We've always been a bit disappointed by the park, mostly because there's not much in the way of hiking. It's a prairie habitat park, with some river flood plain. Not a lot of trees, and very flat. But they did a very nice job making it a family-friendly park, with miles of paved bike trails and several nice playgrounds and picnic shelters. It's just not a great place for gung-ho hikers the way we are.
Today, though, we were pleasantly surprised by some changes to the park. They've expanded a trail into some woodlands, so we were able to see some new parts of the park. The new trail goes down along a small stream and boggy area. At the furthest developed part of the park, there's a nice viewing platform over the slough. Between that and our hiking in the prairie area, we were able to add some lifelist birds today.
We did a day-trip up to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Friday (and one last Friday as well--they're taking off scheduled snow days at her work) and this past Friday I saw a Common Yellowthroat, but Mom didn't. Today, she got a very good look at one, so she was able to add that.
We also saw a Great Crested Flycatcher, which I have been wanting to see for a while now. Gorgeous yellow belly and cinnamon-colored wings and tail, with a gray crest. He gave us a very good look and did some hawking for bugs while we watched him. We also saw a couple Brown Thrashers and a Gray Catbird, both of which we have at home, but love to see anyway. There were Eastern Bluebirds flying around. We've had a couple of those at home too, but we never seem to get them to stick around. This weekend we put up a second bluebird box (the wren moved into the first one we have) and are hoping the pair will nest here this year.
Other birds we saw were American Redstart (both male and female), and a pair of Dickcissels. They are striking birds. At first we thought they were a type of sparrow with yellow on the head, but then they turned and we saw they were bright yellow underneath with a black bib. Gorgeous little things, and I got some very good shots with the long lens, I think. We also saw an Eastern Meadowlark, Indigo Buntings, Mallards, a Great Blue Heron, and a bird we're tentatively calling a sandpiper. We're wavering between Solitary Sandpiper and Spotted Sandpiper, but until I get the pictures downloaded to the computer and we can compare them, we won't know for sure.
Then our last bird, after we left the park and were driving back towards town, was a gorgeous adult Bald Eagle that flew right over our car. That was exciting! We know they're growing in number and even had one in our own back yard once this winter, but it's never any less exciting to see one. It's good to have such proof they're coming back so strong from the DDT crisis back in the 70s and 80s.
Over the past two weeks, I've added probably a dozen birds to my life list, including five migratory warblers. I honestly think our trip to Trinidad & Tobago taught us to be better birders. We're more willing to take the time to really get an identification. I'm doing a better job at learning to bird by ear (though for whatever reason the Northern Cardinal fools me a LOT). My Audubon iPhone app has really helped, too. I still use my books to flip through for a tentative identification, but what really nails it for me is being able to listen to the bird calls on the app and compare them to what we're hearing. Seeing witchety-witchety-witchety in the bird book is one thing. Knowing for sure you're hearing it is another (the Common Yellowthroat, for instance, says witchety, but I think the American Redstart's teacher-teacher-teacher also sort of sounds like it.)
Anyway, we finished up with ice cream from Coldstone Creamery, and then came home to watch the Baskerville episode of Sherlock on PBS. A pretty good day, for sure!