A series of events this spring will hone your bird identification skills – no matter what you already know or don’t know – because spring migration has already begun.
You can also volunteer to grow seedlings of native plants for two nature reserves. Or join a race through Indiana Dunes State Park.
Here are snippets from the Outdoor Adventures column.
• Hiking with nature apps: Learn to use smartphone apps to identify birds, plants and other wild things on a hike from 5:30-6:30 p.m. March 10 at Ox Bow County Park, 23033 County Road 45, between Elkhart and Goshen. This crash course will show you how to use some of the most popular apps, such as Seek and Merlin Bird ID. Register by March 9 at elkhartcountyparks.org.
• Indiana Dunes Birding Festival: Registration has begun for this year’s festival, May 12-15, with more than 150 individual trips, programs and workshops across the Indiana Dunes region, led by experts at the peak of the spring bird migration. The keynote speaker on May 14 will be British-born David Lindo, known as Urban Birder, who wrote a book by that title and talks, leads tours and writes to engage city dwellers around the world in the environment. Basic registration for all four days starts at $65. Details are on indunesbirdingfestival.com. You can also find more information at the Dunes Visitor Center, 1215 N. Indiana 49, just south of Indiana 49 and US 20 in Porter.
• Build a wood duck nest box: A workshop to learn how to make one of these birdhouses will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on March 19 at the Prairie Cabin at the Elkhart Conservation Club, 55515 Riviera Drive, Elkhart. The cost is $35, including all the materials needed for a box, as well as information such as wood duck habitat and predators. To reserve, call or text Andrea at 574-849-7550.
• Spring birding challenge: This annual friendly competition began March 1 through May 31, where Elkhart County Parks invites you to form a team of two to four adults and any number of children, then identify as many birds as possible in Elkhart County. At least two team members must see the bird. Sign up for beginner, advanced (if you can identify 80-100 species) or advanced (good if you can identify 200 or more species) levels. You will enter the results into a shared Google document. Register by March 31 for $10 per team at elkhartcountyparks.org.
• Wednesday bird walks: For this birding challenge, it may be helpful to take the Parks Department’s Guided Birding Walks for two to three hours at 8 a.m. on the first Wednesday of each month. The next, on April 6, will start at the Lookout Shelter near the main Bonneyville Mill County Park car park, 53373 County Road 131, Bristol. May 4 meet at Baintertown Dam at River Preserve County Park, 18000 County Road 142, New Paris.
Go grow up
• Grow native plants for Lydick Bog: The Shirley Heinze Land Trust is looking for volunteers to take seeds from native plants, sprout them in your home, then bring the seedlings to its reserves at Lydick Bog in South Bend and the Great Marsh in Beverly Shores in June to put them into more large containers. Then, this fall, there will be working days to plant them in the ground. The volunteers had collected the seeds from the plants on the spot in the reserves last year. Collect seeds, milk jugs or seedling trays and soil 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. EST on March 11 or 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. EDT at Lydick Bog, 25898 US 20 (west of the ring road) in South Bend. For questions, contact Doug Botka at [email protected] or call the office at 219-242-8558.
Learn more about the opening of the promenade:Opening of the Lydick Bog promenade in South Bend. And tips for staying warm outside.
• Running with the Irish in the dunes: This 22nd annual event beginning at 8:30-9 a.m. CST on March 12 brings hundreds of people to walk or run on the roads of Indiana Dunes State Park with glimpses of Lake Michigan. Sign up at www.runsignup.com/irish5K. The cost is $10 for children, $30 for others. Note: Park roads will be congested.
• COVID protocol in national parks: Masks are no longer required inside buildings at Indiana Dunes National Park, including the Porter Visitor Center, thanks to the number of COVID-19 cases that have dropped in Porter, Lake, and counties. The door. But masks are still “strongly suggested” indoors or when you can’t social distance if you’re an unvaccinated visitor, the park says. This comes as the National Park Service adjusted its protocols last week to align with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new COVID-19 Community Levels tool. If local COVID numbers are low enough, masks are optional indoors but still required in any closed transportation.
Main column:Muddy or dry, the Melting Mann bike race returns. Plus, extra skating, skiing options to enjoy.
Follow Outdoor Adventures columnist Joseph Dits on Facebook at SBTOutdoorAdventures. Contact him at 574-235-6158 or [email protected]