Dorian Anderson awoke this morning in the town of Port Royal with no need for his heavy coat or his gloves. Finally!: Weather as hospitable as the South Carolinians the Philadelphia native has encountered as he walks, pedals and paddles his way through 2014, in search of as many bird species as his eyes and camera can capture.
Brutal winter weather along the Eastern Seaboard, where Anderson began his adventure Jan. 1, has made birdwatching and traveling difficult. Last week's ice storm forced him to hunker down in Mount Pleasant for a few days. But as the cold weather lifted, he spent time on Sullivan's Island, taking in its variety of shorebirds, sea ducks, gulls and terns.
Anderson spent much of his day Monday at Bear Island Wildlife Management Area and Donnelley National Wildlife Refuge before pedaling on to Port Royal Island and the Beaufort area. Today, he'll check out Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge. Tomorrow, he'll tour areas near Savannah. He hopes to hit Cockspur Island, site of Fort Pulaski National Monument, when high tide forces birds out of the marsh and affords the best opportunity to see Nelson's and saltmarsh sparrows.
Anderson is among the select birdwatchers devoting himself to a "big year." (The uninitiated can check out the book or movie of the same name for a sense of what a Big Year is all about.) But, pardon the bad pun, he is putting his own spin on the adventure, as he explains on the blog where he chronicles his travels:
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Biking for Birds is my completely crazy and hopefully fantastic twist on the traditional North American Big Year. During 2014, I, Dorian Anderson, will travel only by bike, foot, and kayak as I move about the continent in search of birds. My movements will be unaided by petroleum, natural gas, and electricity. I will not have a support vehicle; everything I need will be carried on my person and my bicycle. This Big Year permutation will certainly add an unprecedented level of adventure to the endeavor, and it should set a new standard for environmentally sustainable travel.
The immediate goals of this endeavor are three-fold. First, I want to find as many bird species as possible. If I can complete the proposed route, I should find between 550 and 600 species. I hope my efforts to achieve this goal will promote heightened interest in birds, bird watching, and bird conservation. Second, I hope Biking For Birds will showcase the bicycle as a healthy and environmentally sustainable form of transportation. Third, I have partnered with both The Conservation Fund and the American Birding Association. and I hope to raise $100,000 (or more!) on behalf of these organizations that focus on land conservation and promotion of birdwatching, respectively.
The Lowcountry is bird-rich -- particularly this time of year when many shorebird species winter along the coast. But it comes with a challenge.
"What's difficult about the South Carolina coast is that there is no one road that runs all the way along the coast," Anderson told me during a brief roadside stop this morning. "It's all fingers. I can ride (U.S.) 17, but to get closer to the shore, I have to go off on the side roads, then backtrack. ... It's nice because it means the area is not developed, but it also means I have to do a lot of riding."
That means he'll likely skip some prime birding locations like Pinckney Island NWR and the beaches at Fish Haul Creek and Mitchelville on Hilton Head Island -- they are simply too far out of the way if he wants to get to Savannah tonight.
The logistical challenges of South Carolina's coast have been largely overshadowed by the people he has met, Anderson said.
"I've got a great reception," Anderson said. "Yesterday, I met four separate birders who wanted to talk and who had been following my trip on my blog."
You can follow Anderson's daily entries and learn more about his sponsors and purpose here.