Saturday, July 23, 2016

Bluegrass Fish and Wildlife Area Birding Guide



Southwest Indiana

Warrick County, Indiana

DeLorme Page 61, Grids C-10/11, D-10/11

GPS: 38º 04' 9.89 N 87º 26' 46.3" W


From the North or West: take Interstate 164 south into Vanderburgh County; exit east onto Boonville/New Harmony Road (exit #15). After approximately 0.5 miles you will enter the mine property--the reclaimed areas are obvious, and all persons are advised to stay on public roads.

From the South: heading east from Evansville on SR 62, look for Stevenson Station Road approximately 3-4 miles east of I-164. There is a Busler's convenience store at this intersection. Turn left (north) onto Stevenson Station Rd., go through a 4-way stop sign, cross Pigeon Creek, and continue and up a hill. The road will enter the mine property at this point.

Internal navigation at the Ayrshire property can be a bit confusing. The property is bordered on the south by Heim Road which runs from the town of Chandler to Stevenson Station Road. The easternmost north/south road is Asbury Cemetery Road, which T's into Heim Road. The next north/south road as you go west is Stevenson Station Road, which becomes Zoar Church Road in the northern portion of the property. The next north/south road as you go west is St. John's Road, which runs from Ayrshire Road to Boonville/New Harmony Road. From SR 62, the following east-west roads are encountered while driving north on Stevenson Station/Zoar Church Road: Titzer Road (2.3 mi N of SR 62), Ayrshire Road (3.1 mi), Kansas Road (4.1 mi), Fisherville Road (5.1 mi), Boonville/New Harmony Road (6.0 mi), and Gander Road (6.4 mi). Stevenson Station/Zoar Church Road T's into Gander Road, which is gravel but public. There is also an unnamed, paved road which runs north/south along the west side of the large lake. This public road eventually goes into Ayrshire Road on the southern portion of the property. It should be noted that some of these roads are new and not listed on current maps. Also, not all intersections have road signs.

Site Description

The Ayrshire Mine property is a reclaimed coal mine of 6000 acres that consists mainly of grasslands, scattered lakes, cattail marshes, plots of planted trees, and two cemeteries. The Bluegrass Fish and Wildlife Area occupies 2500 acres of the western edge of the old mine property. It was purchased by the State in the late 1990s. Currently, some other areas of the mine property are being developed for homes or row crops.

Birding the Ayrshire Mine property consists of driving along the paved roads and pulling off to the side to stop and bird. In the north-south direction, the property is about four miles long, and east-west it is about three miles wide. Walking along the public roads is permitted. Birding the Blugrass FWA can be done on foot within the public access areas (see maps below in the "Links" section).

At more than 600 acres in area, the largest lake in Bluegrass FWA is located along the west edge of the property. This lake runs north-south and is crossed by Boonville/New Harmony Road and Kansas Road. Although people may be seen fishing on the lakes, they have special permits--the public is not allowed to fish here at this time.

The Pigeon Creek Bottoms is also good for birding and can be reached by taking the Boonville/New Harmony Road through the mine property. Unfortunately, the reclaimed mine property on the east side of the creek has no public roads at this time.

Typical Time to Bird Site: 1-2 Hours


Ayrshire Mine is an excellent place for observing grassland and water birds. Wading birds are often encountered here, and a good representation of common waterfowl is usually present. There is a Great Blue Heron rookery adjacent to the mine, making this a regular bird of the area. Shorebirds, while not abundant, can usually be found along pond edges during migration seasons. The habitat afforded by the Ayrshire Mine area provides breeding opportunities for several endangered and threatened species in Indiana.
Specialty Species:
Ayrshire Mine and Bluegrass FWA provide habitat which is excellent for observing a variety of herons and other wading birds. American Bittern is relatively easy to find during spring migration (late April through May) and is present in small numbers during the breeding season. They can be heard in a variety of places and are most often seen flying over the grasslands. Although they have not bred in the area, Great Egrets can usually be found in all seasons but winter. Late July through August is the best time to find this species at Ayrshire. In some years Cattle Egrets can be quite common, and Little Blue Herons are often observable in the late summer and fall. Both of these species are best found late July through August. Black-crowned Night-Herons breed on the property and can be seen standing along pond edges or flying across the property in the evening. They typically arrive in April and remain through the breeding season. Rails, including Sora , Virginia Rail and King Rail , are routinely found during migration (April through May) and have all nested here in the past. Look for them where cattails are interspersed in the grasslands. It should be emphasized, however, that "rail stomping" is prohibited, as this would entail leaving the public roads.

The Ayrshire / Bluegrass area provides excellent opportunities for observing birds of prey. Although Northern Harrier is a permanent resident and regular breeder, November through March is the most reliable time to find this bird. Short-eared Owls can be quite abundant at Ayrshire November through March. This owl has also nested on the property but cannot be found every summer. Rough-legged Hawks can be found in the colder seasons (November through March), but their numbers vary widely from year to year.

Among the songbirds, Henslow's Sparrow can be found in small numbers throughout the breeding season. Other grassland birds such as Dickcissel and Grasshopper Sparrow also have good populations in the area. Additional songbirds of interest at Ayrshire Mine include Blue Grosbeak and Bell's Vireo .
Noteworthy Records:
Red-throated Loon
Red-necked Grebe
Western Grebe
Least Bittern
Fulvous Whistling-Duck - (01-Jun-1997)
Ross's Goose - (22-25-Nov-1996)
Greater White-fronted Goose
White-winged Scoter
Long-tailed Duck
Sandhill Crane - not found in all migratory seasons but can be present in good numbers
Ferruginous Hawk
Swainson's Hawk - (23-Mar-1997)
Bald Eagle
Marbled Godwit - two records
Least Tern
Barn Owl - rare sightings at night; breeds in area

General Site Information

Ayrshire Mine: Multiple owners.
Actual admission onto the Ayrshire Mine property is not permitted. Birders must stay on public roads.
Bluegrass FWA: State of Indiana
Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Site Phone Number: 812-789-2724
Access Restrictions:
As mentioned previously, leaving the public roads is not permitted on Ayrshire property. The area is patrolled, and birders may be stopped and questioned. Public access is allowed at the Fish and Wildlife Area.
There are no restrooms available on the property--the closest are at the corner of Stevenson Station Road and Highway 62.
Ample lodging is available in nearby Evansville.
Temporal Considerations:
The habitat diversity at Ayrshire Mine attracts an array of interesting birds at virtually all seasons of the year. During the middle of harsh winters it can be less productive, however, as the water freezes and the birds of prey leave the area. Fewer overall species will be present during the height of breeding season, but some of the specialties such as Henslow's Sparrow can be found at this time.


Indiana Department of Natural Resources - Bluegrass Fish & Wildlife Area
General information, history, maps and resources pertaining to Bluegrass FWA.


Author: Jim Campbell
Consultant: Paul Bennett
Editor: Darel Heitkamp

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