Readers of this blog are probably vaguely aware that I signed up for a 12 day horseback trip into the Muskwa Kechika region in northeast British Columbia. You will also know that preparing (read = getting fit) is also in the works. For my fitness regime, I have added near daily bike rides around various hills. To be honest, I enjoy cycling and have owned a bike since I was a kid. My first bike as an adult was a Raleigh ten speed that I still have to this day. I took it out for a few spins on the hills sometime last year and it convinced me that I was either in denial about my fitness level or that it was time for a new bike. I decided that both could do with some work so I bought a new hybrid bike last year. Now, I no longer have two excuses why the hills are so difficult.
One of the other more mundane (read = sensible) preparations I have committed to is learning the songs of birds I might encounter in the Muskwa Kechika. I have seen and heard most of the species before but I needed to improve my bird song idnetifications. There are some great resources to help. The Sibley bird guide comes as an app for ipad along with songs. An even better resource is Dendroica an online nature instruction web site designed by my CWS colleague Charles Frances. Once you are signed in you can scroll around a list of the birds in North America. There are multiple photos for each species, and a variety of songs and calls from across the range of the species. The location where each song was recorded is provided. I made a list of the species I needed to know better and have been listening to their calls and comparing between species. The BC Breeding Bird Atlas has lists of birds you are likely to encounter in various parts of BC.
A Morning of Birding
I also purchased a map of Metro Vancouver bike routes. I noticed that the cartographers kindly illustrated the grade of hills with various yellow arrows. It matter of factly pointed out that Gaglardi Way leading to SFU was a single arrow hill. So was Cariboo Road, Fourth Avenue before Chancellor Boulevard, and Capilano Road in North Vancouver. Curtis Drive approaching SFU on Burnaby Mountain got a two arrow designation. It would blow an artery trying to get up that brute. But the granddaddy of them all is a hill on North Road that got a three arrow ranking. I don know exactly where this killer hill is located and it will remain in the imaginary for the time being. These are places to avoid at all costs in my estimation. I tried Cariboo Road because the old road keeps away from traffic for about half way. There I thought I would run out of steam. I managed to get to the top of the hill using a very low gear and spent the afternoon recovering on the couch.
Winston Avenue ends beside Dairyland where you will pass under a pedestrian and bike overpass. Take the overpass across the railway tracks. Now you will have to make a choice. Turn left to follow a gravel path along Still Creek, or turn right to pass along the west end of Burnaby Lake. On this Saturday morning, I took the Still creek route where I added a red tailed hawk, rufous hummingbird, varied thrush and downy woodpecker. Forty species along with a good bike ride was a nice way to start the day. For some odd reason though, I find the hills as difficult as ever.
Riding along the road following the river for a few hundred meters to where it met Cariboo Road I looked in vain for an American dipper. It shows up here periodically but not on this day. I followed the bike lane to the north (right), crossed at the first light to head west. Following the bike lane for about 2 kilometers, I arrived at to Piper Avenue. Birders will be familiar with this location as the best access to Burnaby Lake and Men Canada Goose Hybridge Hoody Black Outlet Australia its trail system. You can ride south on Piper to the park entrance where there is a bike rack. The viewing area on the lakeshore is straight ahead. The wetland at the lake is a great place to see waterfowl. The usual mix of mallards, green winged teal, wood duck, coot, hooded merganser, Canada goose were near the boardwalk. A few greater scaup were present and I spotted several more far off along the eastern drainage channel. A bald eagle sat on its nest on the southern shore and two great blue herons stood along the northern shore. Tree swallows were darting about everywhere. A brown headed cowbird sang from the tree tops and I heard my first of the season common yellowthroat belt out its song from the marsh.
On Saturday morning, I jumped on the bike and headed for a bike route in town away from traffic and where I expected to hear a variety of birds. I tallied 40 species in about 1.5 hours of cycling along the Brunette River, Burnaby Lake and Still Creek. You can access the Brunette by parking in the Lower Hume Park parking lot on Columbia Street in New West. The bike route is marked from there. Cross Columbia Street and follow the sidewalk north over the Brunette River. The bike trail follows a gravel road along the north side of the river for about 2 kilometers. It is a lovely ride along the river and through a deciduous forest. The trail ends at an RV park off Cariboo Road. I picked up the usual suburban birds such as American robin, Bewicks wren, violet green swallow, song sparrow, spotted towhee, white crowned sparrow, house sparrow, bushtit and starling in the suburbs around the parking lot. A Coopers hawk was a nice sighting. Along the river course I added yellow rumped warbler, pileated woodpecker, Pacific wren, purple finch, pine siskin, black capped chickadee and possibly a MacGillivrays warbler in the distance. There was likely much more but I was riding quite quickly.
Retracing my route along Piper AVenue I searched for a red breasted sapsucker that nested last year in a cavity in a telephone pole adjacent o Warner Loates Park. No luck there. The ride follows a bike route along Winston Avenue where the traffic drowns out most bird songs. This is time for serious fitness head down, legs pumping, up and down small grades it is where you can open up the bike. And then in a blink of an eye I was passed by a guy on a road bike.