Birding by Bicycle

My personal trainer and I have this discussion every day. “Pedal,” he says.

“I am pedaling, but did you hear that northern parula back there?”

“Yes, but that’s not why we’re out here.”

I laugh. “That’s why I’m out here. I don’t know about you.”

I suspect it’s the difference between hikers and peak baggers. Between birders who are after a big year or those who chase rarities, and those who just bird all the time by osmosis. Or by chance. I am forever rolling down my car windows as I zoom around in my busy-ness–schlepping boys here and there, traipsing between schools in the course of my work life. I notice the killdeer family in the field. I count the cedar or–bonus–bohemian waxwings in the grocery store parking lot fruit trees in winter. I pull over when sandhill cranes fly across the Messalonskee Lake marsh next to the road. I’ve endured endless baseball games by grabbing my binoculars and wandering over to the nearby woods.

So birding by bike is inevitable no matter what my personal trainer, who also happens to be my husband, says. He doesn’t really mind and today I even got him to stop and listen. It was a meadowlark, an increasingly rare bird in our Maine fields, singing its heart out from atop a tall farmhouse maple. Haying schedules and habitat loss have resulted in a 72 percent decline in meadowlarks in the last 40 years according to a National Audubon Society study. So when I hear a meadowlark, I stop, fitness goals be damned.

Well, not damned really. I still covered 13 hilly miles on the bike today in the blessed heat. And I got a second meadowlark and four northern parula to boot.  I also re-learned something from long ago, back when I used to bike tour, something I didn’t even know I’d forgotten: when you bike you hear and see more of the world at closer range and slower speed than almost any other form of transportation. Certainly more than from a car. I have driven the meadowlark road countless times in the nine years I’ve lived here and I’ve never had a meadowlark before. They have, no doubt, been here all along, waiting for someone to get out of their cars and notice. Or at least stop pedaling long enough to listen to the sound of summer.

 

 

Almost Ready to Launch

Baby phoebes. I don't know how much bigger they can get and still fit!

Baby phoebes. I don’t know how much bigger they can get and still fit!

I need not have worried about the pollinators. We have so many apples we'll have to thin the crop.

I need not have worried about the pollinators. We have so many apples we’ll have to thin the crop.

The peach tree is loaded too. I hope it holds its fruit this year.

The peach tree is loaded too. I hope it holds its fruit this year.

We have a zillion goldfinches enjoying the river birch catkins. Goldfinches put off nesting until much later than other birds to assure a seed supply for their young.

We have a zillion goldfinches enjoying the river birch catkins. Goldfinches put off nesting until much later than other birds to assure a seed supply for their young.

Even after thinning, the garden is too full and lush this spring.

Even after thinning, the garden is too full and lush this spring. Can’t complain about that!

Peonies

Purple columbine

The rain has produced verdant flowers, lawn and garden greens.
IMG_0602

IMG_0603

But the rain may have been deadly to tree swallow hatchlings in this box.
Swallow box

There were babies in here last week, but today there is a new clutch of eggs instead. This appears to have been repeated in our second box. The third box doesn’t appear to have suffered as much–perhaps the babies were older when the rains hit? I’m hoping it’s not a predator taking out eggs/chicks. Meanwhile the bluebirds, following their “let’s wait til the swallows are established (or done)” policy, are now carrying nesting material into our fourth house.

Bluebird on our fourth house