Bird watching in the summer requires a keen eye. Birds aren’t out with their flashy colors and songs as they are in the spring, working to attract mates. They’re staying at their nests, protecting their nests.
This is according to Richard Naber of the Genesee Audubon Society. Still, birds are everywhere and you don’t usually have to leave your yard to start bird watching. “It’s a very inexpensive hobby,” Naber said. He said one just needs some birdseed to attract them and maybe some cheap seven- to eight-power binoculars.
“Birding is a personal thing, you don’t have to be in an organized group,” he said.
Birds have distinct seasons to their activities. Spring is for migrating back and finding mates. Summer is for hunkering down to care of the nest and chicks.
They’re also starting to molt, so the distinctive emerald green head of the mallard is no longer as visible as they prepare for fall.
There are several back yard birds that you can still spot in the summer. “I think most people want to know what’s in their yard,” Naber said. He said there’s about 10 species that come right to your yard.
These include cardinals, chickadees, robins, blue jays and some black birds. A feeder will attract nuthatches and titmice.
While house sparrows are also around, they are seen as an invasive species from Europe. “So true birders don’t get excited about them,” he said. “They can be a very invasive bird in a home.” House finch and starlings are other invasive birds.
Lake Fenton graduate Adam Hoisington is knowledgeable enough about local birds that he teaches a “Birds of Michigan” class at Delta College in the spring.
He started watching birds as a biology student at the University of Michigan– Flint. “I took a field biology class one spring just to fill up some credits and it ended up changing my life,” he said. “I shifted my focus from being in a laboratory with my face buried in a microscope all day to spending my days outside, hiking forests and fields and walking along lakeshores.”
He “got hooked” watching them and ended up doing his master’s thesis on bird communities.
He does most of his bird watching in the spring. “I really look forward to seeing the wood-warblers each May. They are some of the most colorful birds we see in our areas.”
To see raptors, Naber said to simply look up. It’s easy to see turkey vultures along the highways.
To get started
According to Naber, bird watching can be as involved as you make it. You can sit and watch through your window, or go outdoors and hike. You can do it alone or find groups. One useful Facebook group is Michigan Birder and another is Birding Michigan.
Hoisington said nature centers in our area (such as For-Mar Nature Preserve) offer guided bird-watching hikes throughout the year. “That can be a really great place to start for someone who wants to learn the basics of bird watching,” he said. For helpful books, he recommends Pete Dunne’s “On Bird Watching” and “Birds of Eastern and Central North America” by Roger Tory Peterson.
Some places to start looking for birds in the tri-county area would be Sorenson Park in Holly, Dauner Martin Nature Sanctuary in Fenton or Eagle’s Wooden Park in Linden.