Birds and Trip Highlights
We will spend our first two nights on the northwest side of Minneapolis.
On our first full day, we will visit the forested rolling hills of Stanley Eddy Memorial Park in the morning. We hope to see Cerulean Warbler. This is the northernmost breeding spot for this increasingly rare warbler. Cerulean Warbler populations have dramatically declined in the last few decades. Also of interest are Field Sparrow, Scarlet Tanager, Yellow-throated Vireo, and Indigo Bunting.
In the afternoon, we will go to Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge, where the western prairies meet the north woods. The refuge covers 30,700 acres on a glacier-formed floodplain of forest, grassland, and wetlands. Here we will find a nice mix of waterbirds and passerines. Common Loon will be on the lakes with their chicks, and beautiful wildflowers will line the paths. Of note is that our first day may be our best chance for Dickcissel on this trip, and we may have a chance to spend time in the evening and try for Eastern Whip-Poor-Will around sunset.
The next day we will visit William O’Brien State Park and then drive to Duluth. In the morning, we will focus our efforts on the southeastern birds such as Acadian Flycatcher, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Wood Thrush, Blue-winged, Prothonotary and Hooded Warbler, Eastern Towhee, but we are secretly hoping for a Henslow’s Sparrow at William O’Brien State Park.
We will likely pull into some other natural areas before we drive to Duluth in the afternoon. We will spend the next four nights in Duluth. Duluth is a small port city on beautiful Lake Superior, just south of the world-famous Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, with lots of museums, canal walks, and stunning scenery.
The following day we will explore County Rd 2. This is a great birding route for breeding birds in late spring. There is a lot of boreal habitat with bogs and lakes, and there will be lots of warblers. Canada, Blackburnian, Mourning, Black-throated Blue, Bay-breasted, Cape May, and Golden-winged Warbler. Black-throated Blue Warbler is on the edge of its range here, so we will need a little luck with that. Black-backed Woodpecker, Spruce Grouse, and Boreal Chickadee are all possible, but we need luck to connect with them.
On our next day, we will visit one of the most iconic birding locations in the lower 48: the Sax-Zim Bog. In addition to its miles of spruce and tamarack and northern White Cedar bogs, there is also a mix of extensive alder thickets, aspen and black ash woodlands, hayfields, and sedge marshes. Nesting species include Golden-winged and Connecticut Warbler, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, and with lots of luck, Philadelphia Vireo and Boreal Chickadee. Canada Jay and Black-billed Magpie are unusual there. Cape May, Palm, Mourning Warbler, and LeConte’s Sparrow and Bobolink are also possible.
The following day If we haven’t had our fill of the warbler bonanza, we will go back to one of the spots from the last two days, targeting what we may have missed and also spots we want to enjoy again. If we feel good about what we have seen, we will head out for the scenic south shore of Wisconsin. This Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is immortalized on the back of a quarter, so it must be worth seeing. This area is less birdy than “the bog,” but the scenery is incredible.
The next morning, we will look for species we may have missed, and then we will take an afternoon break, as we will have a long evening ahead of us. Later we will visit Rice Lake, a 3,600-acre emergent marsh that is designated a Globally Important Bird Area and an all around fun area to bird. Trumpeter Swan should be found at Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge, we will also look and listen for Black-billed Cuckoo, Bobolink, Golden-winged Warbler, Alder Flycatcher, and others. The Golden-winged Warbler has suffered one of the steepest population declines of any songbird due to loss of forest habitat. At McGregor Marsh Scientific and Natural Area, we will wait until it gets dark before Yellow Rail becomes active. This means a very late night. Nelson’s Sparrow (formerly known as Sharp-tailed Sparrow) is also possible here.
As we explore central and eastern Minnesota searching for birds, we will keep our eyes glued for exciting midwestern mammals such as moose, black bear, eastern cottontail, and white-tailed deer, with the knowledge we are in the territory of the secretive gray wolf.
Our last night we will spend in McGregor, a small town about 2.5 hours from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP). We will get a late start as we won’t be back in bed before 11 pm the night before. Depending on when the flights leave, we will make 1-2 stops somewhere to catch what we missed. Otherwise, we will make it to MSP in time to easily catch our flights.