I begin the day by listening to the chicken’s morning calls in Fair Oaks Village. I stop and enjoy their morning concert.
Today a pale blue, cloudless sky is tinged with gray at the horizon. A gentle breeze blows on Fair Oaks Bridge as sunlight glares on the water. I meet a couple looking over the side of the bridge and ask what they are looking at. They are looking for the beaver that was eating a salmon whole by stripping the meat right off the bones. They showed me where to look on the shoreline to find its home. I also found out they sighted two river otters and a seal that wandered far from its home turf into the American River one day.Read more
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.
While 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.
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?
Birds twitter in the cool morning air. A gentle breeze blows against my face.
Riding my bike today, I stop briefly on Fair Oaks Bridge to check for wildlife and spider webs. I continue on the American River Parkway trail, stopping at a shallow, narrow place on the American River. This short part of the river is lined with a thick blanket of gravel. The river’s resident Mallards come here to find food. Salmon arrive in the fall to spawn here.
Many salmon swim further upriver to another shallow place, or finish their long journey to Nimbus Fish Hatchery. I chat with several walkers who have also stopped to enjoy the view.
A Cormorant stands on a small island in the middle of the river channel. I hear a distant quack from an unseen duck once, and then again and again, as if it is calling ‘Where is everyone?’ This rocky island is a fraction of its former size before the winter 2017 flooding. Fishermen used to dock their boats here, set up a chair with their ice chest alongside, and spend a few hours fishing.
My next stop is a picnic area on the riverbank, a short distance from the bike path. I listen to the sounds of the soft breeze and hear the water gently moving downstream. The river is moving more quickly today than recent visits. Small white peaks form on the other side of the river about 100 yards downstream. Could this be where rocks hide underneath and create rapids in the river?
I ride back to the boat launch ramp to watch Mallards searching the water for bugs or seeds or something to nibble on. I sit and watch them paddle through the water and dive head first into the water searching for food. If I had food to give them, two dozen ducks would fly in from anywhere, sensing feeding activity on the river.
The Great Blue Heron poses like a statue in the American River. It stood on the stub of a branch before I arrived and continued to pose and study the river long after I walked off Fair Oaks Bridge. Water is still. The sky pale blue and clear. Not a wisp of a cloud. A dozen ducks swim by, creating their own wake. Pigeons fly in dancing over the bridge and quickly depart.
I walk to the boat launch ramp and see the ducks gather at the end of the ramp, looking at me with curiosity. They are likely wondering, Do you have food for us? I have no food to share. I hear an unseen woodpecker softly drumming on a nearby tree.
This peaceful place is an escape from other crises of the day. As I stand here and enjoy its beauty, catastrophic wildfires consume other areas of California – places of peace, joy and beauty where people and wildlife have lived and loved for years.
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.