Three states in one day



Great ride yesterday, including 10 miles of rail trail. Three states in one day, though to be fair, Robert E. Lee put more miles into PA, and I only squeaked into WV by the width of the Potomac.

Bicycling enables me to see slo-mo changes in bird distribution as I travel across the landscape. Crossing the Mason-Dixon into Maryland prompted me to think of several other boundaries.

Black Vulture, Hawk Mountain

Black Vulture, Hawk Mountain

New Hampshire is Turkey Vulture country. Black Vultures reach the northern limit of their range in northern New England. They do better in a hot climate in part because they have a heavier body relative to surface wing area, which means it takes more thermal activity to keep them in the air. As I peddle toward the south, they are becoming much more common.

I crossed another boundary yesterday – the line that separates Black-capped Chickadee from Carolina Chickadee. Almost indistinguishable, they are best identified by range. Black-capped Chickadee is a familiar bird at my backyard feeders in New Hampshire. Carolina Chickadee is a southern species whose range extends north to southern PA. Though their song is different, their calls are similar. However, I have a good ear, and yesterday for the first time I began to notice changes in the chickadee sounds emanating from the forest. I had entered Carolina Chickadee country. The zone of overlap, where both species interbreed, has been shifting northward at about 0.7 miles per year, and now reaches north of Hawk Mountain. Because Carolina Chickadees are the warm weather chickadee, climate change is thought to be the reason for the shift.

I have also noticed an uptick in opossums as measured by roadkill. Opossums originated in South America and came north during the Great American Interchange about 3 million years ago. They are not cut out for New England winters. Meade Cadot at the Harris Center tells me that it is not uncommon to see individuals in New Hampshire with frostbit ears and tails.

Oh, and Arsenal beat Chelsea!!!

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6 Responses to “Three states in one day”

  1. Liz Verney September 25, 2016 at 4:56 pm #

    Even when I bike around Nantucket I feel so much more connected to the natural world. I love knowing that you are experiencing the changes as you ride south. Thanks for sharing!

    • Eric Masterson September 25, 2016 at 5:08 pm #

      Thanks Liz. I was sorry my route didn’t take me to Lizzie and Burl.

  2. Ted Leach September 25, 2016 at 5:55 pm #

    You’re safer in the traffic in your area than in Nantucket summer traffic! I love the silence of civil war battlefields early in the morning. 36 degrees here this AM (or 2.2 as you think) so you are heading the right direction. Great Shenandoah foliage ahead on your route but you will be well past before it blooms. Stay safe!

    • Eric Masterson September 25, 2016 at 6:41 pm #

      Agreed. There are not many things that will move me to tears. Battlefields will do it though.

  3. joseph guse September 26, 2016 at 12:21 pm #

    Hey Eric, good to read your updates. Sounds like you’re making approach to Virginia. When you get to Lexington, remind me to tell you about our turkey/black vultures.

    • Eric Masterson September 27, 2016 at 5:39 pm #

      Will do.

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