Some of you may remember that in 2009 I was keeping a separate list of birds seen and identified using only my eyes and ears; in other words "naked birding". My rules were fairly strict. I had to be able to identify the species based on what was only visible to my naked eye, or based on vocalizations heard without any enhancement. For example, if a species was seen and identified in binoculars but the field marks could not be made out without binoculars, the species was not counted. Also, any bird held in-hand for banding could not be counted.
The list totalled 232 species, with most of my birding done in Michigan and Ohio, but a trip in November to the central Atlantic Coast contributed 10 species to this total. I won't include the entire list here, but have included highlights and frustrations from the past year's efforts, in taxonomic order. Purists may argue that this blog posting in particular should not have photos, but seriously, wouldn't this just be the most boring post without them?
A very rare species in Michigan, it is always nice to go to the Atlantic coast in late fall or winter to see numbers of this goose. They were quite tame at Barnegat Lighthouse, New Jersey, allowing great close views and photo opportunities.
Belle Isle is a great place to get close to waterfowl, from the comfort of your car. The subadult male Ring-necked Duck in the photo below was found on the Christmas Bird Count on January 1, and was one of the first species on the list for the year.
There were two great opportunities in southeastern Michigan in 2009 for great views of Long-tailed Ducks. First, an adult male was found by Tom Pavlik in a small unfrozen pond in White Lake Township, Oakland County, in early February.
Then, on Belleville Lake, Wayne County, a small group of females and immatures swam close to shore in early March.
Low flyovers, including birds calling in flight (!) in mid-April at Metro Beach Metropark, Macomb County provided the first chance to add this species to the list. Later in the year, the individual below was very cooperative for the camera at Kiptopecke State Park, Virginia.
It is always nice to see this species flying over the road, along the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, Virginia.
Luckily, a few were still far enough north to be seen in Virginia in November.
Two were a surprise on the lawn in front of the park office at Sterling State Park, Monroe County while birding there on my birthday.
A disappointment. Despite record numbers of this species in the state in spring 2009, and my being able to see two of them, neither the individual at Lake Erie Metropark, Wayne County, nor the one in Washtenaw County (first county record) came close enough for field marks to be seen, so could not be added to this list. At least they could be tallied on my other lists!
This one flew right in front of the car and landed on a signpost along the I-275 freewsay in early April in Canton. Quite a surprise.
Another disappointment. I had too few chances to attend the hawkwatch at Lake Erie Metropark this fall, so had very few chances to even see this species, and none were low enough to identify without binoculars.
Easily seen at Barnegat Lighthouse, New Jersey in November.
Many were easily seen at close range along the jetty at Barnegat Lighthouse, New Jersey.
This species was seen at close range in Michigan more than once, but the most spectacular sighting of the year came at the Mispillion Bay Wildlife Area in Delaware with thousands of birds wheeling around on the mudflats there. The DuPont Nature Center, where the photo below was taken, is a great place to see thousands of Red Knot in May.
It is always fun to sit in the pre-dawn darkness at Oakwoods Metropark, Wayne County, and listen to the courtship activities of this species. Always an audio highlight of the year. This year, many were calling on March 19. Here is one of many recordings made that morning.
It was a thrill just to see this species in Michigan at all, as this was only the 7th ever, but it was even more special as the bird came so close to shore that binoculars were not needed for identification. Vocalizations were even heard!
Another rare species in Michigan, this one has been coming to Berrien County for the past few years and allowed me to obtain recordings, which I posted links to in a previous blog posting, but for those who missed it, click here.
What can I say? My favorite bird, so seeing one is always a highlight. This year, one at Crane Creek State Park, Ohio on my birthday (April 27) was the earliest I've ever seen one and a welcome addition to this special list.
Yes, I banded five of these in 2009, two in Michigan, two in Ohio, and one in Indiana. But the one in Shreve, Ohio in late October was a nice adult male that was easily identified without optical aids as it visited the feeder, as was the adult male in Indianapolis later in the year.
It was disappointing and yet exciting to band one in mid-August at Metro Beach Metropark, Macomb County. It was the first I've ever banded, but rules are rules and it could not be counted for this special list.
Michigan's first ever showed up in spring and lingered all summer into fall. In early June, I spent several hours with these birds, which numbered at least 5 individuals and more likely 6. I obtained recordings which I posted links to in a previous blog posting, but for those who missed it, click here. For other audio highlights from 2009, you may want to revisit my blog posting from July 4, 2009.
There were many opportunities during 2009 to add this species to the list, but the most wonderful experience came in August when large flocks, many of them brown-backed immatures as in the photo below, were swirling around just after sunrise in the marsh.
The winter of 2008/2009 will be remembered for many interesting species, two of which are described below. But cooperative Red-breasted Nuthatches are always a delight, and while chasing crossbills and siskins, the one in the photo below provided entertainment as it fed on the cones in a Wayne County cemetery.
Another delightful species, and it was nice to see these so close, and so numerous, at the northern end of their range at Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware.
Rarely seen in our yard in Inkster, Wayne County, the one that has decided to overwinter has proven quite special as it worked our Redbud Tree only a few feet in front of me as I stood in the living room window in mid-December, and has provided repeat performances since then, though not for the camera!
I am rarely among the finders of rare birds in Michigan, so this one was astounding to run across on June 7 at the Port Huron State Game Area, St. Clair County. A 9th state record, this cooperative bird was even singing occasionally, and approached to within 8-feet, allowing naked-eye identification.
The first to be added to this list were flyovers at Lake Erie Metropark on October 12, but the most memorable experience in 2009 was driving the dikes at the Muskegon Wastewater System on October 17, providing my best-ever opportunities for photographing this sometimes difficult species. Two of the many great shots obtained are below.
The flock of 40-60 birds in Berrien County in April 2009 was an astounding number, given that mainly individuals have been the norm until now, and was a new state bird for me so I just had to go. They were singing, and so I was quickly able to add this species to this special list based on my recognition of their song. But, later, one breeding-plumaged male burst into song only about 30 feet behind us, giving great views, but being too camera-shy to stay their long enough for a photo.
My favorite place to see Purple Finches in southeastern Michigan is at the Eddy Discovery Center at Waterloo State Game Area, Washtenaw County. The place didn't disappoint, and I got the photo below of a male in the trees above the feeders on January 2.
This species didn't get as much attention as the next species, but amazing numbers were present in the south, and even lingered to breed. The one in the photo below was at the same Wayne County cemetery that provided photo opportunities for the Red-breasted Nuthatch above and the crossbills below. Another highlight was hearing the jubilant song as they prepared to breed, recorded here at the Waterloo State Game Area, Washtenaw County.
The lure of the Loxia has drawn many birders into Michigan's Upper Peninsula. But the winter of 2008/2009 saw an irruption of this species into southern Michigan, and beyond, that allowed for many opportunities to view these tame birds at close range. Flocks of 100+ were at several locations, including the Brighton State Recreation Area, Livingston County where the first photo was taken. Many birders saw their first at the Tyler Road Cemetery in Van Buren Township, Wayne County, and this flock provided many hours of entertainment to photographers as well. Such an irruption may not occur again for decades.
They could easily be located by their calls; click here for one of many recordings, but also by the crunching noises as they fed on the cones!