I was going through some old pictures of my travels on the C&O Canal and found this sequence from 2013.Some of you have probably already figured out the reason for this delightful display of artistry. Yes, it was wintertime when these pictures were taken, and the heron was moving around on a thin sheet of ice.
We sighted this bird last weekend in the area of Swains Lock. It was the first time I am seeing it on the C&O canal.Some research suggests that this could be a juvenile White Ibis, one of my remaining reasons for doubt being the color of the tarsi on the bird. If I am correct however, the Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America suggests that this a somewhat rare appearance in these parts. I wonder if juvenile birds of this kind can get lost.
I would appreciate it if there are any birders out there who can confirm or correct my attempt to identify the bird. From what I read, the ibis belongs to the same family of birds as the stork, and I have seen pictures of storks with similar beaks.
I had not been on a bicycle since the accident that happened almost a year ago. The doctor had given me the “all clear” to go back to my regular activities a while back, but I had not done it even though I had decided a long time ago that there was no way other than to get back on the bicycle. The truth was that I was also missing all the training rides that I had being doing in the years past – on various sections of the C&O Canal towpath, on the Capital Crescent Trail into Bethesda and Silver Spring; on the Custis, the W&OD, the Mt. Vernon and the Four Mile Run trails in Virginia; and even the ride up Sugarloaf Mountain. I knew these trails somewhat well by now, and I could even picture some of the specific experiences and challenges that one came across along the way, whether it was the stop at Fletchers Cove to use the facilities and get a drink of water, crossing the Potomac on the Key bridge, or riding along the river on the Mt. Vernon trail past Gravelly Point and National Airport, or the challenge of one of the slopes on the Custis trail or Sugarloaf mountain. I needed to do it.
But time passed and it did not happen until now. You could say that there was a bit of apprehension on my part, not because of the fear of riding a bike per se, but because of a fear of falling off the bike. It was specifically about the possibility of falling on my separated shoulder once again. I had a mental picture of how severe the damage could be to a clavicle that was already floating around. I did actually look for specific protection that could be worn it this regard, but the only solution out there would have made me look and feel like a gladiator with plastic armor-plating on a bicycle. I could not picture that! But there were other real excuses. We were busy with a wedding and with guests who were visiting until now. Before I knew it, we were half way through the year.
I finally made the move Wednesday morning. I checked out my biking gear the first time in many months – the shorts, the tops and the gloves. Things were where I expected them to be. I checked out the bike, still covered with dirt from last year, reinflated the tires, grabbed my helmet, and after a test ride around the cul dec sac, loaded it into the back of the car.
Finally at Pennyfield Lock.I decided to ride a distance of about 16+ miles (one way) to Fletchers Cove this day. I had forgotten how cool it could be under the trees even on a July morning in the middle of summer as you rode against the wind. I had forgotten the rhythmic sound of the crunching of the tires against the gravel of the trail as one rode on the dirt. I had forgotten the easy and peaceful nature of an early morning ride. There was a feeling of serenity, and the mind could wander once again.
I took it easy. This is the way I usually start a ride, especially after a break from when I have been challenging myself. But then the Adrenalin kicks in and, before you know it, your legs are moving to a steady beat and the pace is increasing to another level. And it is all so effortless at this point. You are enjoying the ride.
I can still sense some fear in me, a fear of falling off the bike if I got too close to the edge of the trail, but it is no more about the shoulder. I know I am over it, and it has happened quickly. The other general fear of wandering across the trail and falling off into the woods or the water will disappear with time, just like it used to in the past. It is a defense mechanism of the brain that I appreciate.
Life along the canal has not changed. I have to stop for pictures along the way.
There are people around on this cool summer morning, especially later in the morning. I re-familiarize myself with the practice of passing people who are on foot on the trail. There are many such people. Recent rains also seem to have done severe damage to the trail. I take a couple of detours off the trail along the way.
The ride back to Pennyfield Lock is when the muscles in my thighs begin to feel it. It is a familiar feeling, but it is not a feeling that you tend to remember the details of once the ride is complete and those sore muscles have recovered. I ride steadily, without a sense of rush, but by now I am also in the groove once again, and I have to make the conscious effort to slow down, and perhaps even stop once in a while to take a picture or two. This is all familiar territory for me.
The ride ended successfully. I am going to try my best to make sure this was not just a one-time effort, a flash in the pan if you will. I need to do more rides for my sense of balance and sanity. Perhaps longer group rides are in the cards once again starting next year.
This is a good time of year to look out of the windows of the house and observe the little birds that fly around our home. The absence of leaves on the trees gives you a clear view of birds like robins, sparrows, chickadee, cardinals, bluebirds, woodpeckers, bluejays, etc.. And many of birds seem to love the seeds on the crape myrtle right next to the deck. You have to pay close attention. The first thing that draws your attention is the chirping that you can hear outside even though all the doors and windows are closed. Most of the birds tend to blend in with the rather grey background. But those like the bright red cardinals and the bluejays do stand out.
I was having my tea one evening, looking out the back window, when I thought I saw a flash of blue. I was not mistaken. It was a bluebird. In fact, there seemed to be a couple of them flying between the maple and the crape myrtle trees. The birds are so small, you have to pay particular attention to track them. Soon the bluebird flew out of sight. But I had a certain feeling about it. I went upstairs to retrieve my camera and put a zoom lens on it.
I could not see the birds when looking out of the different windows upstairs in the back of the house, but soon after I returned to the kitchen and the place I was having my tea, the bird returned to a branch on the crepe myrtle. I was prepared this time.
The bird was facing the opposite direction.In fact I got a good picture of its butt! It seemed to sense my presence even though I was in the house and behind the window. It slowly turned around and stared at me. I grabbed the shot before it was too late.It posed for me.A few seconds later it was gone.
I think it was a eastern bluebird, but somebody can correct me if I am wrong.