Saturday, January 11, 2014

Jan 11 (Day 11) - Leg resting, local birding, lifer snowy owl for Chris

The weather forecast today was for rain and strong winds. Given that I have had 3 consecutive long days (~40 miles each), I decided to unload the bike for a day and just kick around Charlestown, Rhode Island for the day. I was hoping to find rough-legged hawk at Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge. I was unsuccessful in this quest, and the birding was generally pretty slow. I did add swamp sparrow and great blue heron to the year's list. 

I biked 20 miles and walked 2. This might not seem like an "off" day, but let me tell you, when the bike is unloaded, 20 miles on relatively flat ground is a piece of cake. Once I build up my strength a bit more, get onto flat ground, and do not have to deal with freezing temperatures and very high winds, I will be able to string together more consecutive 40-50 mile days with the bike fully loaded. 40 miles on the South Carolina coast a month from now will get done before lunch.

Despite the lack of birds, I had a nice day anyway. When I arrived at the refuge I found a young birder and his grandmother setting off down the same trail as me. I asked if they were birders, and they told me they were looking for snowy owls. They had seen an article in their local newspaper describing the influx of the snowy owls into the northeast United States this year. I told them to look in open areas as the owls like treeless areas that resemble their summer homes on the Canadian tundra. I then continued down the trail on my own to an observation platform from which I found a snowy owl sitting on the beach.

I rounded up the youngster and his companion, and I escorted them back the viewing platform where I was able to show the owl to both of them. Chris and "Nana" Nancy live in town, and the snowy owl was a life bird for both of them (a "life bird" of "lifer" is what you call a bird the first time you see it). Nana Nancy said she is doing her best to introduce young Chris (who I'd guess is 13) to all aspects of the natural world. She informed me that they had just completed a unit on outer space, so it appears as though Nana Nancy's tutelage extends well beyond the local wildlife refuge. I told them about my project, and Nana Nancy friended the Biking for Birds Facebook page when she got home! Sounds like I made two new friends today. Here is a photo of the two of them. 

Nana Nancy and Chris enjoy their lifer snowy owl!

Just for fun, I have included a photo of me birding at age 12 (yellow shirt). This photo was taken at Camp Chiricahua, a summer camp run by Victor Emanuel Nature Tours. If you have a young birder in your family, I would HIGHLY recommend that you look into these programs.

Spotting birds while rocking braces.
And you thought you were cool at age 12...

Later in the day I ran into local birder Jan St. Jean. We have been communicating via email for several days, so she knows about my adventure. I was birding on the side of the road and she pulled over and introduced herself as soon as she saw the bike. She appears to be very active in the Rhode Island birding scene, and has been a big help finding birds.  Here is a parting shot of her license plate as proof of this.

I can see that even if I don't see a single bird for the rest of the year, I am going to be able to generate PLENTY of blog content based solely on the other birders that I meet along the way!


  1. Two thumbs up for helping Chris and his grandmother find the Snowy!! Going out of your way to help others = priceless

  2. I am overwhelmed with positive comments that I want to share. I'll keep it short by saying this is a great adventure that I am delighted to be reading about. Hooray for birds and thank you for bringing attention to them by way of green birding. Excellent! And when you get to California, although I suspect you are in good company with high caliber birders, as a local naturalist I would LOVE to help you find birds.