Bicentennial Birding Big Year

End of year wrap up – Good bye 2016

Our Indiana Bicentennial Year has ended as has the Centennial of the State Park and National park systems.

We logged a total of 147 birds, 93 of which were in the State Parks and Reservoirs.

We visited all 24 state parks, 8 lakes and state recreation areas, all 3 national sites (seashore, memorial and national park).

We visited all 92 counties and several state historic sites.

I logged 68.81 hiking miles. ROC logged 27.16 hiking miles. SAC logged 55.96 hiking miles.

I logged 45.28 Advanced Indiana Master Naturalist volunteer hours and 14.65 IMN learning hours.

Highlights: Whooping Cranes, Pacific Loon, Blackburnian Warbler, Blue Grosbeak, Mississippe Kite, Wilson’s Snipe, Smith’s Longspur and Great Horned Owl on the nest.

We enjoyed seeing the state, driving the backroads and visiting the many beautiful small towns and county seats and visiting all the sites. Weather quite often seemed against us, but welcome to Indiana! We haven’t added up the miles driven, or the dollars spent. That may be added at a later date!

Lesson to be learned – Get out and visit your home state. You never know what’s around the bend!

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Spring Mill State Park and Patoka Lake – September 24-26, 2016

September 24

Our State Park weekend started by picking SAC up at her work and driving to Franklin Indiana where we saw Hoosiers on the big screen at the Historic Artcraft Theatre! Since my father was in Hoosiers as an extra and it was filmed in my hometown of New Richmond, I love this movie. The chance to see it again on the big screen was too good to pass up. We spent the night in Franklin.

My dad with Gene Hackman

September 25 – Spring Mill

We drove on down to Spring Mill in the morning hoping to get there in time for a naturalist-led hike. We don’t get to take part in too many of these any more as the offerings are few and far between. We made it in time and had a great hike with Wyatt the naturalist on the trail to Donelson Cave. He talked about the moisture gradient from the
top of the hill to the creek and the plant-life associated with the difference in moisture.
We saw several birds and 3 brown water snakes basking in the sunshine while lying in the riprap which was stabilizing the creek bank. It was refreshing to talk to an enthusiastic naturalist! Great job Wyatt!
After lunch in Mitchell, we went to the Gus Grissom Museum and SAC and I walked trail 6. We then went to the Nature Center and enjoyed looking at the exhibits. We were able to attend another Naturalist led function – a turtle race between red-eared slider, box turtle and painted turtles. The naturalist first discussed the different species of turtles entered in the race. I learned that turtles need sunlight for their shells to grow. Their body continues to grow, but unless they get sunlight, they will outgrow their shells. She also shared that box turtles can live to be 100 and red-eared sliders to 3o years old. She also discussed predators of the turtle and what the 3 species of turtles eat.
SAC and I took the Twin Cave boat ride and then hiked around the lake on Trail 5 while Roger read in the inn. We saw 1 new IBBBY State Park bird – Yellow Throated Vireo.
We had supper at the inn and then retired for the evening.

September 26 – Patoka Lake

Driving on some Indiana Historic Pathways in the rain, we drove through French Lick and West Baden Springs and then on to Patoka Lake. The sun came out briefly while we were driving, but it was mostly cool and rainy. We went to the Nature Center in the Newton-Stewart SRA, but of course, it is closed on Mondays! We saw a bald eagle flying over the lake at the beach and saw some deer along the way. They have some really nice bike trails here.
We saw 2 great egrets at the South Lick Fork Ramp. Another new IBBBY bird.
We drove to the Tulip Trestle the largest train trestle in the US and 3rd largest in the world. There is a nice little park and information kiosk there and an adorable free library shaped like a small train engine.
We stopped at the newly opened Goose Pond Visitor’s Center and then drove to Brazil and picked up (better late than never) Indiana Byways Passport at Lynn’s Pharmacy. ROC got a cherry milkshake and SAC and I had pretzels and then drove on home.
We added:
  • 510 miles traveled.
  • 2 new birds: Yellow Throated Vireo & Great Egret
  • 2 IMN volunteer hours
  • 45 minutes IMN education hours
  • 2 DNR sites
Two more weekends should finish our quest for our DNR sites!
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Fort Benjamin Harrison State Park – September 5, 2016

We ran down to Ft. Harrison for a quick hike Labor Day hike. We were able to get there by 11:30 and it wasn’t horribly busy. SAC and I hiked Fall Creek Trail. It was a 3.07-mile hike and I picked up 1.9 volunteer hours of trash pickup.


While we were hiking, a blimp flew right over us. It was surprising how loud it was!


This is a really nice park and there wasn’t as much litter as I would expect at an urban, well-used park. I am always surprised at the fact that you forget you’re in a big city, the park feels so secluded, even on Labor Day.


We saw one new IBBBY bird:

  • Yellow Bellied Flycatcher

By the time we left, the park entrance had cars backed up quite some way. Glad we were going out!


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Shades State Park – August 22, 2016

It has been a hot, humid, stormy summer and it has been hard to be motivated to be outside any more than needs be. I have had to deal with tall, wet grass to cut and garden to weed and produce to pick and process.

That being said, we hadn’t been to Shades since June and set out to remedy that on Monday, August 22nd. We decided to take some easy trails as we had a late start – 1:30 – due to early appointments and errands.


We hiked trail 9, trail 6, and, as is our habit on every visit here, the top of trail 1. It was actually about 75 degrees and sunny today.

We saw two new birds to add to our IBBY list:

  • Black & White Warbler
  • Blackburnian Warbler

It was a good day, and as always when we hike at Shades, a rejuvenation of our spirits. I added 2 hours to my IMN volunteer time by picking up litter as I always do at State Parks.

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Prophetstown State Park – August 1, 2016

After a very busy morning of garden and produce fixing, we took off for Prophetstown to get some grassland species. I had thought to just have a casual hike and drive, but SAC had other ideas. Mind you, it was 85 degrees out and very humid and sunny. On the prairie! I think she was trying to do me in!


We hiked part of trail 1 but mostly trail 2. I do love this prairie park. And it seems to be a constantly evolving park. We had last been here the end of March and in that time, the entrance to the park has changed completely. Also a new bike trail is being added and an accessible trail to the overlook. It is going to be really nice when those new features are completed.


It was a great walk even in the heat. Should we hike here in these conditions again, we’ll carry twice as much water! I was down to a sip in my bottle although SAC had a little more. We did avail ourselves of the bounty of the prairie in the form of ripe, wild blackberries. I’m sure that is what enabled me to make it back to the vehicle!


We saw 5 new State park species for the IBBY:

  • Prairie Warbler
  • Dickcissel
  • Sedge Wren
  • Green Heron
  • Common Yellowthroat



As we neared the first picnic shelter and restroom, I took off my hat, binoculars, backpack and glasses and put my head under the water fountain! I pulled out a bandana and ran water under it and refilled my water bottle. SAC followed suit. Back on the trail to the vehicle, we were in much better shape and made it to the car and lunch!

I picked up 3 hours of IMN volunteer hours picking up trash.

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State Park Blitz – July 17-19, 2016

Sunday, July 17

We left home early Sunday morning and headed down I-65 south. Our first stop was Hardy Lake Reservoir and we drove along the reservoir and saw several different species of birds but no new ones to add to our list. It was a beautiful sunny morning and about 75 degrees.

makersWe continued south and crossed the Ohio River at Jeffersonville/Louisville over the new bridge. We reached Maker’s Mark Distillery about 11 AM. By this time, it was extremely hot and humid and sunny. Seven years ago, SAC had become an ambassador for them and her barrel of Kentucky Bourbon had come of age. She dipped two bottles with her name printed on them and brought them home as a reward for her patience (plus the cost of the bourbon! 😀 ).

ROC had been debating whether or not to stop at Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site. Since we were so close, we finally convinced him to do so. We watched the video presentation and toured the museum, but since it was so horribly hot and humid, we didn’t walk out around the battle field. I don’t know why – just because it is hilly and prairie and open with few or little trees with the sun beating down on it!!!! We have walked this battlefield several times in the past and have enjoyed the terrain and the park.

We drove back into Indiana and headed towards Corydon. SAC wanted to stop at Turtle Run Winery as we had visited there before and enjoyed the wine we had bought. They were having a concert, which they evidently do almost every Sunday evening in good weather (excepting harvest time) so we had lots of cars to walk through and then basically had to walk through the band performing on the deck to get into the winery itself. But getting the wine was no problem.

Wine purchased, we then drove on into Corydon where they were obviously setting up for a parade on the main drag as the sidewalks were lined with people in lawn chairs and wagons and strollers. I had intended to stop and visit the Corydon Capital State Historic Site tonight so as to get an earlier start in the morning. Instead we drove on to our hotel.

It was 91 degrees by the time we stopped.

Monday, July 18

corydon-with-obannonMonday morning dawned bright and early with a mockingbird singing us merrily on our way. Although we knew the Corydon Capitol State Historic Site was closed on Mondays, we stopped and looked through the windows, took pictures of it and Governor Frank O’Bannon’s statue – with us sitting with him of course, the Corydon Democrat Building and read all the markers around the square. I’ve become quite a fan of Judy O’Bannon’s documentaries on PBS/WFYI in the past several years, including the one about his statue, so I was glad to have my picture taken with him.

(We were very sad to learn that the second sighting in 100 years of a black bear was in Corydon this morning AND WE MISSED IT!!!!!)

We arrived at O’Bannon Woods State Park and, of course, everything was closed. It looks like they might have a nice nature center… 😦


It looks like a really lovely park and we walked to accessible part of the Tulip Valley Trail which starts at the nature center. The 1830s homestead is here and we petted the burros and oxen. About halfway around the trail, we started hearing thunder, the sky darkened, and the wind picked up, so we picked up our speed and made it back to the car before the downpour started. We drove around the park to see what else we can do when we come back here to visit!

We saw several birds and added one state park bird which serenaded us here:

  • Northern Mockingbird

We had torrential rains on the next leg of our journey and the road had many of branches and leaves down on it.

We stopped at St. Meinrad’s Archabbey and perused the gift shop and drove through Santa Claus Land – or Holiday World as it is called now. Even though it was storming, people were in line by the droves to get into the park.

Our next stop was the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial. I bought my Senior Lifetime Pass for National Parks here for $10! I wanted to get it during the centennial year. We toured the museum and then walked back through the park.

Here, too, we were trying to hike between storms. We hiked back to the homestead and talked to the living history employees. This is a very nice park. One of them told us of the visiting Mississippi Kite! We actually saw it on our way back to the car – trying to outrun the rain! Life bird!

SAC took video of a Blue Grosbeak singing.

Among other birds, we saw three new birds for our list, two of them life birds:

  • Summer tanager
  • Blue Grosbeak
  • Mississippi Kite

Driving on, we stopped at Lincoln State Park. We walked around a very little bit as it was storming and we were again appalled at the people who were flocking to the swimming pool to swim as a storm was approaching. We saw several birds, but no new species. Unless the flycatcher species was a new one, but we couldn’t identify it with the brief look we had. We drove around a bit and then on to the next stop.


We drove on to our next state park, Harmonie State Park. We were there just before 5 PM. It was about 77 degrees and sunny, but the park was rain soaked and beaten down. We walked around along the Wabash River. We saw many birds, but didn’t see any new species. We also saw two box turtles!


We saw many birds, but no new species for the year. This scarlet tanager begged his parent for a worm while we watched.


We walked the maze at New Harmony and drove around looking at the buildings and reading the markers.

We headed over to Mt. Carmel, IL, and stayed at a Super 8 motel for the evening. It was a very tiring day and we were glad to get supper and rest.

Monday, July 19

grc-memorialAnother hot and humid day dawned as we drove to the George Rogers Clark National Historic Site. We walked around the Visitors’ Center and then down to the memorial. We walked along the river walk and then drove around the Indiana Territorial Capital and Grouseland and then out to Fort Knox II where General Harrison staged his troops to get ready for the Battle of Tippecanoe and then used it as a hospital when they returned from the Battle. It was a small but informative historic site. We drove around a small Knox County park Oubache, which was really nice.

Our next stop was Shakamak State Park. We drove around and SAC and I walked a trail and saw two new IBBY Birds:

  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird (we’d seen one at home, but not in a park)

By this time it was 91 degrees.

We were home by 5:15 and picked a gallon of blackberries when we got there. It had rained about 1.8 inches while we were gone.


State Parks/Reservoirs visited:

  1. Hardy Lake Reservoir
  2. O’Bannon Woods State Park
  3. Lincoln State Park
  4. Harmonie State Park
  5. Shakamak State Park

National Park Service Sites visited:

  1. George Rogers Clark National Historic Site
  2. Lincoln Boyhood Home National Memorial

State Historic Sites Visited:

  1. Corydon Capitol State Historic Site
  2. Indiana Territorial Capital

Indiana Birding Big Year Birds Seen:

  • Northern Mockingbird
  • Summer Tanager
  • Blue Grosbeak
  • Mississippi Kite
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Ruby Throated Hummingbird

Indiana Master Naturalist Volunteer Hours: 1.5 hours trash pickup


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Monroe Lake & Brown County State Park – June 19, 2016

We decided on this 90 degree 100% humidity day (Well, I may be exaggerating a tad, but it seemed like it!) to drive down to Brown County State Park and Monroe Lake. We stopped first at Jimmy John’s in Bloomington to grab a lunch for later. Jimmy John’s is fast becoming a State Park trip tradition!

We ate lunch at the dam and tailwater area at Monroe Lake. It was hot and sunny and now birds showed except 3 turkey vultures and I did hear a cardinal. We drove around awhile and then went to Paynetown State Recreation Area. There at the Nature Activity Center, we added a nesting Barn Swallow to our IBBY Park list.

We then drove to Brown County State Park and entered through the North gatehouse by way of the double covered bridge and stopped at the Inn to get the SPRGO number. We don’t always remember to get these, but this time found both the Inn and the Park numbers. We stopped by the Nature Center which is being renovated.

Brown County Timber Rattlesnake

Brown County Timber Rattlesnake2

Steph changed her mind about this park. It has always seemed overrated as the place to go for beautiful fall colours. We feel like Montgomery County has as many beautiful trees along Sugar Creek as Brown County has, with much less traffic and people! But she decided that it is a very pretty park when you get away from crowds. And the overlooks are very nicely done – with pull-offs and picnic tables – one or two so they are not crowded. They are beautiful vistas even without the fall colours – reminiscent of the Smokies.

Brown County State Park

We walked the short .74 mile Discovery Trail the starts and ends at the Nature Center. We were able to add two more IBBY species.

New State Park IBBY Species:
Red Eyed Vireo
Yellow Billed Cuckoo

I drove home over the most curvy routes possible!

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Raccoon Lake/Cecil M. Harden – May 15, 2016

We decided to take a quick trip to Raccoon Lake and although we come here occasionally, we’ve only hiked a few times.

Racoon Lake 100 years

We hiked trail 5. It is not adequately marked and we were “bewildered” several times as to where the trail actually went. This is another beef of ours with the Indiana State Park system. Even if there is not enough money to put up wooden signs, at least put out blazes or colored ribbons to mark the trail! We saw a total of 18 species with three new IBBY birds. ROC attracted his first tick of the season. Yuck!

We also hiked the Archery Trail which was fun to do. It is interesting and would be fun to do archery at the various stations along the way.

New IBBY Species:
Eastern Kingbird
Least Flycatcher
Eastern Wood Pewee

Racoon Lake shelter

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Half Way Recap -July 1, 2016

StPk Centeniel Tshirt 3682

We are halfway through the year and I thought it would be a good time to sum up our Bicentennial progress. We’ve been to 19 Bicentennial Birding Big Year Properties with 16 left to visit.

We have seen 71 birds in the state parks and 53 in the rest of non-state park Indiana. which leaves 29 more to get in a state park and 47 in the rest of the state.County List 2016_3753

We have been to 45 of the 92 counties wich leaves 47 left to visit. This is a new and added goal for our Bicentennial year – to visit all 92 counties. I wish I’d taken pictures of all the courthouses as we go through the county seats, but I just wasn’t thinking. Someday I will do this!

At this point, I have all my education and volunteer hours for my Advanced Indiana Master Naturalist certification for the year. And I’ve walked 50.75 miles in the state parks this year.

It’s been interesting so far and I’m excited to see what the second half of the year has in store!


I’m still having terrible struggles with my computer and picture file compatibility. Hopefully someday I’ll get that figured out. I have no way of accessing my photos or dropbox except by emailing them by my iphone to my email. I have 6 drafts ready to publish as soon as I am able to get photos uploaded.

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Mother’s Day Hike

After a leisurely Sunday drive along country roads, we arrived at Tippecanoe River State Park about noon. It was an overcast day to partly sunny with a high of 60 degrees.

Northern Banded Water SnakeWe walked first to the Nature Center, which was closed. Big Surprise there! And walked over to a fishing pier to look at the river. The trees were filled with Baltimore Orioles singing their hearts out. ROC looked down at the river’s edge and saw two Northern Banded Water Snakes swimming onto the shore. He is not a snake lover like SAC and I are, so he was not amused! He is always looking out for Eastern Massasauga, Cottonmouth Water Moccasins and Timber Rattlers on our hikes! We also saw a little Dekays Brown snake along the river.

We decided to hike trail 4 and part of 5. It was a perfect day and the trail was easy to hike and follow. Flowers were blooming and the trees were alive with birdsong.

One of our favorite birds was the entertaining Pileated Woodpecker. I first saw him clinging to a small sapling. He looked quite like a Red-tailed hawk does when they’re clinging to a power line – wobbly. IT then flew down to a fallen log and proceeded to flip last fall’s leaves looking for tidbits for lunch. We probably watch him for ten minutes or so – mesmerized by his performance.

SAC and I took a short hike along a wetland/pond area beside the road. It had two fishing piers on it and we walked from one to the other. We are always on the lookout for our nemesis bird the American Bittern – and our nemesis mammal – the otter. Now Indiana actually spent money to reintroduce otters to the state because of their rarity. But this past year, they let them be trapped because there are so many. I KNOW people have seen them at Muscatatuck, Prophetstown, and here at Tippecanoe River (one of the reintroduction sites), but unfortunately we have never seen one.

We did have a good walk and SAC got to see two families of Canada geese with their goslings, which brought some squee moments!

After driving some more, we finally left as we hadn’t had lunch yet! We drove down to Monticello and ate at the wonderful Sportsman Inn. for some fantastic hamburgers to fortify ourselves after a 5.6 mile 4 hour hike with 12 new (possibly 13) State Park Birds.

Home at 8 PM. A long day, but quite satisfying.

Orchard OrioleBlooming flowers were:

  • Purple Trillium
  • Phlox
  • Spring Beauty
  • Yellow Cinquefoil
  • Rue Anemone
  • Wild Geranium
  • Bue Violet
  • Mayapples
  • Yellow Bellwort

Birds seen or heard:

  • American Robin
  • American Goldfinch
  • Baltimore Oriole
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Grey Catbird
  • Song Sparrow
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Northern Parula
  • White Crowned Sparrow
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Black Capped Chickadee
  • Louisiana Waterthrush
  • Northern Waterthrush
  • Oven Bird
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Eastern Towhee
  • Indigo Bunting
  • Northern Flicker
  • Great Crested Flycatcher
  • Red Shouldered Hawk
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • American Crow
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Red Bellied Woodpecker
  • Red Headed Woodpecker
  • Common Grackle
  • Red Winged Blackbird
  • Brown Headed Cowbird
  • Canada Goose
  • Warbling Vireo
  • Orchard Oriole

*Bolded species are new in state parks.

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