Central Indiana Birding Opportunities - Pine Creek Game Bird Habitat Area
Pine Creek is a 807-acre gamebird habitat area in eastern Benton County.
Original purchased by the state for pheasant hunting, it has proven to be an excellent birding area year-round. Its primary feature is about 150 acres of restored wetlands that attract water birds in spring and fall, especially migrant shorebirds if the water levels are appropriate. Large portions of the uplands on the property support breeding populations of grassland birds, and migrant and wintering hawks can be seen from late fall through the winter. Over 250 species of birds have been reported from the site, including rarities such as Hudsonian and Marbled Godwits, Red Knot, White-faced Ibis, American Bittern and several species of rails. Spring migrants of many kinds (warblers, flycatchers, etc.) can be present in large numbers in May, feeding in the relatively few patches of trees on the property.
Presence of the most desired bird groups (e.g., migrant shorebirds, rare herons) is dependent on water levels. The property has no permanent source of water – all ponds and wetland basins are fed by snow melt and rainfall. So, water levels vary dramatically seasonally and annually. In years of low precipitation, wetland basins may have low water levels in spring (good for shorebirds, bad for ducks) and dry out completely in the summer (bad for fall shorebirds). In years of high precipitation, water levels may be too high for shorebirds in the spring but excellent in the fall. In such a variable system, you never know what may show up.
A property map designating private vs public property can be viewed here.
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Address: 2249 N 850 E, Fowler, IN 47944
Directions: Most access is from County Road 200 North, which bisects the property and along which most of the parking lots are found. From Highway 18, turn north on County Road 850 East and go 2 miles to County Road 200 North. Turn east on C.R. 200 North. The county road drops into and crosses a wetland basin after about 0.5 miles. That is the start of Pine Creek Gamebird Area. Parking lots are marked with wooden signs. Most people use Parking Lot #3 from which you can walk across the road to the bluffs overlooking the largest wetland basin, or walk down to the southeasternmost basin, which often retains water the longest into the summer and fall.
Hours: Sunrise to sunset. Property is closed for hunting seasons. Check with managers at Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area (Morocco, IN) for closure dates.
Ownership: Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Fish and Wildlife
Admission: No entry or parking fees.
Restrictions: Please obey all rules and regulations. Property users should not venture afield September 1-December 31 as the property is hunted. Viewing opportunities are only allowed along the county roads or from Parking Lots between these dates
Parking: Areas are mowed by the DNR and marked with wooden signs.
Nearby Amenities: There are no facilities on the property, including restrooms. Nearest town is Fowler IN. The property is about a 30-40-minute drive from West Lafayette.
Accessibility: No paved trails. Foot traffic limited to mowed trails. In years of the correct water level, some shorebirding can be done from the county road or from the overlook at the Unit 3 Parking lot.
Phone Number: Call the Willow Slough State Fish & Wildlife Area Staff at (219) 285-2704.
Written by: Barny Dunning
Photo by: Ryan Sanderson