Despite Mother Nature's latest attempt at keeping winter around, Spring is officially here and bird enthusiasts say this is a great time to catch hundreds of species that migrate through this region.
In fact, more than 200 species of birds have been spotted in the National Lakeshore, and several parks throughout Lake, Porter and Will counties boast hot spots to catch a peek at birds building nests and feeding their young.
Grab your binoculars and head out to some of these popular locations—and hidden gems—throughout the region to bird watch.
If you're looking for an up close experience, check out the bird observation room at Gibson Woods Nature Preserve in Hammond.
"Our bird observation room with one-way glass in the nature center is a good place to watch birds feeding at feeders," said Joy Bower, a birding expert with Lake County Parks.
At Buckley Homestead in Lowell, grassland birds, sparrows and Eastern bluebirds can be seen along their nesting box trail, and at Lake Etta County Park in Gary, warblers and other songbirds, waterfowl, herons and egrets are often spotted.
"Bald Eagles nesting nearby can sometimes be seen flying along the Little Calumet River," Bower said.
At Oak Ridge Prairie County Park in Griffith, keep an eye out for waterfowl, Hensloow's sparrow, Grasshopper sparrow and Eastern Meadowlark, she said.
"At Three Rivers County Park, waterfowl can be seen from the paved trail around the lake," Bower said.
Those interested in owls will want to check out Stoney Run County Park in Leroy, where visitors will catch glimpses of Barred owls, Eastern Screech owls, Great Horned owls and the Northern Saw-whet owls, she said.
More than 360 species of birds have been recorded at Indiana Dunes State Park, according to the Department of Natural Resources, and one of the premier locations to bird watch is the Longshore Birding Platform at the park.
This location has been the go-to spot for bird watchers and has included many record high counts for the entire state, with species spotted including the Great Blue Heron, Red-throated Loon, Ruby-throated Hummingbird and the Henslow's Sparrow and Black Vulture, both new tower birds in 2013.
Sunset Hill Farm County Park in Valparaiso is another popular location for bird watching, with its 237 acres of meadows, prairies, woods, ponds and wetlands. The meadows and prairies are home to grassland birds, such as dickcissles and bobolinks.
Each of the preserves in the Will County Forest Preserve system offer great spots to view birds, said Bob Bryerton, facility coordinator.
At Goodenow Grove in Beecher, staff offer bird hikes at the Plum Creek Nature Center on the first Saturday of each month at 8 a.m.
"It is 891 acres and has approximately 6 miles of trails that lead through wooded areas, open fields and along creeks and ponds, allowing you to view a large variety of birds," he said.
There are many species that nest in the preserve as well, including Eastern Bluebirds.
"The nature center has a camera inside a Bluebird box that can be viewed on screen inside the nature center," Bryerton said. "Visitors can watch as birds build nests, tend to the eggs and feed the young when they hatch."
Last year, staff spotted 104 different species in the preserve.
"Nature Center staff can direct you to trails where specific species have been spotted," he said.
With 248 acres and a 46-acre lake, Monee Reservoir in Monee also serves as a popular spot to see waterfowl and shorebirds, Bryerton said.
"Loons, eagles and osprey have all been spotted there in the past," he said. "There is a visitor center on the site as well and there is a spotting scope set up inside that allows for viewing the birds on the lake."
In Plainfield, Lake Renwick Heron Rookery Nature Preserve was dedicated as a nature preserve because of the five different species of colonial nesting birds that use the site, he said.
"Because of this, the site is closed during the nesting season to limit disturbing the birds," Bryerton said. "The only way to view the birds at Lake Renwick is during scheduled times."
In May, the Forest Preserve District of Will County offers tours of the site every Wednesday at 10 a.m. and Saturday at 8 a.m.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
The National Lakeshore is an important feeding and resting area for migrating birds, making this area a great location to spot several types of birds, said Bruce Rowe, supervisory park ranger and public information officer.
"The National Park Service has restored a portion of the Great Marsh and built a trail to it," he said. "This trail features an overlook of the marsh where visitors can spot a wide variety of birds ranging from Great Blue Herons to Sand Hill Cranes."
The park's Cowles Bog area features several different habitats that support a wide range of nesting birds, with Black-crowned Night Herons, American bitterns and Virginia Rails regularly spotted.
"West Beach is a great spot to see everything from raptors like Bald Eagles to waterbirds like Red-breasted Mergansers and even Western Grebes," Rowe said.