Sensing Nature's Beauty

Birding by Ear and Beyond Program Participants depart for a walk through the Environmental Study Area
Birding by Ear and Beyond Program Participants depart for a walk through the Environmental Study Area
Birding by Ear and Beyond participants head out for a walk in the woods of the Environmental Study Area.

Bird watching is considered a leisure activity for people who can view birds in their natural surroundings. However, in the last few years, blind participants have traveled the trails in the natural area surrounding the University of Michigan-Dearborn’s Environmental Interpretive Center (EIC) in order to “spot” birds by listening. In the woods, as well as in the classroom, lots of learning has occurred, predominately through the use of auditory sounds. Many have become familiar with common Michigan birds, such as the American robin, tufted titmouse, and the blue jay. Through classroom time spent listening to recordings and learning to use clues about the environment, many species of birds can be readily identified by blind and visually impaired students.

Along with monthly classes held indoors and outside of the EIC, the Birding by Ear and Beyond group has ventured on many field trips throughout the state of Michigan, such as attending the Lake Erie Hawk Fest, visiting Nature Discovery in Williamston, and participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count by listing the birds observed by ear. While gaining confidence in one’s abilities to use all available senses to interpret the natural world, the activities have increased awareness of the environment and promoted a sense of wonder with the beauty of nature. Aside from recognizing their lovely songs, much is learned about the birds, such as their physical characteristics, mating and nesting habits, migratory behavior, molting, and feeding preferences.

Typically, Birding by Ear and Beyond meetings are held on the first Saturday morning of the month from 10 am until noon. Field trips, spring birding weekends, and Owl Prowls are specially scheduled. Many sighted friends and family members are also welcome to attend and have reported an increased awareness of their environment and improved abilities to identify birds without using their vision.

Birding by Ear and Beyond is supported by the generosity of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan, and individual donors. If you would like to make a donation in support of this program, please visit the Leaders and Best site.

 

The Birding by Ear and Beyond Program is coordinated by UM-Dearborn alumna, Donna Posont, who herself is blind. Donna graduated with an Environmental Studies degree from the University and was the second blind person in the United States to be recognized as a Certified Interpretive Guide by the National Association for Interpretation (NAI). Donna's efforts with Birding by Ear and Beyond have received national attention. To see and hear more about Birding by Ear and Beyond, select any of the links below:

CBS Evening News profiles Donna Posont and Birding by Ear

Speaking Out for the Blind radio program featuring Donna

If you would like more information on Birding by Ear and Beyond or would like to participate in this unique opportunity to sense nature’s beauty, please contact the project’s coordinator, Donna Posont, by calling 313-220-8140 or email Dposont@umich.edu.

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