Donna Posont is living proof that you don’t have to be able to see well to go bird-watching.

Donna Posont

Donna Posont is a field guide in Michigan who leads a group of blind birdwatchers and helps them recognize birds through sound. / CBS News

The Field Services Director for Opportunities Unlimited for the Blind, Donna Posont runs a “birding by ear” class in Dearborn, Michigan for people who are blind or who have low vision. Instruction begins inside, where participants memorize bird calls through learning words that have been assigned to birds’ chirps and screeches. Armed with a repertoire of  bird songs that they can mimic when the participants go outside, they are ready to interact with the cardinals, blue jays, woodpeckers, and blackbirds that live in the area, “seeing the unseen.”

“Coke-koree!” Donna Posont sings, eliciting a response from a nearby bird. Blind herself, she refined the principles on which she designed the “birding by ear” classes during her own walks in the woods, four years ago. She used recorded bird song to learn to identify and mimic the songs of the forest birds.

Seventh-grader Austin Shepard feels that being able to hear a lot of birds at once is even more special that being able to see them close up, and the sentiment is echoed in the excited cries of other students:

“That one’s up in the treetops!”

“Oh, I hear a cardinal! They’re everywhere!”

The strength of the birding by ear program is not only that it gets people who are blind or have low vision out into the world and enjoying nature, Donna Posont told CBS news, but that it gets them caring about the world enough to make a difference about it and builds their confidence.

Donna Posont says that the experience of birding-by-ear opens the “eyes of their heart.”

What a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.

Read more here