Chipping Sparrow


By Wilson Lutz

When I was still in knee pants many years ago, I usually spent the afternoons enjoying my newly acquired ability to read. On one such afternoon I was enjoying the comic strip in our daily paper when my mother called me to the front yard.  Across the front of our house was a thick mass of spirea bushes along with other flowering plants just a few feet high. When I got outside, she carefully parted the shrubbery. What she revealed therein was a neat little bird’s nest.  I had had no idea that it was there. Nor did I know what bird had made the nest. My mother informed me that it was the nest of a chipping sparrow. Within the nest were four little eggs. Each egg was light bluish-green with brownish-black spots concentrated at the large end. The chipping sparrow, Spizella passerina, is what I have learned to call a neatbird. It is a trifle smaller than other sparrows. The forehead is black, divided in the middle by a thin white stripe. The plumage on its crown is chestnut colored. Beneath the crown is a light gray horizontal stripe above the eye.  A narrow black stripe proceeds horizontally through the eye. The throat, neck, and abdomen are a uniform light gray. The back and tail are a darker gray. Extending along the darker gray back is a series of  black lines. The tail is deeply forked. The bill is small and black — well adapted to eating small seeds and insects. Chipping sparrows like to use animal hair as a nesting material when it is available. Horse hair is a particular favorite. The female lays a clutch of three or four eggs. The breeding range of the “chippie” is extensive.  It covers nearly all of the United States and extends north into Canada as far as Nova Scotia. Out west the chippies are slightly larger than the eastern birds. [Desert areas are not very hospitable to chippies.] I have often seen chipping sparrows tearing apart the “heads” of dandelions that have gone to seed. Beneath each fuzzy white “parachute” is attached a small, elongated brown seed that the chippies evidently relish. Small insects, worms, and larva are also favorites. The song of the Chipping Sparrow is quite distinctive. It consists of a closely spaced series of notes, all on the same high musical pitch. It is better described as a staccato rather than a trill. To hear the sound of the chipping sparrow on a cool April day is truly one of the welcoming sounds of spring.


The Kosciusko County “Shorebird Farm”

by John Kendall

Northeast Indiana birders were treated to good shorebirding this summer and fall at the Wood Family Farm in Southern Kosciusko County, just west of Sidney. This site held good numbers and diversity of normally scarce shorebirds in an area that is heavily agricultural. Looking back, there couldn’t have been a better recipe for habitat. 

Northern Indiana received significant rainfall from April through July. Southern Kosciusko County received nearly 15 inches of rain from April through June, followed by a whopping 8.6 inches in July. This allowed many northern Indiana fields to flood this summer, but most are tiled and drain too fast to hold the food that shorebirds need. By late July, the rain stopped, with only 3 inches of rain falling over the next 6 weeks.


I had been watching nesting colonies of Bobolinks, Dickcissels, meadowlarks and a few Grasshopper and Henslow’s Sparrows in this Southern Kosciusko County hayfield since 2014. In June, I noticed that the flooded low area across 900 South to the north, along CR 400 East held a large pond of several acres. In past years, there had been a few shorebirds and freshly-fledged Hooded Mergansers in July 2015. The pond had historically drained too fast, not enough, or at the wrong time. This year, there were at least 3 more ponds that had developed, draining the 100-acre hay field and discharging into the annually-flooded area (pond) that bisects 400 East. Like the flooded pond below them, these wetlands had also grown typical pond/marsh edge vegetation, staying flooded through June. Soras, Pied-billed Grebes and Mallards began nesting. The drawdown of each pond began in mid to late July. Other than Killdeer, the first date that shorebirds were observed using the site was 28 July. Initially, the pectorals and yellowlegs dominated, using the heavily vegetated pond edges first and moving later to the centers of the ponds, which became a bountiful, vegetation-free mudflat.


Highlights included several new county-record species of shorebirds, with many birders adding several new species to their county lists. Birders visiting in early mornings and evenings were also treated to the memorable songs of Soras and Pied-billed Grebes.

Also interesting were bickering pectorals and yellowlegs amongst periodic looks at molting, bathing and drinking grassland nesters.


As the lower pond began to dry, more peeps and plovers arrived. In late August, it became apparent that there were at least two different-aged broods of Pied-billed Grebes, totaling at least 12 individuals. The youngest group was in peril as the pond’s last 3’ of water drained in only 2 days. No Grebes were found after September 3, except for 2 at the farm pond. ¾ mile north along 400 East.


Like other ephemeral sites of the past, the Kosciusko Shorebird Farm was an enjoyable experience, including meeting the farmers, showing them the Bobolinks and other species. Other interesting species included Turkey Vultures in the grass field, Blue Herons, Great Egrets, 2 Green Herons, a hungry Peregrine Falcon, and all the Swallow species.

Highlights from the Kosciusko County “Shorebird Farm”





Hudsonian Godwit*        



17 Aug.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper*      



10 Sep.

Ruddy Turnstone*



10 Aug.

Wilson’s Phalarope*



8-11 Aug.

White-rumped Sandpiper



8 Aug.

Baird’s Sandpiper



23 Aug, 2 Sep.

Stilt Sandpiper



28 Aug.

American Golden-Plover



10 Sep.

Black-bellied Plover



30 Aug.

Short-billed Dowitcher



8-17 Aug.

Semipalmated Plover



30 Aug.

Semipalmated Sandpiper



23, 28 Aug, 2 Sep.

Wilson’s Snipe



26 Aug., 2 Sep.

Pectoral Sandpiper



14 Aug.

Least Sandpiper



28 Aug.

Greater Yellowlegs



14, 22 Aug.

Lesser Yellowlegs



13 Aug.

Solitary Sandpiper



9 Aug.

Spotted Sandpiper



9 Aug.




13 Aug.

*First county record
Sightings from e-Bird. Contributors: Annie Aquirre, Matthew Bowman, Angie Capp, Conrad Harstine, Jeff McCoy, Tanner Troyer, Debby Vincent, Stephanie Wagner, Nathaniel Wise, Nick Yarde, John Kendall

Annual Dinner

followed by an educational program about

Freshwater Mussels


presented by Warren Pryor, Department of Biology, University of Saint Francis

This event will be held at the Manchester University campus on the second floor of the Jo Young Switzer Center (JYSC) student union in the Hoff Room. The JYSC is located on East Street, a couple hundred feet North of the College Avenue intersection.

The price of dinner is $12 and includes: Honey roasted turkey, lasagna, salad, roasted sweet potatoes, green beans and carrot cake. Those who do not wish to join us for dinner may attend the program for no cost. 

Reservations are required for dinner. Use the form below to save your spot or Contact Dave Hicks at (260) 982-2471 or


Did you know that nearly 300 species of mussels inhabit freshwater rivers and lakes in North America? This is the richest diversity of mussels found in the world. Freshwater mussels are sedentary, long-lived (some live over 100 years) mollusks that live in sediments and filter water to feed. Because they are filter-feeders, mussels are excellent indicators of the health of our lakes and rivers. In addition, mussels are a vital link in the food chain because they are a major food item for wildlife such as raccoon, muskrat, and otter. Their lustrous pearl-like interiors have made them valuable in the cultured pearl and jewelry industry.

The Tippecanoe Audubon Society is sponsoring an educational presentation on the mussels in our local lakes and rivers on November 14 in the Hoff Room at Manchester University. Dinner will be served at 6:30 pm and the program will start at 7:30 pm. If you would like to attend the program but, do not wish to join us for dinner, please arrive a little before 7:30 p.m. There is no charge if you only attend the program. 

Warren Pryor, professor of biology at the University of St. Francis will help us learn all about our native mussels and explain why they’re so important to our streams and rivers. Dr. Pryor will talk about the research he and his students have been conducting on the mussel beds in our local watersheds.

Fall 2017 Field Trips

Saturday, october 28 @ 9:30 am
hathaway preserve at ross run (near lagro)


This ACRES preserve features the gorge of Ross Run.  This will be a great trip for the cliffs, waterfall and fall colors, as well as late migrant and winter resident birds.  Be prepared for some ups and downs on the trail.

From Wabash at SR 13 and US 24, take US 24 east 2.0 miles to SR 524 and turn right toward Lagro. Travel east 1.5 miles to SR 524 (Davis St.) and turn right (south).  Travel SR 524 for 1.5 miles to Baumbauer Rd., and turn right (west). Travel 2.2 miles to the preserve on the right.

Saturday, November 18 @ 9:30 am
TAS Herbert Taylor Preserve (near Liberty Mills)


This site on the bluffs above the Eel River was TAS’s first preserve.  From SR 13 north of North Manchester, turn east and travel into Liberty Mills.  At the east side of town, turn north (L).  Follow the street to the old schoolhouse and bear right.  Follow the road through a couple of right-angle bends and turn off at the TAS preserve sign.  Follow the lane on the south side of the pines to the parking area. 

Use the form below to request more information about these field trips

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

CANCELLED: Tonight’s Owls and Rodents Spring Program

Tonight’s ‘owls and rodents’ program has been cancelled due to a campus-wide power outage that is not expected to be resolved in time. We hope to be able to reschedule this program and will keep you all informed through our website and facebook page.

Owls and Rodents Program


Tuesday, April 25th at 6:30 pm
Hoff Room, Manchester University Student Union

The consequences of using Barn Owls to control pest rodents: a case study

For many years, the sugarcane agricultural industry in south Florida has been implementing a nest box program in an attempt to inflate the local population of Barn Owls. It is hoped that these birds serve as biological controllers of rodent pests. This program has resulted in one of the densest populations in the world of what is typically considered an imperiled species. From 2005-2006, Jason Martin studied these owls and their relationship to both their prey and the agricultural environment in which they live. In this talk, he will present the findings of his research as well as potential conservation implications.

Jason Martin received his Ph.D. in Wildlife Ecology & Conservation from the University of Florida. Following this, he worked as a biologist for the state wildlife agencies of Florida and New York. He currently lives in Warsaw, IN and works as a wetlands biologist for Kleenco Maintenance and Construction.

For more information, please contact Dave Hicks at (260) 982-2471 or