Big-time Bike-n-Bird

I did one of my slowest rides ever today, averaging 9.7mph moving and 5mph overall, and it was a *great* day on the bike.

As my many readers know, I've been on a bird kick lately. I like bikes. I like birds. I like nature. I like fresh air. #Outsideisfree, as my friend @Lithodale says. Yesterday afternoon I spent some good time observing and trying to identify an interesting raptor gliding around the neighborhood for the better part of the afternoon. I watch him from my patio and in various places in the yard and even saw him/her again when we came back out hours later. Birds really high in the air are tricky, but once I saw this pic online (courtesy of the Nat'l Audobon Society), I finally was confident to say it was a Mississippi Kite, which doesn't show up in Louisville as part of its range. An outlier, but a beautiful bird to watch swoop, dip and sometimes dive with grace and speed.

Yesterday's afternoon inspired me to get up early (which I subsequently did with little problem) and hit the road on Seafoam to go find some birds. What I thought would be an hour or two ended up being 5+ hours of riding, stopping, viewing, picturing, searching, listening, and enjoying the 60s-70s temps in the 'Ville summer. It might have been the best half-day of the summer, so far.

After yesterday's multi-minute raptorfest, today start interestingly a mile from the house when I looked to my right and there was a damn hawk hanging out in a driveway, just standing there. My gear was all put away b/c I wasn't prepared for such early viewing, but I hustled to grab my phone. Of course, the critter flew in the shrub. See him? I don't either. Some robins eventually chased him into an upper tree. I rode on. (American Robin, Northern Cardinal, Hawk-undetermined)

My first stop as often is was Caperton Swamp, my fav spot for finding wading birds. I found no waders nor the Kingfisher, but I did find enormous numbers of mosquitos from our recent rains. I felt like a Nat'l Geo photographer with my gear surviving the elements. With little-to-no waterbird action- perhaps due to algae growth as exhibited in pic-, I had to concentrate on the North Field, as I'll call it as well as along the shores. Frankly I don't see how birders do it, all the calls and hidden targets. I'm sure there were multitudes of birds there; I even saw an interesting three or four *very* far away in the binocs, but no good IDs. Things got interesting, though, I I heard a rustle at the water's edge and I went to check it out. Out of my left peripheral vision I saw something dart across the path into the bushes. Was that an otter? No way. Rat, weasel, mouse, snake.  I stayed there looking around and a few minutes later, lo and freakin' behold, his buddy otter slinked across the trail just down a bit. It *was* an otter! I was there for birds, but I'll take a wild otter spotting any day, week, or year. Pretty miraculous! Eventually I did get some bird nibbles and spent a bit of time watching Carolina Wrens, a Carolina Chickadee (please see pic below, and be sure to read the commentary), and in the field a probable Yellow Warbler. I stopped later to get a bead on another interesting/new bird, but they move fast, hide easily, and I don't really have a freakin' clue other than that there was lots of mosquitos out. (Carolina Wren, Carolina Chickadee, Common Grackle, American Crow, Yellow Warbler, Kingfisher-call, something gray like a Tufted Titmouse with head crest- undetermined)

Good morning

Caperton Swamp with a summer algae bloom. It wasn't like this just  weeks ago.

More camera fun. There is a bird in there somewhere. I don't remember what.

This is my life. I was practicing with 4/3 camera and had this Chickadee in sight. I'm not very fresh with the controls, so the camera decided to take a pic of the maple leaves instead of the white, fluffy blog more in the center. Funny. And sad.

I had suffered enough mosquito attacks and frustration from the 500 bird calls I couldn't ID, so I rolled Seafoam along the Cox's Park trail towards the waterfront. I was pleasantly surprised that, while warmed up looking into trees, saw the big, brown lump of a raptor, my second of the day, in a mostly dead tree along the trail. I stopped and looked a bit and took both cellphone and camera pics. My son is letting me try is Nikon 4/3 camera out. It's got a standard lens and a reasonable telephoto, something the cellphone certainly isn't known for. A complaint of his at the time was the lack of viewfinder. Today I had the same problem, trying to squint in the sun and find my little feathery friends while being blinded by the morning sun. I don't know that I'm a big enough camera nerd to put a review through the paces, but generally I like the interface of my (still muddy) Canon S90 the best, but the more powerful telephoto is nice. It's a hawk with another pissy robin nearby, but again not enough info. for an ID. (Hawk- undetermined again)

Full size Hawk and pissed-off Robin

Getting his Hawk on-, cropped from 4/3 pic.

My path took me to EvaBandman, where the water levels were quite high and not much was in action. As often the case,  I did catch a glimpse of a Black-crowned Night Heron flying overhead, getting the hell out of there, and as ever, the swallows along the bridge. My route along the condo path brought me to the riverfront by Tumbleweed (Tex-Mex restaurant, in case you're wondering), where I stopped on a platform and took a peek at the river. After that I rolled by preparations for Forecastle Music Festival. We attended last year, but aren't going this year. The weather is going to be in the low 80s with little humidity. Perfect. (Black-crowned Night Heron, Red-winged blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, Domestic Duck, Mallard Duck females, Killdeer, Rock Pigeon, Swallows-I'm bad at identifying swallows, tawny sparrow-undetermined)

The next stretch of the morning yielded the greatest surprises. I was riding the early portions of the Riverwalk and glacing at the shoreline shallows with its usual mix of trash, detritus, and ducks. I saw a nice log with a menagerie if geese and my eye spied an interloper, an uncommon visitor amid the usuals. The boy's 4/3 telephoto worked better here, getting me a little closer to the group and to the individual in question, what I am going to assume is a Double Breasted Cormorant. He's the grey and orange fellow on the right of the left log. The maps suggest that like my Kite yesterday, he's not where he's supposed to be. White futzing with the camera and binocs and such, a pair of GB Herons came waltzing in for a bit, before getting spooked and leaving again. I'm so used to seeing these in the confines of the narrow Beargrass Trail that it was nice to see these large birds in flight across the mighty Ohio (canada goose, mallard duck, double breasted cormorant, great blue heronz)

DB Cormorant almost center

"Black Swedish Duck", which I was excited to see until the googling told me is domestic breed of duck. Not quite as cool.

Heron flying above the river. You can make him out in the middle, or enlarge.

Alas, dear Bicycle friends. I admit that my bicycling didn't make it too far down the Riverwalk. Every time I had the chance to open the throttle and ride, I found another reason to stop and smell the roses. Well, there weren't any roses, but I did stop. I visited yet another observation deck, this one beaten down with decay. when a bird caught my eye to the right, over the McAlpin Locks Canal (behind Seafoam in the pic below). I grabbed the binocs to take a look of this large brown bird, which from afar looked to be the size of a vulture. But vultures sure don't dive towards the water. And is that a white head with big-ass talons hanging off that bird? Holy shit! A Bald Eagle! A Bald freakin' Eagle right here in the 'Ville. I had previously known that there was talk of a nest on Shippingport Island which could be viewed from the IN side. I never thought of having a peek over here on KY soil, but much atop that shitty, weathered, battle-scarred observation deck. What a highlight there. America!!!!! I didn't have time for a pic, so instead I took a pic of Seafoam just so I would have some bicycle content for a bicycle blog. I can't deny. I was pretty jazzed at this point. Yes, birds are cool because of the variety, but on my vaunted Seafoam to see a bald eagle, live otters, a random cormorant- which I associate with the ocean- and random bad-ass hawks, all on the same Friday morning ride. Cool stuff.

My eagle sighting was just before this to the east down the canal.

Mixed-terrain on the day. The usual path is up the band to the left. I head a weird "call" somewhere in here, and then realized it was whistling. I then realized it was coming from the hobo camp off to the right in the bushes.

Ultimately, Shippingport Island had always been my terminus goal for today's ride. I was visiting  check on access given that the location is lauded by birders, but from the IN side.  What I found was what I had previously at Shippingport, a beat-up Boy Scout project set of stairs leading down to the river edge and a large field which yielded some interest. I had a snack and visited the sandy banks of the Ohio before returning to the bench area and spending a good amount of time watching a small raptor hanging out on electrical lines overlooking the field. Later searches revealed that it was an American Kestrel. When I rolled up initially I saw two of these, one flying into a tree in the middle of the field. I'm pretty sure I head that treed Kestrel bitching and "kleeing" for the duration of my visit. Somebody was pissed. (American Kestrel, Carolina Chickadee, Black-Crowned Night-Heron)

River bottoms. Would be great spot to S24O, but they gate close the island in the evening.

Kestrel hanging out. Cropped from 4/3 pic.

Thus (almost) ended the Bird portion of my ride for the morning, well, except for yet more Heron watching along the canal. After seeing some large birdage on my bike roll I stopped at the same ghetto observation deck and watch one GB Heron standing, two more flying around (pretty sure that same two from early in the morning), a BCN Heron flying west, and at least one more juvenile BCN Heron going east. Not sure what they were all excited for. After a bit I moved on. I Seafoamed my way back past Forecastle and onto the Beargrass Trail where I spied *another* BCN Heron flying overhead, along the creek, just as the one had done this morning at EvaBandman. Disquieted birds, they must be. I even took in a couple hills in Cherokee instead of cheating, as I often do. My bum was sore and I was ready to be finished. I mounted a borrowed WTB saddle for Seafoam, as the last couple trips the B17 didn't agree with me. This WTB didn't either. I stopped at Breadworks for a cup, but my watch said I had been out for 5 hours or more. Dang! That's a long time for 27 miles of bikes, birds, mosquitos, and America!


Apertome said…
That looks terrific in every way. Sometimes the slowest rides are the most memorable. The otter seems like the most exciting sighting to me, but a fruitful outing all around.
Pondero said…
Outstanding blending of ingredients you like! Thanks for the description and photos.

I was out over 5 hours this morning, but spent only 3 of those pedaling. Had a great time.
It seems like many of us had slow nature rides yesterday. I also have a few places where I get off my bike, sit and watch the show nature offers. It's relaxing.
Tim Smith said…
@Apertome, agreed that the otters and eagle were highlights.

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