Watching Wildlife Wake Up

Sunday, September 18, 2016   635 am

American River, American River Parkway, Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail, Fair Oaks, Fair Oaks Bridge, water, Sacramento, Sacramento County, American River Parkway, scenic, trails, waterWhen I arrive at Fair Oaks bridge, the sun has yet to rise over distant trees on the opposite shore of the American River. I focus my attention on the river landscape and notice so many different habitats for wildlife here. The roosters are the most obvious – they are always the loudest! I have seen Great Blue Herons on the river, Egrets, Canada Geese and a wide variety of ducks. I saw an owl one time and river otters occasionally. Trees, fallen logs, shrubs, and the island farther upstream are excellent hiding places. The river itself, now more shallow than it has been in a long while, creates homes too. The bridge is also home to bats hidden underneath in specially formed concrete slots.Read more

Cyclists, Walkers and Wildlife Meet

Monday, September 19, 2016  7 am

Bright light reflects on the water. A cool breeze blows across my face. Today, unlike yesterday, a loud hum echoes from the Sunrise Blvd. bridge crossing as early risers drive to and from Highway 50.

Great Blue Heron, egret, roosters, wildlife, waterfowl, American River, Fair Oaks Bridge, waterThe roosters have already finished their morning wake up calls. A few stragglers are still crowing. Two men float in their boats with fishing lines cast. More cyclists ride by than the same time yesterday. Walkers are out with their dogs. As I walk onto the bridge, an egret flies in on the west side and quickly hides in the shrubbery at the shore. Ducks swim in pairs, searching for breakfast nibbles on insects. Tomorrow I will bring bread to feed them down at the boat launch ramp.Read more

Rare Vibrant Sunrise!

September 29, 2017   60 degrees, 630 am

I look west from my front door and WOW! A rare sunrise glowing orange through clouds at 620 am.

sunrise, mornings, Fair Oaks Bridge, fishermen walkers,
Rare sunrise colors the sky with orange, purple and pink long before the sun emerges. Clouds hang like woven baskets in the sky. This sunrise lasted 45 minutes before colors faded to shades of whites and grays.

I leave the house quickly and drive toward the sunrise. The dark sky is a blanket of deep gray clouds and shades of orange. I hurry to the Fair Oaks Bridge to catch the sunrise and hear the lone chicken singing from its tree on Bridge Street.

Village chickens greet me with a rousing symphony this morning. So many awake and singing early.

I shoot a dozen pictures to capture the changing light as the sky brightens. I stand and watch the sky change as the sun slowly rises over distant trees. The clouds turn to gray and then white as vibrant colors shift and fade. Two women cross the bridge quietly holding flashlights. Then I am alone to treasure the colors of morning light with the fisherman below. Three boats sit on the east side and two on the west. The sun I still rising and hidden by long blankets of heavy, dense clouds.Read more

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.

The Wonder of Clouds

Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 2017  9 am

As I gaze into the sky today standing on the bridge, I wonder about the clouds, their constant motion and beautiful palettes of color. Clouds continue to fascinate me. How exactly do they move and change shape?

Are clouds held in the sky by currents of air in the same way an airplane flies?

clouds, Fair Oaks Bridge, Fair Oaks, morning, American River, sky, nimbus, cumulus, stratusWhat is the air temperature inside a cloud? I have often heard, “Cloudy skies today, so our air temperature is low.” Or, “The clouds held in the heat overnight to keep away the frost.” Are clouds one of nature’s mysteries?

clouds, Fair Oaks Bridge, Fair Oaks, mornings,
In person, those hints of color at the center reflected the full spectrum of light.

I stand in awe at how the shape and density of clouds create the brilliant colored lights and shadows of sunrise. The golden glows of deep orange, and varying shades of pinks and grays filter the sunlight. I have seen long strips of clouds and barely visible wisps. They look like unraveled skeins of yarn, finely woven baskets, and rounded puffs reminding me of spun cotton or cotton candy.

Each cloud formation changes every minute. Everyday brings a new landscape and new shapes in the sky. We see rainbows after a rain storm. We can find animals, dragons, giants and scenes playing in the sky.

Each cloud formation changes every minute. Everyday brings a new landscape and new shapes in the sky. We see rainbows after a rain storm. and can find animals, dragons, giants and scenes featured in the sky. What about the days when there are no clouds in the morning and by evening the sky is covered by a heavy blanket of white?

 How do we know if clouds move as the earth moves, stay in one place or move on their own at the mercy of the winds?

clouds
Early moments of sunrise on Fair Oaks Bridge

Yesterday morning the ground was covered in mist. The sun never shined through the clouds until the evening. The sunset was a single strip of pink lasting five minutes and then faded into gray. Besides learning their different names – cumulus, nimbus, stratus – to describe a cloud’s characteristic shape, moisture content and elevation, what else can we learn about them?

 

 

We all Share Stories on the Bridge

Sunday, January 7, 2018, 735 am   40 degrees

This morning is the day for dueling chickens. One chicken calls and another answers.

One more calls and others answer, one at a time. “Are you awake?” “Is anyone up yet?” I hear them calling from many different sites around Fair Oaks Village and neighboring streets. None of them are out on patrol. It seems far too early and cold.

Fair Oaks Bridge, Fair Oaks Bluffs, walkers, place, morning, American River, seagull, Susan G Komen Breast Cancer walk
Rising sun hides behind a heavy curtain of clouds

On this frosty January morning, the soft yellow sun hides behind a heavy curtain of gray clouds. The American River and Fair Oaks Bluffs are lost in the fog. We have had many foggy mornings, yet little rain so far in December and the early days of this month. This time last year we were already in the midst of heavy, pounding rain that flooded the river and lasted all through winter. Where does that foghorn sound come from, I wonder?

Today, two fishermen sit waiting in their boat. No movement on their fishing lines.

A seagull interrupts the quiet of the river as it calls while soaring over me across the bridge to land softly on the water. Until that moment, the American River was calm and still – a mirror reflecting trees on the bluffs. I hear distant voices and see several people walking at the edge of the bluffs. What can they see of the panoramic view through fog? Three seagulls and three ducks swim quietly through the river near the boat launch ramp.

I meet and greet many walkers who visit this iconic bridge. I learn as much about the people of this bridge as the wildlife who live here.

Fair Oaks Bridge, Fair oaks, morning, American River, place, scenic views, photos, walkers, nature, outdoors,
One part of Fair Oaks Bluffs where walkers enjoy panoramic views of American River

Some walkers visit because they want to capture scenic photos or display the river as a backdrop for their family or wedding photos. Some come everyday to walk, some visit several times a week. People walk in pairs and bundle in jackets, hats and gloves. This morning I pass a group of more than a dozen women walking swiftly across the bridge. I bid two women good morning and ask if they are an organized group. They walk across the bridge every weekend to train for a 3-day, 60-mile walk to raise funds for Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer walk.

Cyclists whiz by – sometimes alone, often in groups. For most of them, the bridge is only a place to pass through to get somewhere else as fast as possible. They are the ones who miss the unique sense of place on this bridge. As one fisherman advised me last fall, “The best things in life are the ones you do slowly.”

In January, when most ducks are hiding in the riverbanks and winter chill and rain are reason for individuals to stay indoors, this is the most peaceful time of year.