Outdoor Indiana - January/February 2015 - Featured Stories

From the Director
“HOO” will show up this winter
Is bird feeding really for the birds?
Indiana Dunes State Park

From the Director

My shopping list of stores
Director Cameron F. Clark

Director Cameron F. ClarkYou’re probably familiar with the local food movement that has some people buying their food from local sources such as farmers markets or stores that stock organic products. More and more Indiana restaurants are filling their menus with homegrown meats and vegetables. This so-called locavore movement is more than fashionable. It has to be good for local economies, too. Even major grocery chains are putting locally produced goods on their shelves.

Similarly, there’s another group of local merchants that plays a key role in our economy. It’s the people who own and operate what are often called “mom and pop shops.” They include bait & tackle or hunting supply stores, camping outfitters, and the like. They can be in town or on the back roads to your favorite outdoor destination.

This isn’t meant to denigrate outdoor superstores like Bass Pro Shops, Gander Mountain, Cabela’s, REI, Dick’s or Dunham’s. One of their benefits is the array of gear they offer. Another is convenience. In many of these locations you can buy a fishing or hunting license in addition to gear and supplies. Walmart alone accounts for more than 30 percent of DNR license sales.

But the small shops have benefits, too. Because I am a paddler, one of those locally owned Indianapolis shops that I frequently visit is Rusted Moon Outfitters. Like so many small retailers, this Broad Ripple Village business has a friendly staff that tends to remember customers. They make me feel welcome every time I go. When I’m on hunting or camping trips in Indiana or somewhere else, I make it a point to visit locally owned outdoor shops for those items I inevitably forgot to bring. And I get the same friendly feeling.

In the coming year, please consider visiting one of these local businesses. Small businesses provide a huge portion of private-sector jobs. Besides getting a warm welcome, there’s a good bet you’ll find someone there with knowledge of local hot spots for fishing or hunting, or a quiet spot to camp, paddle or hike.

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“HOO” will show up this winter

ARCTIC OWLS “IRRUPT” IN INDIANA
By Nick Werner, OI Staff

Photography by Frank Oliver, OI Staff

The snowy owl, an Arctic species, appeared in record numbers in Indiana in winter 2013.In 1905, a bird watcher in Indiana reported seeing six snowy owls in one day.

That set the single-day bird watching state record for the species.

If the record’s small figure seems unimpressive, consider that snowy owls are uncommon in Indiana. They appear mostly during what scientists call winter irruptions. An irruption is a dramatic increase in a bird’s numbers outside its traditional range.

By 2013 the snowy owl record must have seemed safe to some observers. After all, it had stood for more than a century.

But the Indiana snowy owl record fell on Dec. 27, 2013, when Valparaiso birder John Kendall recorded 16 in one day in Lake, LaPorte, Porter and Starke counties. He saw eight in one field alone. The record had lasted 108 years.

Cutline: The snowy owl, an Arctic species, appeared in record numbers in Indiana in winter 2013.

To read the rest of this article subscribe to Outdoor Indiana or pick up a copy at most Barnes and Noble bookstores, and state park inns. To subscribe, click here or call (317) 233-3046.

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Is bird feeding really for the birds?

Humans may benefit more, but that’s OK
By Nick Werner, OI staff
Photography by John Maxwell, OI Staff

A charm of American goldfinches swarms a niger-seed feeder in Marion County. Feeding birds doesn’t help them survive winter.

But it might help you pull through.

Feeding birds can bring life and color to a dreary backyard. Cardinals, blue jays, chickadees, tufted titmice, nuthatches, goldfinches, sparrows and woodpeckers are the most common winter visitors in Indiana, and they provide a wide variety of shades, shapes and other traits.

“There’s nothing more gorgeous in the wintertime than to have some snow cover and 10 to 15 male cardinals at your feeders,” said John Schaust. “Oh man, it’s just gorgeous.”

Schaust is the chief naturalist for Wild Birds Unlimited. The Indianapolis-based company sells bird feed and bird feeders at almost 300 stores in 45 states and four Canadian provinces.

According to Schaust and other experts, bird feeding benefits humans more than birds.

Cutline: A charm of American goldfinches swarms a niger-seed feeder in Marion County. Goldfinches commonly visit thistle-seed-type bird feeders and prairie wildflower gardens.

To read the rest of this article subscribe to Outdoor Indiana or pick up a copy at most Barnes and Noble bookstores, and state park inns. To subscribe, click here or call (317) 233-3046.

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Indiana Dunes State Park

Changing Nature
By Marty Benson, OI Staff
Part of a series

The beach at Indiana Dunes State Park provides a nearly endless playground for people of all ages.State parks overflow with chances to escape life’s one constant—change.

Sure, the man-made stuff wears out and gets updated. But other than seasonal shifts, natural changes can be too gradual to notice unless your visits are well-spaced. Visit a park you saw as a child and many of the same natural features welcome you back.

Indiana Dunes State Park offers stability, too. Lake Michigan, for instance, is and will remain the northern boundary. But of the many ways this state park differs from others, perhaps the most striking is this: its very nature is change.

The main reason is sand, or, more specifically, where the wind scatters it. Which is everywhere.

The results over millennia have helped the state park support more different species than almost any other, both in Indiana and beyond, according to interpretive naturalist Brad Bumgardner.

Founded in 1925, Indiana’s fourth state park is surrounded on all land sides by national park property. California has the only other similarly insulated state park—Redwood.

Cutline: The beach at Indiana Dunes State Park provides a nearly endless playground for people of all ages. The dunes in the background support diverse plant growth and offer great hiking before, after or in between beach time.

To read the rest of this article subscribe to Outdoor Indiana or pick up a copy at most Barnes and Noble bookstores, and state park inns. To subscribe, click here or call (317) 233-3046.

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