Birding by Bike

Green Heron – we saw two of them today but this pic is from last weekend

You think that’s not possible? I’ll admit it has its challenges, but it’s definitely do-able. You have to listen more carefully to hear the birds over the crunch of your bike tires on gravel, and be ready to stop on a dime. And make sure to have your binoculars within easy reach. I wear mine on a binocular harness (like this), and Eric wears his just on the regular binoc strap around his neck. (I keep meaning to get him a harness too, as I think it would be much more comfortable for bike birding.) So with all those preparations and my camera stowed on the back of my bike, we hit the Polly Ann Trail today to see what we could find.

We did a round trip of 15 miles in two-and-a-half hours, so that should give you an idea of how much time we spent stopped for birds (either that or we’re really slooooow bikers, LOL). This trail is much more rural than the Paint Creek Trail (PCT) that runs through our neighborhood, with lots of horses, barns and fences to serve as photo subjects for me in between birds.

Even though it’s closer to home, some days it’s more hassle than it’s worth to navigate the PCT, with all the walkers, runners, and bikers with baby carriages behind them. We drove about ten miles north to get on the Polly Ann in Leonard, Michigan — a nice little drive through the resort community of Lakeville with its winding rural road. There were plenty of other bikers on the trail, but nowhere near the numbers on the Paint Creek Trail, which was another good thing.

So, you want to know about the birds we found, right? Here’s the list I’ll be entering on eBird later:

Look who else was on the trail!

  • Wood Duck
  • Green Heron
  • Cedar Waxwing
  • European Starling
  • American Goldfinch
  • House Finch
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • American Crow
  • Eastern Kingbird
  • Gray Catbird
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Baltimore Oriole – beautiful male on the top branch of a tree
  • American Robin
  • Northern Flicker
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Blue Jay

Wood Ducks (click to enlarge)

My favorites from today were the Green Herons and Baltimore Oriole. I had trouble finding Green Herons earlier this summer, even though a birding friend told me where they could be found “no problem”.  And birders on our listserv have been speculating that the Baltimore Orioles are beginning to head south, so the pretty boy we saw was probably getting ready to go too. We’ll sure miss our summer birds, but I also love the anticipation of seeing who just might fly through our yard in the fall. Maybe some of the beautiful warblers we saw in May, although they’ll be in drabber fall plumage now and a bit harder to identify.

Barn along the trail

Right now we’re seeing lots more shorebirds and ducks coming through, and as I wrote in my previous post, I’m making a concerted effort to learn to distinguish them from one another.  I’m writing up an account of our Oakland Audubon Society trip to Pointe Mouillee yesterday, and will post that in the next few days. It was exciting, overwhelming, educational, and more!

Eastern Kingbird sitting quietly at the top of a tree beside the deck in the evening sunlight

As I sit here on the deck typing this, I keep stopping to grab my binocs to check out the many birds who are living in our yard right now. At one point I see three Tufted Titmice on the birdbath with a hummingbird on a branch behind them. A moment later the two female Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are battling over one of the feeders. And two Eastern Kingbirds are tittering high up in the tree beside me. The juvenile Blue Jays are making sure we all know they’re here too. And I just heard the Great Crested Flycatcher that Eric told me he’d seen this morning, right before two Northern Flickers came through. What an awesome Bird-tastic ecotherapy day!

Have you looked out your window today?

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5 Responses to Birding by Bike

  1. Kim, The photograph of the Green Heron is very impressive.

  2. I had to laugh when I read your question at the end! If you read my “Out and About” post from yesterday and scroll down to the lamppost picture from my neighbourhood you will see exactly what birds I see when I look out my window.

    I have great admiration for anyone who can bike with binoculars strapped around their neck, never mind birding at the same time 🙂

    • Kim says:

      Kristie, that IS funny! And you reminded me of last weekend. We were watching shorebirds at the beach, but there were also lots of Canada Geese nearby. At one point a bunch of geese took flight towards us and I could see several of them dropping you-know-what as they flew. I ducked my head and braced myself for a direct hit, but luckily I was spared. Whew! (Ok, now that I saw your picture I have to go back and read that post.) Thanks for stopping by!!

  3. littlesundog says:

    I captured a Green Heron in our woods after a storm this spring. It appeared to be a juvenile, calling out for its parents. Eventually, it flew on. My photos were not nearly as nice as yours! You mentioned the Northern Flickers. Generally, I do not see them here until late fall and early winter months. They are one of my favorites! I love these photographs of yours! I had to laugh a bit, picturing you in my mind with your binocs glued to your eyes!! FD has given me two great sets of binoculars in the past 5 years. People think that’s a silly and even ridiculous birthday gift for a woman… but that man knows my heart! Those binoculars (and my camera and lenses) are the greatest gifts. Diamonds… sorry, they are dull compared to seeing wildlife! I know… I’m a weirdo!

    • Kim says:

      Lori, binoculars are a GREAT gift! Jewelry would be wasted on me too. One of the best gifts my husband ever gave me was a camera bag for our birding hikes. And if you’re a weirdo for preferring wildlife to diamonds, well, sign me up too — Wildlife Weirdos unite! (I only wish I’d been tuned in to wildlife earlier in my life…but I think I’m making up for it now.)

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