Siah St. Clair, retired director of Fridley's Springbrook Nature Center, chose his Brooklyn Park home to be close to the Mississippi Flyway.
St. Clair, who is the field trip chairman for the Minneapolis Audubon Society, wanted to be in a good position to watch the birds en route north or south, depending on the time of year.
He always looks forward to the spring migration. It's a chance to see the birds up close. "The returning migrants are always hungry after their long migrating flights and spend a lot of time refueling as soon as they arrive," said St. Clair.
Some birds fly farther north, while others start their nesting season.
Here are some of the places St. Clair suggests if you'd like to get out and see the birds.
Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park
Brooklyn Park/Coon Rapids
The 160-acre park along both sides of the Mississippi River is an ideal spot for observing waterfowl and other types of birds, St. Clair says.
The Coon Rapids Dam is a site that he knows well. It has an osprey platform, a great blue heron rookery (or nesting place) and a bald eagle nest downriver a bit, "so eagles can be seen at the dam very often," he said.
That's not all. Because of the fast-flowing water at the dam, the rocky breakwaters and water pools, "this is also a great place to see migrating shorebirds like greater and lesser yellowlegs and sandpipers."
Also, above the dam, one can often spot ducks, geese and swans as they migrate through the area. In the coming weeks, people can look for warblers on the wooded trails, St. Clair added.
Address: 10360 W. River Road, Brooklyn Park
Springbrook Nature Center
Springbrook has long been a destination for everyone from the casual to serious birder.
A bird-banding project that began at the center in 1988 has yielded all kinds of "fascinating data about the birds that live in and migrate," through the center's 127 acres, its website states. Springbrook also participates in a Christmas Bird Count.
It has a great mix of wetland, prairie and upland woods. The center attracts a wide variety of wildlife as a result. "It's a great spot to see migrating dabbling ducks, grebes, herons, egrets, sora rails, sandpipers, as well as all the warblers, sparrows, and songbirds as they pass through or return to nest," St. Clair said.
Address: 100 85th Ave. NW., Fridley
Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Park Reserve
Rice Creek, tucked within a sizable reserve that includes many different wetland areas, is a prime spot for birders.
It has a trail that links to the Mississippi River that makes it a "good habitat for all the migrants as well as hawks and owls that nest in the area," St. Clair said.
Address: 7401 Main St., Lino Lakes
Westwood Hills Nature Center
St. Louis Park
Hummingbirds, loons and owls can often be found at the 160-acre Westwood Hills Nature Center, its website says. Also, Westwood Lake attracts plenty of diving ducks, St. Clair said.
Golden Valley resident Bob Papke, a member of the Minneapolis Audubon Society, occasionally leads birding programs at Westwood Hills.
To get the most out of birding there or elsewhere, Papke advises that "people should take the time to be quiet. Don't bring the dogs with you. You should just sit and watch. It's surprising what you might see," he said. "It might take awhile but it's worth it."
Address: 8300 W. Franklin Ave., St. Louis Park
Clifton E. French Regional Park
Clifton E. French Regional Park, on the north shore of Medicine Lake, is large enough that one could spend several hours bird-watching.
It "has more open areas and sees more swallows and has purple martins that nest there after they return in late spring," St. Clair said.
Address: 12605 Rockford Road, Plymouth
Minnesota Landscape arboretum
Stretching out over more than 1,200 acres, the vast wooded and open areas at the Landscape Arboretum provide different types of habitats for birds and other wildlife.
It's "a good place to see and hear flycatchers in addition to the warblers," St. Clair said.
During the spring, a naturalist leads several walks, talking about the "birds that are just passing through and those who are coming to stay for the summer," and their behaviors, its website states.
Address: 3675 Arboretum Dr., Chaska