Science for a Blue Planet

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Team Ornicycles Thanks You

Ornicycles Team Bird-A-Thon Ride September 24, 2022

Team Members: Julian Wood, Liam McNamara, Megan Elrod, Annie Schmidt, Erika Foster, Amy Li, Aidan Cox, Mark Dettling, Cyrus Harmon, Scott Jennings, Catherine Hickey with honorary member Emily Ford.

2022 Ornicycles group shot. Credit: Catherine Hickey

Several team members share their personal reflections of the day. Read them below!

What an epic day! We covered over 28? miles on our mountain bikes and identified 98 different bird species in their natural habitat in and around Bolinas Lagoon, California. What were the highlights and lowlights? I could recount how amazing it was to share the bird-by-bike stoke with our new team members, Aidan and Amy, or how we were thwarted by the afternoon fog from reaching our goal of 100 species, or how we nearly collapsed by climbing two massive ridges in pursuit transcendent descents. But I’d rather hear from the rest of the team. -Julian Wood, Team Leader

Bird-a-thon season is my favorite time of the year! And Ornicycles never disappoints! Birding by bike adds a whole other level of stoke to the big day of birding. My favorite part is seeing the diversity in our corner of the world. We found 7 species of raptors, 6 species of finch, and 9 species of sparrow! Thanks for supporting Point Blue and the Ornicycles! – Mark Dettling

Dawn patrol over the Pacific Ocean from the cliffs above Agate Beach. (Photo by Amy Li)

As a marine biologist and new intern working with Point Blue’s Antarctica team, a 30-mile bike / bird-a-thon ride seemed like the perfect challenge and a great opportunity to learn more about the birds which call Point Reyes home. Let me tell you though, I had no idea what I was signing up for. Growing up around Portland and Seattle, my mountain bike experience was limited to forest service roads (but they were on a mountain so it totally counts right?). This time though, I learned how to ‘shred the gnar’ Northern California style, and after hopping, rolling, and yes, at times tumbling my way down Bolinas ridge I walked away with some bumps, scrapes, and a big smile on my face. Along the way I learned about the perils of sand, encountered 5 distinct ecosystems, and saw my first green heron.  I’m thankful to my friends and teammates for coaching me down that fierce ridge,  for introducing me to 98 of the amazing bird species I’m privileged to live alongside, and for inspiring me to learn more.   – Aidan Cox

A phenomenal bird-a-thon (BAT) by bike! I couldn’t believe the diversity of ecosystems we were able to cover by pedal-power alone. We have some very serious mountain bikers in the group who lead the charges up some massive hills! As a soil scientist at Point Blue, I usually am looking under my feet, so it’s always wonderful to spend time with the amazing avian folks and look toward the skies. Not only do I now know how to hike up the ‘binocs’  to bike and bird, but I’m also slowly learning more and more fun bird facts and ID tips from the team. Remember kestrels tend to flutter around while merlins fly like they have somewhere to be. Great egrets stand still for long periods and have yellow bills,  while snowy egrets move around more and have yellow feet. I am continuing to learn my songbirds too using the Merlin app, but always love the crowd favorite Golden-crowned sparrow “oh, dear me”. I’m still working on the difference between the savannah vs song sparrow, and haven’t even started on shorebirds yet. So many exciting songs and bird markings to learn.  I will keep on practicing for next year! – Erika Foster

Scott risks it all to peer into the forbidden sewage ponds just to get a few more species. (Photo by Amy Li)

Birding has always simultaneously intrigued and intimidated me. Kooky-looking people with binoculars? Identifying birds? For hours on end? Actually knowing what species you’re looking at, other than thinking, “there goes something with wings!”? These were all foreign concepts to this botanist-turned marine biologist-turned seabird ecologist. Having recently joined the Antarctica team at Point Blue, I was apprehensive about joining a group of hardcore ornithologists who also happened to be hardcore mountain bikers. With minimal experience in both disciplines, I was certain the day would be a mental and physical challenge with no shortage of embarrassment on all fronts. But I’m a sucker for Type 2 fun, so I relented and signed up. The day started with a 5am wake up as Erika, Aidan, and I raced the sunrise out to Bolinas. After a gentle introduction atop the bluffs of Agate Beach with comparatively easy to spot seabirds in the water below, we began rolling out toward bird hotspots around town. From there, it was a hot, sweaty blur of biking, stopping to bird, ascending, straining to hear the birdsong Julian was mimicking, braking my way through descents–all the while trying to stay on the (very comfortable) death-machine Megan had so kindly lent me. Highlights of the day included seeing long-billed curlews (so cool!), hearing someone spot a bald eagle and actually knowing what bird they were talking about(!), and pointing at a shadowy figure in the late-afternoon branches and it turning out to be a new species–and an osprey to boot! Learning about “pishing” was also pretty cool. All in all, I am so grateful to have had a wonderful birding experience with some of the most knowledgeable and enthusiastic people around and to have learned many a new bird species, that one should never call gulls “seagulls,” and how fun birding by bike can be.  – Amy Li

Ornicycles is the best birdathon team ever! I had fun planning the local West Marin  route to maximize the time our wheels are on dirt AND hitting up different habitats to see a diversity of species. Peddling to Five Brooks just to pick up a couple species might be crazy on any other day, but for birdathon, totally worth it! The fog creeped into the lagoon in the afternoon, thwarting our best chance for some shorebirds to kick us over that 100 species hurtle, but alas, serious fun was still had with a good crew of newbies and veterans alike. I very much appreciate the support Team Ornicycles received this year.  – Megan Elrod

Thank you so much for supporting our science and helping us achieve our mission to develop nature-based solutions to climate change, habitat loss, and other environmental threats to benefit wildlife and people. You can still donate here.

Ornicycles 2022 Bird-A-Thon Species List

  1. Wood Duck
  2. Northern Shoveler
  3. Mallard
  4. Greater/Lesser Scaup
  5. California Quail
  6. Western Grebe
  7. Band-tailed Pigeon
  8. Eurasian Collared-Dove
  9. Vaux’s Swift
  10. Anna’s Hummingbird
  11. Black Oystercatcher
  12. Killdeer
  13. Whimbrel
  14. Long-billed Curlew
  15. Black Turnstone
  16. Red-necked Phalarope
  17. Greater Yellowlegs
  18. Willet
  19. Parasitic Jaeger
  20. Common Murre
  21. Heermann’s Gull
  22. Ring-billed Gull
  23. Western Gull
  24. Caspian Tern
  25. Elegant Tern
  26. Brandt’s Cormorant
  27. Pelagic Cormorant
  28. Double-crested Cormorant
  29. Brown Pelican
  30. Great Blue Heron
  31. Great Egret
  32. Snowy Egret
  33. Green Heron
  34. Turkey Vulture
  35. Osprey
  36. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  37. Cooper’s Hawk
  38. Bald Eagle
  39. Red-shouldered Hawk
  40. Red-tailed Hawk
  41. Great Horned Owl
  42. Acorn Woodpecker
  43. Downy Woodpecker
  44. Nuttall’s Woodpecker
  45. Hairy Woodpecker
  46. Northern Flicker
  47. American Kestrel
  48. Merlin
  49. Peregrine Falcon
  50. Western Wood-Pewee
  51. Willow Flycatcher
  52. Pacific-slope Flycatcher
  53. Black Phoebe
  54. Say’s Phoebe
  55. Warbling Vireo
  56. Steller’s Jay
  57. California Scrub-Jay
  58. American Crow
  59. Common Raven
  60. Chestnut-backed Chickadee
  61. Bushtit
  62. Wrentit
  63. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  64. Golden-crowned Kinglet
  65. Red-breasted Nuthatch
  66. Pygmy Nuthatch
  67. Brown Creeper
  68. Pacific Wren
  69. Marsh Wren
  70. Bewick’s Wren
  71. European Starling
  72. Western Bluebird
  73. Swainson’s Thrush
  74. American Robin
  75. Cedar Waxwing
  76. House Finch
  77. Purple Finch
  78. Red Crossbill
  79. Pine Siskin
  80. Lesser Goldfinch
  81. American Goldfinch
  82. Fox Sparrow
  83. Dark-eyed Junco
  84. White-crowned Sparrow
  85. Golden-crowned Sparrow
  86. Savannah Sparrow
  87. Song Sparrow
  88. Lincoln’s Sparrow
  89. California Towhee
  90. Spotted Towhee
  91. Red-winged Blackbird
  92. Brewer’s Blackbird
  93. Orange-crowned Warbler
  94. Common Yellowthroat
  95. Yellow Warbler
  96. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  97. Townsend’s Warbler
  98. Western Tanager