First Day Hike

January 1, 2015 – First Day Hike2015-01-01 10.23.24-1

My daughter and I saw our first bird of the year on our way up to Indiana Dunes State Park to take part in the DNR’s First Day Hike.  While we have hiked the three dunes in the past, it was before we learned about the Three Dune Challenge! It had been on our list of things to do and this was the perfect opportunity to accept this challenge.

The weather cooperated, roads clear for the three-hour drive. We got up way too early – too eager and didn’t want to miss it. When the sun did come up, we had beautiful blue sky and sunshine, although the wind was a bit brisk! The day eventually warmed, but not as warm as the first time we did this hike. We first hiked it on a very hot, humid day in July and we were totally drenched in sweat and had to refill our water bottles in the campground before we got back to the car!

We enjoyed the hike with 100 plus other people. And we did get extremely warmed up going up those dunes! We had to unzip our parkas and take off our hats.

List of birds at the park:

  • American Crow
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Blue Jay
  • European Starling
  • Black bird
  • Rock Doves
  • Canada Geese
  • Gulls – probably Ring-Billed
  • Red Tailed Hawk


We looked for Northern Shrikes along the Beverly Drive (known to local birders as “Shrike Alley”). They had been spotted here before and I would love to see one, but didn’t see any.

Like I was going to swim!!!

Like I was going to swim anyway!!!

DSC_0009 (3)We then drove on north into Michigan to New Buffalo to see the Snowy Owl along the breakwater. We spotted it even though another vehicle pulled up way in front of ours, blocking our view, and the woman got out and walked closer to get a picture of it. We took our picture from the vehicle and much farther back in the parking lot even though it was out on the breakwater. The owl was watching the woman’s movements very closely. We never get out of our vehicle and always try to park a ways away from this unusual birds. We figure they get enough publicity that people who either don’t know good birding protocol or just don’t care stress them out enough. My daughter has heard of a Snowy Owl starving to death because it wasn’t left alone enough to hunt.

On our way home, we detoured to Kankakee Sands, a wonderful Nature Conservancy property in Newton County. I can’t say enough good things about the Nature Conservancy or this property! We were looking for a glimpse of the Short-eared Owls that had been seen here recently. We have seen these owls at Universal Mine

in Vigo County, Indiana. And I love these owls that flit around like giant moths! It was the perfect time of day to see them and although we drove up and down all the roads around there very slowly, stopping at many of the parking lots the Conservancy made, we didn’t see them. At least two other cars were full of people doing the same thing while we were there. We did see a marvelous New Year’s sunset over the golden prairie – always spectacular!DSC_0015

Birds seen at Kankakee Sands:

  • Ring Necked Pheasant (male)
  • Northern Harriers (numerous hunting and hovering, seemingly still in the the brisk winds)
  • American Tree Sparrows


As we continued our way home, we saw a fox along the highway at Fowler.


All in all a beautiful New Year’s Day with 14 species to start our 2015 Tally.

Categories: Birding, First Of Year | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “First Day Hike

  1. Cool post! I did a First Day event too, in southern Indiana.

    And I learned something about birding protocol! Not being a birder, I didn’t know about staying in one’s vehicle. I would not have approached near enough to disturb, due to my animal experience and general respect for wildlife, but it’s good to know a protocol exists.

    • Birding protocol can vary widely depending on the species and habitat and time of year. Nesting birds shouldn’t be disturbed by getting too close. Snowy owls in particular, because they are used to wide open spaces with few people, can be especially sensitive to how close humans get.

      Here is a good link with responsible birding practices. 🙂

  2. Pingback: Centennials and Bicentennials | Jan's Nature Blog

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