Photo taken by Beth Dixon of a Black Vulture at Spring Mill State Park
This small but diverse state park features a pioneer village with a working grist mill and a visitor center with local astronaut Gus Grissom’s Gemini spacecraft. Located in the karst region of South Central Indiana with moderate to steep topography and punctuated with caves and sinkholes, it is mostly forested and has an extensive trail system. The 67-acre Donaldson Woods Nature Preserve is one of the few remnant virgin forests in Indiana, with impressive oak and tulip trees. A cultural item of interest to birders is a carved profile of noted American ornithologist Alexander Wilson made by one of the original settlers. It is located along the creek between Donaldson Cave and the lake.
Habitats at Spring Mill include forested dry slopes and moist ravines, brushy areas bordering the campground, some planted pine stands and a modest size lake with shallow mudflats that attract shorebirds. Most woodland birds are common including Pileated and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Eastern Wood-pewee, Acadian Flycatcher, Wood Thrush, Red-eyed Vireo, Summer and Scarlet Tanagers, Kentucky Warblers and Barred Owls. The pioneer village offers open habitat for bluebirds and Red-headed Woodpeckers.
The stream feeding the lake originates at Donaldson’s Caves and has nesting Louisiana Waterthrushes along its banks. The large American sycamores nearby host Northern Parulas and Yellow-throated Warblers. Cave entrances usually have nesting Eastern Phoebes and Northern Rough-winged Swallows. Winter Wrens can sometimes be found during the winter near the pioneer village, especially along the creek going to Hamer Cave.
Park and trail maps are available at the park entrance; bird checklists are available at the Nature Center.
Typical Time to Bird Site: 4 Hours
Owls, woodpeckers, vireos, tanagers, warblers, thrushes, tits, finches and sparrows are all regular at Spring Mill.
Black Vultures occur here and in the area surrounding the park. Although they are present year-round, they are more easily observed October through May. During some winters, a large night roost consisting of both Black and Turkey Vultures can be found just east of the Inn.
Chuck-will’s-widows are summer residents outside the park and are consistently heard on the county road just east of the park entrance, 0.75 mi north of SR 60.
Summer Tanagers can be found in all upland areas of the park, especially along the road from the Inn to Twin Caves.
GENERAL SITE INFORMATION
Site Phone Number: 812-849-4129
Visitor Center: 8:30 am – 4:00 pm year-round.Nature Center: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm year-round.The road to the lake and village may be closed at night, especially during the winter.
The usual Indiana State Park entrance fee is collected. Also accepted is the annual State Park pass good for all Indiana DNR properties. Use the state parks link below for further details.
Modern facilities are located at the Inn, the Visitor Center, the Nature Center, and the campgrounds (seasonal). Pit toilets are found elsewhere in the park.
In addition to the 223 available campsites at Spring Mill State Park, visitors can stay overnight at the historic Spring Mill Inn . Additional hotel/motel accommodations are available in nearby Mitchell and Bedford.
Birding is reasonably productive year-round, although the summer and migration periods offer the best variety. Black Vultures are most readily found during the winter, when the park roads and trails are mostly deserted. Early morning birding is best during spring and summer due to the large numbers of park visitors that arrive mid-to-late morning.
Castrale, John S. “Nesting Black Vultures in Lawrence County, Indiana.” Indiana Audubon Quarterly 64.1 (1986): 30-2.
Goll, John. Indiana State Parks. Saginaw: Glovebox Guidebooks of America, 1995.
Keller, Charles E., Shirley A. Keller, and Timothy C. Keller. Indiana Birds and Their Haunts: A Checklist and Finding Guide. Second Edition. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986.
Overlease, William, and Edith Overlease. “Winter Bird Studies at Spring Mill State Park.” Indiana Audubon Quarterly 52.2 (1974): 61-3.
Seng, Phil T., and David J. Case. Indiana Wildlife Viewing Guide. Helena, MT: Falcon Press, 1992.
Author: John Castrale
Editors: Darel Heitkamp and Dick Patterson
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Indiana Audubon Society's mission is to stimulate interest in birds and their protection; to serve the needs of youth, civic, church, schools and other groups by providing information concerning birds; and to educate the public concerning the necessity for conserving and preserving Indiana's natural heritage, its unique flora and fauna.