Birding in Miller Beach

Birds abound here!

Miller Beach is key stopping point along the Mississippi Flyway, where hundreds of species of migrating birds stop, rest, and refuel.  Indiana Dunes is ranked one of the “best national parks to go birding” by National Parks Conservation Association and a place to “see an abundance of birds” by The Audubon Society This is why Gary’s Miller Beach neighborhood can proudly claim to be one of the best places to go birding in the Indiana Dunes or Chicagoland!

Four (4)  Indiana Birding Trail  hots spots are clustered near Miller Beach public beaches, wetlands, and forested dunes. The extensive trail system in Miller Beach allows birders to hike between these birding areas (scroll down for the map).   A multitude of bird species throughout the year make it fun and interesting, especially during key migratory periods.

What is the Mississippi Flyway?

The Mississippi Flyway is  part of a larger migration route that extends from northwest Canada, along the Great Lakes, and down along the Mississippi River Valley. This flyway is one of 8 globally important bird migration routes and about 300 species of birds use the Mississippi flyway every year. Miller Beach’s miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, surrounded by Indiana Dunes National Park lands, provide birds with important habitats for resting and feeding.

All birding spots are located about 10 minutes from downtown Miller shops and restaurants,  and easily accessible by driving, walking, or bicycling.

 

Birding Location Highlights:

Refer to the map for locations (scroll down for downloadable map)

Lake Street Beach: 860 N Lake St, Gary at the north end of Lake Street on the lake front.  Important Birding Area,  designated by the Indiana Audubon Society. An official  stop on the Indiana Birding Trail. Lake Street Beach is most commonly birded July through August as birders scan the beach and water for migrating shorebirds, gulls, and terns. Observe just north of the parking lot on the beach and bring a chair to sit and wait for migrating birds to fly by or land on the beach or near shore. Also walk west onto adjacent Miller Wood Beach into the national park dunes and wood as described in the Miller Woods Beach information on this page .  This site is directly on Lake Michigan’s southernmost shore,  a major stop off point on the Mississippi Flyway.

Birding is best on days with a brisk northerly wind, August through early December.

Terns at Lake Street Beach in April. Photo by Erika Blackwell.

Marquette Park  Concession   Oak Avenue and Montgomery Street in Marquette Park,  Gary, IN.  Important Birding Area,  designated by the Indiana Audubon Society. An official  stop on the Indiana Birding Trail. Directly on of Lake Michigan, with panoramic lake views and plenty of public parking.  Birds that follow the east and west coasts of Lake Michigan on their southward migration,  funnel to this site by the Mississippi Flyway during northerly winds .

Birders set up on the large patio at the concession, where the concession provides a windbreak on the west.  Permanent picnic tables available year round, and close  parking is convenient.

This site provides unmatched viewing of the some of most interesting birds during their migration. Close to 300 species have been observed at this site.  More jaegers have been seen here than anywhere in Indiana, may be highest in Indiana. See what’s been reported here, at the Indiana Audubon ebird hotspot reporting blog.  

Birding is best on days with a brisk northerly wind, August through early December.

Birding Hotspot., Marquette Park Concession November migration. Photo by Erika Blackwell.
More Jaegers are found here than any other place in Indiana. Photo by Erika Blackwell.

Miller Woods Beach 860 N Lake St, Gary, IN  This beach is an extension  of the Lake Street Beach and continues another mile to the west.  Shorebirds can be observed along the beach, at it’s far west is the US Steel breakwater walls, where birds rest and gather.  This is the western most beach in the Indiana Dunes National Park. Birding on the lakefront is best on days with a brisk northerly wind, August through early December. Sandy trails lead south of the beach and into Miller Woods and the Calumet Lagoon.

Sandhill Cranes by Tommy Gonzalez
Sandhill cranes migrate through in spring and in fall. Photo Credit: Tommy Gonzales Photography

Miller Woods and the Douglas Nature Center: 100 N Lake St, Gary, IN.   Important Birding Area,  designated by the Indiana Audubon Society. An official  stop on the Indiana Birding Trail.  This far west section of the Indiana Dunes National Park is composed of globally rare dune and swale topography (rows of  sand dunes and oak savanna interspersed with long ponds and wetlands), as well as the Calumet Lagoon which is the headwaters of the Calumet River.    Beaver dams dot the marshy, elongated ponds and herons are easy to spot here. Observe perching birds and songbirds that would not be seen on the shoreline, during spring and fall migrations.  Many wetlands areas attract shorebirds, and nesting  bald eagles have been seen by the Calumet Lagoon.

Used as stopover habitat during migration by many Watch List birds such as Wood Thrush, Golden-winged Warbler, and Canada Warbler.   See what’s been reported here at the Indiana Audubon ebird hotspot reporting blog.

Cardinal singing in Miller Beach
Cardinal singing it’s spring song. Photo Credit: Tommy Gonzales Photography
Indiana Birding Trail Hot Spot in Miller Woods
Indiana Birding Trail Hot Spot in Miller Woods, Gary behind the Douglas Nature Center. Photo by Peggy Vanhala.
Great Horned Owl in Miller Woods. Photo by Rick Novak.

West Beach section of the Indiana Dunes National Park:  Best Times to Bird: Typically July through November.Important Birding Area,  designated by the Indiana Audubon Society. An official  stop on the Indiana Birding Trail. The beaches are sometimes crowded in the summer beach season.  Spring, fall, and winter birding can be rewarding along the lake front and at Long Lake to the south.  Paved parking lot is directly to the north of Long Lake where waterfowl and shorebirds can be observed. The little bluestem prairie areas can shelter many types of sparrows. More information on this area is available from Indiana Audubon, and listed of observed species can be found here.  

West Beach briding hot spot
West Beach wetlands in the Indiana Dunes National Park. Photo by Peggy Blackwell.
Egret Indiana Birding Trail
Great Egret in Long Lake, West Beach. Photo Credit: Tommy Gonzales Photography
caspian tern birding trail
Caspian Tern at Long Lake birding trail spot  (West Beach section of the national park). Photo Credit: Tommy Gonzales Photography

Hike and Bike Trail Map with birding spots

CLICK IMAGE FOR PDF OF TRAIL MAP