Thursday, January 8, 2015

Jan 8 - Keeping it Green - avoiding ferries and the like

My goal for this year was to self-power this entire adventure even the inconvenient segments. This meant that under no circumstance would I use ferries or hitch rides to make my life easier. Today I want to detail a few of the ferries and hitching-hiking opportunities out of which I opted this past year. This will hopefully demonstrate exactly how much I inconvenienced myself to keep this year green and self-powered. These examples are presented in chronological order.

1) Connecticut South Coast vs. Long Island
The best biking route from Southeastern Connecticut (CT) to New Jersey would require a ferry ride from New London, CT to Long Island (NY). This "ideal" route is shown on the map below. With this route, I would have avoided the very busy and relatively unsafe  I-95 corridor along the south coast of CT. As I was not permitted to take this ferry, I had to fight my way south and west along the Connecticut Coast. I did see some nice birds in this stretch, but on paper I think I would have enjoyed the riding and birding more along the forbidden Long Island route. 

2) Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel
That I could not ride my bike (or walk it!) across the 22-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel caused the single biggest route alteration I made last year. Had I been willing to hitch a ride over the Bridge-Tunnel, I could have taken the blue route shown below. For simplicity, I have drawn it as running from Wilmington, Delaware to Greenville, North Carolina. This route would have taken me down the less developed eastern side of the Chesapeake Bay and the Delmarva (DELaware-MARyland-ViginiA) peninsula. There is great winter birding and little development along this entire stretch. Instead, I had to fight my way down the western side of the bay through both Baltimore and Washington, DC (gray line). Biking through these urban areas in the snow was not fun. The birding was also less-than-stellar. 

3) Access to Dauphin Island
Dauphin Island is the most famous spring migrant trap along the Alabama coast. As I had not visited the Alabama Coast before, I decided to visit this birding locale. The only birds that *might* have appeared here that I could not have seen more easily on the Upper Texas Coast were Cape May warbler and the still-at-this-stage-elusive Black-throated blue warbler. Both of these are eastern gulf migrants and become much rarer the further west one goes along the Gulf Coast. Riding west out of Gulf Shores, access to Dauphin Island is exceedingly simple if you are willing to take a ferry across the mouth of Mobile Bay. This ideal route, like those above, is shown in blue. This ferry connection is so simple that many people will bird Dauphin Island and the western side of the bay in the morning before hopping the ferry over to the eastern side for the remainder of the day. Since the ferry was out, I had to ride the much longer route, northern around Mobile Bay. Again, not fun. 

4) Cameron Parrish, Louisiana
The ideal biking route along the Louisiana coast is shown in blue in the first image. The second image shows the very small break at the south end of Lake Calcasieu (near Cameron) across which I would have to be ferried if I took this route. Since even this short ferry ride ruled out this coastal route, I rode through Lake Charles and then cut back down to the coast. Interestingly, I actually think this more inland route is better for birding as it took me through lots of rice fields that were loaded with shorebirds. It was in this area that I found my first Hudsonian godwits. 

Small break near Google logo at bottom, right of center

5) No Skylark in Washington or British Columbia
I could not access the only reliable areas for Sky Lark without a ferry. I could not reach this bird. Pretty simple.

Again, very straightforward. I would have easily added Black-footed albatross, Northern fulmar, and Long-tailed jaeger on Monterey pelagics. Storm-petrels and Red Phalarope would have been possible as would have other, more unusual, pelagic species. 

As we have discussed previously, my year was far from "carbon perfect". Nothing these days is so. However, what I can say is that I self-powered every inch that I moved this year. That, in my mind, is an incredible accomplishment. 


  1. Dorian-- I marveled all year at how you walked and rode your bike all over this wonderful country of ours! It was an incredible feat in itself, not counting over 600 bird sightings! Perhaps you should bird those West And Southwest areas by car and ferry sometime to catch those other rarer birds.

  2. So what is it like to move via internal combustion engine? Are things moving too fast?

  3. Yes, how is your re-entry going?

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  5. What a guy!! To follow your heart, make the plan and then execute to completion makes you a rare bird indeed. I think you are on to something. Thank you for the inspiration and for spreading awareness to those that can help. If I ever run into you on the birding trails I will thank you in person!