Cargo Bike Birding


While other 2-day teams, known as Gonzo teams in Birdathon vernacular,  pile into vans and subarus to criss-cross the state, the Roadrunners pack up their panniers and pedal to the birding hot spots near Portland. Since they ARE birding, stops are frequent, and total trip mileage low, but then so is their carbon footprint.

The route starts in North Portland at the Columbia Waste Water Treatment Plant. Team members arrive early. Most are traveling light, but still choose to offload some of their gear onto the big trailer that Splendid Cycles has brought along for the trip. Everyone, puts some food into the large cooler on the trailer. Then, introductions, a little stretching and they're off. And then they stop. An American Kestrel is spotted on a phone wire just a few hundred feet from where they started. Binoculars go up, there's some banter about the bird; all watch as it dives into the grass below but rises with empy talons. Our first bird sighting as a group.
Off and running...well off and birding at least.
And so went the day.

With clear skies and comfortable temperatures it's ideal birding weather. And ideal cycling weather. Not only does this group relish the warm spring weather, but the birds do too and are more active on such a day. And indeed they are out. Before reaching their lunch stop at Smith and Bybee Lakes, over 40 species have been spied.

By the time they reach Sauvie Island, their destination for the evening, the count is over 70. A very kind Sauvie Island resident (Jeff J- THANK YOU SO MUCH) has offered his yard as a campsite. In roll the birders, still looking for birds. While some cool beverages,  and chips and salsa, distract the group momentarily, a peep and a blur in the sky puts them back on task.

"Purple Martin?" someone asks.

"Has to be, look at the dark color and broader wings," says one Birdathoner

"I don't know, can't see it well enough, " chimes another.

And so the evening goes. Through dinner and into dusk, still birding. A post-feast pre-slumber owl walk produces another for the list - Great Horned Owl!

Then, dark falls and time to sleep, but they're up early listening to a dawn chorus of symphonic proportions. Clouds have moved in but the rain holds off until after breakfast. Breakfast is hosted by another island resident (Jane H-THANK YOU SO MUCH). But, she provides more than a hearty breakfast. She's worked very hard to create a little wildlife sanctuary on her property and several

birds are added to the list between sips of fresh coffee and bites of scrambled eggs.

Time to roll, but also time for the rain to start. Some spirits are understandably dampened and the group splits as most of the riders choose to head home. A group of 4 die-hards stay and add several more birds to the list by scoping some wetlands and hiking around Virginia Lake. Despite the showers Virginia Lake proves fruitful and a few elusive birds are noted.

Finally, the day is waning and it's time for the die-hards to return to Portland. With clearing skies and warming air it's hard to think of stopping. With the sun still up it is possible they can add Just. One. More. Bird. Pacific Wren and American Dipper are still not counted by the group. A  stop at a West Hills creek yields only lush spring undergrowth and rushing water. But they want JUST.ONE. MORE. BIRD. So, up Saltzman Road they climb. Up away from the traffic of Highway 30 birdsong becomes the dominant sound. Several, species are singing but where's the wren? They wait, and wait, and then, off on the distant hillside, its trill is heard! That's #92!

The last of the group arrives in Portland still euphoric from a full two days of listening for and watching birds. It's not just all of the birds seen and heard, they return home feeling more connected with nature. Having accomplished the whole trip by bicycle adds an energizing dimension to Birdathon.

We didn't miss the motorized vehicle support. Two cargo bikes with trailers carried the food and cooking supplies for the group. The riders all traveled very light, except for one rider who brought a spotting scope, that proved invaluable to the team's bird-spotting success. Everyone had a blast.

Thanks to the whole gang: Jim, Bich, Andrea, Tammi, Joel, Joe, Brant, Ivy, Justin, Colby, Gabe, Nikki, and Barb. Wishing you all tailwinds and many bird sightings.

Our list of birds:

1. Canada Goose 2. Wood Duck 3. Gadwall 4. American Widgeon 5. Mallard 6. Northern Shoveler 7. Northern Pintail 8. Green-winged Teal 9. Redhead 10. Lesser Scaup 11. Ruddy Duck 12. California Quail 13. Pied-billed Grebe 14. Double-crested Cormorant 15. Great Blue Heron 16. Great Egret 17. Turkey Vulture 18. Bald Eagle 19. Red-tailed Hawk 20. American Kestrel 21. Peregrin Falcon 22. American Coot 23. Killdeer 24. Spotted Sandpiper 25. Greater Yellowlegs 26. Bonaparte's Gull 27. Glaucous-winged Gull 28. Rock Pigeon 29. Band-tailed Pigeon 30.Eurasian Collared Dove 31. Mourning Dove 32. Great Horned Owl 33. Vaux's Swift 34. Anna's Hummingbird 35. Rufous Hummingbird 36. Belted Kingfisher 37. Red-breasted Sapsucker 38. Downy Woodpecker 39. Northern Flicker 40. Pileated Woodpecker 41. Olive-sided Flycatcher 42. Western Wood-pewee 43. Pacific-slope Flycatcher 44. Warbling Vireo 45. Steller's Jay 46. Western Scrub-Jay 47. American Crow 48. Purple Martin 49. Tree Swallow 50. Violet-green Swallow 51. Cliff Swallow 52. Barn Swallow 53. Black-capped Chickadee 54. Bushtit 55. Red-breasted Nuthatch 56. White-breasted Nuthatch 57. Brown Creeper 58. Bewick's Wren 59. House Wren 60.Pacific Wren 61. Marsh Wren 62. Swainson's Thrush 63. American Robin 64. European Starling 65. Cedar Waxwing 66. Orange-crowned Warbler 67. Yellow Warbler 68. Yellow-rumped Warbler 69. Townsend's Warbler 70. Common Yellowthroat 71. Wilson's Warbler 72. Spotted Towhee 73. Savannah Sparrow 74. Song Sparrow 75. White-crowned Sparrow 76. Golden-crowned Sparrow 77. Dark-eyed Junco 78. Western Tanager 79. Black-headed Grosbeak 80. Lazuli Bunting 81. Red-winded Blackbird82. Yellow-headed Blackbird 83. Brewer's Blackbird 84. Brown-headed Cowbird 85. Bullock's Oriole 86. Purple Finch 87. House Finch 88. Lesser Goldfinch 89. American Goldfinch 90. Evening Grosbeak 91. House Sparrow 92. Wild Turkey

If you'd like to help Splendid Cycles support the great work of the Audubon Society of Portland, donations are encouraged. Support our Birdathon team, the Roadrunners, by donating on Barb Grover's Birdathon page. Your support not only helps keep Oregon's birds singing, it also is a vote for more bike-supported Birdathon teams.