This is the second blog in a series of three summarizing Alex's experiences at the inaugural Indiana Dunes Birding Festival. Read the first post here.
With the knowledge of the Longshore Birding Platform from the previous day, I was determined to get up early to see some birds! Day two started off with some rain, which was worrisome to me when I joined other birders on the platform, but the rain quickly dissipated and another beautiful day was upon us.
It's amazing how many birds fly through this area! The birding was great and incredibly fast paced. Since I am not an expert by any means, it was difficult for me to find birds due to the fast paced nature. Some of the other birders would call out birds flying nearby, and luckily for us, some birds would stop close to the trees. I was able to spot an Grey Crested Flycatcher, Indigo Bunting, Summer Tanager and a Cooper's Hawk to name a few!
After seeing a few birds, I decided I wanted to try and join another tour that I hadn't scheduled. I was able to join the Restoration Birding Tour, which was a carpooling adventure that started at the Indiana Dunes Tourism Center and ended at Marquette Park. It sounded interesting, so why not?
We first traveled to Lake Station to a restoration area tucked away on Lake Street. The area has been worked on for many years and will hopefully be opened to the public soon, but it's currently gated. The restoration land hosts wetlands that you wouldn't believe are located in Northwest Indiana. You have to see it to believe it.
My fellow birders and I were carpooled to this restoration location and we frequently stopped to see various birds down the long-lane road. When we did arrive to the restoration, we found what looks like ruins from a land before time - imagine lots of walking though water, high grasses and wooded areas.
This is where I learned valuable lesson #2 - always wear your hiking boots when birding even if you don't think you'll need them! My feet were soaked, but needless to say, it was worth it. I was able to spot the Northern Water Thrush along the river's edge at the restoration! The Northern Water Thrush was one of the most rewarding birds to find because I didn't give up trying to find it. Persistence is the key when birding.
Something else that I learned about birding is that patience and perseverance eventually payoff when you find your coveted bird. While walking around, we also saw a Bobolink, Yellow Warbler, Peregrine Falcon and a Northern Harrier. We ended up walking much farther than intended to hopefully get our eyes on a Sora. I heard the Sora well enough, but I never saw it. Some of my fellow birders were able to catch a glimpse of it when we were exiting, but I didn't see it.
The last stop on our tour was to Marquette Park in Gary. I was beyond excited to arrive because I had been to the park before, but I never visited while birding. We were able to see a Northern Mocking Bird while walking to the dunes from the parking lot. The Northern Mocking Bird was so convincing at mimicking another bird's call that it actually fooled our guide! They aren't common to see this far north, so I was thrilled to see one. When we made it to the Chanute Trail, we were lucky enough to spot an Osprey. We ended the day spotting a couple of Blue Winged Teals and also a Spotted Sandpiper on our way back to our vehicles.
My day concluded with a presentation called "Indiana Big Year Redux" at the Indiana Dunes State Park Nature Center. The presentation was about a one man's quest to find over 300 birds in Indiana. He gave small tidbits of information about each bird he saw and the measures he took to find them.
On Thursday and Friday night, the festival organizers created a nice networking opportunity for all the birders at The Craft House. Families were welcomed to join the birders for great food and drinks named after birds. My husband and I decided to attend on Friday night. It was a lot of fun and the food was delicious! It was a great way to end the day of birding.
Stay tuned for my final recap and thank you for reading!
Contributing Editor: Alex Maciel
Former Visitor Services Manager with the South Shore CVA.