Birding in our area
Some of the best birding in our region happens on private property – sometimes right outside our own backdoors – and unfortunately we can't tell you about those locations. But here is a sampling of some of the public sites in East Central Indiana that typically offer good birding. If you know of other places in our region that should be listed, please contact us.
For places to bird throughout Indiana, we highly recommend the Indiana Audubon Society's interactive Indiana Birding Trail. A checklist of Indiana birds and other tools and tips for Indiana birders are also found at indianaaudubon.org, under "Birding Resources." You can study up on our state's birds, too, with The Birds of Indiana, a CD that provides text and photos of all 409 species of birds known to have occurred in Indiana.
Hartford City Wilderness Park
Wilderness Park and an adjacent prairie restoration project provide more than 50 acres of natural beauty on the south side of Hartford City. Visitors can access the Wilderness Park from 901 S. West St., where they’ll find a fitness trail and a 1.5-mile walk through 24 acres of woods. Or visitors can enter the prairie restoration from the southeast corner by heading west on Amvets Dr. (near Richard’s Restaurant). See map for details. Learn more about both parts of the property at the Parks Department website and Positively Blackford.
Ball State University Properties
Ball State owns several properties that offer a variety of bird habitats: Christy Woods (18 acres on the university campus), Cooper Farm (about 88 acres that is mostly wooded), Ginn Woods (161 acres that boast the second-largest stand of old-growth forest in the state), Miller Wildlife Preserve (an area along the White River that's also known to long-time Auduboners as "Sixteen Acres"), and Hults Farm (100 acres just outside Albany). Because access to these properties is regulated by Ball State, interested birders should contact John Taylor for more information.
Minnetrista Nature Area
Once an abandoned gravel pit, the Nature Area at Minnetrista now features three representations of Indiana native habitat. Constructed ponds and swales, a woodland area featuring nine varieties of Indiana trees, and a tall grass prairie have encouraged wildlife to frequent the site. The Nature Area is open to the general public free of charge. Call 765-2828-4848 for hours.
Prairie Creek Reservoir
Located five miles southeast of Muncie, Prairie Creek is the largest lake in the county. According to experienced birder Steve Pancol, your best bets for waterfowl are the beach area on the east side of the reservoir (off of County Rd. 532 E), the north shore/campgrounds area, and a sod farm on Windsor Rd. The trailhead is located on County Road 475 East on the West side of Prairie Creek Reservoir.
Mississinewa Lake (Reservoir), just north of Jalapa, is reported to be very good territory for warblers and orioles. It's also a hot spot for bald eagles in January and February. Visit the IDNR website for information about the annual Eagle Watch and other birding events. See map (Jalapa is in lower right corner).
The Taylor University arboretum is a 145-acre nature area (and a state nature preserve), just west of the campus, that offers pleasant birding through varied habitats. For more information about access to the property, call 765-998-5354.
Great blue heron rookery
A notable rookery can be found at the northernmost edge of Grant County, just east of State Rd. 15 along County Line Rd. (aka Wabash CR 1200 S). See map.
Summit Lake State Park
Since its creation in 1988, Summit Lake has become the best place in East Central Indiana to watch waterfowl, especially as they migrate through each fall and spring. Within the park's 2,500 acres, birding is often very good at the swimming beach and boat ramp areas, but the real focal point for birders is just outside the park's boundaries, at the three ponds that comprise the Nature Area (known to many as the Back Ponds, one of which is Pintail Pond).
The park is located at 5993 N. Messick Road, north of U.S. 36, and the Nature Area is at the intersection of County Roads 500 E and 750 N.
The Indiana Audubon Society's website provides an excellent discussion of birding opportunities and specific locations at Summit Lake, including driving instructions and a map of the park.
Wilbur Wright State Fish & Wildlife Area
The Wilbur Wright FWA, located north of New Castle off State Rd. 103, is perhaps best known among birders as a place to watch male woodcocks do their aerial mating display each spring. While there are never any guarantees as to when and how often the woodcocks will put on their display, the best chances for seeing them in action are mid-spring, just after sunset. For more information about the specific fields where woodcocks nest, call 765-529-9581.
Located just west of New Castle, Westwood Park's 650 acres include a 180-acre lake, often good for catching migratory waterfowl as they pass through the area. The entire park is under the authority of the Big Blue River Conservancy District.
Westwood's entrance is located at 1900 S CR 275 W, south of State Rd. 38. (See map.)
The Limberlost Swamp was once a 13,000-acre system of wetlands, immortalized in the writings of Gene Stratton-Porter.
Today, nearly 1,500 of those acres have been restored to wetlands, providing large populations of waterfowl, shorebirds, songbirds, raptors, and other birds.
While the wetlands spread into much of Adams County, the most important area for birders is the 440-acre Loblolly Marsh Wetland Preserve, on County Rd. 250 W in Jay County, west of the town of Bryant. Egrets and great blue herons gather there by the dozens, and at the right time of the year, visitors can expect to see sandhill cranes, rails, bitterns, and even the bald eagle that has become an increasingly common sight.
You can get a sneak preview of things to see at the Limberlost and Loblolly with this photo set.
Edgewater Park, Killbuck Wetlands, and Shadyside Lake
Called the Anderson Waterways Trail System on the Indiana Audubon Society website, this interconnected trio of parks is worth a drive for its specialty species alone.
Edgewater Park, accessible by heading west on 10th St. from State Rd. 9 in Anderson, is well known for its warbler population each spring and fall. Park at the park entrance on 10th St. and follow the river trail east/southeast.
At Shadyside Park, a resident barred owl family has been meticulously chronicled through the years by two of our RCAS members, Tom and Jean Harbron. Visit their site, The Birds of Madison County, to follow their latest sightings of the owls' newest generation. (See a map of the park system created by the Harbrons.)
Together, Killbuck Creek and Shadyside Park provide approximately three miles of paved trails. Include Edgewater Park, and the trails add up to five miles of good walking and birding.
McVey Memorial Forest
This 249-acre property, owned and managed by Red-tail Land Conservancy, includes upland forest, river bottom, prairie, wetlands, creek, and a 30-year restoration project. According to the Red-tail website, "The McVey Memorial Forest is also adjacent to hundreds of acres of DNR forest, making this area one of the largest wildlife corridors in East Central Indiana." The property is open to the public and has walking trails and a picnic shelter.