Having just read a very enjoyable post on the Human Cyclist blog about cycling encounters with animals, I was prompted to recall a memorable encounter I had last year…
The post mentioned above mostly concerns animal encounters of a negative kind. Now, the dogs on my local cycle route are definitely a pet hate of mine (pardon the pun), but I’d much rather share a pleasant experience (or should that be pheasant?) I had whilst cycling here in North Wales last year.
It was quite early in the morning, and I’d been winding my way along some very quiet country lanes, just enjoying the low sun flickering through the trees. They were the sort of lanes with high hedges that make you feel like you’re in a maze, and you can’t really see “out”. Rounding a corner, I was somewhat taken aback to discover hundreds of pheasants just sitting in the road, lazily moping about and pecking at the ground as they do.
The sudden appearance of a man in lycra speeding towards them must have been rather alarming, and a Mexican wave of alertness spread through the group as I got nearer. Little heads popping up from the crowd, followed by the pheasant expression for “oh shit”. It didn’t take them long to decide to run for it. Soon, I was riding along like the Captain of some pheasant army. Being quite large, plump birds, they couldn’t just spring vertically into the air to make their escape.
Needing a bit of a runway to gradually build up speed, a few took flight and adjusted course for the safety of the adjacent field. More and more became airborne as I caught up with them and soon, I was riding along in my own personal cloud of panic stricken birds. The previously still air now turbulent with the thrashing of hundreds of wings, fragments of feathers caught up in the currents before gliding softly back to the ground.
I discovered something else interesting at this point. In their haste to become airborne, pheasants seem blessed with the instinctive ability to relieve themselves of some redundant mass. Hundreds of little pheasant squits were being ejected all over the place and it’s quite miraculous that I wasn’t hit. I did wonder whether it was also part of some defence mechanism – squirt something nasty to deter the predator.
Anyway, I’m glad to say that no pheasants were harmed and it left a lasting memory of something one could only possibly experience on a bicycle.
I bet everyone who rides a bike regularly has similar stories to tell. Please share in the comments below, we’d love to hear them.
Photo: Tomi Tapio K