Lesser Known Birding Hotspot: Goose Pond FWA in Indiana

Goose Pond is one of the many birding hotspots that make Indiana a wonderful place for birding. Discover the species you can see.

Goose Pond FWA in Indiana has only existed for about 20 years. Prior to being restored, it was open farm land. When the Natural Resources Conservation Service got a conservation easement on the property, they started to restore 7,000 acres of land to its original wetland state. In 2005, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources purchased 8,064 acres of land including all of the 7,200 acre restoration area. The result has been the creation of one of the top birding hotspots in the Midwest.

A view of the frozen wetlands during the winter months with a Bald Eagle soaring over.Rob Ripma
A view of the frozen wetlands during the winter months with a bald eagle soaring over.

I was lucky enough to be living only about an hour away from this property during some of the early stages of the restoration project. I visited the area often to check on the progress and to see if the birds were starting to return to the wetland. Many wetland species quickly returned to the area. Having been drained for about 100 years, I was expecting a years long process of the birds attempting to find the area again. Instead, they return almost immediately to suitable habitat.

Bird Species at Goose Pond in Indiana

Migrating shorebirds began to use the area right away. The resulting species list has been incredible. From thousands of yellowlegs to extreme rarities such as spotted redshank, you never really know what you might find during shorebird migration. A large population of Black-necked stilts also breed on the property now.

Black-necked Stilts are commonly found during the breeding season at Goose Pond FWA.Rob Ripma
Black-necked Stilts are commonly found during the breeding season at Goose Pond FWA.

Marsh and grassland nesting birds have found Goose Pond. Spring mornings are filled with the songs of birds setting up territories and finding mates. Henslow’s and grasshopper sparrows are abundant and marsh and sedge wrens can be found with a little more work. Dickcissels can also be found throughout the property and blue grosbeaks are present in the proper habitat.

While this can be a hard species to find in many locations, Henslow's Sparrows are very common breeders at Goose Pond.Rob Ripma
Henslow’s sparrows are very common breeders at Goose Pond.
Goose Pond FWA has a good number of Dickcissels on the property.Rob Ripma
Goose Pond FWA has a good number of dickcissels
Grasshopper Sparrows can be heard singing all over Goose Pond FWA. If you get lucky, you'll find one perched up for some good photos.Rob Ripma
Grasshopper sparrows can be heard singing all over Goose Pond FWA

Look for Rare Birds

In addition to all of the regularly occurring birds of the property, Goose Pond seems to be a rare bird magnet! Incredible records from the property include roseate spoonbill, fulvous and black-bellied whistling ducks, hooded crane, curlew sandpiper, and neotropic cormorant. If you are hoping to find a rare bird in Indiana, Goose Pond is the place to be! Next time you find yourself in southern Indiana, I encourage you to check out this amazing hotspot.

Rob Ripma
Rob is a lifelong Indiana resident and co-owner of Sabrewing Nature Tours. He has birded extensively throughout the Americas and also spent time birding in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Rob is currently on the executive boards of two organizations: Past President of the Board of the Amos Butler Audubon Society in Indianapolis (after leading the board as President for 6 years) and Secretary for Ohio’s Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO). He also serves as the field trip coordinator for BSBO’s Biggest Week in American Birding annual event. Rob sat on the executive board of the Indiana Audubon Society for three years as Treasurer and Vice President. He is a co-founder of the Indiana Young Birders Club and speaks at a variety of organizations and schools about birds and birding to share his knowledge and experiences in the field. His leadership and expertise led to Rob working as the primary bird blogger for Birds & Blooms Magazine from 2013-2017. Rob enjoys working with both new and experienced birders of all ages and believes that teaching people about birds will not only increase interest in birding but also help them better understand why we must work to protect them and their habitats. Additionally, he loves educating others about the positive impact nature tourism can have on local economies, especially in developing countries. This passion led to his involvement in the production of a PBS television program called, “Flight Path: The World of Migratory Birds”, where a crew accompanied him on a tour to Panama to highlight and bring to life the effect that birds and birding have on both the people that see them and those who work and live in areas visited by birders and nature lovers. Rob graduated from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business in 2008 and lives in Carmel, Indiana with his wife and daughter.