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  • Writer's pictureKaren Hogan

Indiana-Illinois NWR Trip May 2015

Updated: Oct 29, 2018

We visited 1 National Wildlife Refuge in Indiana and 2 National Wildlife Refuges in Illinois over Memorial Day Weekend. Teresa and I did not have to miss any work because I flew to Louisville, Kentucky on Saturday morning and back home to Chapel Hill, North Carolina on Memorial Day-Monday night.


Teresa and Karen at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge May 24, 2015

May 23, 2015 Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge

Trying to conserve vacation days Teresa and I had planned this trip over Memorial Day Weekend. I flew to Louisville, Ky Saturday, May 23rd, Teresa picked me up at the airport just as I arrived on my morning flight, with a 1.5 hr drive we headed to Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge. We arrived at noon at the Refuge we realized it would not be the best time of time to begin birding.

Snakey Point Marsh, Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge, May 23, 2015

Snakey Point Marsh, Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge, May 23, 2015

McClure's Station Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge, May 23, 2015

Teresa had studied the map of the self guided scenic auto tour for Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge and got us on the auto tour, we stopped at several trails and fishing accesses including McClure's Station, Old Ben Station, Buck's Marsh, South Fork Walking Trail and fishing Access, Snakey Point Marsh, Hugh Boyd Walking Trail and Fishing Pier, Boyd's Station, Maxey Marsh Nature Trail and Otter Run Trail. At Old Ben Station, we could hear emphatic calls, it sounded like several birds, possible young birds in a nest but it was so loud. We continued down a path to a wetland area and could look across a small pond area, there was a large hole in the side of a very tall tree. In the hole were 3 adult sized Pileated Woodpeckers and they were sticking their heads out demanding food from the adult woodpeckers arriving with a meal. We stayed for a long time photographing this amazing sight, realizing we might never get another look at these elusive birds at their nest.

Pileated Woodpecker at Old Ben Station at Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge, May 23, 2015

Snake at Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge, May 23, 2015

Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1994 and encompasses 6,600 acres of bottomland hardwood forest, wetlands, grasslands and mature uplands forest along 30 miles of Patoka River.

We drove over to the Cane Ridge Wildlife Management Area, this WMA is a satellite unit of Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge about an hour drive west of Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge headquarters in Oakland City. We birded along the roads around the Cane Ridge Wildlife Management Area and spent time birding at the observation deck with nice views of the nesting islands and wetlands area. We reported our sightings on ebird, 26 species of birds including 2 Least Terns and an Eared Grebe.

Cane Ridge WMA a unit of Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge, May 23, 2015

juvenile Horned Lark at Cane Ridge WMA a unit of Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge, May 23, 2015

Dickcissel at Cane Ridge WMA a unit of Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge, May 23, 2015

Cedar Waxwing at Cane Ridge WMA a unit of Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge, May 23, 2015

The Cane Ridge Wildlife Management Area supports a large nesting population of interior least terns, listed as an endangered species. We also spent time at the Tern Bar Slough.

The next day we planned to bird at Cypress Swamp and Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuges in Illinois so we headed south to Marion, Illinois a 2.5 hr drive. As always we had already reserved our hotel room in Marion for 2 nights.


May 24, 2015 Crab Orchard and Cypress Swamp National Wildlife Refuges

We arrived at the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge visitor center before 7 am. Established in 1947 Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge has 44,000 acres of land with 56% covered by forest, 20% by man made reservoirs and 10% cropland managed for wildlife. The Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge has 4 primary purposes: agriculture, wildlife conservation, industry and recreation. We hiked the visitor Center Pond Trail, the

Prairie Restoration Trail/Pigeon Creek Bay and visited the Wolfcreek Meadow Overlook. We also spent time birding along the refuge roads through wetlands, grasslands and woodlands.


Yellow-billed Cuckoo at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, May 24, 2015

Flycatcher at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, May 24, 2015

Flycatcher at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, May 24, 2015

Flycatcher at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, May 24, 2015

Dickcissel at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, May 24, 2015

Cliff Swallow at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, May 24, 2015

Heron Flats at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, May 24, 2015

Established in 1990 Cypress Swamp National Wildlife Refuge has 16,000 acres of wetlands and bottomland forest. The Refuge is cradled between the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, within the Cache River watershed. We hiked the Limekiln Springs and East Access, the Hickory Bottoms Access and visited the Bellrose Reserve Viewing Platform.


Teresa and Karen at Cypress Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, May 24, 2015

Karen at Cypress Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, May 24, 2015

Cypress Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, May 24, 2015

Bird in Nest at Cypress Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, May 24, 2015

Field Sparrow at Cypress Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, May 24, 2015

As we headed back to Marion is was almost dusk, so we stopped at the Heron Flats on 148, N Refuge Rd to bird, we saw 9 large dark birds pick up out of the marshy area, Ibis but were they Glossy or White faced? Teresa was ready she got a photo of the Ibis that we used for ID, Glossy Ibis.

We spent the night at the same hotel in Marion, Illinois. We had decided to head back to Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge to look for some shorebirds reported on ebird. It would be a 2.5 hr drive to the Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge and we would still have the drive to Louisville for my flight on Monday night.


5/25/15 Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge

Teresa woke up at 3 am so we packed the car and headed back to Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge by 4 am. We arrived at 6:30am and tried to find the field next to Monty's Station where folks were reporting shorebirds. We drove around the field looking for an area with a better view of the field. Some areas of the road were impassable because the road was too wet and muddy. Teresa decided to walk down this muddy road to a viewing platform. I stayed at the car, some adventures are not for me, Teresa is much more likely to confront a challenge and test limits. Her walk to through the mud to the field proved to be futile, she could not see the observation area and on her way back to the car she slipped in the thick sticky mud. As she lost her balance her camera fell into the mud, I didn't see the moment she fell but I did watch her efforts to get up, I had to laugh, we were both laughing by the time she got back to the car. Later we would use the Patoka Mud stuck to her camera to distinguish her camera from mine.

Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge, May 25, 2015

Teresa in the mud at Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge, May 25, 2015

Deer at Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge, May 25, 2015

A couple local birders, Bob and Jess arrived at the corner of Co Rd 50 and 1050. It seems the view of the birds on the field would only be accomplished by walking out into the thick sticky mud. We put on our rubber boots and walked into the field with our scopes, cameras and binoculars. The mud in the field was extremely sticky and each step was a major process, as our boots were almost sucked as we made slow progress across the large field.

Karen-Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge, May 25, 2015

Teresa, Jess and Bob at Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge, May 25, 2015

Semipalmated Sandpiper at Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge, May 25, 2015

Monty's Station Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge, May 25, 2015

Along the edge of the field toward Co Rd 50 we could see with our scopes 3 Whimbrels, a rare bird for this area. Jeremy another local birder arrived entering the field from Monty's Station and confirmed our sighting of the Whimbrels. We stayed in the field for about 3 hours. Finally having to leave so we would have time to head back to the airport in Louisville for my flight back home to Chapel Hill. As we arrive in Louisville we had enough time to do a little more birding at the Falls of the Ohio National Wildlife Conservation Area before dropping me off at the airport.

Teresa drove back to Lexington and I flew home to Chapel Hill.


Visited 3 National Wildlife Refuges over Memorial Day weekend

Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge, Indiana 5/23/15, 5/25/15

Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge Illinois 5/24/15

Cypress Swamp National Wildlife Refuge Illinois 5/24/15

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