A Noisy Morning

Sunday, March 24, 2019   710 am, 43 degrees

American River, boats, fishermen, sunrise, outdoors, natura, water, launch, mornings

Chickens wander Bridge Street calling out their wake up songs. Today was another chilly morning when my breath flowed through the air. A pair of fishermen launch their boat at the same time the sun rises over the trees to gently warm the morning. Thin white clouds hang in the sky like a veil over a soft, pastel colored sky.

As signs of Spring emerge, I see life at the American River in motion once again. Spiders spin webs on the side rails of Fair Oaks Bridge. Birds actively greet the morning with a chorus of tweets, rattles and coos. Ducks swim to the center of the river corridor and dive for breakfast.

I see them dive in one spot and reappear some five or ten yards away. Ducks fly in and “water ski” on the river as they quietly splash down. Green grass growing in between every board on the bridge deck is slowly turning pale yellow. As I stand on the bridge watching the wildlife, runners and walkers pass enjoying an early day outside.

Canada Geese, ducks, guard, boat launch ramp, American River, fishermen, eat, boat, battle, squabble
Canada Geese guard their place on boat  ramp

The arrival of several pairs of Canada Geese dominated morning activity with their loud honks and territorial squabbles. Another pair arrived every few minutes. All of them are in constant motion, continuously honking for most of an hour. A single goose stands on the concrete pier of Fair Oaks Bridge watching the scene, calling to everyone as they arrived.

After last week’s episode when the goose was rudely shooed off the pier as a pair arrived, I wondered if it was calling, “Find some other place to rest, I am not moving this time!”

Some geese perch at the top of the bridge truss. Others settle into the water. The first pair to arrive stake their claim on the boat ramp and the water directly in front of it. When another pair land in their claimed space, one goose rises up, flaps its wings, honks and shoos them away until the pair swam elsewhere. These unwelcome geese eventually fly away to a different part of the river. The original pair stand guard at the boat ramp.

I watch as each pair of geese arrives, they splash down in the river or wander to the riverbank nearby the Fair Oaks Bridge. Moments later, the geese rise up to circle east of the bridge, land on the Fair Oaks Bluff for a few seconds, take off again, and continue their circular flight before settling back down again into the water – honking all the way. The pairs repeat this pattern of flying in circles over and over again. As soon as a new pair geese land in the water, the first unfriendly pair quickly chase them away.

I wonder do they get a better view of breakfast swimming in the water as they swim overhead? Or are they stretching their wings and warming up?

mornings, American River, wildlife, waterfowl, ducks, observation, quiet, peaceful, swim, riverbank, Fair Oaks BridgeDucks are the only quiet ones this morning. I watch pairs fly in and swim as they emerge from evening hiding places. Paying no attention to geese squabbles, they arrive without a sound and swim near the riverbank.

Fragrant Flowers and Bird Songs of Spring

Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019, 730 am, 49 degrees,

Chickens call to each other to greet the day on my way to Fair Oaks Bridge, They call across the Village from the parks, hidden in trees, roaming parking lots and streets.

wildflowers, scent, beauty, Bridge Street, walk, breathe, Fair Oaks Village, Fair Oaks Bridge, morningI take a deep breath in as I walk and enjoy the scent of wildflowers in full bloom lining both sides of Bridge Street with blankets of small white flowers. I savor the scents and sounds of spring.

It was already daylight at my first sight of morning at 530 am. The full moon was still pasted in the western sky. Standing now on Fair Oaks Bridge, the sun sits high above the trees in a cloudless sky. Its reflection is so bright, I squint looking toward the boat ramp. The air feels much warmer than 49 degrees when the sun warms my face.

A chorus of birds twitter and chat, flying in groups of more than a dozen as they circle around and underneath the bridge. Way off in the distance on the west side, Canada Geese are shouting at each other. They may have settled on Jim’s Bridge to search for breakfast. I stand alone with the twittering birds and a single rooster calling from Bridge Street. Occasionally a walker or two pass me. The river is deep green and flowing quietly downstream, with few ripples all the way around the bend.

spider webs, Fair Oaks Bridge, mornings, observation, geometry, curious,I search for spider webs and see one at least 9” in diameter – a perfect example of geometric lines – stretched from the angular bridge truss to a side rail. A dozen small insects are caught and waiting to be eaten.  Directly beneath the web is one more that seems to have been stretched by gusts of wind. A third web hangs on the side rails a few feet from the other two. All on the east side. Rare to see spider webs on the west side.

What gives spiders the talent for spinning perfectly woven webs where all strings are the same size and held together in perfect angles?

ducks, mornings, Fair Oaks Bridge, American River, water, wildlife, watefowl, boat launch ramp, outdoor, natureI walk over to the boat launch ramp with food for the ducks. They waddle up the boat ramp to investigate their breakfast treat – all the while whispering to each other, quickly nipping and swallowing anything they can find on the ramp. Canada Geese and pigeons arrive. Everyone takes their fill of food. Some ducks keep themselves busy with morning clean-up rituals, while others search the river looking for breakfast. A pair of Canada Geese arrive honking loudly as they circle over the river and take their usual places to watch the river standing on a concrete pier supporting Fair Oaks Bridge. Birds twitter. An Egret lands on a tree top across the river.

Visiting Fair Oaks Bridge continues to be a beautiful and peaceful way to celebrate the morning.

 

 

Love Those Ladybugs

Who hasn’t greeted ladybugs with surprise and delight? These beetles are full-grown at less than a half-inch and live for 2-3 years. Children of all ages seem fascinated by ladybugs because of their small size, bright color and their willingness to walk a while on your finger and fly away when they tire of the adventure. Ladybugs are speedy – flying at 15 MPH.

ladybugs, nature, children, outdoors, garden, pollinators, aphidsWhen your family is out walking in the neighborhood, look for ladybugs feasting on aphids – their favorite food – or other small insects. They use their antennae to touch, smell and taste and eat as many as 50 aphids a day! The instant they are born, ladybugs start eating. By the end of six weeks, they can eat 5,000 aphids. Because of their huge appetites, they are an important way to protect plants. Farmers use them to protect crops instead of using chemicals.

Not all ladybugs are red. I have seen colonies of hundreds of red, spotted ladybugs. They are also yellow, orange, gray, black, brown and pink. More than 500 species of ladybugs live in the US and 5,000 around the world. Some don’t have spots. As a ladybug ages, spots fade.

Ladybugs play dead when threatened, releasing a foul smelling liquid that helps defend themselves from predators. Dragonflies, ants, crows and other insect-eating birds love to feast on ladybugs.

Make your own ladybugs. With a little imagination, paint, colored markers or pencils, ladybugs can be made using any of the following materials:

  • Styrofoam balls and pipe cleaners for legs
  • Paper mache (using starch and newspaper strips and forming the body with a cereal bowl)
  • Paper plates to make a spotted bug face mask
  • Small round stones to paint
  • Egg carton as the body

 Ladybug Board Game courtesy of National Wildlife Federation