Sunday, April 1, 2012

Bike Birding

I can NOT believe how out of shape I am! Last night I had to go in to work for a bit for an American Association of Zoo Keepers meeting. I decided to stop at Forest Park Nature Center for an exercise (rather than birding) hike on the way home. The trail I chose was a long uphill followed by a long downhill and I thought I was going to die :) I was very relieved no one was around to hear me panting and gasping for breath. I almost made myself do it a second time, but I'm still paranoid about reinjuring my foot. My foot was fine. Today I'll do it twice and I'll mark the day in the future when I can do the uphill without panting or slowing down.

Logan and I had an excellent birding adventure on Saturday. His flag football game was at 9am, so we had the whole rest of the beautiful day to play outside. Gene and Kaylin chose to stay home, but Logan and I loaded up the van with our bikes, fishing gear and birding stuff. We did my usual birding loop of Banner Marsh, Duck Creek, Emiquon, Lake Chautauqua, Sand Ridge and Spring Lake. We left at 11am and didn't get home until 8:30pm. We had a blast!

Since it was the last day of March, I was hoping to add a bunch of birds to my March list. I sort of wished I had waited until Sunday because I could have started off April with a huge list. My only new birds for both month and year were red-breasted merganser (one pair at Banner) and lesser yellowlegs (Emiquon.) Otherwise, we saw lots of pelicans, coots, ducks, swans, etc. It was a great day for birds, just not a lot of new ones. Logan fished at Banner, Chautauqua and Spring Lake, but didn't catch anything. Spring Lake was especially frustrating because we were getting tons of nibbles, but never hooked anything. He would have been thrilled with one tiny bluegill, but I think they were too tiny. Next time he wants to fish at PawPaw's lake where he catches fish after fish with no effort!

The highlight of our day was riding bikes around Emiquon and Chautauqua. It was Logan's idea and a great one. We rode around and around the main visitor area at Emiquon and saw so much more than if we had just driven or even walked around once. The real fun was at Chautauqua. We started walking up the cross-dike so I could show Logan the eagle nest, but he was like "Why don't we ride our bikes?" Duh! I was just going to walk until the nest was easily observed with binoculars, but we rode all the way out to it. I couldn't tell if it was occupied or not. The adults weren't around, but an immature eagle was in a tree close to the nest. The nest itself is so deep the adults could have been inside and invisible, or it could have been deserted. Oh, and even though we were "close" we were still far enough away that we weren't disturbing anything. The young eagle barely gave us a glance. Logan still has a "kiddie bike" so didn't want to go much farther than the nest, but I definitely plan to go back and bike around to the back of the north pool. It was an awesome way to get around!

The neighbor kids were over most of the day Sunday, but it didn't even bug me because I know they aren't off school this week. Yay! It is only now striking me as strange that the kids were playing in the sprinkler and the baby pool on the first day of April. We've already had so many hot days this year it didn't seem odd at all until I thought about what early April is usually like. It cracks me up that we still could get a cold snap or get dumped on with snow. I know it's possible, but I doubt it. Remember, we should all thank Gene and his new snow blower for this mild winter and lack of snow. It has nothing to do with global warming or El Nino or whatever, it's Gene's new snow blower. :)

And finally, I have to complain about diet soda. I read a lot of online articles. A lot. I've read a ton about diet soda and how it can make you gain weight by making you crave sweets. Aspartame is toxic, addictive, causes cancer, blah, blah, blah. Okay, common sense should tell us we shouldn't put so many chemicals into our bodies. Duh. I'm not disputing or supporting anything I've read. I only know what I've learned in 5 months of being diet soda free. I never had aspartame withdrawal. I switched from soda to tea, so I didn't give up caffeine, but I attribute all of my minor symptoms in the first week of giving up my beloved Diet Pepsi Cherry to changing caffeine levels. I had some minor headaches, but nothing else. I have not lost one bit of weight since giving up diet soda. I crave sweets just as much, if not more, than I did when I was drinking it regularly (almost exclusively.) I missed it a LOT for a long time, but now I don't. I still drink a lot of tea, but I also drink a lot of water. I find myself drinking more water as more time passes. The only soda of any kind I've had in the past 5 months was the day we went to the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta and I couldn't pass up the tasting room. I didn't drink any diet products that day, though. Overall, I'm glad I quit. I know that putting all those chemicals in my body couldn't have been good. I'm going to do my best to never start drinking diet soda again, because I know I'll get hooked again. I also know that the act of quitting didn't cause any miraculous health changes. Nothing obvious, anyway. I guess I'm sort of disappointed.

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