Thursday the 14th
Each day consists of tour options and afternoon sessions at our various festival locations. Events and presentations labeled “FREE” are included
with the price of general registration. Additional fees apply for select tours, workshops, and the Saturday night keynote event. Please remember, all times are Central Daylight Time (Chicago time).
Bird Banding 101
$5 / 6:00 – 10:00am / Dunes State Park Wilson Shelter
Join experienced bird bander Amy Wilms for a peek into the secret migration moving along Lake Michigan. Participants will have a chance to tour the mist-netting banding site and see bird banding up close and in person (and maybe even help release birds). Techniques of bird banding will also be discussed. Report directly to the state park Wilson Shelter.
Lake Michigan Pelagic on the Emita II
$39 / 6:00 – 10:00am / Leader: John Cassady
We’ve partnered with Harbor Country Adventures for a large passenger cruise boat, the Emita II. We’ll take a 3-hour cruise with expert birding guides to seek out late migrating waterfowl such as Red-breasted Mergansers and Common Loons, as well as migrating shorebirds and land birds along the dune beaches. This tour is weather dependent, with rain dates being offered on both Friday and Sunday.
Dunes Big Morning!
$30 / 6:00am – 12:00pm / Leader: Matt Igleski
Here is your chance to enjoy the fast-paced birding of a Big Day, but all before lunch! Speed around on a fast and furious morning to rack up a morning goal of 100 species. Our van guides will choose the best route for a variety of migrating birds each day. A box lunch is offered at the conclusion of the tour. This morning adventure is great for festival returnees and those looking to rack up a big list of dunes migrants and breeding birds.
Indiana Dunes State Park
$5 / 6:30 – 11:00am / Leader: Michael Topp
One of the premier birding sites during the festival! The Dunes State Park is simply great migrant birding. An assortment of warblers, vireos, thrushes, flycatchers, and more can be found here. The Wilson Boardwalk area also plays host to Prothonotary Warblers and the back-dune savannas host many Red-headed Woodpeckers. The terrain should remain flat.
Lake County Wetlands
$25/ 6:30 – 11:00am / Leader: Matt Kalwasinski
Matt will take participants by van to explore Lake County wetland sites. The tour will begin at Grant Street Marsh, which puts visitors on a raised paved path looking down into the marsh. A spotting scope is recommended, but not required. After, the group will visit the nearby Highland Heron Rookery to enjoy more marsh birds. A box lunch is offered at the conclusion of the tour.
DuPont Natural Area
$25/ 6:30 – 11:00am / Leader: Matt Beatty
The DuPont Natural Area is owned by East Chicago Gateway Partners and managed by The Nature Conservancy. It represents the dune and swale habitat of the Great Lakes and is considered globally rare. An assortment of both plants and animals have been found at this normally closed birding hotspot. The site has been known for King Rails and bitterns. This tour is led by van and includes a box lunch at the conclusion of the tour.
$5/ 6:30 – 11:00am / Leader: Amy Kearns
Pinhook Bog is one of few “true” bogs in the southern Great Lakes. Among the tamarack, blueberries, and insectivorous plants there is also unique birding. This site has both upland forests as well as the lowland floating bog mat that we will explore. The site is normally closed to the public, so you’ll want to pre-register for this carpool tour that often produces Connecticut Warblers.
$5 / 7:00 – 11:00am / Leader: Rick Read
Cowles Bog is a birding treasure trove and an 8,000-year-old fen. This National Park Service site is home to the birthplace of ecology and is also a varied habitat for a diverse set of migrating birds. The swamp edges can host many migrating warblers, including large Northern Waterthrush numbers. Sandhill Cranes and rails nest throughout the property. Rarities tend to be found at this premier birding destination in the dunes.
Hannah and Erik Go Birding
$5/ 7:00 – 11:00am / Leaders: Hannah and Erik Go Birding
Hannah and Erik are a husband/wife bird nerd podcast team that loves to explore, adventure, meet new people, and watch birds. Join them for a fun morning in the dunes area seeking out the peak of spring migration in the dunes in four hours of birding via carpool. All locations will be within the Indiana Dunes State and National Parks.
Ambler Flatwoods Boreal Migrants
$25 / 7:00 – 11:00am / Leader: Sarah Barnes
The largest Shirley Heinze Land Trust property harbors a true gem of relict populations of northern plant species, which translates to a haven for many neotropical migrants heading north. It’s a great place for migrant and nesting forest birds, including thrushes, warblers, and flycatchers. It’s also a great trip for wildflower seekers. This tour is led by van and includes a box lunch at the conclusion of the tour.
Birding the Dunes with Lifer Nature Tours
$5 / 7:00 – 11:00am / Leader: Lifer Nature Tours
As the official tour company of the Indiana Dunes Birding Festival, our Lifer Nature Tours expert guides will highlight some of the best birding in the dunes area and seek out some of the best birds to be found during the festival. This is not a trip to miss.
Dunes Heron Rookery
$5/ 8:00 – 11:30am / Leader: Randy Pals
Named for the Great Blue Herons that formerly nested at this inland National Park property, the Heron Rookery is well known for its outstanding display of spring wildflowers. It is also an excellent place to find uncommon migrating songbirds such as Golden-winged Warbler and Yellow-throated Warbler, but also deep-woods specialties such as Pileated Woodpecker and Barred Owl. Expect an array of warblers and thrushes. The trail may be muddy.
$5 / 8:00 – 11:30am / Leader: Cookie Ferguson
Visit the woodlands and wetlands that make up the Beverly Shores area in pursuit of nesting and migrant species. Highlight birds may include both Pine and Prairie Warbler, Summer Tanagers, rails, and Sandhill Cranes down near the wetlands. Other woodland, marsh, wetland, and waterfowl species can be expected.
Warblers of Brincka-Cross Gardens
$5 / 8:00 – 11:00am / Leader: Kim Ehn
Originally a horticulturalist’s dream, this Frank Lloyd Wright inspired home, garden, and accompanying forestland is a wonderous place to seek out migrating birds. Recently, the many cedars and hemlocks on the property have played host to breeding Blackburnian Warblers as well. The trails are flat and easy with accessible boardwalks.
National Park Ranger Bird Hike
$5 / 9:00 – 11:30am / Leader: National Park Service Rangers
Are you new to birding or looking for a more relaxed birding opportunity? Take part in these daily morning bird walks with the rangers from the Indiana Dunes National Park. Each morning this tour will meet at the Visitor Center and walk the often-productive nearby grounds and bike trail towards the Indiana Dunes State Park in search of migrating birds. No carpooling required. Binoculars are also available for borrowing if needed.
Festival Headliner: Sarah Saunders
Survival by Degrees: 389 Bird Species on the Brink
FREE/ 11:30am – 12:30pm / Dunes Visitor Center
National Audubon Society’s new science shows that two-thirds of North American bird species are at risk of extinction from climate change. The good news is that our science also shows that if we act now, we can help improve the chances for 76% of species at risk. Audubon scientists studied 604 North American bird species using 140 million bird records—including observational data from bird lovers across the country. Learn about the science behind the findings and the impact on birds in your local community.
How Monty and Rose took Chicago by storm - A Piping Plover’s Story
FREE/ 1:00 – 2:00pm / Dunes Visitor Center/ Presenter: Tamima Itani
In the spring of 2019, a pair of endangered Piping Plovers nested on Montrose Beach, the first such event in Chicago since 1955. They and their chicks weaved themselves into the hearts of birders and non-birders alike, becoming stellar ambassadors for their species. Tamima Itani, Volunteer Coordinator and Board Member of the Illinois Ornithological Society, will describe Piping Plover life history and how the Great Lakes Piping Plover Recovery Effort is bringing these birds back, as well as share stories from the Chicago experience.
The Raptors of Humane Indiana Live!
FREE/ 1:00 – 2:00pm / Douglas Center/ Presenter: Humane Indiana Wildlife
Join the Humane Indiana Wildlife staff for a close-up look at live birds of prey moving through the dunes right now. This fun and educational program will discuss the hawks, falcons, and owls that can be seen in the field this week or throughout the year in the Great Lakes region.
Warblers and Beyond: Connecting the Americas in Migration
$20/ 1:00 – 4:00pm / Dunes SP Nature Center/ Presenter: Dan Mallinger
Dan Mallinger will present an introduction to the warbler species of the Indiana Dunes, seen in both migration and breeding. We’ll focus on each species’ unique life history, threats they face across their range, and how citizen science is helping conservation both here and on the wintering range. Afterwards we’ll have some field time to practice our identification as part of this special workshop.
Spotting the Unspottable: The story of the first ever catch of the mythical Unspotted Saw Whet Owl
FREE / Thursday 2:30-3:30pm / Dunes Visitor Center/ Presenter: Ernesto Carman from Lifer Nature Tours
Costa Rica is a bird-watcher's paradise, but of all the colorful, enigmatic and unique birds, there is one that stands out for both its rareness and its cuteness. The elusive Unspotted Saw-Whet Owl avoided all Costa Rican birders for many years until a small group of bird guides began a race to not only spot it, but to study, understand and even band it for the very first time in history. Hear the story from the person that made everything possible, Ernest Carman, top guide for Lifer Nature Tours. Many years of very cold field work concluded in the first ever data on territorial size of this wonderful Owl
Cloudy with a Chance of Migration: Using Weather Radar to Track the Incredible Flights of Birds, Bats, and Bugs
FREE / 2:30-3:30pm / Douglas Center/ Presenter: Philip Stepanian
Our atmosphere is the largest expanse of wildlife habitat on Earth but monitoring the flying animals that call the sky their home is still a major challenge. Using our continental radar network, Dr. Phil Stepanian will take you on a guided tour around the national airspace, giving a bird’s-eye view of the wildlife activity far above our heads. Come explore the weather that drives this dynamic habitat, and the lofty lives of birds, bats, and bugs!
Heron Rookery in the Afternoon
$15/ 2:00 – 5:00pm / Leader: Richard Garrett and Bill Sharkey
Named for the Great Blue Herons that formerly nested at this inland National Park property, the Heron Rookery is well-known for its outstanding display of spring wildflowers. It is also an excellent place to find uncommon migrating songbirds such as Golden-winged Warbler and Yellow-throated Warbler, but also deep woods specialties such as Pileated Woodpecker and Barred Owl. Expect an array of warblers and thrushes. The trail may be muddy.
Cowles Bog 50 Species Afternoon Birdathon
$15/ 2:00 – 5:00pm / Leader: Annie Aguirre
Annie will race to find 50+ species in 180 minutes at Cowles Bog this afternoon. Cowles Bog is a birding treasure trove and an 8,000-year-old fen. This National Park Service site is home to the birthplace of ecology and is also a varied habitat for a diverse set of migrating birds. The swamp edges can host many migrating warblers, including large Northern Waterthrush numbers. Sandhill Cranes and rails nest throughout the property.
Indiana Dunes State Park Afternoon Warblers
$15/ 2:00 – 5:00pm / Leader: John Lindsey
One of the premier birding sites during the festival! The Dunes State Park is simply great migrant birding. An assortment of warblers, vireos, thrushes, flycatchers, and more can be found here. The Wilson Boardwalk area also plays host to Prothonotary Warblers and the back-dune savannas host many Red-headed Woodpeckers. The terrain covered should remain flat during this afternoon tour.
Bird Art Workshop with Kristina Knowski
$25 / 3:00 – 5:00pm / Brincka Cross Gardens
Join our official festival artist for a hands-on art workshop. Kristina will walk you through your own festival themed art projects. Snacks and refreshments will be available. Participants report directly to the Brincka Cross Gardens for this special workshop, which requires advance registration.
Audubon Great Lakes Social at Bird Fest!
FREE / 6:00 - 9:00pm / Gelsosomo’s Pizzeria Chesterton
Join us for a special reception for members and chapters to celebrate the Indiana Dunes Birding Fest with your fellow Audubon birder community and help us unveil an exciting partnership. Pizza buffet will be provided. Cash bar. Please RSVP on a first-come-first serve basis to Izabela Grobelna, Chapter Network Associate, at Izabela.email@example.com or call (312) 453-0230 ext. 2012. Limited spots are available.
Woodcock Sky Dance Tour
$15/ 7:30 – 9:00pm / Leader: Amy Kearns
The bird with many names! Whether you call it the timberdoodle, bog sucker, Labrador twister, or more simply the woodcock, its spring dance is a sight to behold. Join us for a short drive to watch the evening curtain rise on this quite punctual performer. Limited spots, so register early.
Owl Prowl Tour
$15 / 7:45 – 9:00pm / Leader: Cookie Ferguson
Finding popular birds of the twilight is the goal this evening. Cookie will carpool a select group to target the amazing and stealthy world of owls. Based on local observations, we’ll try to find a few species and look at the adaptations they need to survive. Limited spots, so register early.
Whip-poor-will Wander Tour
$15 / 8:00 – 9:00pm / Leader: Matt Beatty
To find the most vociferous bird of the dunes, you need not set your alarm early. Meet Matt for a carpool tour to seek out the loud Eastern Whip-poor-wills of the dune forests. If we’re lucky, we’ll have close looks at this highly territorial forest-floor dweller.