Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Orienteering and Birding don't mix

Orienteering race last week end, at Peach Mountain. Orienteering is another of my hobbies. The goal is to find controls in a forest, helped only with a Map and a Compass. Despite my very modest skills and physical strength, I always try to be as good as possible during these races. I can even admit that I always secretly hope to beat a few of my fellow orienteers.

Last Sunday was at Peach Mountain, one of my favorite "map" for orienteering (although my results from last years were proven to be rather mediocre). Peach Mountain is a very cool place by itself. It is own by the university of Michigan, and is mostly used for astronomical research (there is several radiotelescopes). But Peach Mountain is also a very great place for birding, with a wide variety of habitats. Grassy openings, pine groves, sandy pits. I secretly hope that one day, I will find a crossbill somewhere in the pine groves

As I was leaving control 3 of this race, and I was rather satisfied of this first third of the race. I went almost straight from control to control, with basically no mistake. I was going toward control 4, rather slowly, but expecting great difficulties. A 1 km strech through the woods, with no trail whatsoever. Obviously a great segment to loose or win a lot of time. As I was jogging though the magnificent forest (almost at its fall prime!!!) I heard trouble ahead.

No, reader, this was not the owling of a migratring wolf, a hungry bear or even worst, a cranky skunk.

That was the distinctive call of a pileated woodpecker. Rats.

Now, let me tell you. The Pileated woodpecker is a VERY cool bird. It is the biggest woodpecker in the US (let's not start here to debate on the possible existence of the Ivory-billed woodpecker). Although not particularly rare in Michigan, it is almost non existent on the east side of Wasthenaw County, where I usually birdwatch. So hearing this great bird gave me some shiverings......

A few more steps toward the West direction....I can hear the bird going approximatly the same direction. But I can not see it. Unless I go a little bit south. Not a big difference for my race...all I have to do is to be very carefull and keep an eye on the shape of this spur other there..... So here I go, a bit south, then a little bit more south, then west, chasing both my control 4 and my woodpecker.......

The results of the race? Let's say the forest was magnificent and that I enjoyed every minute I spend there.

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