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Winter Bird Hike Launches Shirley Heinze Land Trust’s Annual Educational Hike Series
01/23/2018 11:01 AM

Shirley Heinze Land Trust invites the public to explore the natural beauty of the Calumet Region and beyond by attending its annual series of educational hikes. Led by a variety of experts, this year’s series includes five hikes at nature preserves located across Northwest Indiana, including Seidner Dune and Swale in Hammond, Kankakee Sands in Newton County, and Cressmoor Prairie in Hobart, and two preserves that are not open to the public: Myrna J. Newgent Nature Preserve near Rolling Prairie and Suman Fen Nature Preserve in northern Porter County.

The series kicks off with a winter birding hike at Seidner Dune and Swale on Saturday, February 3, from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Matt Kalwasinski, who birds extensively in Northwest Indiana and has led trips for the Indiana Audubon Society, will lead participants in searching for winter avian residents at this 43-acre property that lies along the Grand Calumet River. This state-dedicated preserve features globally rare dune-and-swale topography and floodplain marsh. Ducks and other waterfowl frequent the area in winter, attracted to the open waters on the river. ?Bald eagles are also sometimes observed. Participants will also view the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ nearby Grand Calumet Tern Site, and, if time allows, will explore another adjacent property along the river that is owned by The Nature Conservancy.

On Saturday, April 28, botanist Scott Namestnik will lead a spring ephemeral wildflower hike at the Myrna J. Newgent Nature Preserve from 9:00 a.m. to noon (Central Time). This 16-acre preserve in Wills Township, southeast of Rolling Prairie in LaPorte County, was acquired by Shirley Heinze last year and is not yet open to the public. It features an outstanding display of spring wildflowers in a high-quality woodland.

Matt Kalwasinski will lead a second birding hike on Saturday, June 2, from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at The Nature Conservancy’s 7,000-acre Efroymson Restoration at Kankakee Sands near Morocco, Indiana. Participants will search for breeding grassland and marsh birds that thrive in the extensive prairies and wetlands located at this preserve. At the end of the tour, the group will be encouraged to visit the new bison viewing area also located here.

On Saturday, June 16, from 9:00 a.m. to noon, Indiana Division of Nature Preserves Regional Ecologist Derek Nimitz will lead a hike at Suman Fen. Part of the Moraine Nature Preserve Complex, this property is not open to the public. This is one of the highest-quality fens in Northwest Indiana, featuring many rare plants and insects.

The final hike of the series will be held at Cressmoor Prairie Nature Preserve on Saturday, June 30, from 9:00 a.m. to noon. Botanist Nathanael Pilla will explore milkweeds and other native plants in mid-summer bloom at this 41-acre state-dedicated nature preserve. One of the rarest ecosystems in the state, the black-soil prairie at Cressmoor is an extremely high-quality landscape. It harbors at least ten state-listed species of rare plants.

Group size is limited to 15, and advance registration and payment are required. There is a $25 fee per person for each hike. For full details, visit Shirley Heinze Land Trust’s website at . To register for the hikes, call 219-242-8558, or email Sarah Barnes at .

Barb Labus
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