Photo: More than 15 thousand cranes stop in NW Indiana on their migrations north and south each year.
Wild birds are an important part of almost every outdoor person’s enjoyment of the natural world. Whether a person is hiking, picnicking, fishing or just sitting on a Lake Michigan beach, birds will be encountered. For some, the bird will just be a flitting glimpse, a bit of color. For others, perhaps spotting wedge of geese or a storm of swarming gulls is a momentary diversion. Birds are just a part of the overall mix which makes an outdoor activity enjoyable.
For some people, spotting birds is the reason for being outdoors. Called “birders” these bird lovers head out with the idea of spotting as many birds as possible, perhaps get a glimpse of a not-so-common bird migrating through the area or a bird so rare, a chance sighting could be a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Photo: Gulls and other birds can be a fun part of a day at the beach.
The Indiana Audubon Society knows this and has produced an interactive map of outstanding locations across the state to guide both avid birders as well as people who just enjoy seeing a variety of birds should visit. No place in Indiana has more bird spotting hotspots than Northwest Indiana. To see the whole Indiana map go to www.indianabirdingtrail.com.
Some of the most important locations listed in our corner of the state are:
Hammond Lakefront Park & Bird Sanctuary
This is one of the best locations in the urbanized region of Northwest Indiana to observe migrating song birds. This relatively short wooded strip of lakefront on Lake Michigan is a virtual oasis of vegetation among a vast urban landscape. Hammond Lakefront Park & Bird Sanctuary was once known simply as “The Migrant Trap,” since it serves as a valuable migration stopover site for multiple dozens of migrant species in both spring and fall.
Indiana Dunes State Park
This property is the one of the greatest birding hotspots in the Midwest. The Indiana Dunes State Park fits within the boundaries of the larger Indiana Dunes National Park and consists of 2,100 acres of beautiful high dunes, extensive swamps, and rolling oak savanna woodlands as well as three miles of sandy beach.
Most of Kankakee Sands was once farmland in Newton County but since being acquired by The Nature Conservancy, more than 7,000 acres have been transformed into a prairie landscape complete with a large herd of bison. The restored grasslands, wet prairies, and wetlands have become a gathering area for both migrating and breeding prairie species that are generally hard to find elsewhere in Indiana.
Jasper-Pulaski Fish & Wildlife Area
While much of the property is suitable for both migrating and breeding birds, most of these are overlooked by the massive Sandhill Crane gathering that occurs each spring and fall. Due to restoration work that began in the 1930s, coupled with feeding areas found in the surrounding area’s agricultural heritage, Jasper-Pulaski’ position within the eastern Sandhill Crane flyway has created the largest gathering of Sandhill Cranes east of the Mississippi River.
These are just a few of the many birding, bird watching or just areas where birds can be an enjoyable anecdote to some other sort of outdoor activity in our area. Check out the interactive map for other locations, nearby or across the state which can put a few birds in your life.
Again, the website is www.indianabirdingtrail.com.