Birds of a feather ride together

Published 12:28 am Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Lena Gallitano prepares to launch her Bike for Birds campaign in Elkin earlier this month. (Contributed Photo)

Earlier this month, Lena Gallitano had a unique experience.

During first week of October, Gallitano, an avid birder and Audubon North Carolina board member, participated in Cycle North Carolina’s Fall Ride from Elkin in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains to Corolla on the northern Outer Banks. During this ride, Gallitano challenged sponsors and supporters to make her effort even more worthwhile by contributing to her Bike for Birds campaign. The campaign was a fundraiser for Audubon North Carolina to support its work to conserve and restore the habitats people share with all wildlife, focusing on the needs of birds. An Audubon North Carolina Pearson Society member made a challenge pledge and matched every $20 donation with a $20 donation, up to $1,000.

“On the greenways in Raleigh this spring, I did a lot of birding by ear while riding my bike which made me think … is there a way I can turn this challenging adventure into something more worthwhile?” Gallitano said. “The birds certainly made my training rides more pleasurable, and I’ve been a member of Audubon for many years, so that’s when it clicked: I could make the bike ride a fundraiser called Bike for Birds.”

Gallitano’s ride took her through Plymouth, where she was active in opposing the Navy’s proposed outlying landing field adjacent to Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in 2004. Then, she worked alongside the NO-OLF organization from Plymouth. She spoke to Wake County commissioners, wrote many letters, helped with getting petitions signed and helped organize a bus trip so Raleigh residents could go to Plymouth for a public-comment process held regarding the outlying landing field. For her efforts, she was named Audubon North Carolina’s 2004 Volunteer of the Year.

Being able to come back to the eastern North Carolina area was a good experience, she noted.

“They put on a grand welcome as well, and I was able to connect with friends: Mayor Brian Roth and his wife, Mary Anne, Jennifer Alligood and Doris Morris, who invited me to stay overnight with her. I had a chance to see the new exhibit for Friends of Pocosin Lakes, which I support,” she said. “Tyrrell County Visitors Center allowed me to connect with Howard Phillips with (U.S.) Fish and Wildlife Service at Pocosin Lakes and to catch up with news of the refuge. We rode past Palmetto Peartree Preserve, that is a site on the N.C. Birding Trail and a beautiful remote area.”

Gallitano noted other memorable parts of her trip included stops in Manteo, Henderson and Corolla. The last day included a ride over the U.S. Highway 64 bridge to the Outer Banks and a rest stop at the Bodie Island Lighthouse.

The ride may be over, but Gallitano’s work is not. She is a former president of the Wake Audubon Society and continues to be an active member and volunteer. She serves on the Audubon North Carolina Board of Trustees and supports its work with volunteer hours. She is on several Audubon North Carolina committees. She is a co-organizer for the 75th-anniversary celebration of the Carolina Bird Club. That event will be held in Raleigh in May 2012.

And there is a chance another long-distance bicycle ride could be in the works.

“Overall, this was a wonderful experience, and it was nice to see so many folks enjoying North Carolina. This annual ride is good not only for the cyclists but also to showcase our state and to generate income for our local communities,” she said.