You wouldn’t think bicycling would be the best birdwatching activity, but my recent short excursions have proven that idea wrong. In fact, now that I think about it, the first time I ever saw a pileated woodpecker was while I was bicycling. It swooped across the roadway and sort of slammed (intentionally) against a telephone pole ahead of me. I almost fell off my bike. A pileated had been on my list for a while. A few revolutions of the pedals away from my grandparents’ camp in Maine and “check!” there it was.

A few weeks ago I trundled wheels from my two bicycles from my “cycling era” off to the bike shop in Wolfeboro and got necessary tubes and tires replaced. And then I started heading out for a local ride in the mornings before beginning my work day.

On my first half-hour ride, as I pedaled along a roadway near little Sunrise Lake, I thought, “Why am I doing this? I just added one more thing to my list of things I like to do in good weather (walking the dogs, riding my horse, kayaking, paddle boarding …).” It’s certainly nice at 7 a.m., the roads are pandemic quiet, it’s great exercise, the early air is as crisp as it is going to be on an August day, I love being outside.

Why not do it, was the answer I came up with.

I curled around the corner at the dam, and took a right, daring myself to climb the significant hill on one side of a little cul-de-sac next to the lake. My old bike has a fantastic gear ratio and while I was working a little hard, I could keep those rpms up and keep my knees happy without a problem. At the end, I took a left, checked my brakes so I wouldn’t careen down a boat ramp at the corner, and took a left onto the lakeside part of the road. And I stopped.

A large bird was on the ground on the non-lake side of the road. A turkey first came to mind. When my eyes really focused on what I was seeing, I realized it was a bald eagle! I had heard that there were bald eagles hanging around our little lake but I had only seen pictures people had posted on Facebook. This junkyard eagle was hanging out next to a trash can. As was a black-and-white tuxedo housecat.

And then I watched that little cat chase the bald eagle. The eagle was easily four times the cat’s size. The bird ran across the road a ways and then took off flying low, maneuvering through the trees to get back to the lake, the kitty following it until it was up in the air out of reach. If you have never seen the Cohen brothers’ movie “O’ Brother Where Art Thou” (and if you haven’t, you must), you will understand why the first thing to come to my mind was the blind seer pumping his way down the railroad tracks on a handcar and, as he went past George Clooney (appropriately named Ulysses) and his two prison-break friends, the man never stops pumping but spouts predictions including “You will see a cow on a roof!” (And, a couple hours later, they do.)

When I posted my crazy experience with the cat and the bald eagle on the town Facebook page, a friend on the lake insisted that I chased the bird away not the cat. My friend is a smart woman, and she is probably right. All I know is that I saw a cow on a roof that morning.

Subsequent morning rides have been much less eventful. But this morning included another nice bird sighting. The thing about being on a bicycle is that you can very easily swing off the road and stop in some inviting nook. Every few days, I pull into the short dirt road that leads to a beach on the lake. I saw a photo in my bike propped against a bench with the lake as a backdrop. I pedaled home, retrieved my camera, and went back to recreate that scene.

Lo and behold, a couple hundred feet from the shore, up popped the cormorant I had also heard has been seen on the lake all summer. These are the birds you see on rocky outcroppings all over the ocean’s edge drying their wings in the sun (their feathers are not waterproof). I have seen thousands of cormorants along the shore in my lifetime but I have never seen one on a lake. A little online research indicated that they do inhabit lakes as well as the ocean.

The icing on the cake was when one of the resident loons popped up a hundred yards or so behind the cormorant. You can do a lot of birdwatching on a bicycle ride!