Above- A barn swallow at Goose Pond. All photos by author
When I first visited Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area in Linton, Indiana several years ago, it reminded me of the Florida Everglades as Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons could be seen fishing in the shallows, American Coot were swimming about in the middle of the water and Double-Crested Cormorants could be seen coming up for air after catching fish in the deeper areas. The sounds of the marsh were overwhelming. Small flocks of sandpipers called as they flew overhead. Red-winged blackbirds scolded. Sparrows chirped from the tall grasses. Bald eagles could be seen sitting in trees around the perimeter of the ponds. I have returned to this location many times and I never fail to find something of interest. Each season brings a new wealth of species that use this area as either breeding grounds, or as a rest stop during migration.
Goose pond is made up of over 8000 acres including around 5000 acres of shallow wetland. Over 260 species of birds have been seen there. It has had a rich history of many rarities over the years. Roseate Spoonbill and a Hooded Crane would probably top that list but other species have been seen such as Neotropic Cormorant Tricolored Heron. Spotted Redshank, Black-necked Stilts, and many others. Bald Eagles nest there regularly, and more recently, Least Terns have taken up residence.
I like to meander through the gravel roads, stopping at the many convenient pullouts to scan for whatever goodies I can find. There are several levees that are great to hike down for better vantage points around the ponds. I have seen American and Least Bitterns while walking. Dickcissels are common all around the area and the calls of Northern Bobwhite can be heard from the surrounding prairie. You may even luck into a Blue Grossbeak. During migration you will find thousands of Sandhill Cranes, American Coot, Ducks such as Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shovelers, and hundreds of White Pelicans. Goose Pond will take you a while to cover all the main areas in your car, depending on how fast you move. It’s easy to spend an entire day there.
Any time I’m out for a day of birding, snacks are very important. I usually bring a few granola bars, jerky, or trail mix. Blue Jay Junction, just south of Goose Pond on Highway 59, is my stop of choice to fill in the gaps for any food items before going back out in the field.
I try to take a lot of nature photos while I’m out birding. It’s fun and they make great screen backgrounds for your digital device to impress others. It also provides proof for your sighting and it’s great for those, harder to ID, shorebirds that never fail to make you question their true identity. I’ve spent countless hours after a birding excursion driving myself crazy debating them. Goose Pond and nearby Beehunter Marsh provide ample opportunities to waste lots of card space on your camera. Sometimes the great shot comes easily and sometimes it takes more patience. Don’t be afraid to keep clicking away.
If you’re ever down in southern Indiana, give Goose Pond a try. It’s one of my favorite spots for wetland species and you may get a few birds to add to your Indiana species list. There’s nothing like listening to the melodies of the marsh and sharing the experience with family. Get out there and enjoy the outdoors.
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