Carl Huffman, an active member of the Big Walnut Bird Club, organizes, and oftentimes leads, a bird-watching walk every Friday, year-round. Throughout 2022, he saw 209 different species in the county, and he has more than 1,000 birds on his life list – a list of all the species a person sees over their lifetime. Birders describe adding a new species to their list as seeing a new ‘lifer.’
The website “eBird” has lists of birds in parks around Putnam County. The eBird app is what Carl uses to report findings to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, whose mission is to interpret and conserve the earth’s biological diversity through research, education and citizen-science focused on birds. Anyone can download this app and become involved.
Carl says “the challenge of looking for beautiful and difficult-to-see birds” is his favorite part about bird-watching. “Hearing birds is crucial,” he says. “If you hear it, you know it’s there, and it encourages you to begin looking for it. The songs are beautiful.” He recommends Larkwire, a game-based learning app that teaches people interested in birding what to listen for to identify certain types of birds.
A lot of Carl’s time is spent in the DePauw Nature Park, a 520-acre retired limestone quarry on the west edge of the DePauw campus. It has a variety of habitats, making it appealing to bird-watchers. Carl says it’s also particularly appealing to the Prairie Warbler, because the habitat attracts them. These warblers like to eat the insects on and around cedar and other trees.
Participants in the club’s bird-walks aren’t obligated to join the Big Walnut Bird Club, but it does have an active annual schedule. Members take field trips to other areas around central Indiana. Every December, the club participates in the Christmas Bird Count sponsored by the Audubon Society.
Of bird-watching, Carl says, “If you enjoy being outside in nature, and if you like to see beautiful creatures, this is for you. You’re only going to see these birds if you look for them.” He was initially surprised at the great variety of birds around him as he discovered them for himself. The challenge of finding the birds, the opportunity to contribute to science by recording what is seen, along with the beauty of the birds, are just a few reasons why Carl encourages people to join the club on its walks.
If you are interested in joining the Big Walnut Bird Club, would like to participate in their monthly birding sessions, or have any particular questions, please contact Putnam Parks & Pathways at: [email protected]
BIG WALNUT BIRD CLUB
12 WEST WASHINGTON STREET, GREENCASTLE, IN, 46135