Birding and Biking?

Silhouette of boy riding on bike near shore during sunset

We sort of knew birding was having a feminist moment when Teen Vogue took up the cause.

And then there’s the story of Christian Cooper. NPR writes, “Cooper was birdwatching in Central Park in 2020 when a white woman falsely accused him of threatening her. His book chronicles life as a Black birder, gay activist and Marvel comics writer and editor.”

There’s also, relevant to this blog, the mental and physical health benefits of bird watching.

My first encounter with birding was in Australia which sort of makes sense. There the birds are hard to miss. They’re large and they’re loud, mostly. When I was living in Canberra, Australia on sabbatical, our rental house was next door to a house with a backyard aviary and lots of wild birds visited.

I was visiting the Philosophy department as a research fellow and when my son Gavin visited after school one day and mentioned birds, the resident ANU philosopher of biology Kim Streleny had lots of enthusiasm and patience. He lent us books about Australian birds and Gavin and I paid attention to birds for most of our time there. New Zealand was a similar experience. Again, large and loud.

Oh, but whatever you do don’t ask this cyclist about Australian magpies.

Coming home though I was back to my usual problem. North American birds seem small by comparison and I have vision problems at the best of times. I also like zooming though the countryside on two wheels or skis and I don’t usually stop much to pay attention to the birds around me.

That changed though with my knee surgery. It’s slowed me down. While recovering from surgery I also put a bird feeder on my back deck. Sleep has been hard to come by after surgery and I’m up pretty early in the morning. The birds make a lot of noise, but what birds are they? The next thing I did was install the Merlin app on my phone for identifying birds by sound and I started paying more attention to the birds near my house.

Even back on the bike I’m slow and I’m in favour of reasons to stop. I take more photos and I can hear more sounds.

I don’t think I’ll ever be a particularly serious or ambitious birder (patience isn’t my strong suit and I’m not very quiet) but I’m enjoying learning about the birds around me. I think I’d like to take a set of inexpensive binoculars on my bike trips so that when I stop and identify birds by sound I can also see them.

Here’s some birdsong on the Erie canal bike path.

Merlin says it’s the song of the grey cat bird.

Grey catbird
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