Columnists

Bird Watching at Cool Creek

Attention bird watchers — it’s almost time for the Christmas Bird Count!

You may recall the column about the Christmas Bird Count I wrote a few years ago, but just to refresh everyone’s memory — the CBC is a project the National Audubon Society has undertaken annually for 121 years.

From December 14 through January 5, tens of thousands of volunteer bird watchers across the western hemisphere conduct a census of birds in their areas. The data collected is used to study the health and status of the world’s bird population. It also assists conservationists in devising strategies for the protection of birds and their habitats, and of our environment in general.

The headquarters for the CBC for most of Hamilton County is one of the oldest parks in the county park system, Cool Creek Park, 2000 E. 151st St. in Westfield. (Only the U. S. Post Office thinks the park is in Carmel. It’s really located in Westfield.)

Actually, an argument could be made that Cool Creek is THE headquarters for bird watching in this county, period.

Although two additional properties owned by the county park system, the Rookery Preserve near Arcadia (home to nearly 100 Great Blue Heron nests) and Strawtown Koteewi Park, are also good spots to observe birds, Cool Creek is where most of the organized programming takes place.

In addition to being the home base for the CBC, Cool Creek regularly holds bird hikes in the park on Wednesday mornings throughout the year (except for the first Wednesday of the month when the hikes are at Strawtown Koteewi Park.)

Bird hikes also take place at Cool Creek on some Sundays and Saturdays. Check the Hamilton County Parks & Recreation calendar of events to be sure of the exact schedule. (See the paragraph at the end of this column.)

These hikes are led by park naturalists, with an occasional guest leader, and are a good way for adults and older children to learn to identify and appreciate our feathered neighbors.

Cool Creek also has a really great Nature Center, which contains exhibits of native plants and animals, including birds, and offers a variety of interpretive programs.

My favorite part of the Nature Center is the room with the huge one-way glass windows where you can watch birds, squirrels, chipmunks and other wildlife munch on seeds at several bird feeders. I’ve even spotted deer lounging in the area.

The Nature Center is open Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

But, back to the Christmas Bird Count . . .

This year, the count in Cool Creek’s designated area will take place on Dec. 31 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The CBC is free and open to adults and older children, whether you’re a beginner, or an old hand at bird watching. All you’ll need are binoculars and a good pair of walking shoes. Lunch is provided by the Hamilton County Parks and Recreation Department.

Participants will be assigned to a team and directed to a location somewhere in the central part of Hamilton County. (The county’s southwest corner and some southern areas of the county will be covered by teams based outside Hamilton County.)

Each team will count the birds in their territory, then head to Cool Creek for lunch and to record their observations.

Unlike the monthly bird hikes, registration IS required for the CBC. You can do that online by visiting the Hamilton County government website’s calendar of events at hamiltoncounty.in.gov/calendar.aspx?CID=45,23, or call the Cool Creek Nature Center at (317) 774-2500.

Thanks to Ed Snyder and Nancy Massey for their assistance on this column.

Paula Dunn’s From Time to Thyme column appears on Wednesdays in The Times. Contact her at [email protected]