As I alluded to in my last post, my 2019 plans include the 5MR Challenge. The idea, made popular/famous by Jen at I Used To Hate Birds, is to find as many species as possible within a five-mile radius of your home. Birding locally fits in perfectly with my green birding, so I am combining the two this year. I fully expect that not all of my 5MR birds will be green, and not all of my green birds will be in my 5MR, but there will most likely be an enormous overlap. So since that is how I will be spending my birding time this year, I thought I would acquaint you with my circle:
I live on the near northeast side of Fort Wayne since moving at the beginning of 2017. Had I drawn this circle around my old house, I would have been able to include all of the biggest Allen County birding hotspots, but now Eagle Marsh and Fox Island are far outside of my territory. No problem, that just means I get to explore more.
First, here is the area immediately next to home where I will see birds every day. I live in the neighborhood surrounding Lions Park, which is a pretty small kids’ park but which hosted cool things last year like a Red-headed Woodpecker and nesting Cooper’s Hawks. Further west is Johnny Appleseed Park, home to the final resting place of its namesake, but also a decent selection of waterfowl in the winter thanks to the dam. Across the big expressway to the north is Purdue-Fort Wayne, which I have adopted as my local patch. A big chunk of my year birds will come from here, and it is also one of my best shots for shorebirds and some of the less common waders in the marshy parts of the river.
Next up is the biggest hotspot inside of my circle: Franke Park. This is a premiere birding destination in Allen County thanks to its quantity and quality of habitat for all manner of spring and fall migrants. The zoo is also there, just to the south of the lake. It also offers surprisingly good birding, with things like warblers easily viewable from its elevated boardwalks and a Black-crowned Night-Heron has been known to hang out inside. Then there is the lake itself. It has a ton of trashy feral barnyard ducks and geese, but it is also good for cormorants, gulls, and sometimes shorebirds. Its big draw, however, is its potential for rarities, and it has had some fantastic ones in the past, including this:
So yeah. I’ll probably be visiting Franke Park a lot.
The next really good spots are the Water Treatment Ponds and the River Greenway that runs right by them. This is my go-to spot for all the waterfowl, and I have seen just about all of the possible Indiana ducks here over the years (disregard Black-bellied Whistling Duck above), including uncommon ones for the county like Canvasback and Snow Goose.
Following the River Greenway east leads to Kreager Park, which is not particularly birdy, but it is huge and has a lot of grass next to some ag fields, so the possibility for country birds exists. Across the river to the south is Deetz Nature Preserve, a very under-birded place with lots of small shrubby trees that I have shamefully only visited once, but it was crawling with warblers when I visited and is where I got my lifer Black-throated Blue Warbler. Just outside of the image above on the very eastern edge of my circle is more agricultural land, and an outside shot at getting open country birds like Horned Lark and Eastern Meadowlark.
Next up is downtown and the area immediately adjacent. Downtown itself is good for Peregrine Falcon and Cliff Swallow (and randomly last year my only Northern Parula for the entirety of 2018), but it has some nearby greenspace like Swinney Park that can turn up good migrants. To the west are conifer-heavy Lindenwood Cemetery famous for winter finches, and the separate Lindenwood Nature Preserve, a place which I have embarrassingly never visited. Thank you 5MR for finally encouraging me to bird here.
My circle barely catches the northern tip of Foster Park, but that is okay because it will be good for Yellow-throated Warblers. My old house is also just barely inside of my circle, for what it’s worth.
Now we are getting into the really random parts of the 5MR. A new YMCA opened up close to home recently, and in going to and from it this past year I heard American Woodcocks and Dickcissels in the undeveloped lot next to it. I am biding my time until it gets dug up and turned into an office park, but the fact that it is adjacent to an Acres Land Trust property, the Mengerson Preserve, might help. I have never birded Mengerson, but it looks like a good woodlot and I intend to do so this year.
The northern part of my circle also includes a local private airport called Smith Field where I have never seen anything interesting, but it offers fields in the midst of other development so you never know what kind of big raptor might turn up. Specifically I am holding out hope for a large owl, maybe one the color of snow?
Finally, we end at the far northern part of my circle. It includes Shoaff Park, which again is someplace I have never birded, but it seems a lot like Foster. There is also a lot of river meandering here and some potential to discover good bird spots among the mostly privately-owned land. And in and among the neighborhood trees lies my only real chance at Black-capped Chickadee, which is being pushed farther and farther north by the Carolina Chickadees that are the default species in town. Apparently 50 years ago Black-capped was the default and Carolinas were rare in Fort Wayne, but now that is flipped.
In summary, I am very excited about this challenge. I don’t want to put a number goal on my list, because I honestly don’t know what is possible. This circle has great potential for warblers and other migrant passerines as well as waterfowl, but finding shorebirds and grassland species will prove tricky. If you haven’t thought of participating in a 5MR this year, it’s never too late! And it you are, best of luck birding locally in 2019!