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Bird watching a 'cheep' way to explore parks

Woodpeckers like this one spotted on a tree in Hok-Si-La Park are one of dozens of common bird species that can be found nearby during the summer. Parks between Red Wing and Lake City offer excellent bird watching spots for beginners and veterans alike. (Republican Eagle photo by Michael Brun)

Soaring bald eagles are a common sight in the skies around Lake Pepin, but the national symbol is just one of  several dozen bird species that can be found in the region.

The miles of forest and shoreline from Red Wing to Lake City are a great place to spend an inexpensive day bird watching. The best times of the year for birding are typically the migrating periods in spring and fall, but patience and a keen eye can pay off all summer long.

A number of city and state parks can be found along Highway 61, each with its own vistas and trails to discover.

One of the top birding spots locally is Frontenac Sate Park, just a few miles south of Red Wing. The park is home to 261 bird species for all or part of the year — the highest amount of any park in the state, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

“It’s pretty popular,” said Assistant Park Manager Caleb Jensen about bird watching around Frontenac.

He said there are three sites that have developed a reputation for birders: the Sand Point Trail for forest birds; the main overlook in the park’s interior for eagles and vultures; and Pleasant Valley Lakelet for warblers in the spring and fall.

Continuing south on Highway 61 leads to Hok-Si-La Park. The Lake City municipal park has woods and wetlands as well as a cliff views over Lake Pepin.

For a closer-to-home outing, the shoreline at Colvill Park offers a glimpse of the various waterfowl and gulls that inhabit the Mississippi River.

Bird watching can be done without any special equipment, but even a basic pair of binoculars can help spot jittery songbirds from a distance. An inexpensive pair can be purchased for under $20.

Spending a day in forests and near wetlands also means mosquitoes, ticks and other pests, so beginning birders and children should dress and prepare accordingly.

A Frontenac bird watching checklist with a key showing the abundance of various species during the summer can be downloaded for free at

Free to enjoy … bird watching

Where: Parks between Red Wing and Lake City

Splurge: A pair of inexpensive binoculars can be a big help; consider camping overnight at Frontenac State Park

More info:

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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