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Geneva to celebrate designation as the state's first Bird Town Indiana community

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Bird haven

What: Geneva will celebrate being named the first Bird Town Indiana community in the state with a special ceremony.

When: 2 p.m. Saturday

Where: Limberlost State Historic Site, 202 East 6th St. in Geneva. From Fort Wayne, follow U.S. 27 south about 30 miles to Geneva.

Becoming a Bird Town

The Bird Town Indiana program of the Indiana Audubon Society recognizes communities that “demonstrate an active and ongoing commitment to the protection and conservation of bird populations and habitat.”
A community must demonstrate that commitment in four key areas:
*Creation and protection of natural communities
*Participate in programs promoting effective community natural resource management
*Limit or remove hazards to birds
*Educate the public about birds and their conservation
For more information and the application form, go to www.indianaaudubon.org/BirdTownIndiana.

Friday, September 13, 2013 - 12:43 am

Great blue herons congregate and raise their young along the Wabash River north of town.

Two pairs of nesting bald eagles have raised a combined total of five chicks in two years. Bird-watchers have spotted more than 200 different species.

It's no wonder the town of Geneva will be announced Saturday as the first Indiana community to receive a Bird Town Indiana designation from the Indiana Audubon Society.

A ceremony celebrating the designation will take place at 2 p.m. at the Limberlost State Historic Site, which is just off U.S. 27 in Geneva about 30 miles south of Fort Wayne.

Geneva's interest in pursuing the Bird Town designation started with Terri Gorney of Fort Wayne, an avid birder and a board member of northeast Indiana's Stockbridge Audubon Society.

Gorney also is a member of Friends of the Limberlost, a group that works to preserve the legacy of noted author and naturalist Gene Stratton-Porter by supporting the state historic site — Stratton-Porter's former home — along with restoration of wetlands once part of the vast Limberlost Swamp that inspired Stratton-Porter's nature study and books.

When the Indiana Audubon Society made Bird Town applications available in May, Gorney knew Geneva met many of the criteria. The Indiana program is modeled on a national Audubon initiative.

Gorney also saw the Bird Town designation as a way to honor Indiana Department of Resources regional Ecologist Ken Brunswick and the many other people and organizations that have worked to restore about 1,650 acres of the Limberlost Swamp around Geneva. Most of the swamp had been drained in the late 1800s and early 1900s to create farm land, harvest timber and allow other uses.

Gorney suggested seeking Bird Town Indiana status at a Friends of the Limberlost meeting in May. After a positive response there and from the local chamber of commerce, she and Randy Lehman, the Limberlost State Historic Site's site manager, then sought and received approval from the Geneva town council.

Gorney then worked with Lehman and Brunswick to complete the Bird Town application.

With the Wabash River, wetlands, lowlands, farms and vegetation and structures in town, she said Geneva and the area around it offer a good variety of bird habitats.

Stratton Porter, for example, wrote 100 years ago of sitting on her front porch and watching chimney swifts flit about after insects, and you can still see that species in town today, Gorney said.

During the mild weather in January 2012, 72 tundra swans from the far north wintered in the restored wetlands around Geneva, she said. Those birds were among about 4,000 birds from Canada and tundra areas that spent that winter in the wetlands.

Bird-watching already has been a boon to Geneva, Gorney added. Four different Audubon chapters in the state have organized trips there to see the wide variety of birds.

Fort Wayne and some other area communities probably also would be eligible for a Bird Town Indiana designation, she said, but none has applied.