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

Fish Ladder Opens!

 Sunday, November 6, 2016, 11 am

seagulls, salmon, American River, Nimbus Fish HatcheryAs I arrive on my bike at the Fair Oaks Bridge, I see a flock of 50 seagulls gather on the north side of the river. More fly in to join them.

Seagulls gather at two prime locations along the river waiting for their chance to nibble on remnants of salmon after spawning. Turkey vultures circle overhead. All looking for salmon.

The river’s resident egret flies in, squawks and lands on the smooth riverbank searching for food. The wildlife living at the American River are left alone with no fishing allowed. A few salmon jump and splash down. A warm day for riding, despite the cloud cover.

I wonder is the fish ladder open yet? I ride to the Nimbus Fish Hatchery to find out. Yes! Salmon have returned home. Salmon are leaping into the ladder from the open gate. A group of salmon all already crowding the holding tank at the top of the fish ladder – the last stop before salmon move into the hatchery for spawning. Crowds of people line the fish ladder to watch each salmon leap each one level upward and capture the moments in photos.Read more

New Visitors to the River

Thursday December 1, 2016   8:25 am 42 degrees

The sun is high in the sky and white puffy clouds sit along the top edges of distant trees. On my way to the bridge, I see two squirrels playing hide and seek as they dance in circles around a palm tree at the curb. Their sharp claws gripped the jagged trunk. I hear so much chatter from the tree to my left as I walk on to the bridge. Small birds chirp, flap and fly from branch to branch.

A squirrel darts up and down the trunk. I have seen this squirrel-bird conflict in other trees and I wonder if they are naturally unfriendly to each other? Are the birds defending their tree? Are they demanding the squirrel stop shaking the branches as it searches for acorns?Read more

Seagulls Soar, Ducks Swim

Saturday, December 3, 2016 6:35 am 36 degrees

bats, flying, Fair Oaks, American River, Fair Oaks Bridge, Buffleheae
photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I look to the sky and see a long, black line flying quietly in the sky. Wondering if I am looking at bats flying out from the bridge? Looks like 100s of them are flying above me.

Roosters are active this morning, singing their song from the trees. I am the first one out. I see no one on the way to the bridge. The air is icy cold. A runner jogs past me dressed in his warm ups, jacket and cap. Read more

Wildlife Returns to the River

Friday, March 3,  645 am 41 degrees

The American River is quiet once again after one of the wettest winters in 20 years.

Birds are twittering in distant trees. The entire boat launch ramp is visible, except for a wide strip of mud stretched across it. The sun rises behind thin, white streaks of clouds. I see a cyclist and a pair of walkers this morning out even earlier than I am.

pigeons, Fair Oaks Bridge, American River, wildlife returnsAs I walk to the bridge, I wonder what wildlife has returned to this part of the river.  Half dozen pigeons fly in circles over the bridge three times before deciding to settle down on the overhead frame. One flies down and wanders the bridge deck to be joined later by a second pigeon.

As I look out to the water, searching for wildlife, I hear Canada Geese honking immediately behind me. I turn around to see them sitting on a round cement support leg of the bridge (outside the upright bars), discussing what to do next. An instant later, they fly into the sky still engaged in conversation. Next I check for spider webs attached to the bridge and see several perfectly spun webs, no spider to be found.Read more

A Wild Day at the American River

Sunday, April 30, 2017 9:30 am

Water is flowing fast and flooding the sandy banks, rocks and other land forms where people usually sit and picnic.
American River
This part of the river is called San Juan Rapids because this area is very rocky and usually fairly shallow. Water is always moving swiftly here. Today, far faster and deeper than any other time.

During the summer I can sit on a rock and dangle my feet into shallow water to cool off. More water will come as melted snow rushes down navigates through the Sierra Nevada mountains into the American River.

To my far left, I catch a quick glance at a family of Canada Geese emerging from the rocks and walking into a quiet, shallow area between rocks for a swim. Nine tiny goslings and their parents. My first sighting of babies this year! On my ride back home, I see a skinny little snake about 12” long in the middle of the bike path. I dragged it to the dirt and the back half of its body wriggled and curved. The top half was still. I think it was near death. I let it lay in peace.Read more

More Wild Day at the River

April 30, 2017, 6:30 pm 85 degrees

Visitors crowd the Fair Oaks Bridge taking professional photographs using the American River as a scenic backdrop. The riverbanks are crowded with people enjoying picnic dinners. All people, no wildlife.

As I arrive at the cement bench that has been sitting on its back all year (and shown in my latest blog). The bench is upright again! Did someone read my post or is this an odd coincidence?

American River, flooded, water, riverbank
During the summer, this area is usually so shallow, we can walk at least 1/3 of the way across the river as water rises to our knees. Now a dozen feet of the riverbank is underwater.

I ride on and sit at the riverbank and picnic area where in the fall I watched 100 seagulls, on the opposite shore to my right, wait for salmon to come by and ducks swim, splash and dive near an island to my left. Now the river is running so high, all the islands are underwater and unseen, the waterfowl have moved somewhere else along the river corridor. This section is far too deep and moving too swiftly to find food.

Six Canada geese fly over and disappear as they fly further west. As I prepare to leave the shoreline and keep riding on, I see a Great Blue Heron appear over the water and continue its flight further west. My first sighting of the year!

Waterfowl are here…where to look remains the big question.

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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Canada Geese Love Grapes

Tuesday, June 12, 2017   8 am

Rode my bike across the bridge this morning, so I missed the chicken’s morning serenade in Fair Oaks Village. Canada geese (all 70 of them) are roaming the grounds alongside Jim’s Bridge – now open! A visitor has marked the place by stacking rocks.

feeding, American River, Fair Oaks Bridge

American River, cyclist, bridge, feedingWhen I arrive at the boat launch ramp three mallards are sitting quietly at the far end barely in the water. A crowd of pigeons are standing on the road behind the ramp. They hear me come and with a flutter of feathers, they rise, scatter and fly away.

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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