Roosters are still calling “good morning” still hidden for the night in trees and shrubs. Some are very early risers and wander about in the street.
A cloudless sky. I arrive at 7 am wearing a T-shirt and shorts and put down my backpack. A lone kayaker approaches boat dock after an early morning row. One lone boat – 2 men – casting their fishing rods. I see the same woman jogging today. I wonder how many people I will see that come here as walkers, joggers or dog walkers every day? The bridge is quiet so far, with few cyclists or walkers.Read more
I arrive greeted by a chorus of roosters singing together all from distant trees. They were all waking at the same time and answering all at once. Cooler today. 55 degrees. I wear my denim jacket to keep the chill off my arms.
Morning sky is awash with scattered clouds. The pale pink of sunrise is emerging over distant trees. Two boats sit in the water. Fishermen cast their lines and wait. Many of the same walkers come by every morning. I recognize some of them. Two women with hats and one of them wears a warm woolen cape.
A flock of 30 pigeons circles a dozen times around the bridge. They are so close I can hear the flapping of their wings. I wonder if they warm their bodies by flying so fast? After many flyovers, they settle on the bridge to sleep with their heads tucked under their wing.
The sun rises above the trees with a deep orange glow that expands slowly across the sky.Read more
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.
One 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.
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.
On 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.
After this the salmon are protected from fisherman and so they can continue to swim undisturbed up the American River to their spawning grounds. All of them will stop when they reach the weir at Nimbus Fish Hatchery. Some will lay eggs in the river. Many will climb the fish ladder into the hatchery for spawning.
It is late in the day, so the morning fisherman have long ago left the river. Only two boaters are sitting in the river. Seagulls patrol the sky. I see a dead salmon laying the shallow bottom of the river. I am surprised to see a Great Blue Heron walking along the riverbank on the west side of the bridge. Usually 630 am is the prime time to search for nibbles.
I walk along the American River Parkway to a shallow, rocky area and see a seagull eating his catch. Twenty seagulls sit and wait.
I wonder, why are so few salmon jumping? Were there more salmon a year ago?
I struggled to observe so many things happening at once – writing, observing, photographing. Four turkey vultures circle, dozens of seagulls call, and other waterfowl swim peacefully. I see so few salmon jumping. As I stand watching the water, I see two salmon swim and then another. The easiest way to spot them is to watch for the flip of their tails as they propel themselves forward.
Water splashes and one salmon surfaces; barely visible because the colors blend into the water. Each one that passes navigates the surface of the water for only a second before its swims down below again to continue on this last part of its long journey from the Pacific Ocean. I see a third salmon flipping its tail and disappear. This pattern continues. In 45 minutes, I see at least six salmon swim past and likely many more that I missed.
An Egret stands tall in the distance making serious efforts to swallow a whole salmon.
Using its beak to shake it and break up the salmon into pieces is not working, so the Egret throws the salmon to the ground to dunk it under the water. It remains intact. The next strategy is to shake it apart and that does not work either. Finally the Egret stands and decides to chew on it a little more. After a few minutes, the Egret tires of tearing up the dead salmon flies to the opposite shore to escape the crowds.
I notice each day when I visit the river that all the larger birds – Egret, Great Blue Heron and even the Turkey Vultures tend to stay in the background, waiting their turn. They go on patrol individually. The Turkey Vultures cast off their competition with a spreading of their wings, warning others of their kind this is their territory and/or their catch, “Get outta here!”
Some seagulls stand alone while others prefer to stay in groups. A rare opportunity to see the Egret, Great Blue Heron and 20 gulls stand together on shallow parts of the river looking for food. Vultures continue their sky patrol. One daring salmon passes quickly in front of the gulls and keeps on going. I wonder what those gulls could be thinking? “Oh darn. Another one got away!”
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?
I enjoy this stunning reflection as I walk on Fair Oaks Bridge looking east to the sunrise – Fair Oaks Bluffs lay on the left side.
Four Canada Geese honk loudly to greet me as they fly over Fair Oaks Bridge. They land with a splash still squawking on the west side. Two more come in and what a noise! Everyone is talking this morning. One lands on the concrete pillar supporting the bridge. I stand on the bridge deck and the goose stands on the pillar alongside. Mist flows from its beak as it continues to squawk and squawk for several minutes.
Who is this goose calling to? What could it be saying? Finally, it quiets down and begins to whisper.
Sun emerges from the heavy cloud cover, shining in thin strips of yellow. Clouds reflect in the American River like a mirror as a thin layer of mist rolls slowly over the surface of the water. I feel the icy air of morning against my face.
Birds sing in chorus with the Canada Geese, honking once again. A single Bufflehead swims and dives in the middle of the river. It is a rare day when at least one Bufflehead is not swimming in the middle of the river diving for breakfast.
An Egret flies in, stands briefly on the boat launch ramp before flying across the river to roam the riverbank at the foot of the Fair Oaks Bluffs. A pair of Egrets fly in next and glide underneath the Fair Oaks Bridge.
Now, the morning is quiet. The sunlight casts shadows on the bridge. The reflections of clouds vanish. Several Buffleheads arrive and swim in the center of the river channel, creating a circular wake in the still, green water.
“Everyone needs beauty as well as bread; places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”
“Camp out among the grass and gentians of glacier meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature’s darlings. Climb the mountain and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flowers into trees. The winds will blow their freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”