Wetlands and prairies southwest of Bloomington that attract waterfowl, cranes, bitterns, and many other species.
By David Rupp | Published: 6/19/2017
Throughout the year, Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area never disappoints. I look back at the many times I’ve birded the area, and the memories are too numerous to recount, but here are a few: sorting through all the shorebirds to find a Curlew Sandpiper in May 2012; having both a White-faced Ibis and a Marbled Godwit in the same scope view last fall; and gathering with other birders from around the country to admire a wayward Hooded Crane among the thousands of Sandhills in February 2012. And earlier this year a Prairie Falcon was kind enough to circle above me.
Even without the rarities, Goose Pond offers more than 8,000 acres for birders to explore. It provides breeding habitat for Black-necked Stilt, Least Tern, Henslow’s Sparrow, Blue Grosbeak, and more. I participate in the Marshbird Monitoring Survey, listening for rails and bitterns at dawn several times each spring. During migration, I don’t think anything beats the sight of American White Pelicans soaring in a clear blue sky. In winter, I love watching Short-eared Owls hunt at dusk. The Goose Pond Christmas Bird Count is one of the best in the state each year, regularly surpassing 100 species. — David Rupp
David Rupp owns IndiGo Birding Nature Tours, based in Bloomington, and he has worked in environmental education and wildlife biology.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Nearly 5,000 acres of shallow wetlands and 1,300 acres of prairie grasslands.
Mostly flat; 37 miles of levees, some of which can be hiked. Area can be birded from a vehicle. Stop at numerous small parking areas and walk up on levees for a better view.
280 species. Breeding: Northern Bobwhite, American Bittern, Bald Eagle, Common Gallinule, Black-necked Stilt, Least Tern, Willow Flycatcher, Bell’s Vireo, swallows, Marsh and Sedge Wrens, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow Warbler, Grasshopper, Henslow’s, and Field Sparrows, Blue Grosbeak, Dickcissel, Eastern Meadowlark, Orchard Oriole. Migration: Trumpeter Swan, many duck, shorebird, and wading bird species, American White Pelican, Sandhill Crane, Bobolink, Rusty Blackbird. Winter: Greater White-fronted Goose, Snow Goose, Northern Harrier, Rough-legged Hawk, Whooping Crane, Short-eared Owl, several sparrow species.
When to go
Year-round. Crane migration best in February.
Visitor center (13540 W. CR 400 S) open 8-3 most days and offers restrooms that can be accessed from the parking lot.
State fish and wildlife area. Admission free. Never closed. Visitors required to carry a permit while on the property. Permits available at the visitor center and at check-in stations.
Hunting allowed, so be aware and wear hunter’s orange during appropriate seasons. Because of the open landscape, conditions can be more extreme than anticipated: colder, hotter, windier, or buggier, depending on the season. Bring a spotting scope if you have one.
For more info
Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area, (812) 512-9185.
Greene-Sullivan State Forest
Immediately west of Goose Pond. Offers fishing, camping, and birding in a mixed coniferous/deciduous forest. Good for warblers and other songbirds in the spring.
Hillenbrand Fish and Wildlife Area
Five miles north of Linton. 3,400 acres of mostly reclaimed surface-mine land. Summer: Bell’s Vireo, Henslow’s Sparrow, and Blue Grosbeak. Winter: Northern Harrier and other raptors.