Nature and birds seen from bikes

As a naturalist as well as a cyclist, may I introduce you to an activity that you might not be aware of (unless you too pursue both those interests): a recent phenomenon that combines the lure of birding with the joy of cycling.

Dick Cannings took part in the recent winter bird count.

Dick Cannings took part in the recent winter bird count.

As a naturalist as well as a cyclist, may I introduce you to an activity that you might not be aware of (unless you too pursue both those interests): a recent phenomenon that combines the lure of birding with the joy of cycling.

It’s called NMT (Non-Motorized Transport) Birding.

In the past couple of years, NMT Big Year Counts have caught the imagination of many birders. One establishes a fixed home base, such as one’s house, and all NMT trips have to start from that home base. All NMT birds have to be seen without using motorized transport at any time, from home base to when the bird is seen.

Guy Monty, an expert birder based on Vancouver Island, started NMT Birding a couple of years ago. “This morning I went out for a walk in the wind and sleet, and got started on a new type of Big Year — one I haven’t tried before, but am looking forward to,” he said in a blog post on Jan. 1, 2009. “It’s a ‘No Motorized Transport Big Year.’ Like the name says, no motor vehicles of any kind allowed. The rules are few and simple. No cars, no motorcycles, buses, motorboats or airplanes. Your own two feet, a bike, a rowboat, canoe or kayak, are all OK.”

By the end of his first year, Monty had listed 206 species of birds, all seen without using motorized transport. Last year (2010), he recorded 193 species, entirely within the Parksville-Qualicum area. “I had a tough year, but I still enjoyed it immensely, and am back out there as of the first week of January, starting it all over again,” he said recently.

Well-known B.C. birder, biologist and author Dick Cannings, who co-ordinates the Christmas Bird Count for Bird Studies Canada, also regularly birds by bicycle. Living in the Okanagan, he has done many “Bicycle Birdathons,” traversing numerous hills around Penticton and Naramata. Over the past holiday season, Cannings did eight counts in his area — including many kilometres by bicycle, persevering through snow and spills, as he recounts on his blog dickcannings.shawwebspace.ca.

Having tried a Christmas Bird Count by bicycle myself (not entirely successfully), I find the achievements of these accomplished naturalists and cyclists quite impressive — and somehow typically Canadian, as they persevere through the winter!

There are no doubt other interesting endeavours that can be accomplished by bike … How about garden touring? Garage “sailing”? Geocaching? Is there a way to enjoy your favourite hobby with lower carbon emissions? I’d be interested to hear what other pastimes people have pursued by bicycle transportation.

For more information on the Comox Valley Cycling Coalition, visit cyclecv.squarespace.com.

Krista Kaptein writes Shifting Gears with contributions from fellow CVCC members Ed Schum and Jim Palmer. She wrote it this time. It appears every fourth week.

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