It's time to plan a few spring birding adventures, and there's a new brochure that will make looking at local birds a little easier.
The Great River Birding Trail, which features bird watching opportunities on the Upper Mississippi River, is now being promoted with brochures. Published by the Audubon Society's Upper Mississippi River Campaign, the series of six brochures starts in the headwaters area near Itasca State Park, follows the river south and finishes near the small town of Kellogg in southern Minnesota.
Another set of four brochures continues downstream and hopefully will be printed in time for Iowa's outings this spring. When completed, the project will total 15 brochures that will end the river birding journey near Cairo, Ill.
Each brochure has a map, information on stopping points along the way, a list of birds that inhabit the riverway, data on some of the most unique birds you might see and a checklist showing the abundance and season when you're most likely to see each bird. The American Birding Association's code of ethics, resources and contact information about the trail and travel along the way are also included.
The Brainerd area map begins at river mile 1,210 at Deer River and ends at 975 at the Camp Ripley junction. Stopping sites west of the river include Moose Willow Wildlife Area near Hill City, Aitkin County Roads 18 and 5, Pietz's Road* near Palisade, the Uppgaard Wildlife Management Area* near Pequot Lakes and North Long Lake.
East of the river are seven locations to visit, including Savanna Portage State Park,* McGregor Marsh,* Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge/Kimberly Wildlife Management Area* and Mille Lacs Lake.* Next are two sites in Brainerd: Northland Arboretum/Paul Bunyan Jack Pine Savanna and Boom Park. The last stop is Crow Wing State Park.
Habitat and birds vary along this 235-mile stretch of the Mississippi and its adjoining areas. For example, Pietz's Road is considered "the most consistent single location in Minnesota to find a Great Gray Owl." McGregor Marsh offers one of the best places to find the yellow rail, along with other wetland birds like sedge and marsh wrens and bitterns. Rice Lake is famous for its fall waterfowl migration.
I've birded in most of the places highlighted and can attest to the likelihood of finding birds and other wildlife in these areas. A good way to learn more about birding is to join other birders and wildlife watchers. Bird club members often get together and have guest speakers and field trips.
I can attest to the friendliness and fun you'll enjoy if you join one of the groups. John Richardson, (218) 829-2119, is president of the Brainerd Lakes Area Audubon Society and Jo Blanich, (218) 546-5939 is one of the main birders in the Bee-Nay-She Council Bird Club. Either will welcome you and provide details about their organizations.
If you'd like to get the Great River Birding Trail brochures, contact the Audubon Society (Upper Mississippi River Campaign), 26 E. Exchange St., St. Paul 55101 (651) 290-1695, or email@example.com). The DNR nongame wildlife office in Brainerd also has some.
Spring is coming. Plan now to see resident birds as well as those who spend only the summer with us.
* These sites also appear in "Traveler's Guide to Wildlife in Minnesota," a book I co-authored with Carrol Henderson. It notes why each location is special, the wildlife present and best seasons for viewing.
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