Amazing Avocets in the Dunes

The following guest blog post is from local birder Kimberly Ehn of Porter, IN.  To be a guest blogger, email

photo (6)I parked my car in the last parking space closest to the beach. I was there to make the long trek down the beach, as the experienced birders told me I should go. I should go to see if the birds they had already observed were still there. As a new birder, I eagerly listen to these knowledgeable folks discuss identification details, reference bird observation areas, and compare checklists.

Arriving after other birders had relocated them, I walked the long mile down the beach by myself. An adult Ring-billed gull looked back at me as it waded further into the lake. The northwesterlies were a bit gusty and the waves were noisy, but I kept my sight on the goal: the US Steel breakwall/impoundment. Finally there, I climbed over the boulder scraps, and followed the fence until I could position my binoculars on the mud flats beyond. There they were! Three American Avocets! Their long legs made them appear as if floating on the water, but then they would bend their ankles and I could see more of their plumage. The black and white pattern on their back and wings were identifiable. Two seemed smaller than the third. Above them, I spotted a Caspian Tern hovering in the wind. When it landed, all three Avocets indignantly flew up and moved to where I could no longer see them. They were gone, but my quest to see them had been successful. I had made that beach walk six days prior and had to leave with no sighting of the Recurvirostra americana. I had to smile this time when I turned to walk back up the beach.


I had read the postings online for a few weeks of more experienced birders seeing and listing the Avocets, among names of other birds I had not seen. Eight months ago I bought The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America, received a pair of 8×42 Vortex binoculars, and accompanied knowledgeable birders on their searches. I have since added two more books, a CD, and a phone app. Along the way, I have asked the wrong questions, mis-identified common birds, pretended to see out of broken binoculars, and used the wrong words to name parts of birds. I have also listened to the call of the Summer Tanager and other birds over and over to memorize them. I have also studied the book descriptions of birds that are listed online by the area’s great birders. I don’t have a spotting scope, and I can’t hear the higher frequencies of some bird calls, but I am content to say, “I am a birder.”

Contact Kimberly Ehn at


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