Birding at Spring Mill State Park, IN

Birding at Spring Mill State Park, IN

For the last several years, we have tried to visit one new Indiana state park each year, sometimes for a birthday and once for an anniversary. This year we made reservations to spend the weekend at the Spring Mill Inn to celebrate Helen’s 75th birthday. Indiana is a long state from north to south, and Spring Mill State Park is close to five hours south of our home near the Michigan border.

We broke up the trip by having lunch in Indianapolis with my sister Carol and her husband Wade. After a delicious Mexican meal with them, we drove on south past Bloomington, where I spent a year in graduate school at Indiana University, and then Bedford, finally reaching the small town of Mitchell. The park is close to Mitchell, but the town is best known as the home of Virgil “Gus” Grissom, the second astronaut to fly in space in 1961. There is a Grissom memorial at the entrance of the state park.

I wondered if spring migration would be further along than back home in Goshen. The weather was certainly warmer, just right for hiking the trails and looking for spring wildflowers and birds. The first bird I heard outside the inn was a male summer tanager. It had chosen one of the large sycamores close to the parking lot. It reminded me of the pair of summer tanagers that nested close to our place east of Millersburg decades ago. Scarlet tanagers and red-eyed vireos were common, as were wood thrushes and great crested flycatchers.

Yellow-throated warblers, northern parulas and Louisiana waterthrushes were easy to find wherever we hiked along the streams and close to the lake. Robins and rose-breasted grosbeaks sang throughout the park. Catbirds and yellow-throated vireos were common while I only saw one indigo bunting and two white-eyed vireos. There were lots of turkey vultures overhead during the day, but we only saw two black vultures during the weekend.

Flycatchers are always late arrivals. Even in Southern Indiana, I only heard one eastern wood-pewee and no Acadian, least or willow flycatchers. I was surprised there were no hooded warblers or worm-eating warblers, birds that probably nest in such excellent forests and ravines.

Most of the birds we encountered were residents, including warblers such as Kentucky, which we rarely see in Northern Indiana. Migrant yellow-rumped warblers, Swainson’s thrushes and white-throated sparrows were still numerous. I saw my first ruby-throated hummingbird at the park. We are still waiting for them to arrive here at home. As I write on May 3, we have four male Baltimore orioles on the feeders, and white-crowned sparrows have finally arrived in the back yard.

The big push for warblers and other migrants will happen over the next several weeks. Only time will tell whether it will be a good year for birders hoping to see lots of birds, especially those who try for a big day.

Good birding.

Bruce Glick can be emailed at

Beacon Subscribe