An Oasis in the Bean Fields

Before I get to the Oasis, I’d like to ask you a few questions.

1. What is the ratio to finding decent shorebird habitat and the proximity of the nearest road or parking spot?

An extremely unofficial poll of 1 puts it at 92.3%.  And if I read IN-Bird correctly it appears that the best shorebird habitat at Goose Pond is always a one mile walk. No more. No less. Doesn’t matter which pond or season, it’s always a mile in and out. Through vegetation thick vegetation of course.

2. Why are the best looking shorebird spots always along the Interstate so that you don’t dare stop for fear of being rundown? 

You know of what I speak. You are traveling down Interstate XX (you fill in the Interstate numbers, 65 for me) and see this great looking flooded field and even at 70MPH+ you see a couple of hundred shorebirds but you don’t dare stop.  So you get off the next exit but there is never any access from the country roads.

3. So now you finally find a decent flooded field along a two-lane road. But there is no shoulder or parking spot. 

And the only turn-off is a mile away. In either direction.  And of course the road is so busy you don’t stop for even two seconds or you will get rear ended.

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See the water just left of the road a few hundred yards ahead? The road has no shoulders or anywhere to park? Yes, I identified some Solitary and Spotted Sandpipers in my 10 seconds of stopping on the road. East of Franklin 8/1/15

And that pretty well sums up my experience on shorebirding habitat in the Midwest.

But even with that being my track record I haven’t given up.  After all the rain in June and July I have spent most of my bird outings criss-crossing the rural landscape in hopes of finding a new shorebird spot.

So it was with great joy and excitement that I found an Oasis east of Whiteland. I could almost hear the music in my ears when I drove by, kind of like the movies where the heroes are lost in the desert and they only have enough energy left to climb one more sand dune and when they reach the top there is the Oasis.

The only difference is that I didn’t weep like our heroes always do.  Now if it ended up not containing shorebirds I might have wept. But luckily for you it did.

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The Oasis.

What I didn’t say and you can’t see is that there is a two-lane road between the Oasis and me. Big Trucks like to drive down it.  Even on Sunday morning. That is a negative. But this Oasis has a farm lane directly across which makes scoping easy. A bigger positive.

I haven’t seen anything rare at the Oasis but most of the usual shorebirds have been seen.  Just good to have another option.

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A Solitary Sandpiper trying to hide in the foliage. This wasn’t from the Oasis but from one of the my other wet spots before it dried up. Greenwood Retaining Ponds – 8/1/15
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I’m not sure that these Killdeer know which way they want to go. East of Whiteland – 8/15/15
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One of 30 or so Least Sandpipers at the Oasis. East of Whiteland 8/15/15
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If you look close you can see a Semipalmated Plover in the center of the photo that I missed on my first scan of the area. A different wet area – across from Franklin Township Park. 8/15/15
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A closer photo of the Semipalmated Plover showing it’s orange and black bill. Across from Franklin Township Park. 8/15/15
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Somewhat of a surprise, a Sora. I don’t usually see them in Johnson County and especially in August. Another wet area that I check regularly – Franklin High School 8/22/15
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The Oasis also had other species – Tree Swallows for one. It was odd to see them there unless they were migrating. I usually find them around ponds with snags. East of Whiteland 8/15/15
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A rare sight in Johnson County – a Great Egret. I guess I know a few more wet areas than I let on. Yet another wet area that dried up the first week of the month. South of Franklin – 8/1/15
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And Double-crested Cormorants are hard to come by in Johnson County away from the very small area that the White River cuts across the NW corner of the county. Atterbury FWA – 8/22/15

And I still need to tell the story about the how shorebirding can end you up in the hospital.

4 Replies to “An Oasis in the Bean Fields”

    1. Thanks for taking the time to make a comment. I know of 6 areas that retain water on a regular basis in Johnson County and only one is safe to park by. And it has produced the least amount of variety over he last 2 years. The best one I have found in Marion County is still full of water and if it doesn’t drop fast the shorebirds will be long gone. So it is a case of too much or too little. And that what makes it fun…

  1. I’m always on the search for suitable shorebird habitat in Indiana. Lake Monroe is one of those places and hasn’t let me down often during spring and fall migration. I’ve always wanted to visit Indiana Dunes, since there always seems to be some rarity or groups of rarities out on the shore. But none of those places compares to Ft. Myers, especially Bunche Beach Preserve. There, sandpipers and plovers practically walk right up to you!

    1. I have wanted to go to Indiana Dunes during migration but a three hour drive one way is a long day. Sooner or later I’ll plan it out and spend a whole weekend up there one September.

      Thanks for the tip on Bunche Beach Preserve. I haven’t ever birded the gulf side of Florida but we have been talking about going in the next couple of years. I’ll ask for more spots in the area before we head that way.

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