307 days ago, I decided to take on the birds of Barry County by bike. Today, I reached my goal of 200 individual species. For those that think I’m done, let’s not forget there are 58 days left! I won’t lie, it feels a bit more comfortable knowing I’ve hit my goal but now I turn to smoking past 200 any way I can.
Today started unexpectedly to say the least. I was driving towards Nashville and saw a flooded field with a half dozen Killdeer that caught my eye. You never know so I turned around and gave the group a closer look. Good thing, a single Dunlin was mixed in with them and that was a bird I’ve been looking all over the county for. Our original plan for today was to all meet at Hidden Pond to do some hawk-watching. We all hoped for a fly-by Golden Eagle but after finding this Dunlin, plans would change.
While gearing up, however, I received a call from Jack and Eldon they’d found four Dunlin on Otis Lake which is only one mile from Hidden Pond. I decided to change plans yet again and head their way. Ideally, I would get the Dunlin at Otis and then we’d all move down to Hidden Pond so as to not lose out on some hawk-watching but it didn’t happen. The birds took flight 10 minutes before my arrival. After all of us looked and looked for an hour, no Dunlin were re-found.
We decided to part ways and start over knowing I still had a shot for a Dunlin, IF my bird from the morning hadn’t left. Arriving home I put some dry socks on, had a light lunch, changed over to my time trial bike (a.k.a. the rocket) and hit the road again. The miles ticked by and before I knew it I was on the site again, almost five hours after first finding the bird.
Today was a special day that required my crew to be there. Plans were made and changed a couple times but knowing what “could” be possible today, my crew was there regardless. I could NOT have reached this goal without them. It was exciting that I found this particular bird and many others as well but the birds that Jack and Eldon have found for me have added up significantly all year. And let’s not forget the many misses I had requiring several re-attempts in some cases. Jack and Eldon bird every day and the days they could have been birding in different areas, they just didn’t because they were so committed to making sure I got the birds I needed.
The sag support and filming my dad has provided has kept me going day in and day out and his hard work is the key to remembering and telling this story. I started by myself in January. I very quickly found a team behind me all with one goal in mind. 200 species. More than 1500 miles later, with 44 miles ridden today WE hit that goal. What a day it was…
On the way home, I passed two different horse-and-buggies. It just seemed fitting to get a fun picture. I’m sure there is an unbelievable amount of research and technology in the bike I was riding, not to mention the clothing on my back. It was kind of cool cruising alongside something so simple that hadn’t changed in centuries.
For now, my goal of 200 species is in the bag. For those wondering, that includes 197 by bike plus three incidental species seen at home. I leave you tonight with one last sweet shot of me cruising on my TT bike. Tomorrow may just bring number 201. Stay tuned to see…
In the past week, I’ve only been able to ride two times but oddly enough both journeys were successful. That sounds simple but both birds required several attempts and the little guy I added this evening took so many attempts, they date back to January!
Last week I was able to snag American Pipits while riding up to Pierce to meet Kara and Lillian for a nice walk. This was not the bird I was after that day but a very welcome sight. I’ve been stopping at countless cut farm fields over the past few weeks looking for these guys. I think we’ll get more as Fall continues and the harvests press on. This is yet another drab bird but when looking at them in nice lighting, they can be beautiful.
The bird I’ve ridden countless time after, including rides all the way back to January is a Winter Wren. Jack seems to be the master of Winter Wrens and almost every individual he’s found, I’ve gone after and always have been unsuccessful. Even knowing that, he continues the hunts and speedy texts any time he finds one. Today brought a break in the rainy weather and a gracious wife willing to pick up Lillian allowing me to ride. I hit the road despite having a cold and knowing the strong West winds with temps in the 40s would be painful.
As always, Jack insisted on meeting me and helping out the cause so I told him I’d see him at 5:20. As I arrived, I saw a familiar sight; Jack checking his watch to see how close I was to my time prediction. It seems to be our game. He smiled and yet again couldn’t believe how accurate I was arriving at 5:20 and 10 seconds. haha. One of these days he’ll realize I’ve done this once or twice before. =) Not to continue laboring on, we had a lovely short walk and this time my good luck charm was most definitely Jack. The bird popped into view very close to where he had it this morning and I had my bird. FINALLY!
I made it home and there was just enough Penzey’s hot chocolate mix for one more cup. I inhaled it and boy did it feel good on my throat. I quickly turned to making a fire in our brand new family room. This is one more time I’m thankful for the long days and evenings working on this project. For those continuing to keep track, the three incidental house birds along with my massive list by bike brings me to………….199 BIGBY birds. Wow…Seriously…Wow. I now have just over two months to get one more bird and obtain my goal set over 10 months ago. It’s going to be a tough single bird but it’s most definitely possible.
Sun, wind, rain, and four rides later I finally snagged an Orange-crowned Warbler. Oddly enough, after working the “right” area for our bird I’d pretty much given up. It was about then when Kara and Lillian arrived. Lillian turned the slow morning into a lively one as she ran around playing with the “pity yeaves” (pretty leaves). Now that our heads were clear, it was time to move through a different area.
Other than a small handful of the usual suspects, all was quiet. Well into our walk, a warbler flew in abruptly and we all turned our attention. I got on the bird and BOOM! Orange-crowned Warbler. An exciting moment after all this work. I’ve hit Pierce three times in the past three days as well as rode to some areas on the north side of Gull Lake with decent habitat. Apparently all it took were the girls to show up. Jack is convinced they’re my new secret weapons. =)
All in all, it was a good morning and it was especially nice to get a good bird with good company. Jack has hung in there with my journey for this bird and Friday, we even split up to cover more ground. All this from a birder who nabbed this species over a week ago. This morning proves yet again that this is not a one-man journey with his bike.
For the most part I dodged the rain this morning but with only two miles left I ended up in a downpour. It was a beautiful ride home, however. What started as a muggy 66 degree morning, ended in a cool 56 degree climate. I absolutely love this cooling weather and it was a welcome feeling riding home. I could’ve done without the rain but with an Orange-crowned finally secured, I didn’t seem to care. Four trips, 87.5 miles in total and I had my bird.
The plan this morning was to make an early trip up to Otis Lake, go for a nice walk through Hidden Pond Preserve, and circle my way back to Pierce Cedar Creek for a Lincoln’s Sparrow Jack found last night. This would yield 39 miles and the goal was for at least one new BIGBY bird. As it turned out, I didn’t need to hit Pierce and ended up with 34 miles total.
It was a chilly start to a beautiful day and just before going down one of my favorite hills on Otis Lake Rd. I was pleasantly surprised by a Merlin at tree top level, smoking by me to the south. Like many Merlins in migration, you never get long looks as they’re fast, pump their wings like crazy and flap all the way to their wintering grounds. This small dark falcon is easily identified in flight after some practice and is a real joy when you can catch ‘em!
Upon arriving to Otis Lake, none other than Eldon was waiting and he’d been there enjoying the cool morning air searching the lake. No new water birds but as Jack soon arrived, we began to notice movement in the nearby trees. We tallied Yellow-rumped Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Pine Warbler and a few Ruby-crowned Kinglets. No newbys for any of us but a nice 30 minutes of birding. We hit the road and a mile later, we were at Hidden Pond to begin our walk.
As luck would have it, we found a couple more honey holes; one of which yielded a two Lincoln’s Sparrows. This was a nice moment, realizing I wouldn’t need to log extra miles going to Pierce today. The miles aren’t a big deal but I was excited I could simply relax with two of my favorite birders and spend more time walking Hidden Pond Preserve. None of us found any more new birds and we soon had to part ways as life would bring us back to the realization we all had commitments today.
On the ride back, I was hammering down Steven’s Rd. when I saw a sleek woodpecker fly into a single deciduous tree. This perked my interest because I missed Sapsucker in the Spring: could this have been my missing woodpecker?? The bird didn’t strike me as a Red-bellied Woodpecker and the shape/flight definitely prompted a turn-around. After five minutes of looking I could not relocate the bird. I began to get underway again when I saw a bird on the other side of the main trunk. Different angles can be helpful! I stopped yet again and got my bins on the bird. I saw white on the nape, extensive barring on the back and clear views of the black/white bars running down the sides of the bird. That mixed with a super sharp beak turned my good BIGBY day into a great BIGBY day.
I had found my Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. I logged 34 miles and added three birds to the BIGBY list on September 28th. Unreal… Including my incidental sightings at home (4) with my massive list by bike (192), I’m currently at 196 BIGBY species. It’s been a fantastic year for birding Barry County. Four more birds will bring me to my goal of 200. So close!!! I may just get there…
In June I was talking with Caleb Putnam about my thrushtrations (aka, Thrush frustrations) as I missed two key species in Spring that would be needed to get to my 200 goal. He looked at me and said, “No problem, get them calling at night during fall migration.” 10 weeks later, my quest for nocturnal flight calls began.
The weather outlook for Thursday night was ideal. Cold front moving in with steady North winds. Jack and I agreed on this prediction over a week ago and I’m not just asking you to believe us. Check out this INSANELY incredible radar loop Thursday night through Friday morning (7pm-6:30am). Thanks to Dad for creating this, he’s the radar man… Seriously, he is THE MAN with this radar stuff right now!
I’m sure some of you may be asking, “How do you know those are birds migrating?” Please play it again and notice the storm (green/yellow/red blobs) over Southeast Michigan and Northwest Ohio. Those are confirmed rain storms that were moving through the region that evening. When starting the loop, all the major Radar sites in our region light up with activity about an hour after sunset (when most passerine migrants take off) and that activity goes strong all night until about an hour before sunrise (when most passerine migrants set down). It was a cloudless night with no activity other than some air traffic. It really paints a picture of how many birds can be in the air flying overhead while we sleep.
The video clip above shows a migrant passing by the moon. After spending an hour in the field recording takes of the moon, the time paid off as my Dad was able to find some clips on the big screen where birds crossed the moon. Pretty sweet! If you missed it, the clip shows a bird flying from the upper left down to the lower right of the moon. It’s a short, but incredible view into understanding a little bit of what’s going on during a good night for migration. Once the moon was down, the cloudless night also meant we had spectacular star views, including the popular Orion constellation.
From my on-line research, I found the highest percentage of hearing strong Thrush activity is during the 90 minutes before Sunrise when they’re jockeying to land. Eldon made it just before 6am, we walked to the back of my property and began to wait. Within about 5 minutes, I heard a Gray-cheeked Thrush. I won’t lie, the thought of how hard this “should” be made me second guess myself until Eldon (who is how should I phrase this…struggling from the woes of high frequency hearing loss) whispered, I heard that one!!! We soon became excited and realized, we can do this… Every few minutes, we’d hear single flight calls from both Gray-cheeked and Swainson’s Thrushes but around 6:21, it was like a wave of Thrushes found themselves overhead and we were pointing all over the place as both of us heard flight calls in many directions.
This will remain one of my most memorable BIGBY experiences for sure. It was exciting enough that we decided to try again this morning just for the sheer fun of it. My Dad joined us and it proved to be a very worthwhile hike as all three of us heard two Great-horned Owls and an Eastern Screech Owl calling, clear as night. We’ve been trying hard for the Great-horned ALL YEAR. On top of that, we had an enormous wave of Thrushes come in around 6:35am that put yesterday’s wave to shame. Another exciting night/morning of birding.
I set off early this morning for the Cow Ponds. This place is going to become my second home before too long! I was after a Stilt Sandpiper that was seen last night. Eldon was to do some recon pretty early this morning but I took a chance and got underway early.
It turned out to be a good choice as half way there, I received a text from Eldon that the bird was there! An even bigger surprise was seeing an American Bittern in flight, even before hitting Hickory Corners. This is a bird all of us have been after and Jack has said it several times that we would have to be lucky enough to see one in flight or we’d never get the bird. He sure called it… I arrived at the ponds and sure enough, we had several shorebirds including the Stilt Sandpiper.
All in all, it was a beautiful morning for some longer mileage. I picked up two new BIGBY birds with just under 52 miles of riding. I’ll take it!!!
As the title would suggest, this little bugger took three tries to finally get him. And it wasn’t a single bird at one location. Two Saturdays ago, I received a call from one of the guys that an Olive-sided Flycatcher was easily seen along an open wetland 14 miles from home. I was suited up and on the bike within ten minutes but after hammering to the spot, the bird had vanished. That’s how it goes sometimes, especially in migration.
Last Friday night, another one was spotted at Pierce Cedar Creek. The next morning, I rode up to the cow ponds and easily snagged one of a few Pectoral Sandpipers thanks to some great recon work by Eldon. Instead of just high-tailing it straight home, I went home by way of Pierce Cedar Creek hoping to yield two species for the day. Luck was not on my side as nothing new was to be found at Pierce, even though 56 miles went into trying that day.
Finally, the next day I planned to meet my dad, Eldon and Jack at Pierce Cedar Creek for some evening owling. Great-horned Owls had been heard two nights before so we gave it a go. As soon as I arrived, I was greeted by Eldon and within about 15 seconds, we had an a Olive-sided Flycatcher hunting insects in-front of us. The species wasn’t planned but boy was I excited! We sure gave owling a good go but no species were calling.
After a beautiful 11 miles home at night, I would end up with my two species after all, just not both within one ride. I ended up with 94 miles on the road that weekend between my BIGBY rides and a tandem ride with the family over to see some cows (Lillian’s favorite right now). That mileage proved to be great for training too as Tuesday, I shattered my Tuesday Time Trial course personal best by 18 seconds. 6.5 miles in 15:41 (25mph avg). Not too shabby!
The inaugural Cereal City Triathlon/Duathlon was this morning and I gave another great performance. Today’s event was not particularly planned, given it was only a week after the Shermanator but I competed and planned to do well racing against the clock. I did just that! The distances were 5k run – 20k bike – 5k run. My overall goal time for this event was 1:26:30 and I smashed through that to post a 1:23:09 overall time, 3:21 faster than my goal. My runs were excellent and I flew on the bike. It was also really great seeing Kara and Lillian out enjoying the beautiful morning cheering me on.
No more races for a while. Back to the BIGBY. Here’s to hoping some good shorebird diversity fills Barry County in the coming weeks!
This is very much NOT a nature-related post but I thought it’d be a fun one none-the-less. I have been training for a couple months now for racing a couple duathlons in August. What’s a duathlon you ask? Well, a duathlon is similar to a triathlon (swim-bike-run) but instead, the duathlon is an event that involves run-bike-run. In the past year I’ve lost 44lbs with better eating habits and that along with all the early biking after birds has made me faster than I’ve ever been on the bike. Add in some targeted run training and my goal was to be competitive in a duathlon. Goals are the best…
This morning marked the first one, called the Shermanator. This event is on Sherman Lake and proceeds benefit summer camp scholarships for kids in need. This duathlon was 2.5K run, 10 mile bike, 5k run. My goal for this event was to post a…
– 12min 1st run – — 27min bike – — 27min 2nd run – — 45sec transitions –
This goal was based off the course terrain and where I am with my training. Not only did I smash my goal by two and a half minutes, I won the duathlon overall. Pretty sweet!
What does my aero helmet make you think of? Click play below and it might spark something. And if you’re a jedi knight, I just passed you! haha
My actual times were…
– 10:50min 1st run – — 26:43min bike – — 25:22min 2nd run – — 48sec each transition –
After passing the half dozen people ahead of me on the bike leg, all that was left was the pace car in front of me. What an exciting feeling to come back into transition first with no one to be seen behind me. Maybe that’s what got me pumped up enough to shave almost two minutes off my 2nd run time. =)
It was a beautiful morning for a race. What a redeeming feeling to have all this work pay off after doing so well in the event. Next week is the Cereal City Duathlon. Wish me luck!
It’s certainly been a while since I’ve written a post about my BIGBY. Today’s long bout of riding (and canoeing) was definitely worth writing about! Especially when my first new bird of the day was a Cowbird…
Just kidding but I just had to show this picture my dad took because I was at a place called none other than the “cow ponds.” Seriously, it’s a cow farm with a giant pond that shorebirds love. It smells, the cows follow you bringing the flies and their defecation with them but once you get something like a Baird’s Sandpiper in the scope, you forget all about the nasty stuff. =)
I did mention the Baird’s above. This is a fantastic bird that Eldon, Jack, my Dad and I all got this morning along with a Least Sandpiper and Semipalmated Sandpiper. While Eldon was desperately trying to find any other good ones, I finally got my Cliff Swallow to round out the ponds at four new BIGBY birds.
Finished at the cow ponds, we headed for Otis to float Glass Creek in search of Least Bitterns. What a great day to be on the creek with some of my favorite people. Eldon and Jack continued on the adventure, we convinced my Dad to join us and even Dan Toronto made the trip up. The five of us pushed and paddled our way over a beaver dam, struggled through thick weeds and lilies but never did we see or hear a Least Bittern. The float was far from a waste, however, as we had ample opportunities to relax and enjoy a cool July day.
I returned home but the four new birds at the cow ponds would be the only new ones today (but for July, that’s a great list). As always a huge thanks to Eldon and Jack for their timely posts of birds before I ride long miles and another big thanks to my Dad for continued sag service (bike support). The rides and posts should begin to pick up again now that migration is starting. Keep close to the blog!!!
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