The Inimitable Todd is more enamored of biking than I am. After our adventures in the all-conquering wind at Brighton, I was not totally thrilled to be getting on two wheels again so soon. But Todd had a plan, and that plan was ably backed by the city of London, which had had the presence of mind to turn the towpaths along the Thames and some associated canals into bike paths.
Aside from my fear of accidentally biking into the canal, and the difficulty of actually finding the path in the first place, it was a great trip. The path led to a wetland reserve outside the city, where I got to test my recall on some of the species I’d seen previously – particularly the ChiffChaff, World’s Easiest Singer, but also a variety of Tits and Finches. I watched a pair of Coots whup the stuffing out of a third Coot (territory invader, I presume) while IT puzzled over the roadmaps. And I picked up Graylag Goose and Dunnock for my life list.
The overarching thing, though, was the sheer idiosyncratic beauty of the trails themselves. Although there were spotty bits, my overall impression was that London is slightly ahead of NYC in terms of pedestrian and bike access. This is in keeping with the relative priorities of the US vs. Britain in general, I suppose. I would have liked to do more walking while I was over there, especially in the countryside; the whole system of right-of-ways established by common law is fascinating and very appealing to me, although part of me also experiences an all-American quiver of crankiness at the turnabout prospect of having people on my land.
I can’t speak with confidence, but I can’t help but wonder if the more laid-back British attitude towards climbing over a fence or two (they even have stiles for greater fence-climbing convenience, as I noted before) is one of the factors that has made twitching and listing the proportionally bigger deal it has historically been in British birding.
Next… we’re off to Scotland!