I'm at a business conference in Phoenix. The itinerary indicated no time for birding, so I didn't even pack binoculars or a camera. A trip to Arizona with no birding?! ...This was going to be a waste of a trip!
Well, I was fortunate in that we wrapped up our first day of meetings by 5 p.m.. There was plenty of daylight, so I determined to go for a little bird walk in the vacant lot across the highway from the hotel. This would be bare-naked birding at its best! I stripped off all my cloths and started wandering through the mesquite and cholla looking for birdies. The endemic plants of the desert southwest can sure be prickly on a bare bottom.
Not really, but I did go bare-naked birding in the sense that my only tools were my eyes and ears. No bins, no camera, no scope. Birding with only the senses the good Lord gave me. I found it to be very rewarding and the experience refreshed my birding spirit.
Several tiny Verdin, with mustard yellow heads were calling and fluttering about the brush and trees. I found one of their nests in a large shrub. The entry was tiny Verdin-sized hole at the bottom of the cluster of twigs. I could see by looking up from below that the inner lining of the nest was of finer and softer materials.
Next I found a Cactus Wren singing from the top of another bush. An Abert's Towhee darted through the brush. A Gambel's Quail called from the top of rock several yards away while Mourning Doves and Lesser Goldfinch jetted overhead. Another Mourning Dove bolted from a lonely tree as I passed by, but there on the top of a haphazard cluster of twigs were two gleaming white dove eggs. Looking back toward the hotel I saw a big dark bird carrying something in its bill. It landed on the hotel sign where it had its own nest; a Common Raven.
While circling a large palo verde tree I saw a tiny bird flitting among its branches. It was small enough that I thought it might be another Verdin, but then it popped up in plain site and I could see its black and white color pattern...a Black-throated Gray Warbler! A stunning warbler that I had not seen since observing three of them in October 2006, here in Arizona. Those sightings were so early on in my birding life that I had forgotten I had ever seen one. I thought I had my first bare-naked life bird. My eBird records set me straight..oh well, but super exciting to see a Black-throated Gray Warbler all the same!
I was able to identify 14 species without the aid of optics. One little-brown-job frustratingly scampered beyond the power of my eyes to focus on it. From reading Kenn Kaufman's latest edition of Advanced Birding, I made the mental choice that it was okay, and I finally let it go unidentified. Other highlights included my FOY Western Kingbird and a Northern Mockingbird.
Bare-naked birding can be really exhilarating and gives the regular birder a fun challenge. I highly recommend it! But please keep your clothes on.