You don’t need to be an ornithologist to enjoy the beauty of a bird. Outside of the city, birds are easier to watch and observe as they go about their day. In Minnesota, there are over 250 species of birds nesting alongside the locals. Fortunately, you don’t need to travel to some exotic place to catch a glimpse of some rare and beautiful types of birds. Take a day to enjoy your surroundings and find a new feathered friend around these Minnesotan places.
Quarry Hill Park & Nature Center
701 Silver Creek Road NE
Rochester, MN 55906
In southern Minnesota, Quarry Hill Park, part of the Rochester park system, houses a nature center surrounded by some of the best bird-watching in the state. “Birding” can be enjoyed almost anywhere in this 320-acre park. Optimal in the spring, bird sightings are anywhere along the paved and unpaved trails, around the pond or near the manmade sandstone cave on site. Common birds seen in Quarry Hill Park include warblers, thrushes, sparrows and cedar waxwings. Hang out all day and you may even glimpse a ruby-crowned kinglet. With free admission year-round, Quarry Hill Park is a great place to spend the day in nature.
Gooseberry Falls State Park
Two Harbors, MN 55616
Northern Minnesota houses the “gateway to the North,” also called Gooseberry Falls State Park. This park is over 1,000 acres of scenic and mostly undisturbed forest land. Hike the paved trails and enjoy the scenic falls while spotting hundreds of species of birds. Common birds seen here include grackles, lapland spurs and the American crow. Rare but not totally unseen is the lark sparrow. Grab your binoculars and head up to Gooseberry Falls, the land is well maintained and accessible to all ages. The best bird sightings take place in the fall and spring.
Fort Snelling State Park
St. Paul, MN 55120
Close to the Twin Cities is historic Fort Snelling State Park. Get there by trail or car and spend the day wandering around this bird-watching paradise and taking in the remnants of military life from the late 1800s. Hike or bike along the rugged trails through woodlands, wetlands and grassland. Common birds spotted at Fort Snelling include hawks, Baltimore orioles and even bald eagles. Giant wild turkeys can also be seen running around the park on less crowded days. Enjoy an afternoon of nature and fresh air at Fort Snelling.
Minnesota River Valley National Wildlife Refuge
3815 American Blvd. E
Bloomington, MN 55425
Go birding along the Minnesota River within the confines of the protected Wildlife Refuge. This large area covers over 14,000 acres and runs about 70 miles along the river. Developed as a place to protect and house migrating waterfowl, the National Wildlife Refuge has become a haven for bird watchers. Encompassing areas of grassland, wetland and forest, the refuge is a great place for spotting wood ducks and different species of falcon. Explore the lakes and thickets along the trails and possibly catch a glimpse of a bald eagle.
Kasota, MN 56058
There’s a lot to discover in the heart of Le Suer County on the Ottawa Bluffs Preserve. Enjoy this small wildlife reserve that houses species of the grassland and woodland. Head to the top of the bluff and enjoy the scenery of beautiful foliage along with a large variety of feathered wildlife. The top of the bluff is also the site of an ancient Indian burial mound, making the area somewhat sacred. Enjoy wild turkey and raptors roaming around the preserve and possibly catch a yellow-bellied sapsucker on the trail.
Andrea Wodele is a freelance writer who has lived in the Twin Cities for the last 10 years. Her hobbies include exercising, driving kids around, watching Minnesota sports, and reading self-help literature. Examiner.com.