Leaving my house in clouded darkness, the air is filled with moisture. Water drips down my car’s windows and continues to collect after wiping them dry. Fog fills the windows as I drive in the emerging dawn toward the bridge this morning. This is my coolest morning so far. Roosters hide in their nighttime roosts, begin their morning music and suddenly stop.
I pass a large tub covered with a blanket left out on the street near the bridge. Where did this come from? As I approach the bridge in the darkness, I see a large shape settled on the bridge. As I get closer, this shape is a person bundled in a sleeping bag with suitcases and other belongings in a pile. In all my mornings on the bridge, this is the first time to see anyone sleeping on it.Read more
As I arrive on my bike this afternoon, I notice the sun has flipped to the opposite side of the bridge this afternoon as the sun travels to the western sky. The river is quiet and weather is a warm 80 degrees – a warm day for fall. Resident ducks are enjoying a lazy day at the river. Birds are gone. After their morning flyover, I see birds spending their days gathered on the river scouting for food.
A gentle breeze carries the sound of rap music from visitors gathering on the riverbank to the east side of the bridge. This large open spot on the riverbank is among the most popular “hangouts” for groups to gather for parties on the river.
Years ago, when I first started visiting the Fair Oaks Bridge. Nearly every evening for months on end, I heard the beat of bongo drums from the riverbank.
By the time I park the car, daylight has filled the sky and clouds are gone – all except a few random patches and streaks. Have not seen the moon from the bridge for many days. Each morning there is so much cloud cover. There is no moon today.
It is cool and misty outside. I wear a warm, hooded sweatshirt. My car windows are fogged – as they are every morning. I wipe the windows before leaving home and turn on the defroster.
On my walk to the bridge, I am welcomed by the morning concert from roosters in their usual places – hiding in trees. For the unaware visitor, it appears that trees talk. Without shaking a leaf, the roosters perch on a branch and sing. One lonely and very scrawny chicken emerges from a side street and sings a scratchy song for anyone to hear.Read more
The sky is still dark with only a hint of the approaching dawn. Roosters crow limply this morning. I walk shining a flashlight all the way to the bridge. A very misty morning! Looking at the sky with a few streaks of gray clouds, the dawn seems darker this morning. The orange glow from the rising sun begins to spread across the sky. Two ducks fly east. The river is still. Hardly a ripple. Mist hangs over the river like a canopy in the distance. The coldest morning yet – a chilly 48 degrees.
The American River closed to fishing November 1 through the end of the year. This is my first visit without fisherman lining the river before dawn.
Next week, hundreds of salmon will begin their leap into the fish ladder as spawning begins at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery less than two miles upstream to the east.
As I arrive on my bike at the Fair Oaks Bridge, I see a flock of 50 seagulls gather on the north side of the river. More fly in to join them.
Seagulls gather at two prime locations along the river waiting for their chance to nibble on remnants of salmon after spawning. Turkey vultures circle overhead. All looking for salmon.
The river’s resident egret flies in, squawks and lands on the smooth riverbank searching for food. The wildlife living at the American River are left alone with no fishing allowed. A few salmon jump and splash down. A warm day for riding, despite the cloud cover.
I wonder is the fish ladder open yet? I ride to the Nimbus Fish Hatchery to find out. Yes! Salmon have returned home. Salmon are leaping into the ladder from the open gate. A group of salmon all already crowding the holding tank at the top of the fish ladder – the last stop before salmon move into the hatchery for spawning. Crowds of people line the fish ladder to watch each salmon leap each one level upward and capture the moments in photos.Read more
Sunday November 6, 2016 715 am PDT 615 am PST 55 degrees
I see an orange stripe rising in the sky on the east side of my front porch. I drive through Fair Oaks Village and park at the curb a few yards from the bridge entrance so I don’t miss the coming sunrise. Colors last at most 20 minutes before fading to gray.
I miss the rooster’s morning concert and run to the bridge in time to see the sunrise in its full glory of orange glowing behind the clouds – gray streaks woven with bright orange.
This is a very warm morning by comparison with last Thursday. Today is a warm 55 degrees. Now I am fully awake. Two women walkers pass me and we all enjoy the warm weather and glow of the sunrise together. Our reward for rising early. Moments later a man dressed in tattered clothes walks past me asking for change.Read more
I love to hear roosters sing in the morning as I drive into Fair Oaks Village! No better wake up call.
Arriving at 730 is still early. Yet with Pacific Standard Time, I still feel like the morning activities are an hour later. I doubt the roosters know the difference. The sun is far above the horizon. The temperature is still 54 degrees and feels warm.
The little bird that used to greet me each morning with “ti too, ti too” has returned for a brief good morning greeting – it stays two minutes and flies away.
The sun shines brightly on the bridge deck already this morning. I always watch the changing shadows on the bridge as the sun moves over. Air feels fresh and crisp. Today, unlike other days, the bridge deck and rails are completely dry. Not a drop of moisture anywhere.
River is still as can be. A few ducks swim slowly through the water. I find random spider webs attached to the bridge rails. Occasionally a salmon leaps high to form a series of ever expanding concentric circles, as if a pebble dropped into the river. Seagulls call in the distance. Ducks fly in and land as if they are on water skis. Canada Geese fly in from the east and fly under the bridge honking until they glide in for a landing. A Great Blue Heron flies in to sit on a rock at the edge of the water.
The buzz of a motorcycle carries for a mile in the wind. When cyclists cross the bridge, it sounds the same as a car’s flat tire, bump, bump, bumping over the deck. The morning has warmed to 58 degrees by the time I return to my car at 820. The roosters have flown into the streets and the park to sing their good morning songs.
Continuing my afternoon bike ride traveling to the east side of the Fair Oaks Bridge. I approach a tall and long dead tree on the side of the path that I have passed by hundreds of time. The trunk is ghostly gray with a dozen dead branches laying at its feet. Why is this tree still standing?
Riding by the tree I hear knocking and stop to look. A family of three woodpeckers are lined up on the trunk drumming on the tree. The trunk from the ground to the uppermost remnant of the trunk is covered with scars from the woodpeckers. At the very top of the tree are two more woodpeckers. They have created a nest out of the hollow at the top of highest branch. From now on, I will be on woodpecker watch passing this tree.
The sky is awash with shades of pink fading in the sky. As the pink turns slowly gray, I see the mist hovering over the water as if this is Brigadoon hiding its secrets. The southern sky is woven with pale stripes as the sun rises. The mist gently moves along the river towards the bridge. The movement so gentle it reminds me of fog blowing across a stage in a theater in unseen currents of air.
I wear gloves. My hands still feel like ice. The boat launch ramp is empty. A group of four ducks are just now coming out to swim. A single seagull flies west over the bridge. The little bird that used to greet me every morning has returned to sit at the top of the bridge frame and sing its song, “Ti Too! Ti Too!” Geese fly under the bridge, honking, honking loudly, landed on the west side of the bridge in their traditional water skiing style.
Alas, two empty beer cans sit on the bridge. Runners arrive wearing hats, jackets and gloves. The bridge rails are covered with dew. The deck is moist enough to reveal footsteps. An intact spider web is suspended between two bridge rails. Six dead salmon float next to the riverbank to become food for hungry gulls, as Canada Geese and turkey vultures monitor the river.
I walk to the boat launch ramp and stand alongside two Canada Geese pondering what they will do today. One turns around and spies the river. The other stands and whispers, “Honk, honk” to me over and over again. What a treat it would be to know geese language. The best I can do is say good morning in “people speak.” The river’s resident Egret is sitting on the north shore in its usual spot.
A single seagull flies over my head. Its circular flight path is 100 yards long, over and over again. The gull is far too high above me to hear the flap of its wings. Yet I do hear it whistle as it circles above me six times. The two Canada Geese decide to fly over the river and vanish into the mist. Ducks appear, land in the water and quickly liftoff once again to fly away to another part of the river corridor.
I leave the boat ramp and walk back over the bridge, always giving the river a last glance for the day to hold it in my memory. Arriving at my car at 810 am, the morning temperature has only warmed to 49 degrees.
Two seagulls soar over the bridge as I approach. I spy the Egret on the west side looking for breakfast taking very careful steps in the water. Even gifted with three long toes to navigate over the rocks and sand, both the Egret and Great Blue Heron both walk slowly and carefully, contemplating each step.
The Egret quietly spreads its wings and gracefully flies across the river to the opposite bank. Two Canada Geese fly in quietly. On these cold mornings, the wildlife arrive slowly, spending a longer time hiding in the shrubs to keep warm. I wear gloves, a jacket and will keep my visit short on this cold, clear morning. Very few people walk or ride the bridge so far.
Even in the chill, as my hands and body stiffen, and cool air crosses my face, I find an inner peace and joy from watching the daily activities of wildlife at the river – the elegant flight of the seagulls, the Egret and the Great Blue Heron. I listen carefully for distant sounds of Canada Geese approaching and follow their path as they fly over my head. I smile when hearing ducks quacking and complaining. I watch them splashing and chasing each other away.
The geese tend to be the biggest bullies of all, often chasing away the ducks getting in their way of being fed.
When I am away from this peaceful setting, I hold these images with me as a peaceful place to pause for a few moments and feel gratitude for the natural beauty in our outdoor world.