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238. Highland Rookery, Highland, Indiana

This city park is the site of a Great Blue Heron rookery, and it's where to find ducks, owls, shorebirds, and songbirds.
By Nancy Coltun Webster | Published: 6/28/2016

As part of the Chicago metro area, northwestern Indiana is heavily developed, but a few natural, bird-friendly places still dot the landscape. Along the course of the Little Calumet River, for example, you’ll find not only Carlson Oxbow Nature Park, in Hammond, and Grant St. Marsh, in Gary, but also one of my favorites — the Highland Rookery.

The site is named for its Great Blue Heron rookery. The big blue and gray birds have been breeding here for years. This past spring, more than 25 pairs nested high in the dead trees south of the river. When I walk the short trail encircling the wetlands, I never tire of seeing young herons perched on their nests, testing their wings. Herons build nests in the crooks of tall leafless trees that poke skyward out of a swamp. The view is eerie and magical. If you don’t have a spotting scope, fixed scopes installed along the trail can help you catch a glimpse.

About 120 other species have been tallied. Black-crowned Night-Heron also nests, as does Great Horned Owl. Northern Shoveler and Blue- and Green-winged Teal pass through in spring and fall. Wood Duck is present most of the year; in September 2015, no fewer than 58 were spotted in one day. — Nancy Coltun Webster

Nancy Coltun Webster is a freelance writer, editor, and graphic designer. She often writes for the Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana.

238. Highland Rookery, Highland, Indiana

Directions

The Highland Rookery, also known as the Cline Ave. Marsh, is a 95-acre wetland in northwestern Indiana. From east- or westbound I-80/94, exit onto southbound Kennedy Ave. Go 0.8 miles to Laporte St. and turn left. Drive one mile to Liable Rd., and cross the street to a gravel and grass parking lot.

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At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
41°33’33.74″N 87°26’28.67″W

Habitat

Wetlands and river.

Terrain

Mostly flat. A paved trail winds around west and south edges of rookery. Bikes allowed. An unpaved incline from parking area leads to trail.

Birds

Wood Duck, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Blue- and Green-winged Teal, Bufflehead, Common and Hooded Mergansers, Pied-billed Grebe, Great Blue and Green Herons, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Great Egret, Sandhill Crane, Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper, Caspian Tern, Red-tailed Hawk, Great Horned Owl, Red-bellied and Red-headed Woodpeckers, Great Crested Flycatcher, Tree, Barn, and Northern Rough-winged Swallows, Marsh Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Gray Catbird, Common Yellowthroat, Palm, Yellow, and Yellow-rumped Warblers, American Tree, Song, Swamp, Field, and Savannah Sparrows, Dark-eyed Junco, Northern Cardinal, Rusty Blackbird. Uncommon: Virginia Rail, Wilson’s Snipe, Bonaparte’s Gull, Peregrine Falcon, Louisiana Waterthrush, Lincoln’s Sparrow.

When to go

Year-round. Great Blue Herons begin nesting in March, remain through fall.

Amenities

Paved walking/biking trail, benches, two fixed scopes. Restaurants nearby in downtown Highland.

Access

City park. No fees. Also accessible on foot or by bike on Little Calumet River Levee Trail and Erie Lakawanna Trail.

Tips

Bring a camera, water. Wear sunscreen and a hat. Good place to bird with children.

For more info

Highland Rookery
Indiana Audubon Society
Indiana Young Birders Club

Sites nearby

Lakefront Park and Sanctuary
On Lake Michigan, at 977 Casino Center Dr. A wooded lakefront site called the “Migrant Trap” for its great birding in spring and fall.

Gibson Woods Nature Preserve
Five miles north of rookery at 6201 Parrish Ave., in Hammond. About 130 acres of remnant dune and swale landforms; 160 bird species.

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