Join the Monthly Bird-Watching Series Nov. 18
Carl Huffman (pictured above at right), active member of the Big Walnut Bird Club, organizes, and oftentimes leads, a bird-watching walk every Friday at 8 a.m. year-round. Starting Nov. 18 and continuing on the third Friday of the month through the year, the group will lead monthly bird-watching walks at the DePauw Nature Park and other venues in Putnam County.
The DePauw Nature Park is at 1400 West County Road 125 South. From the Putnam County Courthouse, travel south on Jackson Street. Turn west onto West Walnut Street and continue for .6 miles. The paved driveway to the Nature Park is on the left, and there is a small sign. The driveway winds for a half mile and ends in a parking area. The bird walks begin at the far end of the parking lot. Walks are free and open to all.
The first 10 to arrive without binoculars of their own get a pair to use for the walk. Participants are encouraged to bring a notebook and pen or their smartphone to start or continue their life list. Some people may stay until noon but others leave after an hour, so stay as long as you like. The walk covers one to four miles depending on how long you stay. Dress for the weather, in comfortable shoes, and expect a fun time.
More than 100 bird species nest in Putnam County, not including those that migrate through. Carl started birding actively and joined the Big Walnut Bird Club in 2013. He has seen 209 different species in the county in 2022, and he has more than 1,000 birds on his life list – a list of all the species a person sees over their lifetime. Birders describe adding a new species to their list as seeing a new ‘lifer.’
The website “eBird” has lists of birds in parks around Putnam County. The eBird app is what Carl uses to report findings to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, whose mission is to interpret and conserve the earth’s biological diversity through research, education and citizen-science focused on birds. Anyone can download this app and become involved.
Carl says “the challenge of looking for beautiful and difficult-to-see birds” is his favorite part of bird-watching. “Hearing birds is crucial,” he says. “If you hear it, you know it’s there, and it encourages you to begin looking for it. The songs are beautiful.” He recommends Larkwire, a game-based learning app that teaches what to listen for to identify certain types of birds.
A lot of Carl’s time is spent in the DePauw Nature Park, a 520-acre retired limestone quarry on the west edge of the DePauw campus. It has a variety of habitats, making it appealing to bird- watchers. Carl says it’s also particularly appealing to the Prairie Warbler, because the habitat attracts them. These warblers like to eat the insects on and around cedar and other trees abundant in the Nature Park.
Participants in the monthly walk aren’t obligated to join the Big Walnut Bird Club, but it does have an active annual schedule and maintains a steady membership of around 25. There is an occasional newsletter edited by Rod Wilson, and members take field trips to other areas around central Indiana. Every December, the club participates in the Christmas Bird Count sponsored by the Audubon Society.
Of bird-watching, Carl says, “if you enjoy being outside in nature, and if you like to see beautiful creatures, this is for you. You’re only going to see these birds if you look for them.” Carl was initially surprised at the great variety of birds around him as he discovered them for himself. The challenge of finding the birds and the opportunity to contribute to science by recording what is seen along with the beauty of the birds are just a few reasons why Carl encourages people to join these monthly walks.