Waterfowl Walk and Ski

Wednesday September 21, 2016, 7 am

Clouds cover the sky. Raindrops fall on my windshield. In the 10 minutes it takes for me to walk to the river, the sky has already brightened. The raindrops that fall on the bridge quickly evaporate. I feel a cool breeze blow against my face. This is the first moisture of late summer and in a few minutes the drizzle has passed.clouds, bridge, Fair Oaks Bridge, Fair Oaks, morning, American River

Roosters wake up the neighborhood with their calls – one crowing and another responds. Far fewer roosters are awake. Maybe the chill has kept them hiding in trees a little longer?

I know the morning sun has risen over the trees. Yet I cannot see it today hidden behind dense cloud cover.Read more

River of Emptiness – After the Flood

Saturday April 22, 2017 8 am

During my morning walk, I hear birds greeting the day as they sing hidden in trees lining Fair Oaks Village and nearby streets. A few chickens greet me, still emerging from their evening hiding places in trees and under shrubs.

tree, Fair Oaks Bridge, American River, flooding, water, emptinessSun is high in the sky. Dawn arrives before 6 am on these spring mornings. The sun is already over the horizon to light the morning. Thin, scattered clouds streak the sky. The green water is calmly moving downstream. Sunlight sparkles on the water. As I stand on the bridge, I hear the deep throated cooing from unseen pigeons. The river is empty. Not even one duck is out swimming this morning. All the homes, hiding places, ridges and islands for wildlife to settle on are overrun with water. The river runs high again today and so many once dry places are still flooded.

One tree with roots exposed stands as a marker to the constantly changing water level. During the peak of winter storms, the tall, thin tree was completely surrounded by water, sitting as an island several feet from the water’s edge. Today as in many recent days past, it hugs the eroded shore, roots exposed.Read more

Daily Rituals at Fair Oaks Bridge

Thursday May 25, 2017 7 am 57 degrees

Walking through Fair Oaks Village today, all the chickens are silent except for one.

One solo chicken hides in a tree on my way to the Fair Oaks Bridge. It calls every five seconds, over and over and over again. I hear its faint call from the bridge some 100 yards away.

Where is everyone?” “I am awake!”

Dense clouds float above my head. It is a chilly and windy morning. I have already seen half dozen cyclists and several walkers. A lone boater was in the water and more preparing to enter the river. The water is calm. Pigeons coo as they straddle the upper bridge frame. Parts of the bridge are covered in spider webs blown apart by winds.

Even after 20 minutes of standing on the bridge, I still hear the chickens calling and the music of  birds singing while hidden in nearby trees. Three ducks play in the water at the end of the boat ramp. I hear the distant honk of a single Canada Goose and see it fly under the bridge and continue its west facing flight. Pigeons are the only ones flying this morning. I watch a new family of Canada geese swim over to the riverbank, climb up and disappear into the shrubbery. The rocks are laid bare after the severe flooding washed away so many hiding places.Read more

Waterfowl Return and Search for Food

June 6, 2017   7 am

Lovely, quiet morning. The air chilled, a slight breeze blowing. Scattered, puffy white clouds fill the sky.

I missed Fair Oaks Village and the chickens today. I rode my bike from home directly to the boat launch ramp. My morning melody is birds in trees chirping and twittering, combined with the distant buzz of motorcycles and humming cars crossing the Sunrise Blvd. bridge.

Canada Geese, boat launch ramp, American River, Fair Oaks Bridge, American River Parkway, ducks, pigeonsCanada geese and ducks are silent and still as they sit at the dry end of the boat ramp. Some ducks engaged in their morning clean up rituals. Sunrise is so early, the sun is well above the trees before I arrive. Pigeons wander the riverbank cooing and searching for nibbles. No people are here save a few boaters waiting on bites from shad.

Minutes later the geese and ducks wander up the boat launch ramp looking for breakfast. They approach me waiting for handouts.

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A Perfect Sunday!

Sunday, June 17, 2017   745 am 71 degrees

 An ideal day to spend at the American River after a week of scorching heat all day and evening.

I approached Jim’s crossing over the river and see no waterfowl. Not a single one! Where are they? So much has changed since the winter floods to those who visit the river regularly and see the difference.

I ride to the boat launch ramp before riding up to the Fair Oaks Bridge. Fishermen are out in their boats, hoping to catch Shad Skippers. These men are the second group of fisherman out on the river in the past couple weeks trying their luck. Kayaks are launching into the river.

Two boats are already in the water with one more to launch. The boat sits in front of a backdrop composed of Canada Geese. From a distance it appears they are floating backwards. Maybe they are as the geese roll along with the current.Read more

A Wild and Busy Morning

Saturday, July 22, 2017   7 am  68 degrees

 I hear what sounds like a foghorn repeated three times as I sit on Fair Oaks Bridge. What is that sound? Where is it coming from?

At Jim’s Bridge a few ducks are swimming and scavenging. I pass them by and ride on to the boat launch ramp where all is quiet.  One woman stands in a boat in the middle of the river channel and casts her fishing line. Birds are calling their morning song, even though I cannot see even one. I hear a chorus of tweets and rattles.  Pigeons roost on Fair Oaks Bridge.

Mallard, American River, Fair Oaks Bridge, river, morning, water, feeding, feedOne Mallard approaches me waiting to receive handfuls of breakfast treats.  As it poses for me and waits for a bite to eat, we  both hear a quack in the distance. The duck raises it neck and listens for the sound. After a few minutes of waiting for me to throw food and discovering, I have none to give, the duck wanders back into the water.

Another day at the river without even a strip of white clouds in the sky. Looking carefully, I see faint wisps of white, as if an artist used a very dry brush on a pale blue canvas. I hear a chicken call from the distance. The calm waters enhance this peaceful scene.  Out of the quiet, a cyclist at high speed races by, rumbling across the bridge deck as he passes.

Half dozen Canada Geese patrol a distant shore. Still no Egrets. No Great Blue Heron. I search for them every time I come and they must have gone elsewhere where food supply is plentiful. No turtles today hanging out on a branch to sunbathe.

I hear a persistent cough coming from an unseen person hiding on the riverbank directly under the bridge. I have heard these coughs several times during morning visits to the bridge and rarely see the source.

woodpecker,American river,The sun is high in the sky. The morning temperature is still cool. I ride west on the American River Parkway to  my usual morning stopping point – a picnic bench on a bluff overlooking sandbars on the river.  No waterfowl there. No cyclists on the bike trail yet.

woodpeckers, American River Parkway, home, treeOn my ride home I look for the tall and long dead tree where woodpecker families call home. I see a family of four  flying from one branch to another, sitting, drumming, joining others, flying off again, sitting in a line. I focus in for a photo and they fly away again.



Webs, Wildlife and Wonder

Wednesday, August 2, 825 am 78 degrees

destinaton, chickens, Fair Oaks Village, Fair Oaks Bridge, morning
Morning stroll in Fair Oaks Village

Walking from the Fair Oaks Clubhouse, I hear chickens call their good morning song. Met a photographer on my way to Fair Oaks Bridge taking photos of bunnies hiding under bushes. We think someone left them here to live in the wild, instead of a home.

Two ducks swim in the American River to the boat launch ramp. A group of a dozen young women out for a morning run. A lone boater casts his line. Walkers stroll by. The water under the bridge is so clear, I can see the stones lining the river bottom.

As soon as I arrive at the bridge, a cyclist begins chatting on his phone with a friend about politics. Speaking loudly, pacing back and forth, I begin my daily observations and try to ignore him. Other people walk on the bridge and cross without stopping to look at the view. They remain engaged in conversation. Occasionally I point out intricate spider webs to people who say, “Good morning.” A group of three women walk past me and admire my colorful socks.Read more

In the Moment of Sunrise

Sunday August 27, 2017, 72 degrees, 615 am

From my front porch, I see a flaming glow of sunrise filtered by heavy cloud cover.
fire in the sky, Fair Oaks Bridge, American River, morning, sunrise, writing, photo, nature, fisherman, boat, clouds
Clouds begin to spread as the sun rises. A lone fisherman watches and waits.

At 610 am, I force myself out the door to catch the early morning sights on Fair Oaks Bridge. Far too warm this morning! A breeze blows on my warming skin. The morning chicken symphony is long and loud, hiding in unseen trees. I am surprised by a loud call from a tree branch directly above my head as I open my car door to get out. A large white chicken is greeting the new day.

One duck squawks when I arrive at the bridge. Have not seen Canada Geese in many days. They may be wandering around the riverbank at Jim’s Bridge for their morning meal. Jim’s bridge is closed until September 1 to replace the broken fence from our winter flood, so I have not ridden my bike there to check the morning activity.

Why Do Pigeons Circle the Bridge Before Landing?

A dozen pigeons circle Fair Oaks Bridge several times and land on the overhead frame to rest. I still wonder if their flying in circles warms the air or their bodies before sitting down on a cold bridge to rest? pigeons, American River, Fair Oaks Bridge, mornings, sunrise

I need to research this. Some don’t rest for long, they are up and flying about. At the faintest of movements, they rise up as a group in a flutter of feathers and fly away and return to circle again minutes later.

Another boater arrives to join the one already in the water. The owner eases it down the boat launch ramp and cruises to a prime fishing spot.

I watch a pair of ducks lazily floating under Fair Oaks Bridge. They look around and float with the current, with no effort. Another pair floats the opposite direction. One pair must be paddling, since the current flows in one direction.

The sun’s rays are glowing through the heavy cloud cover. Three boats sit still in the river and two fishermen stand out in the river corridor in this quiet river waiting for their catch of the day to emerge. The sun rises. The breeze blows softly. By the time I leave the bridge at 715, I can feel the morning air heating up and feeling heavy. Checking the temperature, it is 81 degrees.


Morning Rituals of Fall

Friday, September 22, 2017            635 am   55 degrees

Not a single chicken in sight when drive into Fair Oaks Village. Yet the morning symphony is as loud and as long as ever.

morning, rituals, Fair Oaks, chickens, Fair Oaks Bridge

The songs of Fair Oaks Chickens are my favorite way to start the day – far better than a wake me up beverage!

Today is a cool morning! It is only 55 degrees. I wonder if the cool temperatures wake them earlier and inspire them to begin calling each other.

The brutal 100-degree days of summer are behind us. What a change from two weeks ago when morning temperature had not dropped below 72 degrees at 630 am. I wear a light jacket and jeans. For the first time, my hands feel chilled in the moist morning air.

Loosely scattered clouds define this morning’s sunrise. I missed yesterday’s fiery orange sunrise behind a dense cloud cover and hoped for a repeat. Not today. I watched yesterday’s sunrise from afar as the brilliant yellow ball emerged from the clouds a full 45 minutes after the first glow rose from the horizon.

Fair Oaks Bridge is one of few places where I can find joy when my days are filled with too much drama. I always hope others can find peace in sharing these morning walks on the bridge and the river’s edge.

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Where Salmon Swim, Seagulls Fly

Sunday, October 15, 2017   7am     46 degrees

Mornings are much cooler now, well into October. I am surprised it has not rained yet.

Usually it rains the weekend we decorate our home with outdoor Halloween decorations. I wear jeans, long sleeve shirts, long socks, and a jacket or sweatshirt on my morning visits. My hands are chilled. I have yet to put my gloves on. Mist covers my windshield and the moist air stays on. Despite the cold, people are out walking their dogs.

jet stream, sky, morning, Fair Oaks Bridge, American River, fishermen, salmon
Jet streams cross the sky at sunrise

Standing on Fair Oaks Bridge, I see white jet streams crossing the sky leaving a pattern of stripes across a pale blue sky. Today, no visible trace of gray smoke, yet my head remains congested in response to the poor air quality from so many fires some 90 miles north.

This morning, as all mornings, the same small, skinny chicken calls out “I am awake” in chicken speak and scratches the dirt to find breakfast. I can hear it call all morning from the center of Fair Oaks Bridge.

fishermen, boats, American River, Fair Oaks Bridge, morning
Year after year, fishermen return to this site east of Fair Oaks Bridge to catch salmon coming upriver to spawn

Two young adults are huddled in a blanket are engaged in vibrant conversation as they point to photos in an album. They continue to review their photos all the time I stand on the bridge and do not see them looking at the water or the landscape. Fair Oaks Bridge and the American River underneath create a space for so many different activities. Watching the sunrise, sunset, fishing, running, walking, cycling, kayaks, nature observation, feeding wildlife and picking berries.

When I arrive a cluster of fishermen sit in boats on the American River as if they were holding conference. I wonder if these are same people out every day or if different ones show up. Unlike the woman I encountered last visit who screamed down to them waving a flier about her lost cat, I leave them alone to watch early morning action on the river.

Today I see my first seagull of the season landing near the boat launch ramp. I smell the faint scent of dead salmon in the air. As November draws closer, seagulls know food is plentiful here and they wait.

Two hungry turkey vultures fly overhead. My first spotting for this season. I saw a dozen of them along the American River last year. More signs the salmon have returned. The seagull takes flight and glides through the air toward the bridge, scanning the water. After circling twice, it vanishes. Far more food lies about half a mile upriver. I wonder if the seagulls will be there yet? I see dozens of seagulls waiting during my bike ride later in the day.

seagull, salmon, morning, Fair Oaks Bridge, American River, water, fishermen
A group of seagulls sit upstream at a shallow and rocky part of the river – a prime location for salmon to spawn

A dozen pigeons approach and land on the bridge overhead Truss frame to rest a while. With the coming of salmon, I expect to see far more salmon jumping and splashing. So far, I see only a few in an hour of watching the river. A Cormorant arrives and flies under the bridge headed west. I follow its flight close to the riverbank and then lose sight as it blends into the distant landscape. Moments later, this elegant bird returns to circle the bridge.

I watch a seagull float gracefully over the bridge and land in the river near the boat launch ramp. Unlike ducks that splash down with wings spread and feet extended as if water skiing, seagulls land sitting down, wings tucked in without a ripple. When I hear the seagull call, I wonder is it calling for others to join? Where is the food? Or locate its flock?

Immediately after hearing the seagull, the lonely chicken calls from Bridge Street. Where else can you hear the call of a seagull and the rousing good morning from a chicken in the same place and time?

I leave the bridge knowing the cooler days of fall and the salmon are here. The wildlife of the American River in fall are ready and waiting.