Here are miniature mountains covered with the heavy growth of jack pine, juniper and the dogwood. Here also is the cactus at home. Looking eastward from the top of the higher sand hills is a smooth stretch of beach without buildings or piers to destroy the harmony of nature.
In proper season the profusion of flowers and birds is startling; great masses of blossoms of the sand cherry, choke cherry lupin are abundant. Here too are occasional surprises of the dainty harebell, the fast disappearing varieties of the ladyslipper, both varieties of the blue gentian, the rich orange blossom of the cactus blooming in their beauty and wild environment, fulfilling their destiny in their own way, for the enjoyment of the city worn wanderer who chooses to come, rest and feast--to return to his smoke enshrouded cliff dwellings a better and healthier man.
The shore at times is alive with gulls and terns feeding upon the dead fish and insects which are cast up by the waves. The dainty white-bellied swallow nests in the hollow stump or the hillsides, the sandbanks are alive with the bank swallow, kingbirds are found nesting in the cottonwoods; in fact, nearly all of our common resident birds may be found in this charming region.
The higher sand hills form a wind harbor for the migrating birds and during the fall migration many of the rare shore birds alight on the beach to rest, for they will have a long flight before they will reach another large body of water on their southward flight.
The method which I find the best in observing the shore birds is to find a small bay where there is a plentiful supply of insects on the shore and put out a few plover decoys. These can be made from cardboard cut the shape of a plover, the backs spotted or mottled gray and white, and small sticks placed in proper position to represent legs and to support the decoys on the sand. By lying quietly about 50 feet from the decoys you will not disturb the birds as they alight and roam over the beach. It may require many trips to find a satisfactory number of birds but each years I see between August 1 and September 15 a few of the following birds. The sanderling, black-bellier plover, turnstone, hundreds of Wilson tern the the foresters tern. Always a few of the Caspian tern can be seen in the fall flying close to the shore and sitting upon the posts of the fish nets. In April and May can also be found immense flocks of Bonapartes gull and a few black tern.
If the proper protection is afforded our birds as outlined by the biological survey there is no reason why our shore birds should not eventually become as plentiful as they were 15 or 20 years ago. I base this statement upon observation taken during two trips to North Dakota in succeeding years when I found such birds as our Wilson phalarope and pintail duck had increased in one year from one brood to five, thanks to a wise spring shooting law.
For studying the early spring migrants an excellent locality is the east end of the Grand Calumet river at Miller, Indiana. Walk north from the station at Miller to the bridge, then east to the end of the river which is about one mile distant. Here you will find the flowers and birds in greater numbers than in any other locality in this region. In nearly every trip the bird student has one or more pleasant surprises in the way of some rare vision. My last one was a fine osprey on the river and a flock of wood duck. A friend of mine shot a fine specimen of parasitic jaeger, a resident of the Pacific coast. The Burgomaster gull, Hudsonian godwit, Hudsonian curlew, double crested cormor and white pelican, rosate tern, northern philarope have all been taken on the beach at Miller. A few pictures are shown of the localities mentioned which poorly represent the real beauties of this wonderful region.
Posted 29th June, 1999; last updated 10th July, 2001.