Birding Despite Disability

Obsessions Don't Care About Limitations

I Did a Full Marathon of Birding: It Was Not Pretty

On September 4, I birded my planned route, with only minor changes, in an effort to cover the distance of a full marathon on foot while birding the entire time.

I left the house just before 6 AM while it was still dark enough that I got lost in my own neighborhood. I got back home exactly 12 hours and 30 minutes later. I tallied only 46 species on the day across 22 checklists and 64,659 steps. I was hoping for at least 60 birds. Some of the lowlights included: the song of a Common Yellowthroat in a distant marsh being the only warbler for the day; a Solitary Sandpiper being the only shorebird; and with the exception of two feral Rock Pigeons that I strained to see, I would have dipped entirely on The Big Three (Rock Pigeons, Starlings, House Sparrows).

It was almost as if the birds did not get the clear instructions to cooperate with me on this momentous occasion. I had tweaked my route somewhat because the night before, someone had posted to one of the Minnesota email lists that conditions indicated massive migration into the area on the night of September 3 – or at least a forecast from the Cornell Lab said as much. Ha. Good one!

About halfway through this effort, I was mentally making plans to repeat this stunt in May, when there are actually active, singing migrants everywhere. There were many miles of lovely habitat I surveyed yesterday – but it was all utterly quiet, except for contributions from the likes of jays, chickadees and goldfinches. Then, by late afternoon, as I was contemplating the new and disturbing sensations emanating from my feet and legs, an even better idea suddenly burst into my head like a thunderclap. It was this: Never Do Something This Stupid Again. Walking 26 miles is no way to go birding in your own backyard. If it meant getting some lifers, I’d do it again, of course. But not for these guys:

Who is the turkey? The bird or the birder with the ill-concieved idea?

One response to “I Did a Full Marathon of Birding: It Was Not Pretty”

  1. Awesome job! Don’t sell yourself short. Just covering the distance is a major feat on your feet! It isn’t easy to plan a route that long without doing multiple loops and your route looks more intriguing than some of the marathons I’ve run. After a few days of recovery, the insanity will once again grip your mind to do it again. You’ll have to let me know in advance so I can encourage you along the way. And when the running bug infects you, we’ll have to run a marathon together. At least now I’m not the only foolish fellow that blogged about counting birds on a 26 mile trek (and also foolishly thought others might be interested)! LOL William

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