Indiana Dunes State Park consists of 2,182 acres of primitive, beautiful, historic and unique Hoosier landscape. It lies at the north end of State Road 49 in Porter County, and includes more than three miles of beautiful beach along Lake Michigan’s southern shore. In the early 1900s scientists, recreationists and nature enthusiasts, recognizing the value and potential of the Indiana dunes area, fought to have the region preserved. As a result, in 1925, the state park was established. The park is one of two state park’s in the country surrounded by a national park, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Combined, over 15,000 acres are protected.
Large sand dunes, located beyond the entire shoreline, have taken thousands of years to form, and tower nearly 200 feet above Lake Michigan. A wide range of habitats and plant species are found in the park, with vegetation stabilizing some of the sand. These habitats provide homes for many types of plants and animals. The lake also provides habitat for many aquatic species, as well as a constantly changing fishery.
Among the many animals, the bird life in the dunes is perhaps the most spectacular. total, over 360 species of birds have been logged along the shore of Lake Michigan in Indiana. The north-south orientation of the lake creates a funnel effect in the fall, as birds migrate along the east and west shores. In the spring, birds pile up on the southern shore, hesitant to fly over the lake. For migrant songbirds, the dunes are an oasis for fueling up before continuing along the lake into Wisconsin and Michigan. For birds of prey, the lake is a formidable obstacle, lacking the needed thermals for efficient flight.
Whether you have beginner or advanced identification skills, Indiana Dunes is a great place for birders. This blog seeks to educate folks to the massive longshore bird migration that is observed at the Indiana Dunes State Park in the spring months.
The longshore bird flight at Indiana Dunes is coordinated and compiled by Indiana Dunes State Park Interpretive Naturalist Brad Bumgardner. Flight counts are conducted by seasonal birding experts from early March through May. Most counts require a southerly wind for a good flight to occur.
The Saw-whet Owl banding station is also coordinated by Brad Bumgardner with volunteer staff in October and November. Contact him for longshore flight and owl banding info at firstname.lastname@example.org or get updates on the state park’s Twitter account.