The Little Africa (LA) Wildlife Viewing Area is located on a 25-acre peninsula that juts out into Lake Lemon at its far eastern end. There is a parking lot at the base of the peninsula just off of Southshore Drive. A footpath, the total length of which is about a half of a mile, loosely follows the edge of the peninsula and loops back to the parking lot. Motorized vehicles are prohibited on the path.
There is an inlet to the east of the peninsula which is visible from the path on the peninsula’s east side. At the tip of the peninsula, there are a couple of vantage points from which one can have an obstructed view through the trees that, for the most part, line the edge of the peninsula. The main channel for Bean Blossom Creek runs west into the main part of the lake–directly adjacent to the tip of the peninsula. Just north of the channel there is a fairly extensive shallow area (perhaps another 25 acres) that, while usually covered with water throughout the spring, tends to become more exposed as the summer progresses. When we’re lucky, this area becomes an extensive mudflat just in time for fall shorebird migration. The flat is bordered to the east by a small island dotted with willows, and further to the east by a fairly extensive riparian corridor. To the west is the East Bay of Lake Lemon, most of which is visible from the end of the peninsula. Over the past 5 years, a patch of Am. Lotus (Nelumbo pentapetala) has been spreading in East Bay, just to the west and northwest of the LA peninsula. It may be destined to be a permanent summer-fall fixture at the east end of the lake.
The peninsula itself is bordered by a row of trees made up largely of willows and Silver Maples, with a small cluster of pines and River Birch along the west side. The interior of the peninsula currently is made up of grasses, forbs, and shrubs that are dominated by Winged Sumac and Multiflora Rose, although there is a small line of deciduous trees oriented in an east-west line about two-thirds of the way out and along the east side of the peninsula. Sassafras Audubon Society (of Bloomington), which has been given permission to manage LA, is trying to maintain the area as an open old-field habitat. They will clear the area of woody shrubs and saplings on a rotational basis, leaving approximately one-third of the woody vegetation standing at any given time. Sassafras Audubon Society plans to erect and maintain a series of nest boxes along the perimeter of the peninsula that, in the past, have supported numerous Eastern Bluebirds, House Wrens, and Tree Swallows.
The flats to the north of the peninsula provide the primary attraction to the site during migration. The inlet to the east, the east bay of the main lake, the patch of lotus (late summer-fall), and the peninsula itself provide secondary birding opportunities.
Typical Time to Bird Site: 30-90 Minutes
BIRDSOverview:Shorebirds, during spring and fall migrations, are probably the main attraction of LA, with 32 species having been recorded on or adjacent to the peninsula. In addition, LA is a good place to see terns, swallows and blackbirds during migration. Eight species of herons and egrets have also occurred here. In late fall, Sandhill Cranes occasionally spend the night on the LA flats. Breeders on the LA peninsula include Eastern Bluebird, House Wren, Tree Swallow, Field Sparrow, and Prairie Warbler. During February and March, American Woodcock can be seen and heard displaying in the early morning or late evening; they may also stay to breed on the southwestern portion of the peninsula. A pair of Red-shouldered Hawks usually breeds somewhere in the vicinity.Specialty Species:Red-necked Phalaropes have occurred on the mudflats during the past three fall migrations; dates have ranged from 17-Aug to 30-Sep.Western , Baird’s , and White-rumped Sandpipers are some of the rarer peeps that occur regularly at LA. These species have been reported during both spring and fall migrations.Sanderlings have occurred during both spring and fall migrations as well.Buff-breasted Sandpipers have occurred regularly during the past four years, primarily between 20-Aug and 15-Sep.American Golden-Plovers have been recorded annually for the past three years, with more variable dates ranging from 31-Aug to 27-Nov (in 1998).Franklin’s Gulls have been observed at LA in late fall (15-Nov to 11-Dec) each of the last 3 years.Merlins and Peregrine Falcons show up at least a couple of times a year, although they tend to be more regular in the fall (Sep-Oct).Noteworthy Records:Pacific Loon – (05-16-Nov-1991) – two birdsRed-necked Grebe – (11-Nov-1997) – East BayMarbled Murrelet – (29-Nov-1981) – injured birdCattle Egret – (12-Nov-1997); (28-30-Apr-1998) – two birds; (25-May-1999)Snowy Egret – (05-Jun-1999)Black Scoter – (29-Oct-1996) – two birds at East BaySurf Scoter – (16-Apr-1999); (28-Apr-1999)Common Moorhen – (26-Sep-1998 to 17-Oct-1998)Piping Plover – (06-12-Sep-1996)American Avocet – (12-Jul-1999); (09-Sep-1999) – five birdsWillet – (02-07-May-1997)Marbled Godwit – (24-Aug-1996); (29-Aug-1999 to 05-Sep-1996); (01-May-1997) – seven birdsHudsonian GodwitRuddy Turnstone – (07-Sep-1996) – two birdsUpland Sandpiper – (25-Aug-1998)Wilson’s Phalarope – (01-20-Aug-1997); (14-Sep-1999)Sabine’s Gull – (01-08-Oct-2003) – juvenile birdCalifornia Gull – (20-Apr-1997)Laughing Gull – (25-Aug-1997); (08-Jun-1999)Fish Crow – (26-27-Apr-2003) – two birdsConnecticut Warbler – (fall 1995) – singing!Yellow-headed Blackbird – (24-Aug-1996); (21-Sep-1997)
GENERAL SITE INFORMATIONOwnership: City of Bloomington, Indiana Utilities: 812-853-6378Caretakers: Lake Lemon Conservancy District: 812-334-0233 with assistance from Sassafras Audubon SocietyHours:None.Fees:None.Restrooms:None.Lodging:Accommodations are available in nearby Bloomington. See Bloomington Area Lodging for hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts.Special Considerations: Hunting: Waterfowl hunting from stationary boats occurs on Lake Lemon in the fall. While this does not affect access to Little Africa, birders should be advised that they may hear nearby gunfire.Temporal Considerations:Spring and fall migration periods are the best times to visit, with fall being more productive, on average, than the spring. Little Africa can be especially rewarding in the fall when water levels are down and the mudflats are exposed. August and September are the optimal months (10-31-Aug seems to be the “hottest” period), but rarities turn up in September and October as well. During the spring, the period from about 20-Apr to 20-May seems to be the best time to visit.
REFERENCESKeller, 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.Mumford, Russell E.”The Marbled Murrelet in Indiana.”Indiana Audubon Quarterly 60.4 (1982): 190-1.Pettingill Jr., Olin Sewall. A Guide To Bird Finding East of the Mississippi. Second Edition.New York: Oxford University Press, 1977.Seng, Phil T., and David J. Case.Indiana Wildlife Viewing Guide.Helena, MT: Falcon Press, 1992.
- Sassafras Audubon Society
- Check the latest newsletter and calendar of events for Bloomington area birding at this great website.
- Lake Lemon Map
- This map from the Bloomington Yacht Club website shows all the major roads around Lake Lemon. Although Little Africa isn’t labeled, it’s on the peninsula on the southeast side of the lake immediately to the right of the words “Countyline Road”.
Author: Jim & Susan Hengeveld
Editor: Darel HeitkampLocation
South Central Indiana
Brown County, Indiana
DeLorme Page 50, Grid A-5
GPS: 39º 15′ 15.3″ N
86º 21′ 52.1″ W
From Bloomington: From the northeast side of Bloomington, at the intersection of 10th St. and the SR 45/46 Bypass, take the continuation of 10th St. (which is SR 45 east of the Bypass) to the east/northeast. Stay on SR 45 for 7 miles to the small town of Unionville (you will go through New Unionville several miles before getting to Unionville). Just past the tiny post office in Unionville on the left side of the road (and just before the elementary school on the right), turn left onto Shuffle Creek Rd. Take it 1.8 miles until it T’s into South Shore Drive. Turn right onto South Shore and take it for two miles to the entrance to Little Africa on the left. On South Shore Dr., you will go past the causeway, with water on both sides, and shortly after will make two 90-degree curves shortly before getting to the entrance to LA.
From the North: From Indianapolis, take I-465 to I-65. Go south on I-65 for 17 miles to exit 90. At exit 90, go west on SR-44 for 9 miles to SR-135 (NOTE: you can also take SR-135 south directly from I-465–it might, in fact, be faster if you’re coming around Indy on the west side on I-465). Turn left onto SR-135 and take it for 17 miles to Bean Blossom. In Bean Blossom (at the corner with the IGA grocery store), turn right (west) onto SR-45 and take it (through Helmsburg and Trevlac) to the tiny town of Needmore. About 0.2 mi. beyond the small grocery store in Needmore, on a bend in the road, turn right onto South Shore Drive. Take it for 1.2 miles to the entrance to Little Africa on the right.
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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.