By Evan Deutsch
Not all that long ago, birding (bird watching as it was called) was considered something older nerdy types did. Not anymore. It is fast becoming popular with people of all ages and abilities.
The great thing about birding is the low price of entry. All you really need for starters are a good pair of binoculars. They are available at very affordable prices, but avoid binoculars that cost $100 or less, since the quality is questionable. There are any number of sites that rate the different makes and models. A really good source of information is the Audubon Guide to Binoculars (https://www.audubon.org/gear/binocular-guide).
If the birding bug bites you hard enough, a spotting scope for distant birds such as ducks and other waterfowl might be your next purchase. You can’t go wrong purchasing a field guide as well. When I got into birding, I would browse through field guides to familiarize myself. The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America by David Sibley is excellent. For Michigan-only birds, the American Birding Association Field Guide to Birds of Michigan by Allen Chartier will never leave you guessing whether you saw something rare or common. Another David Sibley book that I found fascinating was What It’s Like to be a Bird: From Flying to Nesting, Eating to Singing – What Birds are Doing, and Why.
Then again, if you just want to start out slowly, binoculars and a couple of apps on your phone will work. Merlin Bird ID provides a wealth of information. Not sure what you just saw? Take a picture and Merlin will ID it. Hearing some bird songs? Merlin can listen and tell you which birds are calling. It will also provide you with a little bio on your bird.
Let’s say you want to find a spot that is pretty active and are curious what birds have been seen there – the eBird app will tell you. Birders just like you record what they’ve seen. When you go out, you can return the favor and record what you observed.
Both Merlin and eBird are free apps.
So that brings us to where you should go. You don’t even have to leave Newberry. The Shore to Shore Birding Trail (shoretoshorebirdingtrail.org) goes right through our area. For varied habitat and a wide variety of species, from tree-dwelling songbirds, wading birds, and waterfowl to raptors, you can’t beat Seney National Wildlife Refuge. Whitefish Point (https://wpbo.org) is located on something called a flyway. Think of it as a hub where migrating birds pass through in the spring and fall. It’s located 11 miles north of Paradise. In the fall during raptor migration, you could see literally thousands of hawks of all different types and other birds passing over in one day. In the spring, songbirds known as warblers make their trek north. People from around the world converge on this spot, and here it is, less than an hour away.
Ideally, if you can go with a veteran birder, you will learn a lot. Birding Pals (http://www.birdingpal.org/mi.htm) can pair you with someone to go birding with. It also lists Michigan Audubon groups. You can also contact Michigan Audubon (https://www.michiganaudubon.org) to see if there are nearby members.
So don’t wait – get out there and go birding. You’ll be amazed at what you see.
Photos courteous of Evan Deutsch