I recently joined one of the South Bend-Elkhart Audubon Society's Field Trips. The group meets regularly, produces a newsletter, owns a bird sanctuary, provides birding checklists, offers grant opportunities, and more! SBEAS can be found on Facebook.
We met near Moreau Seminary to hike around St. Joseph Lake on the Notre Dame Campus. This lake does not freeze during the winter as a nearby power plant emits warm water into the lake. It is a popular place for waterfowl. Scott Namestnik led the group. Scott, a botanist, has two blogs where he posts: Through Handlens and Binoculars and Get your Botany On! Birding and botany go hand in hand.
Most people had binoculars and birding guide books. We also were making a count for The Great American Backyard Bird Count. While this can be done in the comfort of one's own home, it's also fun to get out with others to participate in Citizen Science. There were a couple of spotting scopes and cameras as well.
We walked around the lake, calling out birds and counting as we went. We had one official recorder for the count. People also introduced themselves and mingled as we went. As a bird was spotted, one of the spotting scopes was made available to see the bird(s) up close. While many have good binoculars, the scopes really let you see details that might be otherwise missed.
Birding guides were often pulled out to look at specific characteristics of birds and distinguish between a couple of possibilities. People were friendly and helped others learn about the birds.
While it wasn't a wildlife hike, it was hard not to notice the tracks one of the young birders found. I met these two young men on the St. Joseph County Christmas Bird Count for Kids back in December. It's good to see young people interested in birds and mentors and other interested adults who help them participate in birding.
There were plenty of Mallard ducks, yet we also saw other waterfowl, such as the Pied-billed Grieb, Hooded Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Coots, Canada Geese, Mute Swan, etc. We also heard the Cardinal and Tufted Titmouse before we saw any later.
The mute swan is a bit controversial as it is not native to the area.
We walked near feeders, yet didn't find any birds near these feeders . . . until we spotted the Cooper's Hawk watching over possible prey. We saw another not far from this spot. One of the birders listened to the calls and suspected another to be close by. It wasn't long until the other hawk was spotted.
I just found this little spot interesting, with all the winter garbage hanging out at the front door.
We saw many Cedar Waxwing and Bluebirds in this area. I loved hearing the words to describe the different types of birds, their calls, the plumage, their habits, etc.
We had a good snowfall while out. It was good to meet others with similar interests. Everyone was friendly and helpful.