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.
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:
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.
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.