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  • Writer's pictureGregg Severson

Coasting for a Common Loon

Getting into April, waterfowl were starting to show up in Minnesota. Many lakes were still ice-covered, but some of the smaller ones were opening up and hosting waterfowl. In Minneapolis, Lake Hiawatha usually opens before the other lakes - it is a small lake and Minnehaha Creek cuts through it, which helps to thin the ice.

On April 4, I biked by Lake Hiawatha on the way to work and the way home from work and got a bunch of new birds for the year: Common Loon, Common Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, and Belted Kingfisher. I nabbed a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet along the Minnehaha Creek path as I continued home from Lake Hiawatha. None of these species are particularly rare or hard-to-find in Minneapolis, but it was nice to see them again (a nice sign of spring!) and to tick off these early migrants for the year.

I wanted to comment on one aspect of this trip as it relates to the rules of green birding. On this day, I biked from home to the 46th Street transit station. From there, I took the bus to work, then the bus back to 46th Street. Then I biked home from 46th Street. This means I had a biking loop from home to the 46th Street transit station and back, and along that biking loop, I counted birds for my green big year. The bus trip to work and back is just a little sojourn in the middle of that bike trip, and that portion doesn't count for the green big year, since I was using the motorized transport of the bus. While I did use motorized transport during the overall trip, I still made a complete loop from home via bicycle, so I plan to count it for my big year. Before making this decision, I asked around to some other bikers and green birders as to what they thought of this, and they seemed to agree that it met the spirit of the quest. One biker friend pointed out that for some long bike races, such as the Race Across America that runs from the Pacific to the Atlantic, you are allowed to leave the course via motor vehicle, but you must be returned to the race course at or behind the point where you left it. In looking at examples from other biking big year birders, some motorized transport usually gets used during the year. Gary Prescott in the UK would occasionally put his green year on hold to take a train to see his family. Once he returned via train to where he had left his bike, then he would resume the green birding. To me, this fits the spirit of green birding, since the motorized transport was used for something other than birding and did not advance him any closer to the birds. And seeing that bike races have a similar rule, where motorized transport can be used, but just not to advance you along the course gives me greater confidence that this fits the spirit of a "race". In any case, I wanted to be open about this characteristic of my big year and to explain some of my reasoning behind it.

My route home from the transit station via Lake Hiawatha and the Minnehaha Creek path.
My route home from the transit station via Lake Hiawatha and the Minnehaha Creek path.

Miles biked on these trips: 12.5

Miles biked year to date: 228.9

Species count: 58

My bike birding eBird profile: (Please note that you need a free eBird account to see profiles in eBird)

Fundraising links for the two organizations I am supporting with this green big half year. Please donate!

Friends of Sax-Zim Bog:

National MS Society:

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