New Year’s Good Luck
Birds have often been associated with Christmas from the goose on the holiday table to the dove of peace. And who could forget the Twelve Days of Christmas carol? Did you know the song is actually an ancient code? From 1558to 1829 Catholics were forbidden from openly practicing in England. So the song was created as an easy way to help children remember key points. Two turtle doves stood for the two books of the Bible, tree French hens stood for faith, hope, and love, and the four calling birds are the gospels Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John. But what about that partridge? He represents Christ because the bird is willing to sacrifice its life to protect its young.
While you might not be able to see all the birds of Christmas at Pokagon’s Nature Center, there certainly are plenty to see. The staff makes sure to keep several feeders and baths of fresh water full. The free food always draws a crowd from blue jays and morning doves to house finches, gold finches, chickadees, nuthatches, and downy woodpeckers just to name a few.
The cozy nature center provides a warm place for visitors to watch all the action through a large one-way window. There’s a viewing platform and plenty of binoculars for even closer viewing. A bird chart on the wall helps watchers identify the various species that show up for a snack or maybe a bath. Speakers inside the center bring the birdcalls and songs indoors for a full nature experience. It’s not uncommon to see 20 or more birds gathered in front of the viewing window. But when the squirrels show up, all bets are off. The birds often scatter, taking refuge in the higher branches of surrounding trees.
If birds aren’t your thing, the Center also has several turtles indigenous to Indiana, as well as snakes and sometimes a mud puppy! In the past there was also an active beehive with glass sides, so visitors could easily spot the queen. But the hive got sick and so it was taken out. I’ve heard they plan to try again when the weather gets warmer.
There are also several taxidermy exhibits of other indigenous Hoosier animals. Can animals claim state citizenship? I guess if there are Maryland Crabs and Texas Longhorns, why not Indiana badgers and foxes? Anyway, the Center has those and more. Plus there are several nature based games to keep little ones happy. It’s open year round, but can be an especially good way to spend a snowy winter afternoon. Best of all, it’s free. There is admission to get into the park on the weekends (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) during toboggan season. I believe it’s $7 for in state cars and $9 for out of state. Pokagon accepts the Indiana Parks pass (good at all state parks) which, I highly recommend if your family enjoys the outdoors.
Oh, one more thing about the birds…the people of Scandinavia have a nice tradition to bring good luck throughout the coming new year. On Christmas Day they sprinkle seed on their doorsteps. Legend has it that if you take care of the birds during the winter, they will take care of you throughout the year!