Thursday, February 6, 2014

Feb 6 (Day 37) - 93 miles after a detour, the roadside body count grows

Whoa, I am tired! My route was supposed to be around 70 miles total, but due to a military installation around which I was forced to detour, the route ballooned to 93 miles! I really should have spent a bit more time looking at my route last night. If I had realized it went through a military base, I would have done additional research to see if it was an area through which civilians were permitted to transit. This is a mistake that I won't make again.

While the first half of the day was quite enjoyable, the second was really challenging. The wind was from the northwest, so the detour leg to Jacksonville was brutal. I am sure that I will have more unforeseen detours over the course of the year, and I hope I handle those as well as I handled the issue today. Once I figured out I'd be riding much farther than expected, I just put my head down and banged out the extra miles. One thing I've realized is that when I'm on the bike, there's only one way to get where I am going. Complaining about the situation isn't going to make the situation less challenging, so just push through it. Hope less, do more.

Anyway, as I was focused on riding today, I did not make many birding specific stops. I did tack on 4 species: White ibis (#140), the awesomely named Boat-tailed grackle (#141), Great egret (#142), and Osprey (#143). I expect to rack up quite a few species tomorrow since I should find my first shorebirds of the year (minus purple sandpiper which I saw up north). 

Yesterday I wrote about a dead woodcock that I saw on the side of the road. This was just one of many dead birds I have seen littering the road sides. Prior to today, Northern cardinal, Eastern towhee, American Robin, White-throated sparrow, Herring gull, and, most disturbingly, Barred owl have all been observed dead on the roadside. I can only presume all of these birds fell prey to passing cars. Today I added Brown thrasher and Hermit thrush to the hit list which also includes raccoons, deer, possums, and skunks. I also today witnessed a small bird fly out of a tree and collide with the car in front of me. I will not count the Ruby-crowned kinglet as I was only able to identify it post-mortem. The number of birds and other animals that we kill with our cars must be truly mind boggling. The carnage is not always visible from fast-moving cars, but I see all of it from my bike. It is really painful and sad. I wanted to take a picture of the dead thrasher as it was perfectly preserved and still beautiful, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I thought twice about addressing this depressing trend, bit it is on such display that I cannot ignore it. It really makes me wonder if birds and other animals can coexist with an ever increasing number of people on this planet. How will we ever stop 7, 8, 9, and eventually 10 billion people from killing, either deliberately or accidentally, everything in their paths? I unfortunately do not have an answer for this question.

People often ask me how I will define success this year. There are many ways I could do this, but tonight I will say that if I can make it through a whole year of biking and birding without killing a bird, that would be a fantastic outcome in my eyes. Some of this is beyond my control, but I surely have a better chance of succeeding on a bike than behind the wheel of a car.


  1. Estimations are that even though pets kill a lot of birds and small mammals, the biggest killers of wildlife are we in our cars... Here in the Netherlands, the only Pine marten, a rather rare mustellid (related to mink) I ever saw was roadkill along the highway.

  2. The roadkill was the most disturbing, truly saddening, thing about my ride around Lake Champlain several years ago. I don't see so much in France, though based on the comment above, it is probably only because I ride on tiny little roads with very infrequent automobile traffic. The story is probably sadly different on the highways.

    Chapeau for so many miles today!

  3. Kudos to you for dreaming up and executing such a great, green bird-venture. Ever since I found your blog, I have been following your progress and vicariously enjoying the trip.

    I'm so sad to hear about the many dead birds you have found, and I also wonder when will the relentless push into our shrinking wild places ever stop? I think that you are doing us all a favor by sharing your observations and getting us all to think a little more about the amazing world around us.

  4. Just seven more miles and you would have made a century trip.