Take time to notice your wild surroundings
Here’s a vote for hopping on a bicycle yet this summer and cruising the backroads with wildlife and wild plants in mind.
On a bicycle, you have the advantage of a slightly elevated view and quiet running – just the low hum of tires on the pavement. That allows close approaches to sundry creatures, and a healthy if sedate (compared to motor vehicles) 9 to 10 mph. At least that is our pace on 7-speed Electra Townie bikes. We enjoy their “upright” seating design, which is easier on the lower back on older folks, not to mention the wider seats, which are much more forgiving on a bony old bottom. Such-designed units are not built for ultimate ground-gobbling speed, but rather comfort, all of which is perfect for wildlife viewing while slowly moving.
Following is a brief summary of the more notable, and remembered, “stuff” that we have seen this summer, in no particular order – which is how the wild parade marches anyway. I include some anecdotal comments, on occasion, in parentheses:
Woodchuck (numbers rebounding after tough winters in ’13, ’14?), bald eagle, red-tailed hawk (fairly numerous; love to perch atop utility pole, watching for rodents in the grassy ditches below); turkey vulture (efficient cleanup crew for roadkills): bluebird, tree swallow (they compete for roadside bluebird boxes); killdeer (adults displaying screeching, “broken-wing” act to divert attention from young and nests); rabbit (numbers on the rebound?), kestrel (their numbers are down, glad to see the occasional example of these shy smallest falcons); dove (wait till Sept. 1); monarch butterfly (best summer for numbers in recent years after all but no-shows last summer), deer, common egret (in creeks), great blue heron (ditto), a host of various dragonflies, damselflies, and a multitude of species of butterflies (in addition to monarchs).
Wild asparagus (scattered patches in the roadsides, till obliterated by senseless mowing); ironweed (one of the most gorgeous shades of purple in nature, including down the stalks, a sign of high summer); sunflowers (“planted” from birdfeeders by birds or squirrels?); jewelweed (anti-poison ivy); chickory (loads of pale blue flowers on gawky bare stalks); various clovers, Queen Anne’s lace, mullein (large, fuzzy-eared leaves groundside, and spiky, spearlike stalk, to be decked with tight yellow flowers); day lily (orange mostly, but some yellow, red, red-violet), trumpet vine (bright red-orange).
Beer cans (one would be too many; but this actual, unending stream of aluminum roadside litter is a societal disgrace, rendered dangerously sharp in shreds by those mindless county and township mowing bushhogs).
Indeed, there is a lot to see and ponder in a quiet countryside ride. On a bike. Most of it is good.