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
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.

Talking About Climate Change

With more than 100 websites with information on climate change describing scientific research, classroom education activities, conferences around the world, cartoons and much, much more.  The topic can be overwhelming and definitely confusing.

Where do you start? 

Begin a discussion with children that is brief, clear, understandable and personally relevant.

This week’s post offers questions and answers as a start for conversation with resources to review to find more detailed information. This is indeed only a beginning…

1. Where are the wildflowers and trees?

Wildflowers are seasonal and dependent on temperature. They bloom earlier when temperatures are warmer. Plants will move uphill or northward to stay in their traditional cooler climate zones. The challenge for all plants and trees is if they can adapt quickly enough to keep up with changing weather patterns or thin out and die in large numbers during their move. Animals also live by seasons. They move where it is warmer and to find food. Sometimes they move into areas where people live and animals don’t belong. Wild animals are usually not good neighbors.

2. Who shrunk the beach?

As glaciers melt worldwide, beaches on the coast will appear to shrink because of erosion and rise in seal level. Low lying coastal areas could eventually be under water and everyone who lives there needs to move inland to higher ground.

3. Why is it such a big deal that some places are warmer than usual and others are colder and wetter than they are supposed to be?

Changing weather patterns bring more severe storms and flooding in areas that are worse than usual. People, buildings and dams are not always fully prepared when storms come, so that causes more property damage. Climate change can reduce our nation’s food supply because farmers depend on predictable weather patterns. Too much rain or too soon can damage or destroy whole crops. Warmer water temperatures are too warm for some fish (and the ecosystems that support them) to thrive and lay their eggs. A third problem is higher danger of forest fires in areas where there is less rainfall.

4. Haven’t these warming and cooling cycles happened on our planet before?

The earth has experienced a lot of different weather patterns over millions of years. The ten hottest years on record have all occurred within the last 12 years, so what we are experiencing now is not the same as anything that we know has happened before.

5. Are there places that have changed because of because of climate change?

Yes. Lassen National Park, Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe were originally formed when glaciers melted millions of years ago.  Scientists have found fossils in places that are now dry that prove the land used to be covered in water. Angel Island in San Francisco Bay was created when the water rose around it from melting ice and filled the Bay. Animals are migrating north to stay in cooler weather when their home temperature is now warmer.

6. Will there still be snow to play in or go snowboarding?

If the planet continues to get warmer, there will probably be less snow in the mountains and it will melt a lot sooner. Instead of a lot of snowpack available for winter sports, we will have more flooding when the snow melts so fast.

7. What can I do to slow down changes in temperature?

You can do a lot! We can use less energy at home because using a lot of energy contributes to the problem. Walk more and drive less. Buy products that use less packaging and take less energy to operate. And we can recycle and reuse things as much as we can. We are not just saving money, we are saving our plants, animals and where we live too.

Sense of Place

Every “place” has distinctive characteristics that set it apart from somewhere else. A sense of place is character, setting, mood, people, landscape and senses. Uniformity and sameness is “absent” when defining sense of place.

Listed below is a set of questions to help define a sense of place in a neighborhood, park, historic site, national or state park, or a one-of-a-kind restaurant. A bakery located on a main street with traffic buzzing by will offer a sense of place far different from the bakery nestled in a quiet neighborhood, known only to residents and friends.

  • Who are the people who have lived in this place? (today and many yesterdays)
  • What are the sounds of this place?
  • What are the smells?
  • What are the activities?
  • What is the weather? (today and through time)
  • What are the unique characteristics about this place that sets it apart from another places?
  • What is the landscape of this location?

Spend an hour to reflect, write, and reel in your senses to define a unique sense of place.