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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Brilliant pink clouds blanket the sky creating this morning’s dramatic sunrise.
The soft call of a Morning Dove greets me as I enter Fair Oaks Bridge. Ooooo weee ooo. Ooooo weeee ooo. After so many days of lingering daytime temperatures over 100 degrees, I feel refreshed as a cool breeze blows across my face this morning. The calm water of the American River shimmers in the early light of dawn.
The fresh scent of morning, the drama, beauty and character of this setting is a remarkable experience. I think of John Muir’s words, “These beautiful days must enrich all my life. They do not exist as mere pictures . . but they saturate themselves into every part of the body and live always.”
Two boaters prepare to leave the boat ramp. A cyclist rumbles past me, shaking the bridge. A line of Canada Geese swim quietly past the boat launch ramp. Then four more geese fly in from the East breaking the silence as sounds of their honking carries in the wind. They fly by quickly at such a high altitude, I am imagining they have a distant destination in mind.
Eight pigeons arrive for their morning rotations over the bridge. A single bird perched on the bridge truss frame sings its good morning song, Ti Too, Ti Too. I see this bird often. The frame is one of its favorite morning spots.
Dense clouds remain unchanged as the sky brightens. When the sun appears, I watch a pale yellow glow fade behind the dense cloud cover. As I watch the sky, an Egret comes into view, extending its long, silky wings to fly under Fair Oaks Bridge and land on the south shore about 100 yards west. It patrols the riverbank a few minutes and then disappears as it flies further downriver. Egrets always fly low under the bridge. Rare when I see an Egret fly over at a higher elevation as the ducks and geese.
Cool enough outside, I wear long sleeves. I cannot imagine cooler days. Seems that it has been so hot for so long! A few random chicken calls this morning in Fair Oaks Village. The chicken family on Bridge Street are always on patrol for food and scratching the dirt. Only two young chicks survived and they look more like little chickens instead of fluffy chicks now.The gray bunny comes out early in the morning and dusk when fewer people are around to bother it. I remember during one of my bridge visits, the rabbit was startled when I saw two careless hikers stumble and fall down the Fair Oaks Bluff trail, nearly flattening the rabbit.
Mornings are quiet here during the past few weeks. River is low and at peace. I have stood on the bridge deck many mornings. Some days are about the pure experience of being here – feeling the sense of peace, joy and escape. I enjoy the warm morning sun on my face. I have no new stories to tell or photos to share.
Four pigeons land on the Truss frame for moments at a time before they fly away. A lone boater floats upriver. Many people sit in fishing boats and stand on Jim’s Bridge. No idea what they are catching. Far too early for salmon to be swimming home yet.
Morning sun glows bright yellow against a cloudless sky. We have had very few clouds in recent weeks. Yesterday scattered cloud formations covered the sky. Morning sun shining on Fair Oaks Bluff casts a shadowy reflection in the river. A few ducks swim east of the boat launch ramp.
On my way to Fair Oaks Bridge I see deep pinks reflected in clouds. By the time I reach the bridge deck, the pinks have faded away into a soft golden glow at the horizon. Bright white, wispy clouds are my first sights of the morning. Clouds reflect in the still water. I wear my hooded fleece jacket for the first time since the first months of the year.
Five boats line the river channel on the east side. Occasionally, I hear a splash, see concentric circles in the water and guess that salmon are jumping. Three ducks swim down the center of the river corridor.
One duck quacks relentlessly. I wonder if she is giving directions? Is she the one that quacked and quacked without taking a breath last January and February? She quacks and quacks without stopping. As I write she is still chattering without end.
I see concentric circles in the water where salmon are jumping. Every few minutes, another one leaps. Once the duck stops quacking, the birds started to sing. Today I see my first glimpse of mist rolling on the water around the bend. As I write, a Great Blue Heron flies in and lands on a rock on the east riverbank. Minutes after the Great Blue Heron appears, an Egret flies in, landing on the west side of the bridge.