Saturday, September 27, 2008

Dive bombed

I was taking a short detour from one of my usual weekend routes, where I ride down the "Old Stone Arch Trail". Good paved path and nice scenic route through some woods, past a few cornfields, and then a bridge crossing over a creek into a nice wooded picnic area. I'll typically rest, stop on the bridge, peering over the edge to look at the creek, then back to my starting point to rejoin my route.

On my trip back, a large flapping noise in the trees startled me. This wasn't just a small bird, or even a flock of birds...this was a LARGE bird. I actually ducked.

A few moments later I saw a hawk emerge from the trees and climb towards the sky.

This, of course, reminded me of an incident that happened last summer. Riding a different route, I was on a highway moving west past a grove of trees. This is a regular route for me, and I didn't really expect anything unusual. I've always noticed large flocks of birds living in the trees but I never really paid much attention, other than the fact there were a lot of birds.

As I was happily pedaling along, watching my own shadow I noticed a small shadow moving with me, to the right and a few feet behind. I had an eerie sense of something being quite close to my head but I dismissed it, continuing on my path.

I heard a screeching noise. Not a tire screech or a brake squeal, but a rapsy, high-pitched bird type screech. The shadow briefly moved closer, then moved away. I turned my head left and right, but didn't see anything. Then the shadow moved closer, and closer, then...

Thunk! Something bashed into my helmet. It wasn't super hard, but it was forceful enough to make me lose my line, wobbling across the lane. I went down into my drops and ducked down, pumping harder, quickening my pace. Screech! Screech! I watch the shadow as it bobbed up and down, moving closer then darting away.

I was under bird attack! And what the heck did I do to tick this guy off? I was simply riding on a highway, adjacent to a wooded area. I wasn't walking or riding through the woods, taunting birds with a shotgun in my hands and an Elmer Fudd hat perched on my noggin.

I kept riding, ducked down as low as I could get. After a hundred yards or so, my attacker lost interest and flew away. I breathed a sigh of relief and continued on my way.

Later on, after my ride, I did a bit of research. There are many red-winged blackbirds in this part of the country and the males are quite aggressive during mating season. They will attack almost anything they feel is encroaching on their territory and might cause a threat. My white Trek cycling helmet bobbing up and down must have looked like something like a low-flying predator, so I got dive bombed.

I'm sure it's a natural occurrence in the wild, but it was really kind of freaky while riding a bike on a highway. I hadn't experienced anything like that before or since.

I expected my bike helmet to protect me from impacts, but not bird strikes! :>))


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