State Parks Indiana

Long-Eared Owls

Sunday, February 5, 2017 – There had been multiple emails on the Indiana birding list serve about the Long-eared Owls at Prophetstown State Park. We had been seeing them for almost 2 weeks before we were able to make time in our schedule. We had pretty good directions on where to find them in the park (unlike the last time one was seen there.)

It was a gorgeous day 46 degrees and sunny, but pretty windy out on the prairie. We started on trail 1 towards the site and there was no mistaking where the bird was – birders and their spotting scopes or determined hikers with binoculars.

Within seconds of coming to the site, we were helped to locate the birds and quickly saw 3 of them!!! Yay – LIFE BIRDS!

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SAC was able to take pretty good photos of them although the saplings in the fen were good camouflage.

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She took pictures with our DSLR and she also used her iPhone and Bluetooth shutter release to digiscope some pretty good photos.  I’m not a good judge of distance, but they were maybe 20 feet off the trail. We kept a quiet demeanor and didn’t stay very long so as not to disturb them. I don’t know that they would have been disturbed. They have been in the same location for 2 weeks, at least, and haven’t seemed to mind their paparazzi!

leow-smaller

 

We decided it was such a beautiful day and we had been working hard all weekend on cleaning and decluttering the house, so we walked on towards the pond. We saw northern shovelers, mallards, and American tree sparrows. Still present were 12 mute swans, 2 of which were juveniles.

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We walked on to see if Trail 3 was inundated by the water like it was on our last trip, but it was now open. We didn’t have time to take that, so we headed back to our parking lot via the paved, multi-use trail. We heard a ruckus towards the Wabash River – a murder of many crows probably was protesting an eagle although I didn’t get a look at it. SAC thought she may have seen it, but wasn’t sure.

We had a great day and were able to add to our life list!

 

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One of SAC’s digiscoped photos

 

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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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First Hike of 2017 – Shades State Park

Even though rain was forecast for January 2, SAC and I met up with a coworker at Shades State Park this morning. He has a knowledge of orchids and was showing us some places that they grow in Shades and Pine Hills. After walking around the top of Trail 1, we decided to hike trail 10 over to Pine Hills.

shades

Now, I had spent the most part of the week between Christmas and New Year’s eating cookies and reading cozy mysteries, so not in the best of shape. SAC had spent several days laying around with a migraine and some kind of bug. (Not that we were in the best of shape anyway, since it had been several weeks since our last hike!)

Let’s just say, the steps down to the backbones KILLED us! Calves and thighs and oh my! We were both so out of shape that walking up and down stairs at home and work the following day were very painful. Add to that the grace that I was not born with that allowed me to slip down a muddy creek bank and land hard with my already sore shoulder still hanging on to a sapling and you have a very sore old woman. (At least I feel old this week!)

Anyway, we had a wonderful time hiking at our favorite place. Photos are never enough to give the full experience. The sights and smells of the mostly quiet forest calmed our souls and erased the headaches that we had when we arrived.

We were able to learn about several orchid species and can’t wait to locate them during bloom time.

Birds were scarce, but the regulars were there: Nuthatch, chickadees, blue jays, pileated and red-bellied woodpeckers, crow, geese and possible ovenbird. First time we haven’t seen an eagle here in a long time, though.

Great time at our favorite place! Go out and hike, no matter the weather.

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North-Central State Parks – October 30

We made a LONG one-day trip out of visiting Mississinewa Lake, Salamonie Lake and Ouabache State Park on October 30, 2016. We enjoyed our trip and ended up driving a total of 320 miles.

At Miami SRA (at Mississinewa) we saw several regular species including about 15 turkey vultures and 100 ring-billed gulls.

At Peoria SRA (also Mississinewa) we saw a Herring Gull – a new one for the IBBBY list!

The Interpretive Center was open at Salamonie – Amazing!!! And what a fantastic center it was. We hiked the Turkey Trot Nature Trail behind the Center.

At the Tailwaters, we enjoyed watching the antics of 2 juvenile bald eagles and 2 adults. The juveniles were a second/third year and a first year. We may have seen 5–2 of the juvies flying were too white to be first years.

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After a yummy late lunch at the Berg Ale Haus, Huntington, we drove on to Ouabache State Park and hiked around the bison enclosure. We were able to see Cindy, the new bicentennial bison baby – first female born there.

SAC took a bit of video of Cindy and an adult bison eating.

 

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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.
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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!
snake
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.
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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.
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We had supper at the inn and then retired for the evening.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!
Categories: Bicentennial Birding Big Year, Birding, State Parks Indiana | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

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

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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.

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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!

fort-ben-along-the-trail

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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.

shades-august-2016

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.

Categories: Bicentennial Birding Big Year, Birding, Montgomery County, Shades State Park | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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!

dragonfly

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.

green-heron

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!

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We saw 5 new State park species for the IBBY:

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

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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.

Categories: Bicentennial Birding Big Year, Birding, Hiking, Prophetstown State Park, Tippecanoe County | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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!

Categories: Bicentennial Birding Big Year, Birding, Hiking, State Parks Indiana | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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.

Categories: Bicentennial Birding Big Year, Birding, Hiking, State Parks Indiana | Leave a comment

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