Inside every cyclist, whether she knows it or not, there lurks a conservationist. Indeed, how could this not be the case? Show me the rider who hasn’t developed a keen weather eye. In much the same way, as the miles glide by, so do a panorama of fields, forests and wetlands. Surely you’re aware of flowers blooming today that are nowhere to be found a month from now. Or perhaps your ear has tuned in to the songs of birds that change with the seasons. Would the Tour de France be nearly as appealing without the incredible vistas that cradle it? If you consider all of this to be a little “value added” to your bike ride, then you know what I mean.
Now you’ll understand why I found myself in a field in Shelburne, Vermont very early one morning last week. I was there to see the fruits of many people’s labor, all directed toward one bird, the bobolink. To paraphrase A.A. Milne, “Nobody knows where the birds come from, or where the birds go.” Well, of course we do know. These birds come to Vermont and they go to South America. What we don’t know are the particulars of that journey: do they linger here or there along the way; do they take the most direct path; do they stick together? And if we knew these answers, how many more questions would we have?
With the help of tiny solar geolocators, we can now embark on a new road — one like the shaded lane winding through the woods that lures our bicycles ever onward. Attached to the bobolinks like little backpacks, these instruments will store the journey of the bobolink’s migration over 12,000 miles as he flies to South America and then back again to (most likely) this same field in Vermont next spring. And what a welcome he’ll have then. Tell us all about it, we’ll say…and this time, he will.
I often wonder why the bobolink doesn’t take a page from the book of his confrere, the eastern meadowlark. Breed in the northern U.S. and winter in the southern U.S. What’s with this “I have to go to South America” stuff? It doesn’t have to be so hard, you know. But that is flawed logic. Like it or not, we understand this much: the bobolink will continue to make his journey as long as he finds suitable habitat along his way. Much the same way we’ll continue to ride our bicycles as long as there are rideable, safe roads.
Which is why I was in a field in Shelburne, Vermont very early one morning last week.
Your purchase of our conservation products helps make projects like this one possible. Profits from the sale of these products have enabled the Vermont Center for Ecostudies to purchase geolocators for use in this pilot project to understand more about the migratory habits of the bobolink.