Today’s goal was to nab four to five new birds for the BIGBY list by heading north to a friend’s house who had been seeing Pine Siskins regularly as well as a couple not-so-regular Purple Finches. Being so close to Irving Pond, I couldn’t resist 6 more miles with hopes of adding a small number of ducks that I haven’t scored yet. That was the plan; and so the journey begins…
As the ride began, I quickly added Killdeer and before even getting to M-43, a sizeable mixed flock of Cedar Waxwings and Bohemian Waxwings were in several trees across from the Gilmore Car Museum. The Bohemians were an amazing find this far south and upon returning, I did verify the rare northern species. Roughly half way to my friend’s, two Ruffed Grouse surprised the heck out of me which again added excitement to the ride.
Upon arriving to the first stop almost 24 miles in, my friend quickly shared that an incredible bird had just made an appearance. Enter the Red Crossbill. This brought excitement and disappointment in the same breath. To put this in perspective: The Dodds have lived in this house for over 37 years and this is the first they’ve ever seen this species in Barry County, let alone their feeders. The question remained, would they return? Within the first 20 minutes, I scored Pine Siskin as well as the tougher Purple Finch. After close to 30 minutes, I decided to go up to Irving and then swing back again before heading home. Irving Pond yielded Lesser Scaup, Wood Duck, American Coot, Redhead, and Common Merganser all as new BIGBY species. Not a bad return on my investment of six extra miles. When I returned, I found out the Crossbills had returned not more than a minute after leaving for Irving! This time, I decided to stay and wait it out as long as possible. The odds were good given the birds had returned once before. After enjoying some great lunch from my gracious hosts, within about 45 minutes luck continued to swing my way as two Red Crossbills re-entered. Just incredible. But wait…
On the ride home, while riding up what seemed like a never-ending hill a large “V” of Tundra Swans made their way past me at altitude heading towards the Northwest. By this point, if you’ve been keeping count I’m now up to 13 new species for the BIGBY list. While I couldn’t believe what I had tallied thus far, I never would’ve thought I’d see anything more. Enter the White-winged Crossbill. While continuing the arduous ride home into the wind, I was pedaling past the long fence-row filled with Pines along the eastern border of Lux Arbor when two White-winged Crossbills shot out of one of the trees calling and BIGBY #14 was in the bag. After 54 miles, with only one more mile to go I did get a Red-winged Blackbird to end the day at 16 total new birds (16 instead of 15 because of a mistakenly unlisted American Goldfinch I certainly have seen at multiple locations by bike). It’s important to point out that both the White-winged Crossbill and Red-winged Blackbird were both house birds that I was able to get by bike today. Nice…
Today was nothing short of an amazing day of birding, let alone birding by bike. I put in a lot of work today riding a total of 55 miles but Eldon Dodd’s prep time, the hospitality of both him and his wife and their willingness to be so supportive of me on this project is greatly appreciated. I was also joined by more cyclist friends today for half of my journey. It sure was nice having company along the way. This project would be nothing without support. Just over two months into the project, this support has proven to be the reason for many of my greatest additions to the list. Barely into March with a list of 64 BIGBY birds is just super for one inland county. I can’t wait for May!!! In the meantime, here’s to keeping the two wheels rolling…
Today brought a great 33 mile ride to not only myself but two great friends who decided to join me. My list is coming along nicely but I’m to the point in late winter where adding birds is slowing down. However, the rides have been enjoyable (even in the cold) and my fitness level on the bike is pretty good, especially given it’s only March.
Along the way, we had some excellent views of really great birds. Birds included Wild Turkeys, Horned Larks, and several close Red-tailed Hawks. Many highlights made the ride worthwhile but the most outstanding were three Bald Eagles who gave us really great views. While all of the birds above have already been tallied on the BIGBY list, the Bald Eagles proved to be a nice treat for Danny and Devin. (See iPhone image below of one of the Bald Eagles). I did add one new bird species to the BIGBY list! Two individual Turkey Vultures were seen at two different locations. That makes #44. Woohoo!
I can’t thank Danny and Devin enough for joining me today. They are excellent cyclists I’ve learned a great deal from over the years and it’s great having friends that believe in healthy living, being fit, and supporting other cyclists with different projects/goals. Stay tuned to hear more of my BIGBY rides this year. As spring continues to get closer and closer, the list will sky-rocket!
For 2013 I’ve decided to blend my passion of birding and cycling into a one-year event. Some of you may know what a Big Year is (seeing as many bird species in a calendar year, within specified boundaries) but I’m taking it one step further. I’m doing a BIGBY (BIg Green Big Year). My boundaries are anywhere within Barry County, MI and my goal will be to see as many bird species as possible by bike. My ride of choice is shown below.
This cyclocross bike is perfect for the job with slightly wider/knobby tires for back roads. While perfect on gravel, it still has a road feel for when I need to cover some serious mileage quickly, while on pavement. I’ve outfitted the bike with lights for night riding after nocturnals, a rack for carrying my scope and a unique way of carrying my binocs for quick use. Big thanks to our favorite optics folks at Eagle Optics who helped me choose an inexpensive binoc for this rough-road journey and also a big thanks to Mike at Team Active Cycling and Fitness for yet another great bike!
My plan the first couple months is to concentrate on winter species until the ice thaws and the first spring migrants begin showing up. As spring thrusts upon us, longer rides will ensue and I will be after the mass of migrants moving through. Barry County breeders will be the focus in summer, fall will bring another mad dash for any missed migrants from spring and the last couple months of 2013 will be dedicated to any winter species still missing.
We are 26 days into 2013 and I’ve accomplished four rides thus far. The first ride brought species such as Snow Bunting, Bald Eagle, and Horned Lark. The second ride yielded a Red-headed Woodpecker, a few late ducks and an Eastern Meadowlark still lingering. The third ride was short but I was able to snag a Wild Turkey. During my fourth ride last Saturday, I was able to track down Trumpeter Swans and a Rough-legged Hawk. These are just the highlights of each ride. Click HERE to see the running talley of all birds and mileage.
My total thus far is 39 species with 58 miles ridden. There are still winter specialties to get so stay tuned! (See the right side of the blog for a count ticker and another link to the post which will always show the latest list of birds and mileage ridden.)
This past weekend brought us to Lafayette, IN for Christmas with Kara’s family. Waking up well before sunrise to the sound of a baby playing in her crib meant there might be some time for birding around the area. As luck would have it, a Varied Thrush had been seen the previous day no more than 12 miles from the house. This bird should be in California, let alone Indiana so it was worth the effort.
Unfortunately, after two attempts I never did see the bird but I did get a nice opportunity with an adult Cooper’s Hawk before meeting a nice birder who mentioned having Saw-whet Owls roosting on his property. That obviously perked some interest! I jumped at the invitation and was soon riding in a gator across his property for a different bird. Boy it would’ve paid to be prepared for the 12 degree temps but who would’ve known a family Christmas could turn into a birding adventure. I suppose in this family, it’s very likely!
Sure enough, as we approached a small Cedar grove, we slowed and eventually stopped. Looking into the woods, one can’t help but notice the many yellow ribbons hanging on trees marking where birds were or are roosting. The gentleman does surveys daily to gather data about the individuals. Amazing commitment…
All in all, he showed me three individuals. One was even awake and willing to be photographed. Oh baby was I one happy Daddy!
This property was amazing and he shared the many species of Owls, Raptors and Passerines that have fledged from the 200 acre parcel. This is another example of a great find and a genuine birder willing to share his great spot. In return, I may be returning to the area later in 2013 to give a talk for their local Audubon as he is one of the founding members.
This past weekend, I took 4 photographers to the Upper Peninsula in search of waterfalls, fall color and Lake Superior landscapes. After a long drive up, we hit our first spot and started learning and shooting. All participants really hit the ground running and before we knew it, all had some nice images before we left.
Staying near our hotel, the drives were short, the hikes were pleasant and we gave ourselves plenty of time in each spot to learn and then put it to practice.
It was great to see the smiles on participants faces as problems were solved and stellar images rich with color and composition were taken. It was simply great being outside in beautiful places all weekend.
All in all, every participant came home with nice images, techniques for better exposures & composition, as well as the knowledge of creating images instead of just pointing and shooting.
My next trip will be out to the Mississippi for Bald Eagles. There are still 3 spots open but it’s a popular trip, it’ll fill fast!
Another summer has seemingly passed but not before we hit the UP! For our September vacation, we decided to play around in the western UP. It’s been a few years since we saw this area last. The last time we were there, we were back-packing the Porkies. That was probably one of my favorites spots we’ve ever back-packed and it was nice to see it again, even though we weren’t penetrating deep into the mountains.
This go around, we had our daughter Lillian with us. For a 6-month old, she couldn’t have had a better time. She was all smiles, all week. We hiked, we rode the tandem (with her in our Burley trailer!), and we just enjoyed being together all week. I was able to get a fabulous ride in half way through the week on my single and rode all the way to the top of Lake of the Clouds overlook which consisted of 23 miles with the last 7 miles consisting of pure climbing gaining 1007 vertical feet. OUCH! It was awesome…
The week didn’t bring a huge amount of photography until near the end. The latter part of the week brought in some nice storms over Lake Superior where I captured a very nice lightning image. After that we visited some nice waterfalls including Hungarian Falls and Manido Falls. There is a lot of talk about High Dynamic Range (HDR) images right now and in the digital world, it seems so easy. The basic steps include taking a few shots ranging in exposure and then stacking them together for a full range image. The problem, however, is nothing is ever that simple. It’s really important to have the right image and lighting to really make it work. The image above is an HDR image I created of Manido Falls that I am especially happy with.
I’ll be taking a group of photographers up the UP the first weekend in October. Stay tuned for updates!!!
With gas prices reaching $4 per gallon, I found myself more and more annoyed each time I hit the gas station in the truck spending $80 or more to fill my tank each week. I finally had enough and put some time looking at our finances to see what we could do. Long story short, we bought a Prius and the truck is for sale. In the process, we’re actually saving money each month. We’ll also be buying a small utility trailer for the Subaru for loads of mulch, lumber, etc. and I will be laughing all the way to bank as I am now getting an average of 50mpg =). In comparison to 14-17mpg in the truck, our checking account is much happier.
A side note that makes this purchase even better is the quality birding we can do from this car. We recently did some bird surveys for National Migratory Bird Day and we did so in the Prius. Slowly driving back roads looking and listening for birds on the KBS property was awesome in that we were rolling along silently at around 5mph. So cool!
So am I now a hippy weirdo who is self-absorbed knowing I’m saving the environment? Am I better than everyone else because my car saves the environment? While some may think of these stereotypes while reading, I would say the answer is NO to both of those (at least for me). Bottom line for us is we’re saving money and also greener at the same time. It makes sense for us, it may not make sense for others. I will surely miss the truck as I absolutely loved that vehicle. It was just time for a change to the greener side (both in GREEN money and a GREEN footprint).
While the new car didn’t feel like “my car” at first, after I started customizing it the feeling of “my car” came back quickly.
The birding at Magee was ok from Thursday to Sunday. Actually, it depends on how you look at it. As far as species diversity, it was pretty good. There was a fair amount of Warblers but it definitely took some searching. This weekend, I noticed the spots where small groups of birds were hanging out happened to be in Cypress, Cedar and/or Hemlock trees. I’m not sure if there is anything to this but at any rate, I still call it a “rough” weekend because the numbers were lower than normal for our annual weekend and they were all high and buried. At one point Saturday morning, I found myself just song ID’ing without even trying for views. Nice to know what’s around but not the funnest way to bird.
We did have a decent time Saturday afternoon at Ottawa where I snagged a couple nice shots of Red-winged Blackbirds. Ottawa actually brought us some nice birds including Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs, Blue-winged Teal, Snowy Egret, and a flighted Northern Goshawk that put on quite a show.
This was probably Kara’s first REALLY nice view of a flighted Gos which proved to be great as she really got to study the wing-beat and shape of the bird in flight.
Other than thousands of people on the boardwalk, it was still nice to be down here. I didn’t capture a single good Warbler image this trip which is definitely a first but I came home with three images I’m happy with. Definitely an odd group of images from Magee but another Warbler weekend is in the books.
Hey there Glances At Nature followers! It’s definitely been a while and I apologize for the lack of posts. Kara and I have welcomed a baby girl into the world and the past two months have been all about baby Lillian. She is doing well and Kara is doing great too.
Getting back into the game, we headed up to the UP for our annual trip to Whitefish PT. for hawk-watching and good birding. My mom came along to help us with Lillian duty which proved to be great as even Kara and I were able to get some time outside together. Each year we’re at the Point the end of April, we hit the hawk deck at sunset hoping for a migrant Owl flight. It’s somewhat tricky for photography because an absolutely CLEAR sky is necessary. A little luck with birds taking to the air earlier than pure darkness is also helpful. Even after our long drive up Friday, Kara and I headed to the deck as it was clear evening. As luck would have it, after around a half hour, a single Long-eared Owl took flight and floated in the winds up the beach until in front of us over some trees. While tired and cold, it proved to be worth it. The next evening was also clear but no Owls took flight until well after sunset.
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