Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Post #111 - Bay Area bird chasing - bicycle style! Bonus shorebird photos.....

Really fast before we get started! I just wrote an article on Guatemala for the Nature Travel Network. All of the photos in the accompanying photo gallery are my own. Please check it out, especially if you're thinking about a trip to that wonderful country! I'm happy to field questions if you have any. OK, now for the main event......

It's been roughly two months since Sonia and I moved from Norwalk/LA to San Mateo/SF, and I am thoroughly impressed with the bike-birding prospects so far! I didn't do any bike-birding in the Southern California sprawl, and a badly strained calf muscle kept me sidelined for the first few weeks that I was in the Bay Area. Needless to say, I wasn't in the best shape when I finally resumed bike last month, but I've since built up my fitness exploring the bayshore. I now regularly patrol a length of shoreline that runs from San Francisco Airport southeast towards Redwood City. Coyote Point just behind my apartment has proven particularly productive, and I imagine that the entire bayshore will only get better as fall and winter approach.

My local stretch of SF Bay shoreline

As I've always been one for setting goals, my most immediate intent is to push Bay Area bike list north of 200 species. I am currently at 112 for San Mateo County, so I've got a long way to go. Summer is the slowest birding season in the Bay Area, but I fully expect to reach that plateau once fall migration commences. I can hear Josiah Clark and Rob Furrow laughing right now. Those two ironmen routinely tally 180+ species on their annual bicycle Big Day in April! I'm still learning the area and getting into shape, but I hope to be able to keep up with those guys in a few months. How far beyond 200 I can can reach is yet to be seen, but the my photography interest will certainly limit my bike-birding to some degree as the two are usually mutually exclusive. That being said, I have biked my rig to Coyote Point on a few occasions, so there's at least some hope of integrating the two passions!

Long-billed Curlew - Numenius americanus
Canon 400mm f/4 IS DO II + 1.4x III on EOS 1D Mark IV
1/2500 at f/5.6, ISO 800

To reach 200 species, I'll certainly have to do some amount of chasing. That process started this past weekend as I made my inaugural trip over the mountains to the coast to chase a continuing Willow Flycatcher at Burleigh Murray Ranch State Park. I made it to within a mile of the bird when Alvaro Jaramillo called me with news of his Wedge-tailed Shearwater just of Miramar Beach in Half Moon Bay. I immediately abandoned the flycatcher in favor of the shearwater. That chase was not to be though as 3 hours of scanning produced exactly zero shearwaters of any sort. I really wanted that bird. It would have been an amazing bike list addition. It's not too often I can get a bike lifer after the 618 species I rang up in 2014. Oh, and the flycatcher? I rode back to Burleigh Murray and missed that too. Sweet......

My route from my apartment to the beach and back

Elevation profile of my ride

The ride home over the mountains was hard and hot but not as disappointing as many might think. The real beauty of the bike is that the rider extracts value even when the sought birds are missed. I got some much needed exercise, and I had a great day exploring the coast. I did add 16 new birds (#'s 93-108) to my bike list (Heermann's Gull, Sanderling, Common Murre etc), so I did make some progress towards my goal of 200. Equally important, I burned zero gas which means zero (well almost, my body put out some CO2) emissions and zero dollars spent on transportation. I even found what I though would be a great photo spot to which I returned the following morning - in the car - to shoot. I was not disappointed!

Marbled Godwit - Limosa fedoa
Canon 400mm f/4 IS DO II on EOS 7D2
1/2500 at f/4, ISO 400

Willet (western) - Tringa semipalmata
Canon 400mm f/4 IS DO II on EOS 7D2
1/3200 at f/4, ISO 400

If you like these photos, there are many more at my official photography website, or at my Instagram account!


  1. More bike birding, please! What I wouldn't give to be within a couple hours' ride of the Pacific freaking Ocean. My county bike list is sitting at 176 (134 this year), and I hope to read about yours growing way past 200!

  2. Yeah, where I'm living now is about as goos as it gets for bike-birding. Super stoked to be doing more of it in the future!