Yes! There are definitely workarounds to walking around when it comes to birding.
*and, yes, “bird” can be a verb!
For a week or so, I’d been feeling pain in my heel. Having experienced this pain before, I self-diagnosed it as plantar fasciitis. “I’m going to have to cut back on my walking and start stretching my calves,” I said to myself.
Sadly, I didn’t listen to myself. Instead, I played Pickleball with some friends with sorry results. My pain had been a 2 out of 10 (on a 1 to 10 scale) prior to Pickleball. During the second game, a piercing pain (8 out of 10) caused me to quit (leaving my fellow players to play two-on-three. Sorry, my bad!).
When you can’t walk comfortably — if at all — and are jonesing to bird, there is always the backyard. After two days of rest, ice and anti-inflammatories, I limped out to the backyard. Lesser Goldfinch were chowing down on the Bachelor Buttons, Northern Mockingbirds teased me by their very presence and the ever present Anna’s Hummingbird zipped about the Bottlebrush tree.
If your backyard isn’t bird-friendly, there are National Wildlife Refuges where you can bird from the comfort of your car as you follow the designated auto tours. Katherine and I did that at San Luis National Wildlife Refuge (as detailed here) and at the Merced National Wildlife Refuge (as detailed here). Both of these were great birding experiences.
Or, you can drive to breakfast where you can sit outside and see what birds come by. Katherine and I joined our friends Mark and Robin recently for breakfast at Steamer Lane Supply in Lighthouse Field. Always present are Rock Pigeons and European Starlings. I sat on a log and concentrated on photographing starlings as I ate my favorite breakfast option, the Break-a-dilla.
If none of those strikes your fancy, you can Bike ‘n Bird.
After watching all the fun our friend, Barb, has been having on her bike, I was inspired to suggest that Katherine and I bike Wilder Ranch State Park’s Coastal Bluff Trail. When I suggested the idea, I actually meant at some time in the near future, but Katherine jumped on the idea and within an hour, we were out of the house. That turned out to be a good thing!
It was fun to get back out on the bike. Neither of us can remember the last time we rode. Per usual, Katherine was a great spotter. We stopped at once to look over the cliff at the harbor seals and she pointed out (in a whisper, since the seals are easily spooked) a Snowy Egret hunting in the surf. (click on the images to enlarge)
Further along the trail, Katherine pointed out a predator preening on the ground. When it flew, we were able to identify it as a Northern Harrier. While it flew around, another harrier flew in carrying a small rodent. We thought the first might be a juvenile, though they have less streaky breasts than adults and it wasn’t clear from my photos if that was the case. (click on the images to enlarge)
“Well,” I thought. “Seeing those harriers made this outdoor adventure worthwhile” since I was experiencing some pain in my heel. Biking itself didn’t hurt it, but pushing off to start the bike moving over the sandy path caused pain as did stopping to take photos.
Little did we know, however, that there was another even more exciting bird waiting around the corner.
We were riding along when Katherine hopped off her bike. She walked back down the path about ten feet and then motioned me to quietly approach her spot. She positioned me in front of her and pointed a short ways down the cliff.
“Peregrine! Juvenile!” she whispered.
What? How cool! I quickly located it and began taking photos. While we watched, it suddenly called out.
“Did you hear a response?” Katherine asked. I hadn’t. However…
The juvenile flew off and we followed it to a field where it landed. More photo opportunities ensued. Suddenly, we heard another Peregrine Falcon calling. That was the one Katherine had heard earlier. The juvenile flew into the air in response.
We followed it’s flight and saw an adult Peregrine — carrying a bird (identified by Katherine as a Band-tailed Pigeon). The juvenile flew after the adult, hoping for (or demanding) the bird.
Later, when I reviewed the photos, I saw that the juvenile Peregrine was banded. I was able to read four of the digits on the left band and report them to the Bird Banding Laboratory. Hopefully, I was able to provide enough information for them to identify when and where the bird was banded and by whom.
Wow! What an unexpectedly awesome day of birding!
Our last birds were also fun to see…
Now, to be honest, I’d rather walk than bike if I want to see birds (or Long-tailed Weasels, Barb!). However, if you can’t walk then birding by bike is definitely worthwhile!