On Walking a Good Birding Loop

Labor Day means it’s that time of year when I make the switch from birding state parks that allow hunting to city or state parks that do not allow hunting. Looking back I have always done this in one form or another. Not sure if my birding suffers in the fall but I don’t have to worry about getting shot.

So I birded Southeastway Regional Park, Ft. Harrison State Park, and Franklin Township Park over the Labor Day weekend.  All are located within the city limits of Indianapolis, which means no hunting.

AMRE Southeastway
An American Redstart – middle of photo – at Southeastway Park Saturday. Swainson’s Thrushes and American Redstarts were on the move with many of each being seen. 9/6/15

Franklin Township Park isn’t the most birdy spot I visit but on a Sunday or holiday when there aren’t any school activities or soccer games the birding can be OK.

I realized Monday that I like it because it has a good 1.25 mile loop that takes about an hour and a half to walk.

And I have noticed over the years that I like nothing better than a birding loop that takes about 60-90 minutes.

FCHS Field
One of the main reasons I bird Franklin Township Park is the athletic fields. When it is dry and they get watered, there is always a chance for shorebirds. 9/7/15
FCHS Field A
But on this day there were only 40+ Killdeer. Franklin Township Park 9/7/15

I have tried out-and-back birding trails – like abandoned rail lines that are now trails – but they always seem to be boring on the way back. Even if I leave a bicycle at one end to ride back.  When I used to run my favorites were loops, not out-and-back runs. My favorite loop took 75 minutes over a mixture of varying hills and flats. There is just something I don’t like about seeing the same territory twice. I guess it goes with wanting to see something new.

I wasn’t the only one looking for birds. The local Cooper’s Hawk was also giving them a look over. Franklin Township Park 9/7/15
But an American Kestrel (on light pole) didn’t like the Cooper’s (in tree – lower left of photo) being in his area. He dived bombed him a few times making him move on. You never know what kind of action you will get out in the field. Franklin Township Park 9/7/15

One good thing about an hour loop is that I feel I can take my time and see the birds.  There is no hurry because the loop isn’t large. Unlike large loops or out-and-back trails that you aren’t ever sure where to stop.

I think the best thing about loops that take approximately 60-90 minutes is that you can get it done and call it a day. Usually with some good birding.

Or if you desire you can move on to another loop of equal length or your favorite spot to stop and scan gulls or shorebirds. And it still won’t take up your whole day.

A Red-tailed Hawk was also prowling the area. Franklin Township Park 9/7/15

A loop that is shorter than 60 minutes usually leaves me wanting for more. And when I bird all day I never seem to remember much about the birds or even where I saw them. On those long days all the birds just seem like a tick on a list. It takes an effort to remember each bird unlike the hour loop were I can usually remember and enjoy the birds as I enter them into eBird.

A Least Flycatcher was the only migrant besides an earlier seen Canada Warbler on the day. Besides the big eye-ring and head, it called a few times to confirm the ID. Franklin Township Park 9/7/15

So there’s my case for doing loops a little over a mile in about 60-90 minutes.  They just seem to fit.

What’s your favorite birding loop?






2 Replies to “On Walking a Good Birding Loop”

  1. I like the idea of a loop, but I have realized I have a superstitious notion that a “good” bird will come flying by a spot that I have just passed. Out-and-back trails seem to calm this a bit. I have no specific experience that brought this on…just a quirky birding thing. I haven’t lived in this area long enough to have a favorite loop yet, but I recently enjoyed the trails at Sodalis Nature Park.

    1. Not so superstitious at all. I used to feel that way. But after the 5th or 6th time on a certain Christmas Bird Count in Illinois where we walked out and back about 3 miles and froze both ways, I changed my mind. In all those times I don’t think we saw any thing but a Northern Harrier on the way back once. I finally convinced everyone to park one car at a break and drive back for the other car. Didn’t take too much convincing in the freezing weather from then on out…

      And in things I don’t know and only living here shy of three years, didn’t know about Sodalis. I’ll have to get over there and check it out, as long as there is no hunting.

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