My Big Year…(Or, A Post About Birds and Running)
You know, as in “The Big Year,” that movie with Steve Martin, Owen Wilson and Jack Black? About birding? This is my post about birds. Birds and running, actually, or how birds make running interesting (to me, anyway) and therefore much more tolerable.
The reason I’m thinking about this topic is that I received a round of applause from motorists along my running route last week, and it had nothing to do with my attire, my speed, or the fact I was NAILING my tempo pace just a day after a long, hard bike ride. No, they were clapping because I stopped running to jump off the sidewalk into the busy street, stop traffic, and herd a crowd of ducklings across the street after their mother. (I’d tried to talk her out of crossing a moment before, but she was determined. “Don’t do it, you stupid duck! The lake is on this side of the road! Think of your children!” She didn’t listen, she just quacked in agitation and tried to waddle past me.)
I’m sure we were a comical picture, me trying to hustle along these ducklings who were so tiny they kept falling over trying to run away from me. Once I got them safely over the curb on the far side of the road, (Have you ever watched very small ducklings trying to hop up on a curb? It took each of them at least three tries.) I looked up and saw drivers and passengers clapping for me. I gave them a wave and started running again with a smile on my face that lasted the rest of the run, even as I tried to salvage my tempo pace.
It was the second run in a week that was slowed down by my fascination with birds, especially baby ones. On Thursday I stopped in the middle of an 8-mile easy run to take this picture of Canada geese with a big group of goslings; 8 or 9 if I counted right.
I’m lucky enough to live and run near greenspaces that are filled with different creatures that entertain me. Here is my “Big Year” list of birds I’ve seen during this year’s training:
1. Red-tailed hawk
2. Great Blue heron
3. Red-winged blackbird (these guys sing to me while I run…I love it!)
4. Mallard duck
5. Northern coot
6. Spotted towhee
7. Flicker (These woodpeckers are one of my favorites)
9. Scrub Jay
14. Seagull (They must be a little misguided, since there’s a mountain range and at least 60 miles between here and the ocean)
15. Anna’s hummingbird
17. House finch
19. Wood duck
20. Barn swallow (While I was running along a path beside a blackberry hedge on one side and soccer fields on the other yesterday, a couple of these guys started swooping in circles around me. They stayed with me for over a quarter of a mile, crossing right in front of me. At first it was kind of fun. Then it got a little creepy…What was their game, anyway? I never figured it out.)
I’ve also seen a few other species I haven’t identified, since my Field Guide to Birds of North America is too heavy to fit in my hydration belt pocket.
All these birds, along with the occasional rabbit, raccoon, deer, or gopher entertain me while I’m running and cycling, and help me appreciate the surroundings I get to train in. And if a photo opportunity or a chance to do some animal rescue interrupts a workout, I’m okay with that. I’m doing my best not to take my triathlon hobby TOO seriously!