west beneath the deck.

Seeing Fair Oaks Bluffs shrouded in fog reminds me of “Brigadoon,”  that magical, mysterious place that emerges out of the fog once every few years.

I think of Peter Pan’s Neverland where fairies and other magic is commonplace. This is a place of peace where you can hear the distant call of seagull and see birds emerging slowly out of the fog. Two ducks swim in the center of the river. All others are still in hiding and come out much later when the temperature warms to 45 instead of 36 degrees. Many walkers are out this morning. First two, then two more, then two more all bundled up and enjoying the morning. A speeding cyclist passes by pedaling as quickly as possible.

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Egret flies through fog on the American River alongside Fair Oaks Bridge

An Egret flies in and lands in its preferred spot on the riverbank beneath the Fair Oaks Bluffs. Soon there are two flying together and move on further downriver. I always marvel at its graceful flight and sleek, straight body.

Most of the seagulls, ducks and the Canada Geese have moved on farther downriver where food is more plentiful. I see more than 50 seagulls on the riverbank at Jim’s Bridge crossing and farther downriver. Canada Geese roamed the shoreline at Rossmoor Bar, an overlook and rocky beach two miles from Fair Oaks Bridge, popular for rafters and picnics.

 

 

Cotton Candy Colored Fog

Sunday, January 21, 2018   710 am   36 degrees

It’s freezing out here. This morning’s chill is not the day for being curious, even though I can find so many things to imagine and wonder about at the river.

Two chickens are awake in Fair Oaks Village calling “Good Morning” to anyone who will listen. Clouds reflecting the pinks of sunrise scatter across the sky as the sun slowly rises in the east. Today thick fog on the American River is suspended in midair on both sides of the bridge, reminding me of thin strands of pink cotton candy. I watched from Fair Oaks Bridge as the mist gradually moved along the surface of the river under the bridge to its western side.mornings, fog, chill, Fair Oaks Bridge, Fair Oaks Bluffs, American River, nature, writing, seagull, wildlife, chill

The bridge deck is solid white with frost and slippery. My shoes leave footprints on the deck. Several people dressed in jackets, gloves and hats brave the cold to walk, run and cycle. Two Canada Geese fly over in silence. One Bufflehead swims in the frigid water searching for breakfast in the river – preferring the deepest section in the center. It dives underwater and floats back up like a buoy several times over and over.

As the sun rises, the clouds scatter even farther apart, revealing a pale blue sky beneath. The sun peeks over the horizon and casts a bright light on the bridge. Ice crystals on the bridge’s side rails and deck sparkle like diamonds reflecting the sunlight.

The air is still cold! Before leaving the bridge I watch a seagull preening its feathers sitting on a tree branch bent so far down, it nearly touches the water — this is the same branch where turtles sunbathe during the summer.

Morning Colors and Rituals

Saturday, January 27, 2018, 655 am 44 degrees

mornings, patterns, rituals, Fair Oaks, Fair Oaks Bridge, Fair Oaks Village, sunrise, chickens, ducks, Bufflehead, Canada Geese, ducksI continue to be amazed at how each day’s sunrise can display such a diverse palette of vibrant colors. Some sunrises dazzle the sky for 45 minutes as the spectacle of light spreads through layers of scattered clouds. On dense gray cloudy days, the brilliant colors of sunrise hide in 10 minutes.

Thursday morning’s sunrise was a palette of pinks. Clouds held shades of pink from the early morning sunrise and reflected them like a mirror in the stillness of the American River. The colors are magnificent and well worth an early morning visit.

Today I arrived at Fair Oaks Bridge too late to catch the vibrant colors of sunrise. Morning air is still with no breeze and smells damp. This is not the fresh, clean smell after a refreshing rain. This air smells like wet and stale carpet. Where could that scent be coming from? I hear the sound of a foghorn (once again) and wonder where is it coming from?

I quickly learned the morning wake up patterns of Fair Oaks Village chickens and wildlife of the river during my morning visits. At least two or three chickens are always awake by 6:30 am – all still tucked away in their sleeping posts in trees and shrubs. Some mornings, so many chickens wake early, I hear a symphony across the Village and neighboring streets. When I walk on to Fair Oaks Bridge, I always spot the Buffleheads diving in the middle of the river first. They come out in all weather to dive and search in the center of the river channel. A few resident Mallards emerge from hiding next. As morning temperatures grow warmer, pairs of Canada Geese fly over me standing on Fair Oaks Bridge, honking and giving directions.

Today’s stay is brief – long enough to see the sun peek over the horizon and begin to warm the bridge. With a parting glance at the sparkling water, I walk off the bridge to return home.

Morning Wake Up Songs

Saturday, February 3, 2018   720 am 46 degrees

Moments after I walk onto the bridge, I hear the chortle of a Great Blue Heron beneath me. It flies east under the bridge and settles on a nearby riverbank out of sight. Often arriving at 630 am, by 730, The Great Blue Heron has already surveyed one section of riverbank. I hear it chortle as it raises up to move to another site.

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Good morning Fair Oaks!

Chicken call from the neighborhood, “Time to wake up everyone!” A group of six Canada Geese fly over the bridge from the east in traditional V formation, all honking in unison. They fly about 100 yards farther, make a U-turn to fly back over my head, fly east and vanish. A single bird is perched on the bridge frame over my head. It is quietly watching. Far too large to be tiny bird I used to hear every morning singing, “Ti Too! Ti Too!” A chorus of hidden birds begins. I hear the bird that sounds like a calliope and many other bird calls I cannot identify.

Standing on the bridge I hear the female Mallard quacking once again in the distance. (See video posted in “Morning Pandemonium” on January 14)  She quacks as she swims. I continue to wonder what she is saying? Is she paddling in rhythm to her own voice? Since I cannot speak duck, I may never know. An Egret flies in from the west. A short time later, another flies in and they resume their low and elegant flight over the river to the east as a pair.

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Sunbathing turtles on a wayward tree branch

Arriving at the boat launch ramp, I see the female duck leading a line of ducks swimming upriver. Her quacking continues and I continue to hear the sound of her voice until it fades away in the distance. I walk back up to Fair Oaks Bridge. As I leave the river for the morning, I nearly miss two turtles out sunbathing.

 

Shadows on the Water

Wednesday, February 28, 2018 620 am, 38 degrees

The colors of sunrise change by the minute in strips of burning oranges and yellows that cast dark shadows on the American River.

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Canada Geese fly in through the mist on the surface of the water.

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.