Spring is in the air — but more than that, ushering with it a concurrent flow of human expectation and a need to invest in the season. How should we take advantage of these days? What follows is a list of happenings — some long-established like the rich Festival of Birds in Detroit Lakes, some below the radar like a morel hunt/fundraiser in Watertown — that speak to the breadth of these days in Minnesota. These aren’t intended as the best or the most popular things to do. Rather, they are ideas, from birding to learning to fly fish to helping clear hiking trails, unified by a thread. Big or humble, they are acutely about how we engage in our one-and-only spring.


All about the eastern bluebird (Saturday)

Here is an opportunity to learn about the history of the bluebird and how you can help restore their population in Minnesota. The program begins at 10 a.m. at Afton State Park’s visitor center. For a different foray, consider heading to the St. Olaf Bluebird Trail on the campus Natural Lands in Northfield. It’s there that the college has established more than 60 nesting boxes. The project can be traced to a biology student who put up boxes in 1993. Now, about 70 bluebirds have fledged each season in recent years. (dnr.state.mn.us; wp.stolaf.edu/naturallands)

Educated by birds (Saturday-Sunday)

The National Eagle Center in Wabasha continues its SOAR with the Eagles Festival this weekend. Presenters from World Bird Sanctuary will introduce their team of education birds at noon and 2:30 p.m. both days. Among the birds are a spectacled owl, a Eurasian eagle owl, a hooded vulture and a Harris’ hawk. The festival includes live eagle programs, ongoing question-and-answer opportunities and crafts for children. (nationaleaglecenter.org)

Get on the gravel (Beginning Saturday and ongoing)

Penn Cycle’s shop in Woodbury (6415 Lake Road Terrace) is hosting the first of Penn’s six training rides on gravel in anticipation of Minnesota’s jewel of gravel road riding: the Almanzo 100 in Spring Valley, Minn. No one will get dropped on the training rides, which will begin about 15 miles and increase in length. (penncycle.com)

Bisons 101 (Ongoing)

Minneopa State Park is looking for “bison ambassadors”: Volunteers who will inform park visitors on how to be safe around the park’s bison population, and answer any related questions. The bison population roams 331 acres at the park. The primary responsibility is to answer questions and explain rules for the Bison Drive. Interested? Contact park naturalist Scott Kudelka (scott.kudelka@state.mn.us, 1-507-389-5174).


Hiking for birds (April 7)

Local birder Kevin Smith will lead a morning hike around Carpenter Nature Center in Hastings. He’ll have tips and direction for identifying birds by eye and ear. Field guides and binoculars are available for use. Call 651-437-4359 to reserve a spot. (carpenternaturecenter.org)

Starting to fly fish (Beginning April 13 for four weeks)

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has a four-session class, beginning April 13, to help people learn how to fly fish. The class is at Whitewater State Park near St. Charles, a popular spot for anglers. To register, call 1-507-312-2308, ext. 226, or e-mail park naturalist Sara Holger (sara.holger@state.mn.us) before April 1. Participants need fly fishing equipment by the third session. Some equipment is available on loan. A fishing license and trout stamp is required. The course cost is $20. The three remaining classes are April 20, April 27 and May 4. (dnr.state.mn.us)

Earth Day (April 21)

Earth Day officially is April 22. Minneapolis and St. Paul will mark it a day earlier with volunteer cleanups at parks and community areas. Of course, there are other scheduled entry points into the day. Join the naturalist at 2 p.m. on a hike to find out the importance of Earth Day and what Wild River State Park near Taylor’s Falls is doing to protect the park. The walk meets at the visitor center. Also: Fort Snelling State Park is hosting a day to help clean and preserve the popular park where the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers meet. Meet at the Thomas C. Savage Visitor Center. Note: A state park permit is required on each vehicle, and is available at the park office. (minneapolisparks.org; stpaul.gov; dnr.state.mn.us)

Hit the trails running (April 21)

Trail Mix, that harbinger of warm weather trail running, happens at Lake Rebecca Park Reserve in Rockford. There are 50-kilometer, 25K and 12.5K races. Runners also can team up in pairs of four or two. Runners will know their effort felt good and helped others: Registration money supports the purchase of equipment for Three Rivers Parks District’s robust adapted sports programs. (threeriversparks.org)

Midwest Mountaineering Outdoor Expo (April 27-29)

The first bookend of the outdoor retailer’s two annual expos — the second is in the fall — is a great gateway into a year of paddling, camping, climbing, hiking and adventuring. The event is flush with gear vendors and speakers on a range of topics, from adventures for the masses in the outdoors to the extreme. Some notable events include a roundtable on expedition canoeing and a presentation by Minnesota adventurers Amy and David Freeman, who most recently spent a year in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness to draw attention to its protection from copper-nickel mining. The Freemans are about to exchange paddle for wheel, and ride bikes to Washington, D.C. (with a canoe in tow) to promote their book “A Year in the Wilderness.” (outdooradventureexpo.com)

Get in Gear (April 28)

If you are into rites of spring, think about Get in Gear. The classic event is in its 41st year, and covers distances of 10K, 5K and half-marathon. Get in Gear can be traced back to the glory days of running. It began in 1978. There are fun run distances of 2k, 3k, 4k April 27. (getingearevents.com)


Help on the trails (Ongoing in May)

People can do good, meet others, and get their wilderness camping fix by volunteering to help clear some of Minnesota’s notable trails in advance of the spring hiking season. Border Route Trail is one that could use the support. The 65-mile trail in northeast Minnesota hugs the border between the state of Ontario, Canada, and crosses part of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. There are four trail clearing trips in May, when brush and downed trees will be removed. The first is May 4-7 at Topper Lake. Volunteers will backpack in. Some trips, such as the one May 31 at Pine Lake 2, involve paddling in. Likewise there will be trail clearing days for the Superior Hiking Trail, which connects with the Border Route at its eastern terminus. As for the Border Route Trail, register for trips with its association, which helps organize transportation, provides tools and paddling equipment, and can answer questions about their trail clearing trips. The North Country Trail Association is leading a crew May 16-24 to clear blowdowns and brush on a remote section of the Kekakabic Trail within the BWCA. To register and for more details, including cost, go to bit.ly/kekwork. (borderroutetrail.org; shta.org; northcountrytrail.org)


Morels & Memories (May 5)

The aforementioned is a special event in Watertown, Minn., a mushroom hunt and a fundraiser. The event is hosted by Courtney Iverson, who started it in honor of her mother, Heidi Vanderlinde, who was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease at 49 in 2011. Now in its third year, the event delivers tips and tricks for identifying, cleaning and cooking morels. There also is food and music. Registration is $50; all money goes to the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund. Registration is capped at 300, with children 12 and under allowed free. Find more Morels & Memories details and registration information at morelsandmemories.org.

Birding takeover (May 16-19)

The deep diversity of the Detroit Lakes area, where forest meets prairie, puts the annual Festival of Birds on a lot of “must” lists. The festival includes several field trips, including the Blanket Flower Prairie Scientific Nature Area and the tallgrass prairies and wetlands of Hamden Slough National Wildlife Refuge. Carrol Henderson, supervisor of the Nongame Wildlife Program in Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources, will speak Friday evening. In his long career as a champion of conservation, Henderson has been instrumental in the restoration of several threatened or nearly destroyed species in Minnesota, from trumpeter swans to river otters. (visitdetroitlakes.com)


Midweek on the run (May 23)

The Endless Summer Trail Running Series is back — and will likely be another sellout for its four races. The first is a 10-kilometer race at Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan. The series has stayed true to its roots: midweek, low-key, and for runners of all abilities. All the races have sold out in advance the past three years. Register for one or all four while you still can. (estrs.com)


Roll around the river (June 3)

The Tour de Pepin drops riders in a dual world of impressive water (Lake Pepin) and peaks (Driftless Area). There are rides of 32, 50, 72 or 100 miles, beginning at Ohuta Park in Lake City. The riders head south toward Wabasha, before crossing into Wisconsin en route to Pepin, Stockholm and on. (tourdepepin.com)


Wildflower tour (June 9)

If wildflowers and native grasses pique your interest, head to Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge in Zimmerman. Prairie wildflowers bloom from late spring through fall. (fws.gov/refuge/sherburne)


All butterflies (June 17)

The Sax-Zim Bog, an hour northwest of Duluth, is a Minnesota gem — a mix of coniferous forest, random meadows and water that has made the area a global birding destination. Friends of the Sax-Zim Bog put on a number of public programs and field trips in spring. A naturalist will lead a field trip at noon on butterflies. The trip is free to members of the group. A $25 field trip fee includes group membership and a year of free field trips at the bog. (saxzim.org)


“Paddle, shred & tread the red” (June 10)

The Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area in Crosby, with its mine lakes and now-famous mountain bike trail system, is the scene for an off-road triathlon. The event includes a 2-mile paddle, 8½-mile mountain bike ride, and a 3-mile trail run. (cuyunaoffroadtri.com)