I mentioned in my report of Saturday's not-quite-completed Animalthon brevet ride that I took shelter at a cabin museum where there was a small display devoted to the Pileated Woodpecker, an extremely interesting bird that I have never actually seen. I have read a great deal about one of the most spectacular birds to have gone extinct in the United States, the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, and the Pileated resembles it closely although it is somewhat smaller.
The weather in Ottawa has become quite wonderful, with clear blue skies, although the mornings are still just above freezing. Yesterday I rode home a bit later than usual, enjoyng the sunshine. I ride through residential streets and as I passed a house with a small tree in front I suddenly saw a large black bird swoop down and land on the trunk. It flew so strangely that I stopped to watch and--behold!--there was a male Pileated Woodpecker. It was about the size of a crow and did not pay any attention to me although I was only a short distance away. He ran methodically up to the top of the tree over the next few minutes and then flew away. A marvellous sight and one that I certainly did not expect to see in town.
I enjoy my short commute every day and opportunities like this would never come if I was in the car or on a bus. It is a pleasure to hear the bird singing, or seeing people out walking their dogs early or enjoying the sight of ducks and geese on the Rideau River. This aspect of bicycle commuting is not touched on much compared to the exercise or fuel savings or more prosaic elements but it certainly makes it worthwhile for me. Especially if I don't have to drag the bike through ice and snow to do it!