Saturday, June 21, 2014

Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary: Remote Yet Beautiful!

By Matthias Benko

Last month, during the IAS Spring Festival, I was given the wonderful opportunity to see Indiana Audubon Society’s Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary for the first time.  I had heard marvelous things about the sanctuary, but I definitely wanted to formulate my own opinion of the property. Did Mary Gray disappoint?  Not in any manner whatsoever.

Matthias (far right) birding with other young birders
at the Spring Festival. By Chad Williams
The sanctuary’s framework consists of a medium-sized sepia creek, with leafy deciduous forests surrounding the water and covering the majority of the acreage.  Some parts of the property vary in elevation since glaciers moved through the area millions of years ago. Along with forested areas and hills, there are also three or four retention ponds near the three main edifices of the land.  Mary Gray is, quite literally, a breath of fresh air compared to urban areas such as Indianapolis and Connersville.

Throughout the six or seven hours I spent at the property, the birds delivered! I was fortunate to increase my life list by a sum of three birds. A Blue-winged Warbler materialized from the forest onto a tree overlooking Mary Gray’s creek, a nice surprise considering I was perched on a bridge, enjoying the magnificent weather. After a calming lunch break, I discovered a Wood Thrush that was peacefully posed off of a trail behind the main presentation hall.  Finally, the last lifer of the day, by no means the least, was none other than a Cerulean Warbler.  The Cerulean imposed an arduous challenge---trying to get a pleasing, concrete glimpse.  After a good half hour of attempting a glance, I thankfully found the bird at a lower level of the woods, working his way up to the
Blue-winged Warbler at Mary Gray. By Chad Williams
canopy.  Other highlights of the day included a male Common Yellowthroat, a male Northern Parula, a pair of Canada Geese with six goslings, and a Common Moorhen (officially known as the Common Gallinule). The Moorhen was quite a find, as it was in the small portion of reeds that one of the retention ponds had. I remember my mom saying, “There’s a bird that’s been popping in and out of the reeds. It has the most gorgeous red bill.” Our group, who was birding with Joel Greenberg, coaxed the bird out of the plant life by clapping repeatedly. The bird acted bizarrely for a member of the rail family, climbing up a tree and flashing its odd greenish legs. It even posed well enough for birders around the area to observe the bird for a lengthy time period.  My day at Mary Gray was full of pleasing and surprising moments, so much so that I never wanted to leave!

Young nature lovers during a creek walk at the
Spring 2014 Festival.  By Chad Williams
Any member of the Indiana Audubon Society can visit Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary at any time of year. If you ever need a weekend escape to, as Kenn Kaufman says, reality, this sanctuary is the place to travel to. In retrospect, this experience was one of the most satisfying I have ever had.