I've recently been thinking more about the 5-Mile Radius (5MR), an initiative encouraging birders to explore habitats within 5 miles of their homes. 5MR birding seeks to minimize driving and to disperse birders into highly individualized and usually under-explored spaces. Twenty individual birders driving long distances to the same hotspot produce significant carbon emissions, and they generate mostly redundant eBird data since they're mostly looking at the same birds. Birding closer to home will lead to less driving and it will help diversify the data set by increasing coverage outside of those most popular hotspots. I don't expect everyone to give up driving or avoid productive hotspots, but it might be fun to try 5MR birding one weekend a month.
A 'rare' Rock Wren from my 5MR (Foster City)
Canon 400mm f/4 IS DO II + 1.4x III on EOS 5D Mark IV
1/2000 at f/5.6, ISO 800
Had the camera on the bike this day!
I've largely ignored the 5MR because I usually like to bike longer distances than the 5MR suggests. Coyote Point Park, for example, is a great birding spot just a mile from my apartment, but I rarely bird it because riding there and back won't burn significant donuts or ice cream. However, I've decided to make more dedicated forays within my 5MR when I don't have the time for longer rides. It will be fun to try to explore new areas and see how many species I can find close to home.
Below are two views of my 5MR, wide (left) and zoomed (right). My home is indicated by the blue dot on the right hand view. Because my 'Actual 5MR' is 50% open water, I've taken some liberty and shifted it slightly southwest to include more birdable land. The shift captures a bonus sliver of higher elevation habitat on the bayside of the coastal mountains (i.e. Skylawn Cemetery off Highway 92), but I don't think I've altered it so egregiously to distort the meaning or spirit of the 5MR game. From here forward, 5MR will refer to the Shifted permutation.
Cross-referencing my eBird data and my memory, I realize I've seen 201 species in my 5MR, 199 of which have been observed using my bike (I've never driven to bird in my 5MR, extra 2 were observed when I drove to photograph). I'm exceptionally lucky my 5MR contains a lot of different habitats - open water, shorelines, marshes, neighborhoods, chaparral, oak woodlands, and even a bit of coniferous forest - and I imagine I've far from exhausted the birds I can find within its bounds. Hell, 253 species have been eBirded from Coyote Point, so I should be able to find a bunch of additional species in my 5MR given enough time.
Incidently, I've found a couple really good 5MR birds - Horned Lark, Lapland Longspur, and Yellow-headed Blackbird - while walking my dog along the bay. In each instance, I ran home, grabbed my bike and camera, rode back, and relocated the county rarity for photos. The best bird I have in my 5MR is the Old World Dusky Warbler. I didn't find that great bird; I poached it from Logan Kahle and Bob Tolino.
Horned Lark, Lapland Longspur, Yellow-headed Blackbird
I'm curious to hear if any of you play around with the 5MR, so please feel free to leave me a comment with your experiences and exploits I'd be very curious to know how high species totals in the 5MR can be pushed. I'm sure many - and particularly those with ocean - will crush my number!
Lastly, I want to mention the Green Big Year my friend Gregg Severson is currently undertaking in Minnesota. He'll travel exclusively by bicycle - a particularly impressive feat considering Minneapolis temperatures will top out at 34 degrees this week - and he'll be blogging about his adventures as he progresses. He's home-based, so he'll use will the same hub-and-spoke (i.e. out-and-back) model I use for my Bay Area bike-birding. I'll be keeping tabs on him, and I'm sure he be stoked if you did as well! Best of luck, Gregg!