Early on in my birding and nature photography adventures, I would use whatever means to travel to natural locations around the area.
A bicycle was one of my primary ways to get me around, and for a bit of throwback, I decided to try it again.
Using a bicycle or even your own feet allows for greater mobility than an automobile would. You can park and get into smaller spaces a vehicle simply can’t fit into. Starting and stopping is a lot easier on a bike whether that’s along a sidewalk or former railroad right-of-way (bike trail.)
Environmentalists could also argue the emissions and pollution that are saved from using the manpower of a bicycle over a car or truck. It simply doesn’t make too much sense to use a car to drive several minutes away when a car does just as well.
Probably one of the most important of all, birdsong is definitely more audible pedaling a bike against the wind than cruising down the street with a loud engine car.
So on May 1st during the peak of bird migration back up to the north, I set out at noon to some local places. These are locations where I got my start in nature and wildlife photography.
I am very familiar with these places, having gone to them many many times at all seasons in the past four years.
Each of the five locations I visited has an attached eBird checklist for those curious to see everything I recorded from the day. The photos are ones I shot with my phone (Samsung Galaxy S10.)
To start, these first three locations happen to all be connected via footpaths, allowing me to park and lock my bicycle and travel on foot with binoculars and telephoto lens in hand.
Featuring a classic Ohio red barn, a small pond, and some treelines and a service road path to wander by. I spent less than half an hour here and saw typical species for the location, including barn swallows which are attracted to nesting under the gazebo or inside the barn roof. Nest boxes are present in the open fields here however I did not see nor hear any Eastern Bluebirds, House Wrens or Tree Swallows.
Only eight species were what I was capable of identifying, however there were no doubt more at this spot. A couple of photos of common species satisfied me enough for the time and so I walked down.
Beaver Creek Wetland Nature Reserve
I spent much more time and miles hiked here, and due in part to the changing habitats I found more variety. Winding through a wetland and marsh means waterfowl could be seen, as I saw several Mallard ducks. Numerous hawks like Red-Shouldered were flying and calling overhead on this bright and sunny day. I began to see and hear more migratory birds, namely vireos, Baltimore Orioles and Northern Parulas.
The photographic highlight was a high key closeup portrait of a Blue Grey Gnatcatcher set against a deep blue sky. Several woodpeckers were also common to see and hear in the wet woods throughout the reserve, including their calls and drumming. I managed some great images and close looks of Song Sparrows, Baltimore Oriole, and an Eastern Towhee. Overall a success at 21 species for an hour and a half.
Dane Mutter Prairie
This small conservation easement is primarily prairie habitat as the name suggests, and I was here for half an hour only. Highlights were seeing a Red Shouldered Hawk on the ground getting mobbed by a Red Winged Blackbird. Upon entering this section I heard a single Eastern Meadowlark, however could not spot it in the mowed grasslands. American Goldfinches were unsurprisingly very present here, flying to and from the treelines to the tall grasses. The males were easier to spot with their vibrant yellow breeding plumage. To top if off, a handful of Common Yellowthroats were giving their “wichity wichity wichity” call while hidden from sight.
For some reason I have bad luck with ticks at this location no matter how cautious I am, one was stuck to my calf after getting home. Always check your legs in the spring and summer!
Glen Thompson State Reserve
Situated along a state scenic river, I anticipated many warblers and other migrants to be here. My best luck was a decent look and a photo through the tree branches of a Orchard Oriole (a life bird for me!) A Red Bellied Woodpecker was making quick work of a tree, chipping away pieces of bark to either feed on insects or to establish a nest cavity. Some more very close looks at Blue Grey Gnatcatchers held my interest during my visit. Overall a very successful hour spent at this hidden gem in my county.
This personal favorite location of mine is severely under birded yet can contain a surprise or two to the trained eye/ear. To beef up my list for the day, I spotted several common species such as Great Blue Heron, Belted Kingfisher and Killdeer. The best photo from this area was towards the end of the trail. A single individual that was very patient and perched high up in the treetops. A female Rose Breasted Grosbeak set against a very azure evening sky.
All in all, six year (2020) birds and and one of those being a lifer made for an excellent afternoon out.
I am very excited not only by some of the bird sightings from the day, but the amount of quality photos too! Here is a sampling of some of my favorites.
(From left to right starting at top left: Song Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, Orchard Oriole, Red Bellied Woodpecker, Red Bellied Woodpecker, Blue Grey Gnatcatcher, Rose Breasted Grosbeak.)
Have you ever birded via bicycle? How did it turn out?
I have found the experience to be rather enjoyable, different enough to try at least once or twice.
Make sure to get out there and bird your local places!
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