Loons And Other Birds


Madison in springtime has come to mean something new for me.  For the past few years in the pre-dawn hours early in spring, from nearby Monona Bay I’ve heard the call of the common loon.  For those of you who have heard it, you know that it’s an eerie sound that’s uplifting at the same time.  As faint as it is through the bedroom window, the loon’s call is enough to wake me every time.  More than just ghosts of the morning, I’ve even seen loons on early-morning runs and rides along John Nolen Drive.  More good news:  There’s more than one pair frequenting these local lakes.  I’ve seen up to four at once.  Loons follow the melting ice northward in their annual migration.  Their presence in a body of water (or lack thereof) is considered by many to be a good indicator of the health of the local environment.


Several years ago, one turkey made the news by setting up a nest and brooding its chicks in the UW Arboretum.  Where once seeing one of these big birds in or even near Madison was a news-worthy event, these days it seems that if you DON’T see a turkey while you’re in the Arb you should alert the media.  Our friend Darren has some good winter pictures of them which he probably won’t mind sharing.  Turkeys are back for good for sure, and only five minutes by bike from downtown Madison.

Yesterday, it was a rather miserable day for riding bikes.  I was supposed to do a two-hour ride, and the thought of spending that amount of time in the spinning room by myself made me want to stick a pencil in my eye.  So I dressed up in all of my warmest clothes (we like Sugoi – thanks Emily!) and went out onto the Capital Loop here in Madison.  (Slacker math:  One hard hour outdoors is equal to two easy hours indoors, or so I’ve convinced myself.)  

One of the great parts about that ride is that for a twenty-mile jaunt you stay remarkably close to Madison while touring some of the best wild greenspace in the region.  I typically see deer, geese, and quite frequently there are cranes as well.  Yesterday I enjoyed a special treat:  A bald eagle took off from a tree as I was riding past.  Since it had to fight the same wicked head-wind as me I was able to keep with it for a couple of miles.  It soared above and just ahead of me, and finally veered off to the south to tour the wild marshes near Lake Kegonsa.  I turned north to return to Madison and was home fifteen minutes later.

There is wildness and wilderness all around, and significant recreational opportunities close to home.  When I say this, I don’t mean only in Madison.  We’re particularly gifted here in our fair city.  It’s not everywhere that you can live and work in a bustling urban environment and then reach eagle habitat with a moderately paced ten-minute ride.  Still, even in Chicago, St. Louis, and in the Twin Cities – and in many other locations here in the Midwest – you can experience the same thing.  

We need to talk about this more often.  When I say this, I mean “we” as in “we in the outdoor industry, here in the Midwest.”  The hidden-secrets close-to-home are the overlooked low-hanging-fruit of our trade.  (Okay, and the hyphen is the spice-of-the-day here at PEMBAspeaks…)  I’m not just talking about business opportunities, here.  By driving interest in daily outdoor recreation we create not only customers but also stewards for our local parks, waterways, and greenspaces.  We create healthier local environments, communities, individuals and families.  We save energy, bolster local economies, and – yes – help our businesses, too.

And don’t forget:  We also get to watch the birds ourselves, if we get out and enjoy the local environs, also.

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