Not a single chicken in sight when drive into Fair Oaks Village. Yet the morning symphony is as loud and as long as ever.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When I arrive on the bridge, I see seven boats lined up on the American River (running from east to west). I find it curious the boats are always in a straight line on the eastern side of Fair Oaks Bridge. Boats always stay on the north side of the river. I am guessing the water level is deeper to support the boats. The south side where the boat launch ramp is located tends to be shallow almost half way out.
Two walkers pass. An older man calls out to me, “It is cheaper to buy salmon at the store than to go fishing in the cold. It is freezing out there on the water.” I turned and replied, “Then you miss the experience. You cannot buy the experience.”
I rarely have the opportunity to ask fishermen why they venture into the cold river before dawn to catch salmon. For devoted fishermen, catching a wild salmon, watching it jump and wriggle and try in vain to escape is the culmination of both joyful anticipation and planning. Some salmon get away. Their struggle to escape is stronger than the fishing line. At the final moment when the salmon is caught, skillful hands cannot hold on. The salmon wins the game to fight another day. Watching the sunrise, eating breakfast on portable grills on the boat are experiences no one can buy in a store.
I watch the fishermen as they find the best spot, cast their lines and share fish stories between boats. I come outside to experience the chill in morning air, listen for a distant, yet unseen “quack, quack, quack,” and honks from Canada Geese, the graceful flight of seagulls and their calls to each other from the river.
Even after visiting this bridge more than 100 times, I continue to marvel at the beauty of this place.
Arriving at Fair Oaks Bridge, I always do a spider web check. This morning I marvel at two empty spider webs. These webs are meticulously attached to the Truss frame of the bridge. I watch the ripples in the water as ducks swim past me. Next I watch a circle of pigeons flying above the bridge. Canada Geese swim under the bridge. An egret flies and lands on the boat launch ramp. Ducks are busy finding breakfast on the boat launch ramp and under the water. I remain in awe how various species of birds take flight and land, using their wings and feet in different, yet very precise ways. Many waterfowl gather to feed on salmon. I don’t smell the scent of their decaying bodies as much as I have in the past. Two dead salmon lay at the river bottom below the bridge.
I stand and watch a series of circles in the water created by Canada Geese who rise and flap their wings in the air for 20 yards before ever lifting out of the water and rise into the sky. I listen to the sound of a tiny bird, “Ti Too. Ti too.” These birds return regularly to rest on the overhead truss of the bridge.
I hear the usual good morning calls from one lone chicken living in the bushes along Bridge Street. A dozen pigeons circle the Fair Oaks Bridge. Some land and walk the deck.
Clouds scatter across the sky as if they were blue gray spires of spun sugar with golden tips at their end. The air is still and cool. The river moves quickly downstream. As the sun emerges on the horizon, it shines brilliantly through dense cloud cover.
The branch where I watch turtles sunbathe is completely underwater. A river otter surfaced from underneath the north riverbank, swam under Fair Oaks Bridge and disappeared.
I am surrounded by the morning melodies of birds singing from high trees heard and unseen. As all other wildlife leaves Fair Oaks Bridge and the nearby areas, birds continue to sing. I stand alone on the bridge, and listen to the music of my morning companions.
Two fluffy chickens look for food on Bridge Street.
Walking on Fair Oaks Bridge, clouds blanket the sky and the only light is a long, thin strip directly above distant treetops. River is calm and deep green.
Lots of activity this morning! Standing on the bridge, I watch clouds change from a gray blanket to snow white puffs, as the wind stretches them apart to reveal a deep blue backing underneath. Three ducks come out for a swim and approach where the boats sit.
As I prepared to take photos of the morning scene, I was surprised to see clouds reflecting in the water – seen only through my camera lens.
Walking to the boat launch ramp, rafters and boaters who arrived as early as 530 am prepare to leave the river while others are just now arriving. Pick up trucks and boat trailers line the parking lot. Several ducks next to the riverbank engage in their morning routines: cleaning, dunking for food, and watching the river. Turkey Vultures patrol the sky over Fair Oaks Bluff. Two-dozen pigeons circle the sky east of Fair Oaks Bridge. I do not see any of them land. They circle and vanish.
I hear a chortle to my left and know a Great Blue Heron has flown in. It poses on the rock on the left side of the boat ramp long enough for me to snap a few photos. Then it sounds another call, extends its large wings and glides slowly over the river, past the ducks and vanishes further upriver.
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.