Osprey return. Native plant wisdom grows. Bertrand county park expands.
Old friends are back for the warmer months ahead.
At least one osprey has returned to the nest atop a pole near Saint Mary’s College, which can be viewed across the St. Joseph River from the Riverside Trail at Lathrop Place in South Bend. I first noticed a bird in the nest Sunday, not sure exactly what it was from my quick glance out of my car. Then I got a better look through binoculars on Monday — yep, an osprey.
It’s about that time of year to see a reappearance of the migrating, fish-hunting raptor.
Osprey have apparently returned to the nest pole at Potato Creek State Park in North Liberty, too. A naturalist there will lead a short, welcome-back hike to look for them at 10:30 a.m. March 31 from the park’s West Lot.
Meanwhile, for the past week or two, the great blue herons have been regularly using the rookery of nests in a sycamore tree just north of the osprey nest near Saint Mary's, also viewable from the Riverside Trail. Lathrop is two blocks south of Pinhook Park. To see the rookery, walk north of Lathrop and look through the bare branches to see a series of large nests in a single tree.
And the peregrine falcon nest atop the County-City Building in downtown South Bend now has a full nest of four eggs. View them via the live camera at falcam.southbendin.gov.
Full nest:Falcons lay eggs in South Bend nest with Flash. Maltese still missing.
The South Bend chapter of a national group Wild Ones is in its second year of helping each other — and the community — to infuse native plants into private yards, gardens and public landscapes.
It will hold its next monthly meeting at 5 p.m. April 3 in the community building at Pinhook Park, 2801 Riverside Drive, where Allison Pudlo will talk about backyard habitats, biodiversity and backyard conservation. Pudlo works as environmental education coordinator for the St. Joseph County Soil and Water Conservation District. All are welcome.
And a month later, Wild Ones will meet at 5 p.m. May 1 at Bendix Woods County Park in New Carlisle to learn from naturalist/board member Jan McGowan about the gorgeous annual profusion of spring wildflowers there.
And from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 6, the club will host an inaugural native plant sale — from trees to grasses to shrubs and more — in what they hope will become an annual event.
With about 50 members, the group generally meets at 5 p.m. on the first Monday of the month at Pinhook (though it varies), with the first half hour for club business, news and snacks/refreshments, followed by a guest presentation.
Members tend to sections of native plants at Pinhook. They’ve volunteered to help with native plantings elsewhere, too, like in the giraffe exhibit at the Potawatomi Zoo and near the Commerce Center in downtown South Bend. They’ve helped with the endless task of removing invasive plants, too.
Learn more about the local Wild Ones at southbend.wildones.org.
Bertrand park has grown
Madeline Bertrand County Park in Niles grew by almost 33 acres a week ago, but don’t expect access to this adjacent property — on the north edge of its previously 121 acres — this summer.
There are old structures to demolish and parts of the old family property to clean up. But there are also trails yet to be built, and, generally, more public ideas to gather for how to use the new extension, Berrien County Parks Director Jill Adams says.
We knew the expansion was coming for Madeline Bertrand, at 3038 Adams Road, as I’d reported in this column on Jan. 18, 2023.
January 2023:Growing in ❜23: Coal Line Trail, Love Creek cabin/shelter and Bertrand park.
The Helmen/Simpson family, who ultimately chipped $275,000 off of the land value as they sold the property to the county, had acquired it in 1937. They called it Possum Poke, a wooded area with a slope down to the St. Joseph River where kids went tobogganing, waded in a creek, fished and boated on the river.
“This property has been in our family for over 85 years," one of the prior owners, David Helmen, told park officials as he reflected on many family gatherings. “It was there that my grandfather instilled in us all a deep appreciation for nature and the beauty of the outdoors.”
The family wanted it to become part of the park, Helmen added, saying, “Our grandparents would forever give their wholehearted blessing.”
The county reports that it purchased the land for $425,000, with $300,000 of that coming from a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant.
Adams says park staff currently have ideas of expanding the disc golf course and adding cross-country ski trails as well as separate trails for winter hiking. Routes for biking could grow, too. There could be a new picnic shelter and a possible canoe/kayak launch, or at least a spot for boats to pause.
But, as more ideas have filtered in from the public, Adams says, the department will open up another way for the public to share their suggestions, yet to be announced. Stay tuned.
Have you seen it?:From her land: Prominent statue of Madeline Bertrand stolen at park
Sadly, the closing on the property on March 23 came after staff found that a 4-foot sculpture of Madeline Bertrand had been stolen from the park overnight. Artist Tuck Langland says he could restore it to the pedestal if found in good condition. Call Crime Stoppers at 800-342-7867 or Berrien County Dispatch at 269-983-3060 if you know anything.
In search of …
∎ Wildflower walk: Seek early spring wildflowers on a two-hour hike with the Harbor Country Hikers at 1 p.m. April 1 at the Three Oaks Conservation Area and Kesling Nature Preserve in Three Oaks. Meet at the preserves at 8505 W. Forest Lawn Road. From Three Oaks, drive west on U.S. 12, go left (south) on Basswood Road for one mile, then right on Forest Lawn and look for the township parking lot on the right.
∎ Walk to honor walking: The local Hoosier Hikers club will host guided group walks of 7 and 11 kilometers on the University of Notre Dame campus on April 7 (Good Friday). It will honor April 1-7 as National Walking Week, as declared by the club’s parent organization, the American Volkssport Association. There will be similar walks around the country, though this is the only such club in northcentral Indiana. This walk will begin with registration at 9 a.m., then hiking at 9:30 a.m., starting from the visitor parking lot just east of Notre Dame’s Walsh Hall (Architecture), which is at the intersection of Holy Cross Drive and Eddy Street. There won't be a parking fee because of the holiday. For questions, contact Bob Buzolich at email@example.com.
∎ Potato Creek egg hunt: Friends of Potato Creek State Park will host an Easter egg hunt at 10:30 a.m. April 8 at Darcey’s Beach at the park, 25601 Indiana 4, North Liberty. This will include crafts to make, farm animals to pet and the Easter Bunny to meet. This is for ages 12 and younger. Cost is $2 per person, plus gate fee. Arrive 30 minutes early to register. For questions, call the park office at 574-656-8186, ext. 450.
∎ Woodcock walk: Learn about the American woodcock, a bird also known at the Timberdoodle, then go to see if you can find one and witness its curious mating ritual at 8 p.m. April 8 at Love Creek County Park, 9292 Huckleberry Road, Berrien Center. Bring binoculars and a small flashlight, and wear dark-colored clothing.
∎ Easter “O” Hunt: Help your kids to read a topographical map as you take an orienteering challenge while seeking eggs — redeemable for candy at the end — at 1 p.m. April 9 (Easter Day) at St. Patrick’s County Park, 50651 Laurel Road, South Bend. This is recommended for children 6 and older. Cost is $5 per child. Register by April 4 at 574-654-3155.
Eggs and more:Grab your bonnet and basket and hop on over to one of these local Easter events
∎ Urban Adventure Games: Entry prices for this year’s Urban Adventure Games in South Bend, now at $100 per two-person team, will jump on April 1 to $140 per team for the Fun and Open divisions and $160 per team for the Elite Division. Register and find details at UrbanAdventureGames.com.
Find columnist Joseph Dits on Facebook at SBTOutdoorAdventures or 574-235-6158 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on South Bend Tribune: Osprey back as Wild Ones add native plants and Bertrand park grows