Indiana Dunes State Park
The Indiana Dunes State Park occupies 2,182 acres in Northwest Indiana. It was established in 1925, as Indiana's 5th state park. The rare collection of habitats and associated plants and animals has long been recognized as one of the most biologically rich areas in the country.
prairie, and savanna habitat. This mixture helps support a vast variety of bird species, and supports many migrating birds as they funnel along the lakeshore during migration.While any trail can find a good variety of birds, trails 2 and 10 are by far the most popular with birders. Trail 2 circles the Great Marsh and traverses it on a mile-long boardwalk. Trail 2 is a good spot for nesting woodland birds such as Hooded Warbler, Veery, and Red-shouldered Hawk. Kirtland's Warbler has also been found here. Trail 10 follows behind the high dunes, and comes back along the beach. A variety of forestland and savanna habitat is passed on this hike. Birding opportunities exist at the east end of the park where Trail 10 passes through the Pinery and Paradise Valley. Trails 7 and 8 crisscross the high dunes where migrant passerines can be found when the winds are calmer. Whippoorwills are also common on summer evenings in the high dunes. Trail 3 is a short unique trail that starts at the bird observation area (old green tower) and passes through open high dunes, savanna, and finally prairie habitat on the west end of the park. Trail 9 is also a good trail to visit the park's high dunes and blowout features. Summer Tanager and Prairie Warbler have been seen in recent years in the blowouts. Along the lakeshore, the bird observation area (old green tower) located on a dune west of the West Beach Parking Lot offers birders a good vantage point for migrating waterfowl, passerines, and hawks. The former tower on this site is now gone, but plans are in the works on a new tower to replace it. Both Dunes area and state record high counts for individual birds have been recorded from the old green tower. Some species counts include: Eastern Kingbird (418; state record), Cliff Swallow (120; Dunes area record), Cape May Warbler (21; Dunes area record), and Scarlet Tanager (61; state record). Record counts have also been tallied for Northern Flicker (600; state record) and counts around 100 have been made of Baltimore Oriole. Visitors should not pass up an opportunity to visit the park's Nature Center. Information on the park itself, and recent bird sightings can be found there. The bird feeder area often hosts winter finches before other areas of the state, and gives good glimpses at some of the more common species. The area around the main beach is handicapped-accessible, with concrete pads offering good views of the lake. The park's Nature Center keeps an all-terrain wheelchair available for free use with a driver's license deposit. The park's wheelchair opens up most of the park for the disabled visitor. Typical Time to Bird Site: 2-8 hours, though all-day vigils are conducted from the bird observation area.
Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve
The Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve features 157-acres of wetlands, woodlands, prairies and trails. An abundance of plants (over 500 species!) and animals make their homes in The Preserve. Brick paved walkways, winding boardwalks and miles of granite fine trails invite guests to explore, unwind and enjoy. Known regionally for miles of hiking trails in a tranquil setting.
Michigan City Harbor
Michigan City Harbor (MCH) is a well-known lakefront birding site located in northwest Indiana just miles from the Michigan state line. The harbor, with its beaches, piers, yacht basin, and breakwaters is almost certainly the best site on the lakefront for viewing Lake Michigan birds. A full 40% of the rare and accidental species on the Indiana state checklist were documented at MCH, arguably making it the state's premiere birding site.
The beaches and waters of MCH are regular for loons, grebes, diving ducks, gulls, terns, and shorebirds. The sparse vegetation of Washington Park's wooded area is well suited for viewing migrant passerines during periods of heavy flight. These birds most commonly include thrushes, wrens, vireos, warblers, and sparrows.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
Beverly Shores is a Dunes community located along Lake Michigan between Mount Baldy and the Indiana Dunes State Park. Although somewhat lesser known than other northwest Indiana birding sites, Beverly Shores is practically unparalleled in both habitat diversity and ease of access, making it a "must stop" site for any Dunes area Big Day itineraries.
The site is comprised of two distinct, spatially separated habitats that will be discussed in turn: Beverly Drive and Lake Shore Drive. Beverly Drive is a two lane road that runs along the southern boundary of the Beverly Shores community, transecting a large tract of interdunal marsh. The interdunal marsh is a wetland habitat that occurs between the old dune crests (before the last recession of Lake Michigan) and the current dune crests. This unique habitat fosters the nationally renowned diversity of plants and animals found within the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (IDNL). Beverly Drive courses in an east-west orientation for about 3.5 miles between Kemil Road and US 12. The road has major speed restrictions and is heavily patrolled by the Beverly Shores Police. Beverly Drive can be birded by a couple of methods depending on time constraints and the birds of interest. The best way to sample the greatest number birds is to drive slowly down the road with all the car windows rolled down. Be advised that although this technique produces great numbers and diversity of species, most tallied birds are by sound only and not sight. Therefore it helps to have at least one "song-savvy" member in your birding party! Because there are few pull-offs along Beverly Drive, there are not many opportunities to get out and bird on foot. Be aware that the Beverly Shores Police Department has a fairly low tolerance for abnormal driving behavior and officers may ask you to move along if you're stopped or moving too slowly. They have, in the past, even been known to utter the word "ticket" when confronting drivers of stopped vehicles. The other birding strategy along Beverly Drive specifically concerns marsh birds found at the road's west end. Rails and bitterns are best heard in the cattail marsh located at the intersection of Beverly Drive and Kemil Road. If interested in these birds, it may be necessary to pull off along this intersection and listen for them. Dawn and the immediate pre-dawn hours are the best times to see and hear rails, bitterns, and owls in this area. In May and June, be sure to drive slowly along the tree-shrouded portion of Kemil Road between US 12 and Beverly Drive to listen for calling Acadian Flycatchers, Cerulean Warblers, and Louisiana Waterthrush. Local birders have dubbed Beverly Drive "shrike alley" for its tendency to attract Northern Shrikes during the winter months. These birds, however, hunt over large territories in the interdunal marsh and can be difficult to find on any given day. Typical Time to bird Beverly Drive: 30-60 minutes. Lake Shore Drive runs along the Lake Michigan shoreline and defines the northern boundary of Beverly Shores. Although the lake can be viewed along the entire length of the road, parking is fairly restrictive in this residential area. The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore's Lakeview Overlook facility located on the north side of the Lake Shore Drive provides parking and a platform from which to scan the lake. Additional National Lakeshore parking can be found at the north ends of Kemil Road and Central Avenue, both of which require some walking to access the beach. Migrating loons, grebes, waterfowl, jaegers, and interesting gulls can be found seasonally along this stretch of shoreline. Jaeger watches conducted in recent years have met with excellent results. Check the IN-BIRD Archives for posts on jeagers from Beverly Shores. Typical Time to bird Lake Shore Drive: 15-60 minutes, although half-day or all-day vigils are sometimes held during major flights.
The Heron Rookery in Porter County, Indiana was set aside to protect the nesting grounds of the Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias). In 1980, the Indiana State Department of Correction transferred 69 acres to the National Park Service in exchange for 33 acres of land at Hoosier Prairie. In 1982, the Youth Conservation Corp constructed the trail and parking at the east side of the unit on County Road 600 E.
The most enjoyable season to visit the Rookery is when the Great Blue Herons are nesting. From the east parking area, you can follow the trail northwards to the East Arm Little Calumet River. Across the river on the north bank is the rookery. Annually, these great birds return to nest. The Great Blue Heron is the largest of the North American Heron families. They stand 4 feet (1.2 m) tall and have a wingspan of 7 feet (2.1 m). It is best to visit with a ranger on a guide walk as they birds can be hard to find, high in their nests. If you continue west along the trail, you’ll follow the Little Calumet River for over a mile through a hardwood forest. The herons roost in the eastern end with its tall sycamores. As you move towards the west, the woods become denser with beech, tulip poplars and maples. Here, there are a variety of smaller birds, including kinglets, wood thrushes, woodpeckers, and warblers.
Miller Beach / Woods
Home to some of the world's most threatened ecosystems, Miller Beach contains a high proportion of protected land. Miller encompasses the westernmost part of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, including the Miller Woods and Long Lake areas. The National Lakeshore's popular West Beach area lies immediately to the east of Miller Beach. The entire shoreline of Miller is public beachfront.
Miller Beach and the adjacent West Beach area of the National Lakeshore provide a stopping point for many migratory birds, thanks to their position at the southernmost tip of Lake Michigan, The Audubon Society has consequently designated both areas as Important Bird Areas. In particular, the neighborhood's beachfront is known as one of the best areas in the Midwest for observing jaegers during their autumn migration, and also lies under a spring flyway of the sandhill crane. Migrant birds stopping at Long Lake include the state-endangered least bittern and Virginia rail.