Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Post #200 - A hella slow spring on the bicycle - with one unexpected find!

My 200th post crept up on me since I allowed blogging to slide during the year's second quarter, but I'd like to use the milestone to recognize the The Speckled Hatchback's six-and-a-half-year lifespan! Though my online journal isn't going to garner me international fame and fortune, knowing that at least a few people enjoy my bike-birding tales, photography, and avian musings is enough. So, I like to say 'thanks' to whoever reads my ridiculous blog, however infrequently. I hope my content inspires you to explore the natural world and appreciate the birds around us. 

In that vein, I recently received an email from Brianna Camp (briannacamp37 on Instagram) who asked permission to use my Loggerhead Shrike photo as a template for some sidewalk art she'd been commissioned to do. I'm always honored when artists ask me to use my work to inspire/assist their own, so I immediately granted her permission on the condition she send me a photo of the finished product. I'm not sure if Patrick is obsessed with shrikes or if the bird holds special significance as a school mascot, but I thought the result was pretty cool regardless!

My capture of a Loggerhead Shrike in Riverside County

Brianna's chalking

All that said, this spring was really, really slow on the birding front. I don't think it was specific to the Bay Area because I heard rumblings about low numbers and delayed movement from other corners of California (and beyond), but there wasn't much to get excited about through April, May, and June. I have to pick-and-chose my moments on the bicycle, and it felt like I was constantly waiting for a burst of activity which never materialized. This spring was very windy, so I'm curious if that contributed to the lack of birds, perhaps by blowing migrants farther inland than usual. 

One anomalous bird that did materialize was Indigo Bunting (INBU) at McLaren Park in San Francisco. I've seen the bird in Santa Clara (it was Bay Area bike bird #283 in June of 2019), but I was unable to connect with the SF example despite making two rides for it during its extended stay. Ugh.

My unsuccessful rides for INBU

I missed a bit of action while I was in Minnesota and North Dakota in the middle of June, but my interest was piqued by a Black Tern (BLTE) at the Sunnyvale Wastewater Treatment Plant in Santa Clara a week after I returned. I'd not seen that species anywhere in the Bay Area -- by bike or by car -- so it would be a nice addition to my cumulative Bay Area Bike List. Though the bird was seen by individual observers on the 23rd and 25th, several of us were unable to relocate it on the morning of the 26th. I did, however, hear something intriguing from the adjacent tidal marsh. Reaching for my cell phone and dialing up a Black Rail (BLRA) call, I was able to elicit a confirmatory response from a bird less than twenty feet away. I stared into the reeds for a while but was predictably unable to get eyes on the stealthy figment. Regardless, it joins my Bay Area bike list as species #332, my lone 'heard-only' among that four-year total. It was great to salvage that species in place of BLTE, particularly as I was able to share the rail with a handful of other birders. 

This map is from Strava, a running/cycling app which maps my movements in real time. It knows when I'm moving and when I'm stopped, so the time on this graphic (blue box, bottom) is the time I spent actively cycling. The Google time displayed on the INBU graphic above is only a prediction, so Strava is infinitely-more accurate in that respect. My 51 miles across 3 hours and 24 minutes translates to ~15 miles per hour, so that's about what I'd expect on flat ground without significant wind aid or impediment.

My ride Sunnyvale on June 26th

OK, that's it for now. Take care until next time!


  1. i'm too old and out of shape to bike bird, but your blog and photos do inspire me to hunt specific species from reports. often i go with some friends (the band of birders), and we've found several species that i never would have even attempted to see without your inspiring quests. i enjoy reading the trials and tribulations.

  2. Glad to hear it, thanks! We're lucky to live in an era where bird news is disseminated so rapidly and through so many channels. It really helps people find whatever they want to see!