By Terri Gorney Lehman
The Cardinal Chapter of the Indiana Audubon Society was formed March 17, 1948. The chapter was named for Gene Stratton-Porter's first book, "Song of the Cardinal." By the 1980s, it was known as the Cardinal Club. Members were mostly from Berne and Geneva.
The first officers in the organization were Mrs. Karl Hilty, president; Mrs. Mamie Schenbeck, vice president; Mrs. Wilbur Nussbaum, secretary-treasurer.
The earliest known Christmas Bird Count (CBC) by the Cardinal Chapter in Adams County was in 1948. A total of 14 species were spotted and 846 birds were counted. In comparison, the January 1, 1973 CBC had 43 species and 4,137 birds on the list.
In 1956, on the annual Christmas Bird Count, thirty-nine species were recorded including a snowy owl and 100 Lapland longspurs. According to the Berne Witness, those participating were: Dr. and Mrs. Von Gunten, Paul and Jerry Macklin, Mrs. James Lybarger, Mrs. Sidney Buckmaster, Mrs. Paul Shoemaker, Mrs. Helen Atz, Mrs. Lester Price, Mrs. Paul Felber, Miss Dorcas Sprunger, Mrs. Augusta Dubach, Mrs. William Schenbeck.
Around 1968, the date of January 1 was established for the count and it has been this date since this time. That is seventy-three years of bird counts in Adams County as either a county count or a National Audubon Society circle.
January 1, 1974, CBC there were a total of 3,497 birds seen, including: a bobwhite, Eastern meadowlark, red-winged blackbird, and a vesper sparrow. Those who participated in the CBC were: Earlene and Dorothy Moser, Elmer Moser, Vickie Andrew, Mrs. Gordon Augsburger, Lloyd Biberstein, Mrs. August Dubach, Mrs. Phoebe Edington, Mrs. Madge Hemphill, Mrs. Karl Hilty, Timothy Lambert, Mrs. Lester Price, Mrs.. Orlu Martin, Harry Moser, Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd Munro, Mrs. Wilbur Nussbaum, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Oswalt, Susan and Julie Oswalt, Mrs. Kathryn Renner, Greg Rittenhouse, Mrs. Mamie Schenbeck, Frances Smith, Grace Smith, Mrs. Menno Stauffer and Mrs. Neola Stauffer.
The Cardinal Chapter of IAS joined the Amos Butler Audubon Society on April 7, 1951, for a trip to Jasper-Pulaski to see the Sandhill cranes. Today Sandhill cranes use Limberlost Conservation Area during migration in the early spring and late fall. We have even had them listed on recent CBC. In 1989, there was a program on the re-introduction of the bald eagles in southern Indiana. Today, eagles are a common sight in Geneva. In 2021, Geneva had four active eagle nests; Linn Grove and northern Jay County each had one.
In 2014, I became the compiler for the Adams County Christmas Bird Count. Larry Parker was the compiler before me and Earlene Moser the compiler before that. For the 2015-2016 CBC, I changed it into a circle for inclusion into the National Audubon Society's records and to include all of the Limberlost Conservation Area and Ouabache State Park. The circle is called SANJO CBC (Southern Adams Northern Jay Ouabache). I was happy that Earlene and Dorothy Moser, Elaine Bluhm and Larry Parker who were members of the Cardinal Club helped with the CBC. Carl Yoder, who was a longtime supporter of the Friends of the Limberlost was also a member of the Cardinal Club.
Continuing the tradition begun by the Cardinal Club, members of the Robert Cooper Audubon Society of Muncie, Mississinewa Audubon Club of Marion and Stockbridge Audubon Society of Fort Wayne as well as local people who help with count either in the field or bird feeder counters. There is always room for new people to help with this count.
In 1973, Stockbridge Audubon Society started the tradition of a chili dinner. I started that tradition in 2014 when I took over as compiler. It is nice time to gather to meet new people and greet old friends.
I have been able to find some of the history of the Cardinal Club and the bird counts in Adams County from articles in the Berne Witness and the Decatur Democrat.