Chickens are quiet in Fair Oaks parks. None of them are out searching for food on Bridge Street. Birds whistle and chirp, hidden in trees near Fair Oaks Bridge. Ice clings loosely to the car windshield. I wear my hooded jacket, leggings and gloves.
Heavy mist hangs in the air as if suspended by invisible wires. The blanket of mist begins behind a curve in the river corridor at far right of photo. Ducks create their own wake as they swim in the still water. I hear the call of a seagull in the distance. So few of them are watching and waiting near the boat launch ramp. I have seen far less salmon this year than last year or the year before.
I watch the mist cloud roll slowly forward along the surface as waves gently cover the shoreline at a beach.
Thin strips of golden clouds line the sky just above the emerging yellow sun. Bridge deck is dry even though the air is filled with moisture. Strips of water crossing the deck marking the site of upright posts is the only clue of moisture in the air. A dozen cyclists pass by. No walkers. I walk to the boat launch ramp to enjoy a closer view of the ducks and random seagulls flying in.
One seagull stands alone on a rock next to the ramp. It calls out and I imagine it saying, Where is everyone? Where is the food? Two seagulls circle overhead and vanish.
I see a Bufflehead swimming in the center of the river. Then three appear, swimming together in the swirling mist. Another bird calls. Scattered clouds in the eastern sky form the shape of a cyclone in the sky on this peaceful morning.
Images taken standing on Fair Oaks Bridge of sunrise and sunset over Fair Oaks Bluff.
So many beautiful scenes, watching the sunrise, listening to birds sing and roosters call. In these images, look for the duck cloud flying through the sky. Canada Geese fly over Fair Oaks Bridge. Brilliant colored streaks line the sky at sunrise and clouds above reflect in the river. Sunset over the Sunrise Blvd. river crossing looks like fire in the sky.
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.
Salmon completed their fall run this month. Most finished their journey home before Christmas.
This group of salmon swim through the narrow, shallow river channel. I watched them swim in the morning and sunset. Their journey continues. Some stop here to spawn, while others keep swimming. The weir (fence) at the Nimbus Dam blocks further passage up the American River. Salmon find their way to and up the fish ladder at Nimbus Fish Hatchery about 2 miles upriver from Fair Oaks Bridge.
Sitting in the rocky area near the small island in the center of the river, these seagulls patrol the water instead of standing at the shoreline wondering where is the food.
Two fishing boats sit waiting in the water on this chilly first day of the year.An Egret flies in from the west and settles briefly on the riverbank before flying to its next stop upriver. A few Buffleheads swim in the center of the river corridor. The resident Mallards stay close to shore.
The true highlight of this New Year’s morning is the resident chickens celebrating with songs and a small parade to greet the day.
I hear their loud chorus on Bridge Street from the middle of Fair Oaks Bridge. Two fluffy chickens roam the street. A rooster is perched high in tree branches and another sings loudly while completely unseen. Their chorus goes on and on all the time I stand at the bridge.
I rush to Fair Oaks Bridge this morning expecting to see it covered in fog. No hint of fog and very little mist on the water. Instead I enjoy a pale yellow sunrise masked behind dense strips of white clouds.
Minutes after I arrive on the bridge, a crowd of cyclists rumble past me riding from the bicycle trail on the American River Parkway on their way to Fair Oaks Village. A few walkers pass by enjoying the cool morning. Birds twitter unseen in the distance.
I hear the sounds of Canada Geese honking far off in the distance east of the bridge. What sounds like the whistle of a train echoes immediately west of Fair Oaks Bridge. Intervals between the “call and response” echo of the geese and the train get shorter and shorter, until they are both honking and blowing very loudly at the same time. Two geese finally arrive and continue honking as they fly over the bridge.
A gentle wind blows against my face. I expected the air to be far colder, dressing in leggings, jeans, sweater, jacket and gloves. Instead the air feels warm. The sun slowly emerges from behind heavily blanketed cloud cover to reveal a glowing yellow fiery ball of light. The train whistle continues and the Canada Geese keep up their honking as they swim across the river channel. What a noisy morning! I always wonder what are these geese saying to each other?
A few more walkers pass. Another lone cyclist rides on. I walk to the boat launch ramp to get a closer look at the wildlife. All is quiet here. Three ducks walk up the boat launch ramp. I have no food to serve them.. The same noisy pair of Canada Geese swam over to dunk for breakfast.
Diving ducks swim calmly in the center of the American River. Now you see them. Now you don’t. When you do see them again, they have surfaced somewhere else.
I am the only one on Fair Oaks Bridge to enjoy this glowing sunrise in shades of pink and yellow, and scattered clouds reflected in the water. Mist rises above the surface of the water far off around the bend as I look east. I feel the air heavy with moisture. Both the river and the air are still.
One cyclist speeds past me, focused straight ahead, One chicken repeatedly calls out on Bridge Street. Many birds greet the morning with songs. I hear chirps, some of them sound like rattling – zzzzzzz. A woman arrives walking her dog. She focuses straight ahead and says nothing as she passes.
I always wonder why so many people walk, run or cycle across this bridge without looking left or right. Some focus on their conversations, others intently hold back their dogs. Very few stop and watch the scene. Some share a quiet good morning greeting as they pass.
A group of ducks emerge from their evening hiding place to swim quietly across the river, each leaving small ripples in the water behind them as they swim. No pigeons are out this morning. I have not seen pigeons in many days. No tiny bird lands to call out its good morning song on the bridge truss over my head.
I hear the loud honk of Canada Geese from a long distance away. Then six geese appear, reminding me of arrowheads shooting across the sky. They are followed shortly by two more geese In seconds, they vanish. Their sound continues to carry through the still air. An Egret soars quietly under the bridge and continues flying around the bend. One more cyclist passes by wearing shorts – I wonder why shorts?
As I stand on the bridge watching the sky, the glowing colors of sunrise reflected through dense clouds fade to a pale pastel orange visible at the horizon. I hear birds continue greeting the morning with their songs.
I walk to the boat launch ramp to enjoy a different view of the river. A large group of cyclists cross the bridge talking so loudly, I hear their voices on the boat ramp. Seagulls have left this part of the river. The fall salmon run ended weeks ago. The few seagulls that have stayed spend their days upriver where they are more likely to find a plentiful supply of food.
Several ducks emerge from the riverbank. Canada Geese are already out. Three dunk into the water, quietly searching for breakfast. I watch them paddle their webbed feet to help keep them afloat.
As I watch the geese and ducks during their morning rituals, I hear the sound of a single duck quack. And quack and quack. She is relentless. I wonder is she the same one I heard last January and February that kept up her calls without stopping as long as she was swimming? Long after she is out of sight, she continues to swim upriver calling without stopping. What is she saying?
(Even when she was one out of two pairs of ducks a year ago, she quacked while the others were silent.) As soon as the Canada Geese begin honking, her voice is barely audible. The geese quiet down. She keeps on quacking. I hear her calls continue as she swims upriver 50 yards and more. I listen intently as she continues her quacks until her voice fades into the distance.
Swiftly moving water under a densely clouded sky and bitter cold are my morning greetings. Whoosh! Whoosh! Is what I hear as the water bubbles and swirls under Fair Oaks Bridge.
Walkers and runners dressed in warm layered clothing engage in their own conversation as they pass facing forward without stopping for a second to look left to right. A single bird calls. I hear honking Canada Geese in far off in the distance and then they quiet down, still unseen. The waterfowl are still hiding so far. Two ducks flap their wings on the riverbank to my left (north). Most have left the area for calmer and shallow water.
Folsom Dam releases water in response to recent storms. Water rushes through the Lower American River and through the gates of Nimbus Dam. The water level under Jim’s Bridge half a mile downriver appears only a foot or two below the deck. I suspect with more storms, the entire bridge may temporarily disappear under the river.
This activity or the absence of it, is common for winter on the river. All spider webs are washed clean. Grass grows between every board on the bridge deck from one end of the bridge to the other side. When was the last time I saw turtles sunbathing on the river? The long branch that extends from the riverbank over the river just under the bridge is empty. Where did the turtles go?
A single bird calls. I hear the sound of Canada Geese honking in the wind and then silence. They remain unseen. Wildlife hide in nests safely away from the rising river. All spider webs have vanished. Do not remember the last time I saw turtles on the fallen branch that rests directly under Fair Oaks Bridge. As I stand observing the river, a succession of runners dressed in red t-shirts, all ages from new parents to older adults walk and run in training for a run.
At the boat launch ramp, resident ducks and Canada Geese search for tidbits of food. They find little – all washed away by the rain.
On this chilly morning, I am alone to listen to the gentle sounds of birds waking up the morning with songs. Again, I hear the female Mallard I hear many days at Fair Oaks Bridge. Wonder what she could be quacking about this time?
Walking to the boat launch ramp, I see the water level continues to expand beyond its usual boarders at the riverbank. The bike path is closed at the parking lot near the boat launch ramp.
The Muscovy duck and a partner walk up the ramp expecting food when they see me. They quietly turn to face the river and ponder where to go next. It seems that they are staring at the swollen river and bare riverbanks and left wondering. Then with a great whoosh of feathers, both ducks rise up and fly to the other side where they vanish from sight.
Two Canada Geese arrive, skidding into the river before approaching the boat ramp. Shortly after the first geese arrive, two more arrive, honking wildly.
The first two quickly argue with the new arrivals, flap their wings and squawk. The intruders get the message to scram and fly away in an angry huff, honking all the way.
Finding nothing to eat at the ramp, the geese approach me expecting a handout. I have nothing to share. More geese fly in heard and unseen. I hear two Canada Geese honking behind me. They round the bend of the river unseen, honking loudly. One duck sits in the middle of the river corridor and lets the rapid current carry it downstream and under the Fair Oaks Bridge. Another arrives minutes later, dives, pops back up and continues its floating adventure downstream.
The natural world has its own rhythms and it teaches us to be patient. Nature is no hurry.
Even as I stand and listen to the swoosh of swiftly moving water, the ongoing buzz of traffic from Sunrise Blvd. bridge and the occasional honking of Canada Geese in the distance, the setting is still peaceful and quiet. No chilling wind blows on my face. I stay standing on the boat ramp looking and listening. I stand still to allow this peaceful experience to enter my body and relax the tenseness and the stress that lies within.
The boat launch ramp nearby Fair Oaks Bridge has its own stories. Featured below are photos taken before and after the rain. Together they reveal a small part of the stories of this place.
This is where visitors feed ducks and I watch them play, dunk, wash and search for bits of food. Fishermen launch their fishing boats here and others climb into their rafts for a ride on the river. I often see people come to sit on the bench, or park their car to watch and enjoy this peaceful setting. This is the ideal vantage point for all my bridge photos.
I often mention this ramp in blog posts because it is the site for so much activity watching ducks, Canada Geese and seagulls. They search for food, they argue, they shout and listen for others to join them.
Flooded boat launch photo taken from Fair Oaks Bridge in between rainstorms after large releases of water rushed down the American River. Two other photos shown were taken in early February.