photo of Brad Bumgardner withbinoculars at Walner Nature Presreve in Chesterton

First Shirley Heinze Land Trust Bird Count with Indiana Audubon Society

photo of Brad Bumgardner withbinoculars at Walner Nature Presreve in Chesterton
Brad Bumgardner at Walner Nature Preserve in Chesterton

By Terry Bonace

On a crisp and clear September 19 morning, a group of skilled birders spread out to visit sixteen Shirley Heinze Land Trust nature preserves across northwestern Indiana. From Lake County to St. Joseph County, they were out looking for migratory birds on one of our peak fall migration days. The knowledge of these birders, the cooperative weather, and most of all, the quality of the habitat within these nature preserves, resulted in the sighting of 108 species and over 1,876 individual birds.

The day began at a chilly thirty-seven degrees, and gradually warmed into the sixties by late morning, increasing bird activity with the warming air. Fall warblers, known for their gorgeous colors in the springtime, provided a challenge for identification in their slightly less gaudy fall plumage, but rarities like the Golden-winged and Mourning Warbler were seen. Fifteen Purple Finches, no longer purple in September at all, but recognized by their pattern of streaking, and very hard to find in the wild, were located. Uncommon sparrows like the Clay-colored and Lincoln’s, an early arriving Pine Siskin, and raptors, including Cooper’s Hawk and Sharp shinned Hawk, Northern Harrier, Barred Owls, and no less than two representatives of our national bird, the Bald Eagle, and all seven species of our local woodpeckers, were also spotted. See the list at the following link for a complete report of species seen. 2020 SHLT IAS BIRD COUNT

This diversity and abundance of birds observed demonstrates the importance of Shirley Heinze Land Trust’s network of nature preserves for avian species. These protected forests, prairies, dunes, and wetlands are essential for the survival of a huge diversity of plants, as well as the invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals that make their homes within this complex web of nature. The birds that feed on the bounty of fruits, invertebrates, and small mammals, and use the plants, shrubs, and trees for nesting and cover during migration, are indicators of environmental health.

Through its land conservation work, Shirley Heinze Land Trust is one of the most important protectors of our birds in Northwest Indiana. The Indiana Audubon Society complements this work throughout the entire state with, among other things, education and information on the importance of preserving Indiana’s natural heritage of flora and fauna.

Please consider making a donation to these two organizations today by visiting their respective websites:, and

Preserves Visited:

  • Lake County: Seidner Dune and Swale, Bayless Dune, Ivanhoe South, Gordon and Faith Greiner, Cressmoor Prairie, and Bur Oak Woods
  • Porter County: Beverly Shores Great Marsh, John Merle Coulter, Keith Richard Walner, Wykes-Plampin, J. Timothy Ritchie, Dale B. Engquist and Meadowbrook
  • LaPorte County: Barker Woods and Ambler Flatwoods
  • St. Joseph County: Lydick Bog

To find a nature preserve near you, visit our Preserves page.

Our Birders:
Matt Kalwasinski, Julie Bonnema, Matt Igleski, Brad Bumgardner, Cookie Ferguson, Jim Haniford, Marge and Victor Riemenschneider, Kimberly Ehn, Angela Clark, Jake Cseke, and Sarah Barnes