As they days get shorter, it gets easier to make it down to the river in time for sunrise. Friday morning I arrived at the river channel a little before 7 am. The clouds were glowing pink in the east, and the sun was just beginning to touch the treetops. I was hoping for a glimpse of a beaver that’s been living near Oxbow Park, but I approached from the south side of the river and almost immediately spotted a mink that was running up the opposite bank. In the low light, the photo came out a bit blurry:
Picking my way down the riverbank, I came across a lone American coot, sitting on a rock. As I approached, it hopped into the water and began swimming, bobbing its head backward and forward, and then diving. Each time it dove, it popped back up with a beak-full of plants, and ate them.
Flock after flock of Canada Geese passed overhead, heading east. Why east? Don’t ask me, but that’s where they were going. Their wings flashed golden in the morning sun.
In the east, the sun rose higher, turning the clouds silvery-white. A Belted kingfisher flew back and forth along the channel, chattering. It perched on the limb of a dead cottonwood, then flew up the river. Almost out of sight, it dove into the Truckee River with a splash. A few cottonwoods are beginning to turn yellow, but the rest are still green. The air is chilly, and smells like fall.
I sat down on a rock to wait, and finally saw it, though only briefly — the beaver! In the parks, beavers are not appreciated, because they chew down so many trees. At a recent Truckee River cleanup, I learned that the beavers at Oxbow have learned to climb the 3-foot wire beaver fences and have chewed down quite a few cottonwoods in the park. There is some discrepancy over whether or not beavers are native to our watershed. In parts of the Pacific Northwest, beavers are actually introduced as part of river restoration projects, because they build pools that raise the water level in river channels, improving habitat for many species of ducks and fish.
As the sun rose higher, the reflections of cottonwoods and blue skies in the slow-moving waters of the Truckee made for some great photos. Happy October!