Sunday, February 01, 2009

I spy an Endangered Species and a Veloway

We are experiencing GORGEOUS weather here in Austin this weekend. Yesterday and today has boasted warm sunshine and temps in the 70s with cool breezes. Perfect riding and running weather. Yesterday Seth and I ran 9 miles at Town Lake and had a great run. Unfortunately our legs were feeling it late last night. So today we resolved to get out our townie bikes and have a nice recovery spin on the Veloway. On our way out, we spotted a lovely black and white speckled woodpecker with a brilliant red cap pecking away at one of our pine trees. Apparently, it is the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker, an endangered species.

According to The Birds of North America Online, this lovely little bird has been endangered since 1968 because it "depends on old growth southern pine forests for food and habitat. As a result of this dependence, its populations have been vulnerable to elimination, fragmentation, or modification of those forests by man. Conversion of favored longleaf pine forest to slash pine has also been linked to population declines in this woodpecker." Lucky for this little fella, we have plenty of pines here in Central Texas that he can feast on. I took a couple of pictures but couldn't get close enough to get a really good shot. Every time I would step closer, the bird would sense it and "hop" up the tree out of sight. So I snapped a few shots, admired the bird a little while longer, and then we headed out to enjoy the sunshine. I'll be keeping my eye out for him.

The Veloway is 3.17 mile, 23 feet wide paved trail nestled within the Slaughter Creek Metro Park just off South Mopac/Slaughter Lane and is across the street from the Lady Bird Wildflower Center. The path itself looks like a 2-lane highway. It's a one-way trail with slow riders staying to the right in the right lane and fast riders keeping left. Only bicycles and rollerbladers are allowed. We were impressed with the sheer number of cyclists that were all suited up and ready to ride this morning. My best guess (since I'm new to the area) is that Veloway serves as a nice warmup and cooldown for those who are going on longer rides. I mean 3.17 miles is by no means a workout for most folks. Seth and I only did one lap but were spinning in high cadence. A hill on the backside caught us by surprise and luckily we were able to spin right up but I couldn't help but be impressed by its' steepness. I also wonder about the little kids who were out riding - that surely must have been a real challenge for them and the rollerbladers too. We also came across a SNAKE CROSSING sign and I couldn't help but chuckle and take a photo. I thought it was a given that most Texans are aware that hot pavement and warm days always equal snake crossing. I can't count the numbers of times as a child that my family came upon a snake laying on the road basking in the sun or as adult, hiking on a trail and coming upon one doing just that.