Friday, December 26, 2014

Sand, Sand, and More Sand: Birding the Indiana Dunes

By Matthias Benko

     Late autumn in Indiana is a beautiful season for many reasons.  The multicolored leaves of the deciduous trees are finishing up their descent to the ground, pumpkins are being carved, and, of course, the waterfowl are starting to move. That is why, on November 2, the IYBC went on a joint field trip with the birders of the Illinois Young Birders Club (ILYB) to the lakefront.

IYBC and ILYB members checking out some Pine Siskins
The day of fall birding began at the lake watch in Marquette Park. It was bit of a slow morning, but there were definitely some highlights. We saw a Peregrine Falcon chase a Snow Bunting high into the sky, a few Great Black-backed Gulls (the largest gulls in the world,) Horned Grebes close to the beach line, flyover Common Goldeneyes, and a single Red-breasted Merganser. After a while, the birds stopped moving through; therefore, we decided to move on to a new destination—West Beach.

            West Beach also had its notable moments. In the evergreen area, we saw a mixed flock of winter birds that included Pine Siskin, Dark-eyed Junco, and Red-breasted Nuthatch. We tried our best to find a Northern Saw-whet Owl hidden in the pine trees, but our search was to no avail. Since there weren’t any more birds to find, the group leaders decided to walk back to the main parking lot. At the parking lot, we had a highlight of the trip: a Sharp-shinned Hawk! We (the IYBC and ILYB) decided to part ways after that high note. However, before we headed back home, the remaining IYBC members decided to give the Ogden Dunes Pinery a chance. 

The main area of the dunes was somewhat flooded, and, unfortunately, we couldn’t find a Saw-whet. We soon discovered why we couldn’t find an owl; a Cooper’s Hawk was in the vicinity! Even though we didn’t find what we were looking for at this location, it was still fun to walk the beautiful, rugged property.

Matthias Benko and Landon Neumann 
            Since it was getting a little late, my mom and I decided to head back to Indianapolis. I had a great day birding; in fact, it yielded four lifers: Peregrine Falcon, Snow Bunting, Great Black-backed Gull, and Sharp-shinned Hawk! On the drive home, there was another highlight; I spotted a Bald Eagle soaring over the interstate. Hopefully, the IYBC will be able to go back and experience the Dunes’ marvelous avifauna once again.