Monday, July 9, 2012

Birding by Bike

That's right folks, just when you thought things couldn't get anymore exciting in my dull, predictable life, I've decided to expand my horizons in my birding ventures and that is to to it on two wheels.  The Curious Birder has blogged about birding while eating, drinking, driving, standing, sitting, running, hiking, snow shoeing, canoeing and of course walking but now I'm proud to announce biking!  Woot.

The idea's been in my head to do a full morning of birding via bike since earlier last week.  I'd be washing my dining room floor and mopping around the bike (where I keep it) and Brandon my youngest would walk by and ask an innocent question.  "Mom, are you ever gonna ride that bike again"?  My oldest Jimmy would be on the couch and I'd hear him laugh and reply "It's just another one of your hobbies you start and then it goes when you find another"?  "Of course I'm going to ride it again, probably this upcoming weekend in fact", I'd reply slightly irritated my kids know me as well as they do.  "Hey whatever happened to your trail running", my oldest would taunt.  "Or that CrossFit kick you were on", my youngest would shoot back.  I'd reply both of those hobbies are on the back burner for the time being due to chronic injuries and lack of time due to summer birding and now hiking which is true of course!  "Yeah, speaking of birds how about that kayak you  were gonna  buy and go all around the Millbury ponds to look for ducks", my oldest would retaunt and both would be laughing as I gave them my killer Kim look which means they've hit a nerve.  I have to admit though I did forget about my kayak idea and really need to re-explore it because from what I hear it's a fantastic upper body workout!

I hadn't really given up on the bike per say, it's just that I'm not really confident on one that's all.  I bought the bike for mountain biking some of my favorite trail running trails and found them to be very technical in some spots and have had a couple of wipe outs that are too embarrassing to get into anymore detail.  I'd try some street biking and  had a collision with a parked car due to me misjudging the space I needed to maneuver around some overgrown brambles coming from someones yard and got my handlebar stuck in them and had to use my body as a shield between the car and the bike which had me bruised for over a week.  I also find street biking to be dull so needed to think of a spot I could bird on less technical trails and no parked cars for collisions of course!

I'd think of a few spots with Quabbin being my number one, but didn't feel like driving that far, and then I'd remember Coldbrook Road and the possibilities.  I'd picture myself peddling gracefully and not out of breath down that country road, birds would be out of course and keeping me company with their song.  The weather would be perfect with plenty of sunshine on my shoulder making me happy, but shade too for water breaks and pishing.  That's it, I'm sold I'd think and head out there on Sunday.

I find the most difficult thing about birding while riding a bike is how to position your binoculars and camera so you have them for immediate access, but positioned in a way they are not banging into the handle bars which could spell doom for me considering my past.

And I solve this by creating a criss cross between the two (picture how you used to carry a bag on a paper route if you had one).  I'd also have my day bag on my back and those straps would serve as extra support and it all works well.  Not sure if you can see the criss cross I'm talking about but it's super easy and I do it when hiking and running too.  Please pardon the mud on the windows as I never noticed it until I took the picture.  I'm guessing that's leftover mud from Bolton Flats that even the rain couldn't get off due to how stubborn it is!

I'd start along my way headed toward Barre Falls and the first bird I'd hear was a Red-breasted Nuthatch and  thought it was funny that I've been hearing so many of these birds lately and not a peep from them in May.  The regular warblers would be around as well including the Chestnut-sided as I peddled along the road.  I've driven this road many times, but never really realized how many long inclines there is to it until I was on it with a bike.  It's not really a hill, but rather a consistent incline that causes you to peddle harder  to get to where you're going.  There'd be one in particular that was long and I'd have some serious lactic acid buildup going on in my quads and be mortified to realize I was out of breath.   Must...Huff ....Stop.....Puff ..For.....Huff.....Chipping.....Puff......Sparrow.........Huff Puff...Huff Puff

Because you never know who may be with it seriously!!!

Like this very handsome Common Yellowthroat for instance.  See if I kept on peddling I would have missed it and you all know how rare these birds are in Worcester County!

After a while my legs started getting used to the cycling and the lactic acid problem I had in the beginning would fade as my lungs accepted the fact they'd be working hard so we all got along well.

I'd be very happy to make it to Barre Falls because I'd be craving breakfast something fierce!

Which would be at the other Worcester County hawkwatch site that Donna, Bart and Dave coordinate.  I'd even park in Bart's spot!  ;-)

I'd take off my bike helmet and park myself on a bench for my regular PB and blackberry jam sandwich with a water and listen to the Bobolinks, Tree Swallows and Common Ravens and be very happy.

There'd be Bobolinks out and in view which was nice so I'd walk over to that path to see if I could spot more and take in the nice, warm sun.

I'd be lingering some and continue walking until I heard a call I've been longing for and I'd be very happy this one would stick around to allow me a proper recording of it and this is what it would be!

I'd hear it and the first thing I'd say which I always say is "Holy shit, I've got a Black-billed Cuckoo!" And not only would I hear it, but I'd be lucky enough to see it.  Not a killer look by any means but I could see this very thin looking, long tailed bird fly from one tree to another about 30 feet away and based on the look I got of it in flight I was pretty sure it was the Black-billed.  I'd stick around for a bit hoping it would call from the new area and it did.  I'd be very happy at that point as one of my summer goals was to get both cuckoos so this was a very nice surprise.

I'd head back toward Route 122 via Coldbrook Road but take some of the side roads within Coldbrook as part of the Warre Watershed as I'd never ventured far in there.  I'd find quite a few spots with potential during migration but nothing out of the ordinary today but it was still nice to be able to explore it all with a bike which is much quicker than by foot.

Then it would be time to head back to the car and another one of those gradual inclines which I knew was going to be tough as I coasted this for quarter a mile with no peddling so knew coming back would be payback.  The blackflies would be out and flying in my face just to make the experience more grueling.

All in all I'd get close to 10 miles from 122 to Bare Falls and back plus some side trails and loved it.  You can cover so much more in quicker time than by foot and was a very nice way to spend my morning.  I'm now thinking Quabbin where cars are not allowed and the potential there.  Can't wait to get out there and do it again!

Take care all.


Hilke Breder said...

Hi Kim, you may want to explore Montague Sandplains near Greenfield, Ma. Unique habitat and no traffic. Would be perfect for biking.

Kim said...

Thanks Hilke!! I bet it would be lovely in the fall!


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