Last year's Sunday Cycling reports focused on the places we went to and the strange, winding trajectories we took to get to them. I think we've exhausted that angle by now; indeed most places look very familiar to us now. This year, I will focus instead on the things we saw along the way.
We spot a lot more now. Instead of looking through the landscape for landmarks to tell us where we are, we now look into it for things that are different from last time, for birds, animals, unusual scenes. At least, that's how it seems to me; I can't speak for Sidsel.
Case in point: on Sunday we went to Eastermar in Fryslan again. This was our third expedition to Eastermar. As you may recall, the first time, we failed to find the place altogether, and the second time, we still had trouble figuring it out. This time, it was straightforward, except that Sidsel wanted to take a shortcut outside Zuidhorn which turned out to lead us back into the direction of Groningen! But that road, leading through Den Horn, had some of the most memorable sights so far on offer: engraged Black-Tailed Godwits.
The Godwit is a field bird that forages in ditches. It's got a long beak like an oystercatcher but a slimmer body and longer legs. It's often heard, especially at night, but seldom seen. The fields along the road between Zuidhorn and Den Horn held two couples of them, and they were very busy indeed. Like the lapwings last month, they were nesting, and nesting Godwits don't like strangers. So while one of them remained on the nest, the other patroled the area, decided it didn't like the look of us, and got in our faces, flying half a meter in front of us and screaming at us with that long beak it had. Awesome! They're not exactly big, but they put on an impressive display, and the skill involved in flying in front of a cyclist while facing the cyclist all the time is also not to be sneezed at. Of course, all the effect it had was that we slowed down to watch it. Then once we were out of the first couple's territory, one of the next couple took over.
And around the corner was another, unidentified but similar bird which also eyed us suspiciously.
Eastermar, which we reached at about 4 PM, was as nice as ever. Sidsel had a package to deliver for her aunt and uncle who live there, and they were every bit as hospitable as the last time. They'd made impressive progress on their house as well. The last time we visited, they lived in a secondary building on the same grounds, but by now they had moved into the main building, which is fully furnished and provided with an induction heating system for cold winter nights. The buildings came with an impressive patch of land, and they are making good use of that; there were places to sit and enjoy the sunshine all over. I wouldn't mind living in a place like that, not at all. They still needed to tie up some loose ends (the secondary building now looks dirty and shabby compared to the main house, for instance), but wow!
For most of the way back, we took the same route as earlier, except we rode through some of Western Groningen's towns such as Grootegast and Doezum. Along those roads, we spotted another muskrat, which again escaped being photographed because neither of us had brought a camera (Other wildlife we saw included hares, a troublemaking common jay, and llamas. Although I don't think the llamas were really wild). And suddenly we were at the same point where we'd taken that "shortcut" only now it [i]was[/i] a shortcut so we rode that road again, in the same direction, to check up on our birdies. They were still at it, now chasing away real predators such as seagulls. What a life: chasing anything that moves away from your nest from dusk to dawn, only to find the nest crushed by a mowing machine later on anyway. Let's hope the field's human owner leaves it alone for a few more weeks.