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The forty-second annual Christmas Bird Count will take place all day on Saturday, December 30th. Mark your calendars!

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Annual Picnic Report

Report from the Annual Picnic held on July 23, 2017

More than a dozen members and their families attended the Annual Picnic this Summer at Koinonia Environmental and Retreat Center near Pierceton. We shared more-than-enough food, great fellowship and stories about how unusually wet the summer had been. This also being the reason for our indoor ‘picnic’; as the wet ground and surrounds had reinvigorated the mosquito population.

 

After lunch and a quick board meeting, A few of the group braved the bugs and — armed with repellent — we kept a quick pace through the wooded portion of the property. Even still, Al’s arms are blurred in the photo (right) from swatting the mosquito clouds that wouldn’t quit.

If you haven’t attended our annual picnic before, we encourage you — and your family — to share a dish and share in the company of a group of conservation-minded folks.

Our annual picnic generally takes place in July each year and is always hosted at one of several nearby natural areas managed by Tippecanoe Audubon Society or one of our partners.

41st Annual Spring Bird Count

Big May Day Count
May 13, 2017

Please join the Tippecanoe Audubon Society for the annual “Big May Day Bird Count” on May 13th. The objective of the BMDBC is to count the number of birds of each species occurring in a participating county from midnight to midnight on the second Saturday in May. This data snapshot provides a valuable scientific record of the bird populations occurring each year in Indiana. The results will be compiled, analyzed, and published in the Indiana Audubon Quarterly.

This will be TAS’s 41th year participating in this count, which is sponsored by the Indiana Audubon Society. We will cover all of Kosciusko County to document the spring migration. This should be a great time to get your annual look at warblers, thrushes, and shorebirds as they pass through our area. Typically, our group observes over 125 species in this count. Both experienced and novice birders are needed, and you may participate for a whole day or part of a day.

To participate, contact Greg Clark at (260) 982-7588 or gwclark@manchester.edu

Mary Thornton Nature Preserve Field Trip

Saturday, April 22nd at 9:30 am
Mary Thornton Nature Preserve  (Wabash)

This ACRES Land Trust property provides a great example of an oak/hickory forest being converted into a beech/maple forest. The understory is native and diverse, and the property contains ephemeral wetlands that provide amphibian habitat and breeding areas. Even though the preserve is relatively small, wildlife is abundant.

Directions: From Wabash at SR 13 and US 24, take SR 13 nort 2.6 miles to 300 N and turn right (east). Travel 1.4 miles to the preserve on the right.

For more information, please contact Dave Hicks at (260) 982-2471 or djhicks@manchester.edu

Eagle Marsh Wetland Preserve Field Trip

Saturday, March 25th at 9:30 am
Eagle Marsh Wetland Preserve (Fort Wayne)

Eagle Marsh, on the west side of Fort Wayne, is a reconstructed wetland of over 700 acres. It is a former glacial spillway owned by the Little River Wetlands Project. The ponds and marshes within this preserve are stopovers for water birds. We will look for ducks, grebes and other migrants at an opportune time in the migration season. For more information on the site and the Little River group see http://lrwp.org/eaglemarsh.php. Access to Eagle Marsh is from West Jefferson Blvd., about ¼ mile east of the intersection of US-24 and I-69. Turn south onto Olde Canal Place opposite the entrance to Lutheran Hospital. Olde Canal winds back about ½ mile to the Boy Scout Office and parking lot for the preserve. The area is open and can be quite wet underfoot; dress appropriately.

Field Trip to Eagle Marsh

Saturday, March 25th at 9:30 am
Eagle Marsh Wetland Preserve  (Fort Wayne)

Eagle Marsh, on the west side of Fort Wayne, is a reconstructed wetland of over 700 acres. It is a former glacial spillway owned by the Little River Wetlands Project. The ponds and marshes within this preserve are stopovers for water birds. We will look for ducks, grebes and other migrants at an opportune time in the migration season. For more information on the site and the Little River group see http://lrwp.org/eaglemarsh.php.

Access to Eagle Marsh is from West Jefferson Blvd., about ¼ mile east of the intersection of US-24 and I-69. Turn south onto Olde Canal Place opposite the entrance to Lutheran Hospital. Olde Canal winds back about ½ mile to the Boy Scout Office and parking lot for the preserve. The area is open and can be quite wet underfoot; dress appropriately.

For more information, please contact Dave Hicks at (260) 982-2471 or djhicks@manchester.edu

2016 Christmas Bird Count

By Dave Hicks

The TAS Christmas Count was held on December 31, 2016, as part of the National Audubon Society’s 117th count.  The count was highly successful despite high winds, with a record number of 71 species sighted (plus one hybrid).  The highest previous species numbers were 68 in 2009 and 2012, and the long-term average (from 1976 on) is 58.6.  The number of individual birds seen was not a record, however; at 8041, it was considerably less than the long-term average of 10,495.  Despite the record number of species, no new species were found this year.  Some species have been seen only a handful of times on previous TAS Christmas Counts, namely Horned Grebe, Northern Shoveler, Turkey Vulture, Osprey and Hermit Thrush.

Twenty-seven participants turned out to count, the largest number since the 1980s.  Thank you to Margit Codispoti, Al Crist, Beth Deimling, Steve Doud, Alex Forsythe, Pardee Gunter, Tai Gunter, Toshiko Gunter, Lila Hammer, Steve Hammer, Dave Hicks, Deb Hustin, Lana Jarrett, Casey Jones, Jennifer Jones, John Kendall, Cliff Kindy, Arlene Kindy, John Komorowski, Dee Moore, Stan Moore, Melissa Paar, Andrew Pawuk, Connie Pickett, Dan Pickett, Jim Townsend and Nathaniel Wise.  It was great to welcome several new counters to the group.

This is the fortieth TAS count for which we have data.  (There were a couple of counts in the nineties that couldn’t be held because of weather).  This is therefore a good point to summarize some trends over the years.  Although the number of counters this year was the greatest in a long time, the long-term trend is downward, as is the number of individual birds counted.  However, the number of species has trended upwards (though not quite significantly) despite the smaller number of observers.  It is interesting to speculate why this might be.  Have we collectively learned the good spots to find birding spots in our count circle?  Or are we seeing an influx of species due to a warming climate?

One of the best parts of the count is the fun of finding unexpected species.  Andrew Pawuk said, “Turning west off of SR 15 onto 600 N, John Komorowski and I slowly began driving and scanning the fields for birds.  Just over the first rise in the road a large flock of what appeared to be European Starlings began flying from north to south over 600 N.  As we drove closer towards the flock that was now streaming in multiple dozens over the country road, John exclaimed, “SNOW BUNTINGS!”  The white feathers on the underparts gave away the flock’s real identity.  For my brother-in-law and me, this was by far the largest flock of Snow Buntings we had ever seen in our lifetimes; at least 300 flew right over our car and in front of us as they landed just over a rise in the field.”  Deb Hustin found an unusual species in an unusual location. “The count day was cold and blustery. We were counting the usual winter mixed flock of black-brown-grey birds including woodpeckers, tufted titmice, chickadees and nuthatches. They were joined by two Golden-crowned Kinglets, hugging the brush about knee height – our best view of kinglets in a long time.”

Sometimes a second look pays off, even close to home, as Dan and Connie Pickett found. “In our territory for the Christmas count we are fortunate enough to have active Bald Eagle and Osprey nests. On that very windy morning we were not seeing too many songbirds, so we decided to stake out those two nest sites. At the Eagle nest we did not see any of the birds, but counted three checking out the waterfowl buffet on the north shore of Winona lake. Then we went to the Osprey nest in hope of a sighting. We must have sat observing the nest for about 20 minutes with no luck, so decided to go home and eat some lunch. As we got out of the car at home (west shore of Winona Lake), to our joy and excitement an Osprey flew from over the partially frozen lake to right over our house! So who was staking out who?”  It’s always hard to anticipate the best sites to check out, as Casey Jones noted: “We spent a couple hours walking around natural areas greater than 40 acres, or so, only to find the most species diversity at a quarter-acre boat launch on Chapman Lake.”

Steve Doud and Alex Forsythe used some tech tools to draw out birds. Steve says, “While I don’t condone excessive bird song playing in the field, our best sightings were the result of targeted iPod use for secretive passerines in specific habitats.  We had both singing Swamp Sparrow and Winter Wren in a frozen cattail area on upper Tippe; no idea how they make a living there in winter.  At a wooded marsh on south end, a Carolina Wren put in an appearance, but didn’t have much to say.  While trying for Screech Owl (unsuccessfully) near the country club, a mixed flock of small birds mobbed the tape, including a Hermit Thrush, which put on quite a display.  Alex was able to get killer photos of all these birds.  She has developed the ability to use photography as primary ID, in lieu of other optics, while I still depend on real time binoc use.  Makes a good combination.”

Enjoying a day birding with friends is always a high point of the count, as Jim Townsend said. “I have probably been on as many bird counts as anyone.  What stands out to me is just getting to know the other people with me on the counts.  Whether it is just one other person or a full car with four of us, it is a great time to spend with friends both old and new.”

Pied-Billed Grebe 52

Horned Grebe 1

Ruddy Duck 1

Mute Swan 123

Tundra Swan 7

Canada Goose 1682

Gadwall 3

Mallard 601

Mallard hybrid 1

American Black Duck 4

Northern Shoveler 2

Canvasback 12

Redhead 39

Ring-Necked Duck 135

Lesser Scaup 16

Common Goldeneye 109

Bufflehead 22

Hooded Merganser 85

Great Blue Heron 2

Turkey Vulture 4

Osprey 1

Bald Eagle 3

Sharp-Shinned Hawk 4

Cooper's Hawk 3

Red-Tailed Hawk 30

Rough-Legged Hawk 1

American Kestrel 14

Wild Turkey 32

American Coot 2028

Ring-Billed Gull 208

Herring Gull 92

Rock Pigeon 131

Mourning Dove 49

Eastern Screech Owl 1

Barred Owl 1

Belted Kingfisher 5

Red-Headed Woodpecker 3

Red-Bellied Woodpecker 37

Downy Woodpecker 64

Hairy Woodpecker 10

Northern Flicker 13

Pileated Woodpecker 7

Blue Jay 63

American Crow 254

Cedar Waxwing 45

Eastern Bluebird 68

American Robin 60

Hermit Thrush 1

European Starling 519

White-Breasted Nuthatch 52

Brown Creeper 9

Carolina Wren 2

Winter Wren 1

Golden-Crowned Kinglet 2

Black-Capped Chickadee 62

Tufted Titmouse 55

Horned Lark 103

House Sparrow 410

American Goldfinch 48

Purple Finch 6

House Finch 72

Snow Bunting 300

Song Sparrow 7

Swamp Sparrow 4

White-Crowned Sparrow 5

White-Throated Sparrow 2

Dark-Eyed Junco 98

American Tree Sparrow 73

Northern Cardinal 61

Red-Winged Blackbird 18

Common Grackle 1

Brown-Headed Cowbird 2

Christmas Bird Count 2016

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By Al Crist

Beth and I have had some great experiences this year, but I think the best is yet to come. I always say that the best day of the year is the day of the Tippecanoe Audubon Christmas Bird Count. You should consider giving it a try. It’s really a lot of fun and also a great opportunity to improve your winter birding skills.

The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is how Beth and I first got involved with Tippecanoe Audubon. We had both been so-so casual birders for many years and finally decided that we wanted to get a little better at it. We didn’t know anyone in Tippe Audubon but signed up anyway hoping we wouldn’t be too embarrassed by our fairly pitiful birding skills. Well, we needn’t have worried. We had so much fun, met a bunch of helpful and welcoming people, and did learn a lot too. It inspired us to dive deeper into this wonderful hobby and get involved with Tippecanoe Audubon. Truthfully, I’d say I’m now a slightly better than average birder and realize how much I still don’t know. That’s one of the joys of birding; there’s always a lot more to learn.

Here’s how the CBC works at Tippe Audubon. You and your team members (usually 2 to 4 people) will spend most of the day counting birds within your count area, with the vast majority of your time spent in a car slowly cruising city streets and country roads on the lookout for birds. If you’re a novice birder, you’ll probably be paired up with one or two more experienced birders who will be extremely eager to help you out. When you see birds, you stop and count the number of each species. If it’s a good-sized group of birds, you might get out of the car for a few minutes to make sure you’ve spotted everything and then you’re back in the car and off down the road. Snacks and a thermos of hot coffee or tea are a good idea. Beth and I stop for lunch at a local restaurant and afterwards we begin our afternoon session. The afternoon always seems slower, bird-wise, and by 2 or 3 pm most groups are finishing up, but if you’re gung-ho you can count until dark. Enjoy a day when your biggest concern is getting the count and species identification close-to-correct on the birds you see. No other chores. No other worries to think about. A day solely devoted to observing wildlife. What a great day!

The National Audubon Society has been sponsoring the Christmas count since 1900. That’s 115 years, and counting, of data on the population and distribution trends of North American bird species. Last year over 2,300 counts were conducted over the three-week period that counts can be made. The long-term perspective made possible by the CBC is vital for conservationists. It helps to form strategies to protect birds and their habitat — and helps identify environmental issues, with implications for people as well.

Circle December 31st on your calendars and get in touch with Dave Hicks at djhicks@manchester.edu or 260-982-2471 to sign up. Won’t you join us for “the best day of the year”!

Heron Rookery Field Trip

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SATURDAY, APRIL 19, 1:30 PM (MEET NEAR KOHL'S IN WARSAW)

This is the 40th annual visit to this unique Heron Rookery on the Tippecanoe River. There is water and mud. Go bare-footed or wear rubber boots, mid-calf or higher. Bring friends, binoculars if you have them, more friends, all of your curiosity and all of your relatives. Meet at the north end of strip mall (Kohl’s and other stores) parking lot, located ¾ mile north of the US 30 and SR 15 intersection, north of Warsaw, by 1:30 p.m. We will drive ¼ mi. to the rookery.

This is always one of our most interesting field trips of the year. At last count there were still about 125 Great Blue Heron nests in this rookery.  It is of course subjected to increasing disturbance by humans, or “inhumans” as the case may be. There will be some spring wildflowers in bloom too!

Paul Steffen, longtime leader of this field trip, is always concerned that the river level may be too high for us to get close enough for good viewing of the rookery. Please contact Paul by 12:00 noon day of field trip 574-658-4504 or by e-mail at ecoexpo@mchsi.com, NO LATER THAN April 18th, for river level status.

Limberlost (Loblolly) Marsh

loblollyLoblolly Marsh is a part of the Limberlost Swamp, in Jay and Adams Counties, once a forested wetland of over 13,000 acres.  The area was the home of well-known Hoosier author Gene Stratton-Porter (1863-1924) for several decades.  A number of her nature-study books, as well as the novels A Girl of the Limberlost (1909) and Freckles (1904), were set in the area.  However, in the late 1800s drainage of the wetland began and the area was converted to agriculture.  Disappointed by the loss, Gene Stratton-Porter moved north to Rome City.  Beginning in 1997, the Limberlost Swamp Remembered group began restoration of over 400 acres.  The total restored acreage is now over 1,600.

Our visit will be led by Curt Burnette, Naturalist/Program Developer at the Limberlost State Historic Site and will focus on wetland birds and the restoration.  If you wish to tour the Limberlost Cabin, a discounted price of $3 a person will be available for a guided tour which lasts approximately 45 minutes.

For more information on the restoration work see http://bit.ly/15ZUHSo.  A bird list from June, 2009, is available at http://bit.ly/1bW4ygV.

The starting point for the trip will be the recently opened Limberlost State Historic Site Visitor Center in Geneva.  Geneva is at the intersection of SR 116 and SR 27, about 15 miles southeast of Bluffton or 35 miles south of Fort Wayne.  You can meet the group at the site or carpool from North Manchester or Wabash.  The Visitor Center is in Geneva (200 E. 6th Street), at the intersection of US 27 and 6th street, two blocks south of the flashing yellow lights.  If you wish to carpool, meet at 8:15 am at Manchester University Science Center on Wayne St. in North Manchester.  Please be sure to park in a spot designated for visitors. E-mail bcjones@tippeaudubon.org to coordinate a carpool from Wabash.

Bring insect repellant and binoculars, and lunch if you wish.

For more information, please contact Dave Hicks at (260) 982-2471 or djhicks@manchester.edu