Saturday, July 4, 2009

200th Species for Naked Birding List

On June 21, 2009, Nancy and I went up to the Deckerville area in Sanilac County, Michigan where we were to begin our USFWS Breeding Bird Survey route ( a little after 5 a.m. We've done this route every year since 1992, and other routes off-and-on since 1978. In the dark, I heard a Sedge Wren singing, and thus added it as the 200th species on my 2009 Naked Birding list for Michigan:

Click to hear my Sedge Wren recording

Naked Birding? Perhaps a little explanation is in order here!

Late last fall, a birder posted to the Ohio-Birds chat group that he was going to do a "naked birding" list in Ohio in 2009. His description of the list intrigued me, and I decided to do one of my own for Michigan in 2009. Despite what it sounds like, it is not going out au-natural looking for birds. It is intended to test your birding skills using only your naked eyes and naked ears, no optical or audio assistance (i.e., no binoculars, scopes, cameras, or listening devices).

As a long-time "ear-birder" I was up for the challenge!

From January through March, many birds were added based on visual observation at close range, or based on long-distance visual characters I've learned over the years. But beginning with spring migration, as expected, the bulk of my new Naked List birds were heard only, as singing birds flooded into the state. It was frustrating to not be able to add such rarities as White-faced Ibis, present and found in both Wayne and Washtenaw counties, because they were simply too distant to identify with the naked eye. That was my rule, that I must be able to IDENTIFY it with my naked eye, not just SEE it. Seeing a distant White-faced Ibis, identifying it through binoculars or a scope, then "counting" it after that ID was made was not allowed. That would be cheating.

In late April, a flock of Smith's Longspurs was being seen in Berrien County in the southwestern corner of the state. Being familar with the species already, though not having it on my Michigan list, I went over and found a field full of singing and calling Smith's Longspurs (and only one Lapland!). This identification was based on the songs and calls, with which I am familiar, but just to seal the deal a beautiful breeding-plumaged adult male landed on a patch of corn stubble just 30-feet away, making a visual ID easy too.

During the month of May, many new species were added based mainly on vocalizations, many quite beautiful as many birders already know.

Click to hear my Hooded Warbler recording

Click to hear my Mourning Warbler recording

Click to hear my American Redstart recording

Click to hear my Black-and-white Warbler recording

Click to hear my Cerulean Warbler recording

Click to hear my Canada Warbler recording

Click to hear my Chestnut-sided Warbler recording

Click to hear my Magnolia Warbler recording

Click to hear my Wood Thrush recording

Click to hear my Yellow-throated Vireo recording

Click to hear my Bobolink recording

Click to hear my Scarlet Tanager recording

On June 4th, I was finally able to head back to Berrien County where the state's first ever Fish Crow had been seen since late May, but mostly "it" was being heard. I arrived in the area well before sunrise so that I could try to find the Chuck-will's-widow that was present nearby for the 4th or 5th year in a row. It was fairly easy to find this bird, and I managed a decent, if not quiet recording, a short portion of which can be heard below:

Click to hear my Chuck-will's-widow recording

At the Forest Lawn Landfill, Three Oaks Township, I managed to see and hear at least one Fish Crow calling and flying overhead in my first hour on site. During the second hour, things got more interesting as it was obvious multiple Fish Crows were present, and my recordings help prove this.

Click to hear my Fish Crow recording

On June 7, species 199 for the list was another Wren, this one a first for my state list as well (and only the 9th for the state overall), a Rock Wren found while I was leading a Washtenaw Audubon Society field trip to the Port Huron State Game Area! Although it wasn't close enough to identify when initially found, it not only approached to within 10-feet, but even sang a few times!

The next challenge for my Naked Birding list will be shorebirds. I haven't done much yet this year as far as this challenging group, and I'll need to brush up on shorebird vocalizations if I hope to add more than just a couple to the list. Stay tuned.


Jochen said...

Does it count when you successfully "chase" a rarity someone else found entirely by the help of optics?


Cheers, Allen, that Wren is great, both the picture and the species!

Allen Chartier said...


Yes, I believe that the Smith's Longspurs fall into that category as others found them with optical assistance, but I was able to ID them by song right away. Of course I did look at them through binoculars too.

It seems that my blog has been labeled offensive, which is the cause of my email problems, simply for the use of the word "naked" in my entry.

Jochen said...

Oh crap!
Blogger once also shut down my blog temporarily for a comparable reason - that is so annoying!!

I suppose it is an automated thing as I can't see how anyone who has read the post would flag it as offensive.

Frizz said...

Glad I found you. I am just getting into birds and you've got a lot of great info and pics.

I just posted some ruby throat pics I took in U.P. on my blog. My dad had more than a dozen hitting his feeder in June.

Cathy Carroll said...

Allen, great post and great challenge. The vocalizations are also great.

Laurent said...

Thanks for the recordings, Allen. Do you use special gear to record the sounds?

Hope you don't mind, I transfered your recordings on my birding Ipod