Magic of Mornings at Fair Oaks Bridge

Fair Oaks, Fair Oaks Bridge, chickens, community, nature, ducks, Canda geese, wildlife, American River, American River Parkway, bicycle, walkers, trail, morning
I look forward to the magic moments of morning  on  Fair Oaks Bridge and  American River Parkway to discover and celebrate the gifts of the outdoor world.  I often arrive at dawn before the sun rises over the trees and  stay for an hour or more to observe, listen, write and photograph.

“I don’t know where it is possible to love the planet or not, but I do know that it is possible to love the places we can see, touch, smell and experience.” 

David Orr, Earth in Mind

The American River Parkway is “The Jewel of Sacramento.”  Fair Oaks Bluff is the “Crown Jewel.”  Fair Oaks Bridge was completed in 1909. It is a “Truss” bridge and a treasured icon for the adjacent community of Fair Oaks. The community of Fair Oaks is located about 15 miles northeast of the city of Sacramento. Fair Oaks Village is widely known for its chickens, whose wake up calls provide music each morning and continue throughout the day. Readers will find chickens featured throughout blog posts in photos and video.

The bridge connects Fair Oaks Village with the American River Parkway, a greenbelt that stretches 37 miles through suburban communities of Sacramento and into the city. The bridge sits alongside  Fair Oaks Bluff – also displayed in many photographs within blog posts. The setting is a beautiful place to see, touch, smell and experience!

Fair Oaks Bluffs Reflections

Tuesday, September 20, 2016, 7 am

Fair Oaks, Fair Oaks chicken, chicken, Fair Oaks Village, roosters, morning, Fair Oaks bridgeRoosters 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. fo-ckn2

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

Coming of Fall

   Friday, September 23, 2016, 7 am, 53 degrees

I finally acknowledge the passing of summer’s long, warm days when the cool mornings of October arrive.  With sunlight and bike rides along the American River that last until 9 pm. Dew covers my car windshield in the morning now. The air is chilled at 645 am. My first Sunday morning on Fair Oaks Bridge, I wore shorts and a t-shirt, warmed quickly by the sun. Today, Friday I wear my denim jacket and slip on a pair of jeans. Yesterday’s morning temperature was 55. Today it is 53. As days grow shorter, and fall blends into winter, morning temperatures will drop further to 45 and then 35 and sometimes the high 20s. I will enjoy these mornings on the bridge before the chill of morning gives me a reason to stay longer at home.

rooster, Fair Oaks, Fair Oaks Village, morning, crow, walk, American RiverUsually I wake gently as I walk to the bridge, listening to the morning symphony of roosters. Today my morning explodes with deafening sound as I walk down the street as a motorcycle with his radio turned up comes up from behind. I am jarred awake. My morning “fog” instantly evaporates.

Determined fisherman sit in their boats waiting. I have no idea when they arrive. Each morning they are already here. They must come before dawn to catch the salmon as they rise for breakfast. I notice the moon in the sky. During my first Sunday, the moon was full. Today, hardly a week later, the moon is now half visible.Read more

Great Day for a Leisurely Swim or Dip!

  Monday, October 3, 2016, 6 pm, 70 degrees

The sky is covered with what looks like strips of pale blue and white cotton candy. At 6 pm, no sun to be found. The air feels cool and I wear my zip up hooded sweatshirt.

No birds are out. A few ducks are out for a leisurely swim. I hear splashes in the water and look to the sound and see rings of concentric circles. Must have been a salmon jumped out and dove back in quickly. Since my last visit I see that rain has fallen on the bridge. The intricate networks of spider webs and flytraps are washed clean away off the bridge upright and cross beams. Not a trace is left. The air is heavy with the scent of moist dirt, yet clean and refreshed by gentle rain.

ducks, swim, swimming, American River, Fair Oaks BridgeTwo boats and a kayak sit in the water. A few cyclists pass and some walkers out for a evening stretch before sunset. I walk to the boat launch ramp and the ducks see me coming. Today I have no bread to throw.

A dozen ducks gather and walk up the ramp and wait. They look at me impatiently as if to say, “Where is the food?”

After a few minutes when they realize no food is coming, they all retreat back into the water. In minutes some have disappeared to hiding places on either side of the ramp. The dabblers decide to find food on their own.Read more

Waterfowl and Birds Soar Over the River

 October 25, 2016 – part two, 11 am, 68 degrees

Drizzle rain stops and starts again. Still very few people outside at 11 am. A warm rain. River is very quiet with cloudy skies and no rain. Ducks search the river for food, wings flap. Faint quacks. Canada geese change position and fly away. A cloudy sky and all is quiet. Boaters sit calmly in the water. The gentle, nourishing rain is a refreshing and welcome change.

Earlier boaters in their rain jackets have sped away heading east toward the weir positioned at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery where the salmon converge to spawn – either in the river or inside the hatchery. Birds patrol the sky. Turkey vultures wait patiently, ready to pounce on whatever has died. I find salmon heads cast off into the rocks. Soon these remains will be consumed by hungry turkey vultures, seagull or other wildlife that find them first.

ducks, American River, raindropsCanada Geese, pigeons, boat launch ramp, American River, Fair Oaks, mornings

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Have You Ever Heard a Goose Whisper?

November 22, 2016 Tuesday, 645 am 42 degrees

American River, Fair Oaks Bridge, mist, morning, chilly, The sky is awash with shades of pink fading in the sky. As the pink turns slowly gray, I see the mist hovering over the water as if this is Brigadoon hiding its secrets. The southern sky is woven with pale stripes as the sun rises. The mist gently moves along the river towards the bridge. The movement so gentle it reminds me of fog blowing across a stage in a theater in unseen currents of air.

I wear gloves. My hands still feel like ice. The boat launch ramp is empty. A group of four ducks are just now coming out to swim. A single seagull flies west over the bridge. The little bird that used to greet me every morning has returned to sit at the top of the bridge frame and sing its song, “Ti Too! Ti Too!” Geese fly under the bridge, honking, honking loudly, landed on the west side of the bridge in their traditional water skiing style.

Alas, two empty beer cans sit on the bridge. Runners arrive wearing hats, jackets and gloves. The bridge rails are covered with dew. The deck is moist enough to reveal footsteps. An intact spider web is suspended between two bridge rails. Six dead salmon float next to the riverbank to become food for hungry gulls, as Canada Geese and turkey vultures monitor the river.

Canada Goose, Geese, boat launch ramp, Fair Oaks Bridge, American River, American River Parkway
Whispering, “honk, honk”
spider web, American River, Fair Oaks bridge, spider
Spider waits displaying its outstanding geometric skills
Egret
Searching for breakfast
"Ti Too! Ti Too!"
“Ti Too! Ti Too!”

 

I walk to the boat launch ramp and stand alongside two Canada Geese pondering what they will do today. One turns around and spies the river. The other stands and whispers, “Honk, honk” to me over and over again. What a treat it would be to know geese language. The best I can do is say good morning in “people speak.” The river’s resident Egret is sitting on the north shore in its usual spot.

A single seagull flies over my head. Its circular flight path is 100 yards long, over and over again. The gull is far too high above me to hear the flap of its wings. Yet I do hear it whistle as it circles above me six times. The two Canada Geese decide to fly over the river and vanish into the mist. Ducks appear, land in the water and quickly liftoff once again to fly away to another part of the river corridor.

I leave the boat ramp and walk back over the bridge, always giving the river a last glance for the day to hold it in my memory. Arriving at my car at 810 am, the morning temperature has only warmed to 49 degrees.

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

Canada Geese Glide into the River

Monday, August 7, 2017  740 am     68 degrees

Have you seen Canada Geese soar through the air changing altitude just before they glide in for a river landing?

kayaks, Fair Oaks Bridge, American River, water, morning, fishing, Canada GeeseCrossing Jim’s Bridge by bike, I see less than 20 resident ducks on shore this morning. I ride on toward Fair Oaks Bridge. The sun’s warmth is already heating things up! A flurry of boat launching action is happening at the boat launch ramp. Some boats are pulling away and another boat is backing down the ramp. Kayaks show up next. Two fishing boats already sit on either side of the bridge. Fisherman begin the waiting game. One more month at the earliest before salmon arrive at Fair Oaks Bridge after a long swim up the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta channel. The determined fisherman wait.

The water glistens. The pale blue sky is without a wisp of clouds. Sun is high and far above distant trees. A few pigeons coo. No turtles sunbathing today.  No waterfowl activity here except for a single duck, “Quack, Quack” in the distance. It approaches the bridge from the west. The American River is so still, the lone duck creates its own expanded “V” shaped wake.

ducks, Canada Geese, Fair Oaks Bridge, American River, evening, scenic, walk, observation, wildlifeCyclists begin to roll by. A few walkers stroll. No one stops to enjoy the view. Fair Oaks Bridge attracts a different crowd in the evening. Couples arrive on the bridge and stop to watch the water, the wildlife, the setting sun. Evenings tend to be more relaxed, casual and crowded.  I avoid times when the loud and disruptive “end of the party day” group leaves the riverbank.

As I return to Jim’s Bridge on my way home, I look up to see a sky filled with honking Canada Geese. They are maneuvering in the air – soaring downward and losing altitude, then rising again. Some geese turn and fly into the water for a splash landing. Others quickly fly away and disappear. I watch their morning antics before riding home.

Peaceful Morning

Thursday August 10, 2017   715 am  68 degrees

Arrived at Jim’s Bridge by bike – no waterfowl. The water glistens, yet feels empty.

My next stop is the boat launch ramp where I see a dozen Mallards on patrol searching for breakfast on the ramp. They look up and see me and begin to walk toward me. Since I don’t make any throwing motions with food in my hand, they turn around and retreat back down the ramp into the water.

American River, fishing, Fair Oaks Bridge, ducks, morningA solo fishing boat carries two people, waiting. The river is especially beautiful this morning. Many weeks since I saw the water shimmer with various shades of greens and gold, reflecting the trees and the sunlight.

Ahhh! The magic of morning.

Six pigeons fly to their place on the Fair Oaks Bridge frame. The air is chilled. A gentle and cool breeze blows against my skin. When I left this morning, my arms were chilled and the car windshield was moist. I have noticed that sunrise is much closer to 6 am than 5, as it was for so many weeks during the summer.

I missed many evening bike rides because of so many 105 degree days that did not cool enough in the evening to make it possible for me to enjoy the long hours of daylight.

No clouds in the sky. A pale white moon hangs in the pale, western sky tinged with gray. Pigeons feast on remains of a biscuit left on the bridge. At the slightest movement or sound, they flap their wings unison and fly away and return a minute later to continue their meal. Off again and back until they have eaten every crumb they can find.

200 yards to the east, a single fisherman stands at the river’s edge waiting. Canada Geese have yet to arrive. They tend to be the late sleepers and the grumpiest when it comes to getting their share of breakfast. Ducks went back into hiding. Where are the otter? The turtles? P

American River, salmon, seagulls, Fair Oaks, fishing, morniingFor now, the American River is a quiet place.

In little more than a month, salmon will begin their arrival and fishing boats will multiply by at least five. The river will be standing room only for fisherman standing hip deep in water. I hope seagulls return to feast on the salmon. Maybe the Egret and the Great Blue Heron will return. Salmon provides food for many wildlife here.

I miss the Egrets and Great Blue Heron.

What a delight to see them fly in, walking gingerly at the shoreline looking food and do their best to avoid each other! Not since the flood. They have moved somewhere else along the American River.

What of the snowmelt from the Sierra? When will it come? And how much, how fast? I wonder how the American River will be challenged this fall. Too soon to think of another winter. Standing on the Fair Oaks Bridge, a few runners pass, an occasional cyclist. Today is a slow and peaceful morning on the river. The hum of traffic on Sunrise Blvd. bridge is all I hear.

Riding to the San Juan Rapids overlook I see the water level has receded so the sandbars are visible, and the rapids mild. No rafters come by on this early weekday. No waterfowl are spending a leisurely morning on the sandbar. The Cormorant I spotted several times before is absent – as are all the wildlife of the river.

Canada Geese, riverbank, American River, morningI return to Jim’s Bridge on my ride home and see two women feeding dozens of resident geese and ducks. With very quacks or honks, they quickly gobbled up the seeds, still scavenging long after the women had left. The feeding time, as always, is filled with scratch, hiss, race, waddle, and wait.

Fair Oaks Bridge and Jim’s Bridge sit less than a mile apart to provide access to the American River Parkway. Both are quiet hideaways to escape the rush of the city and enjoy the peacefulness of the river.

 

Reflections on Wildlife

Sunday September 10, 2017, 630 am   68 degrees

From my front porch, I watch the orange glow of sunrise above towering trees and behind scattered clouds. 

sunrise, morning, American River, Fair Oaks Bridge, ducks, fishermen, boatsA tiny bird greeted me this morning, with ‘Ti Too.”

I ride to Jim’s Bridge hoping to see a crowd of Canada Geese and ducks engaged in morning rituals and scavenging for breakfast. They hang out on the south side of the riverbank first. Often women come to feed them seeds. When alone, they poke at the rocky shore and swim in shallow water, looking for worms, insects and other morning nibbles.

So few waterfowl are swimming near the Fair Oaks Bridge and nearby boat launch ramp. It is disappointing to visit the bridge and see only boaters. The river today is home to no life beyond that. I remember the Egrets that sat on the north riverbank each morning and the Great Blue Heron that came for an occasional visit. I remember the Egret flying farther east to avoid the Heron as it arrived. I think back to when the Canada Geese and the Mallards fight over food and fight among themselves. Geese hiss and bite. Mallards quack and complain, then chase away who they don’t like.

I arrive at Jim’s Bridge and all the waterfowl are here! The abandoned Pekin duck has joined the Mallard families. Quack! Quack! Quack! The ducks are quietly waking up, swimming, cleaning, quietly poking their head into the water searching for a morning meal. Occasionally one duck will rant, Quack! Quack! Quack! Quack! Quack! Quack! and no one pays attention. The geese and the ducks are expecting a morning handout.

Mallards are so unlike chickens that call out to each other all day long, and call when no one is there to hear. When I hear ducks voice their opinions, no others respond.

In a moment, three ducks rise and fly quietly to the opposite shore. They are too far away and too fast to photograph. Watching them gives me a chance to take a big breath in, feel the chill on my skin. I look up in time to see 20 birds sitting on power lines above the Sunrise Blvd. bridge.

Temperatures are getting warmer already. I ride on to Fair Oaks Bridge. The parking lot for the boat launch ramp is filled with pickup trucks and utility vehicles equipped to tow their boats. I count seven boats in the river, all on the east side of the bridge. I see nearly as many fishermen on the American River as there are ducks.

ducks, American River, swim, ducklings, waterA mother duck leaders the way for her two young ducks. They casually swim by boats, leaning trees and those uprooted and fallen into the river. They pause their morning a few moments before moving on. So many birds twitter, unseen. So many times, I see feathers on the ground. I pick them up and wonder how did the birds or the chickens or even an owl lose their feathers? Was it a battle or an argument? Or was losing a feather a natural part of their growth? How do birds lose their feathers?

I believe that ducks, geese and birds exercise far more patience than people. People are often in a rush to get anywhere –  pack in as much into the day as possible before  dropping off to sleep or not even sleep. Waterfowl take their time to swim, to play, and to clean their feathers…and of course, finding food. A duck’s days are for sunning, sleeping, eating, relating to other ducks.

I sit here and wonder what is my role in helping to preserve this peaceful spot where wildlife can thrive?

If more of us sat down to wonder about the miracles of the natural world, would we enjoy more forward thinking environmental concerns and actions? Would more collaborative actions and few disagreements make a bigger difference? I am surprised at how many are just passing through, not noticing the scope of what is here. Envisioning a positive future is rarely a casual visitor’s first thought.