So many birds flying around Fair Oaks Bridge this morning! Far more than any other morning. Birds fly quickly from one part of the bridge truss frame to another – twittering and flapping wings. “Ti Too. Ti Too. Ti Too!” I am close enough to see the birds open their wings and see a white circle underneath each one. Dozens of pigeons fly over and leave as quickly as they come.
Densely cloudy sky as if a heavy cotton blanket hangs on an invisible clothesline in the sky. Along the lower edge, a thick golden streak of light shines at the tree line. On the west side of the bridge, clouds reflect their deep pink and white shapes in the river below. Only two boats out today. One motored around the bend. Six ducks swim out from the riverbank. Birds continue to sound their calls reminding me of a distant siren
The air is still, and feels heavy, sticky and warm. The scent of damp ash carries through the air – the smell after a fire is put out with water.
In the late afternoon, these clouds released our first rain of the season – a heavy and unexpected downpour.
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.
Images taken standing on Fair Oaks Bridge of sunrise and sunset over Fair Oaks Bluff.
So many beautiful scenes, watching the sunrise, listening to birds sing and roosters call. In these images, look for the duck cloud flying through the sky. Canada Geese fly over Fair Oaks Bridge. Brilliant colored streaks line the sky at sunrise and clouds above reflect in the river. Sunset over the Sunrise Blvd. river crossing looks like fire in the sky.
First the seagull stood on the rock and called to all other seagulls this was his claim. In this video, the seagull chases away its competitors for the dead salmon lying at the end of the boat launch ramp. A few minutes later, the ducks came waddling in looking for breakfast. They ignored the grapes I threw on the ramp. Seagulls enjoyed them as snacks instead.
Salmon completed their fall run this month. Most finished their journey home before Christmas.
This group of salmon swim through the narrow, shallow river channel. I watched them swim in the morning and sunset. Their journey continues. Some stop here to spawn, while others keep swimming. The weir (fence) at the Nimbus Dam blocks further passage up the American River. Salmon find their way to and up the fish ladder at Nimbus Fish Hatchery about 2 miles upriver from Fair Oaks Bridge.
Sitting in the rocky area near the small island in the center of the river, these seagulls patrol the water instead of standing at the shoreline wondering where is the food.
Two fishing boats sit waiting in the water on this chilly first day of the year.An Egret flies in from the west and settles briefly on the riverbank before flying to its next stop upriver. A few Buffleheads swim in the center of the river corridor. The resident Mallards stay close to shore.
The true highlight of this New Year’s morning is the resident chickens celebrating with songs and a small parade to greet the day.
I hear their loud chorus on Bridge Street from the middle of Fair Oaks Bridge. Two fluffy chickens roam the street. A rooster is perched high in tree branches and another sings loudly while completely unseen. Their chorus goes on and on all the time I stand at the bridge.
Swiftly moving water under a densely clouded sky and bitter cold are my morning greetings. Whoosh! Whoosh! Is what I hear as the water bubbles and swirls under Fair Oaks Bridge.
Walkers and runners dressed in warm layered clothing engage in their own conversation as they pass facing forward without stopping for a second to look left to right. A single bird calls. I hear honking Canada Geese in far off in the distance and then they quiet down, still unseen. The waterfowl are still hiding so far. Two ducks flap their wings on the riverbank to my left (north). Most have left the area for calmer and shallow water.
Folsom Dam releases water in response to recent storms. Water rushes through the Lower American River and through the gates of Nimbus Dam. The water level under Jim’s Bridge half a mile downriver appears only a foot or two below the deck. I suspect with more storms, the entire bridge may temporarily disappear under the river.
This activity or the absence of it, is common for winter on the river. All spider webs are washed clean. Grass grows between every board on the bridge deck from one end of the bridge to the other side. When was the last time I saw turtles sunbathing on the river? The long branch that extends from the riverbank over the river just under the bridge is empty. Where did the turtles go?
A single bird calls. I hear the sound of Canada Geese honking in the wind and then silence. They remain unseen. Wildlife hide in nests safely away from the rising river. All spider webs have vanished. Do not remember the last time I saw turtles on the fallen branch that rests directly under Fair Oaks Bridge. As I stand observing the river, a succession of runners dressed in red t-shirts, all ages from new parents to older adults walk and run in training for a run.
At the boat launch ramp, resident ducks and Canada Geese search for tidbits of food. They find little – all washed away by the rain.
A sense of calm and quiet fills the air as I walk from Bannister Park to Fair Oaks Bridge and boat ramp.
As I stand on Jim’s Bridge, I watch the river move swiftly underneath. The air is so still, I listen to the whoosh of the water flowing downstream. I search for spider webs stretched across the side rails. I listen to birds fill the morning air with songs and enjoy the vibrant green on trees and plants and grass as I pass. The air is still cool and fresh and still. I greet many other walkers and runners also enjoying this peaceful morning. I continue walking down the Jedediah Smith Bicycle Trail toward Fair Oaks Bridge.
Shortly after I walk on to the bridge, an Egret glides underneath it heading west. I always admire the Egret’s graceful, quiet flight and watch until it lands on the riverbank 100 yards away.
One boat sits in the water near the boat ramp. A fisherman stands at the end of the ramp casting in the water, drawing his line in and casting again. I walk down to the boat ramp for a closer look. Halfway across the river is an unusually colored small duck floats in the water. It is different than any other duck normally swimming in the river and continue to wonder about this. Suddenly it disappears. That is when I notice a fisherman throwing his line out and the duck is attached at the end. Once more the duck bobs in the deep green water.
I stand and watch the fishermen throw their lines in, the men in the nearby boat as they sit and wait for a tug on their fishing line. I look up to Fair Oaks Bridge and see walkers, runners and cyclists cross the bridge.
I look across the river corridor at the deep colors of Fair Oaks Bluff and its reflection in the green shimmering water.
The morning is so peaceful, even the two ducks standing in the water at the end of the ramp are standing in quiet contemplation. Occasionally a lonely rooster calls from a distance. Returning to Fair Oaks Bridge, I see two turtles are sunbathing on the log extending from the riverbank parallel to the bridge. They have been away for several weeks. I finished my morning walk not knowing the temperature had risen by more than 10 degrees and that I had been out walking, watching and listening for more than two hours.
Two roosters call to greet me at Bridge Street on my way to Fair Oaks Bridge. Fishermen sit patiently in their boats out in the river. A feeling of peace and calm washes over me as the cool, gentle wind crosses my face. Birds call softly to greet the new day.
So many spider webs line the bridge this morning. I stopped counting at 12. Maybe more than two dozen webs stretched all the way across the rails on the west side of the bridge. They range in size from two inches to eight, all woven into perfect intersecting lines. The sun is a glowing yellow ball of fire hanging in an empty pale blue sky. Runners, walkers and cyclists pass by. No one stops. No one looks side to side.
They all miss the intricate spider webs – graveyards for hundreds of flies hanging in storage for future meals. With so many flies lining the entire span of the bridge, I wonder if catching so many flies is for the sport or the need to eat.
Today I look over the side of the bridge that is closer to the bicycle trail near the riverbank and see a fallen log lying on the river bottom. The tree uprooted during the early 20017 flooding and lays in the same spot as if held captive there to rest. I suspect that many visitors have long forgotten the destruction caused by the flooding when Folsom Dam released heavy water flows down the river. The river still holds memories of that turbulent time.
Visitors crowded the bridge during those weeks of heavy flows to see water swirl in a dizzying frenzy under Fair Oaks Bridge, Sunrise Blvd. and submerging Jim’s Bridge farther west.
Scanning the riverbanks, I can still see trees bent over and debris and tangled bushes lying on the landscape. Animal homes along the banks may still be flooded.
The American River continues to hold its own stories for anyone to discover.