Monday, August 6, 2018


Stops me every time.

And stops my companion too.

Toward the end of a weekly training bike ride last Spring, I saw what I believed to be a bufflehead at Widewater and I made my bike buddy Kathy stop too. Its not the first time she has had to brake for birds.  On another ride along the canal just past MP12, bright orange feet grabbed my attention; it was all I saw before this wading bird flew into the woods.  Looking it up on my phone, I declared it a green heron. I don’t see them as often because they camouflage easily in foliage along the shore line.  But there it was plain as day and now Kathy has another Life Bird. (Kathy doesnt know it, but it is my aim to expand Kathy’s life list while I grow mine. Since 2018 started, my bird list has grown by 21 species but that is a story for another day.)

So many birds make the C&O Canal their home especially great blue herons which is a perennial favorite for most people; just think about all the artwork, wood and metal sculptures and note cards that adorn homes, yards and personal-style motifs – they are great blue herons.

Since we started biking in the Fall of 2017, we have braked for a solitary sandpiper, egret, kingfisher, king bird, wood duck, merganser, downy woodpecker, a barred owl and of course lots of eagles. Once we ran into a fellow bird enthusiast who set up a scope and let us look at the eagles nest across the river.

Bird calls stop us in our tracks too.  It is how we identified the yellow warbler. Lucky for us one was close by and waited while we made confirmation. I make Kathy listen for the eastern wood pewee all the time and sometimes make a fool of myself screaming queeeep, queeeep in the hopes of attracting a great crested flycatcher. And every once in a while, we hear a pileated laugh at us.

But birds aren’t the only reason we stop. I like snakes too. And snapping turtles and muskrats, (or was that a beaver we saw?)

This here is the eastern wood pewee and it happens to be my favorite little bird.