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Birding in Northeastern Olmsted County

by Bob Ekblad

Locations
  1. Hadley Valley
  2. Eastside WMA
  3. Silver Creek Reservoir
  4. Viola Pond
  5. Quincy Road
Northeast Olmsted County



1
Hadley Valley Go To Top 

Directions: North from Rochester on Hwy 63.  Turn right onto 65th St. NE. 
Seasonal Ratings: 
Spring
Summer

Fall
Winter

 
Primary Species:  Passerines, Hawks, Screech Owl, Wild Turkey
Hadley Valley

Drive 65th street and watch for birds, especially along the second mile from Highway 63 where the woods come right up to the road. There are also several pine plantations in the area (including one right at the entrance off of Highway 63) that are sure to be good habitat for owls. Wild Turkey have also been seen along this road as well. 

The area along the gravel portion of 48th Street (go straight were County 124 turns north) is good for hawks and an occasional Bald Eagle. It is also a good place to watch and listen for owls (Screech Owl in particular) before and at sunrise and at dusk.  The road enters more heavily wooded habitat after you go up the first rise where the species possibilities change to passerines, etc.


2
Eastside WMA 
     (County 9 Wetland)
Go To Top 

Directions: East from Rochester on Hwy 14 to East Circle Drive (Cty 22).  Turn left and and proceed north past the college.  Right at the stoplight onto County 9 and proceed east approximately 1-1/2 miles. The WMA is on the right (before the tracks).
Seasonal Ratings: 
Spring
Summer
Fall
Winter
 --
Primary Species:  Waterfowl, rails, sparrows, warblers, Black-billed and Yellow-billed Cuckoos and Yellow-headed Blackbird
Public access trails available
 
View from County 9 
(deck is near trees on left)
Eastside WMA

Eastside WMA (County 9 wetland) 


This recently improved Wildlife Management Area now has a dam that backs up the water and makes a great haven for waterfowl and other marsh birds. There is a nice viewing platform overlooking the open water as well as some of the sedge marsh.  This is one of the two best birding areas in the county.   The parking lot was recently moved closer to the road (only accomodates 6 to 8 cars) but it is only a short walk on a wide gravel trail that leads directly to the viewing platform.

Sora and Virginia Rails as well as Sedge and Marsh Wrens can be found here, predominantly during spring migration.  This is one of the best locations in the county for finding Yellow-headed Blackbird; they can usually be located a distance to the south of the platform in the taller reeds.  Green Heron can often be found here as well, usually in the flooded tree area on the west (where you are sure to spot Wood Ducks in the spring and summer).  Rarities here include a pair of Great-tailed Grackles (May 7-8, 2001), Common Moorhen, Sandhill Crane, and Prothonotary Warblers.  A few years ago Least Bittern were found here later in the summer.

The pine plantation was recently "renovated" and now has a lot less trees.  There should still be enough habitat to draw in migrants so it is probably worth the time to wander through the area.  If you follow the trail through to the east end where the tract opens up into more open grassy and drier areas you may find both Black-billed Cuckoo and the less common Yellow-billed Cuckoos.  You can also walk the tracks (they are used by real trains, so take care) to get further to the south without having to break trail.

Spring warbler watching is good up along the highway, especially at the gap in the trees by the control structure (in spite of the sometimes heavy traffic) where the birds tend to funnel past.  You can also enter the west side of the waterway through the pines where there is often viewable shorebird habitat.


3
Silver Creek Reservoir Go To Top 

Directions: East from Rochester on Hwy 14 two miles past the stoplight on East Circle Drive.  Turn left (north) on County 11. Proceed straight ahead at the stop sign on Cty 9 and take the first right turn onto Silver Creek Road (gravel).
Seasonal Ratings: 
Spring
Summer
Fall
Winter

 
Primary Species:  Waterfowl, shorebirds, Orchard Oriole, Great Blue Heron.
Silver Creek Reservoir

The Silver Creek Reservoir is one of 7 reservoirs that was built as part of the Rochester flood control project.  There is no access allowed into the fenced area, but the view from the road can produce many excellent waterfowl and shorebird species (best with a scope).  Stop along the higher part of the road for a view of the main body of the lake.  Almost all of the regular waterfowl species (with the exceptions noted under Silver Lake) will be found here during migration.  Horned, Eared and Red-necked Grebes are good finds in the spring along with Common and Red-breasted Mergansers (and most all of the other duck species).  Also watch for Bald Eagles, Northern Harrier, and an occasional fly-over of the Peregrine Falcons. 

Further to the east there is viewing of the southeast arm of the lake where most shorebird species will be found (unless the water level is too high).  American Avocets as well as both Hudsonian and Marbled Godwits and both dowitchers are usually found here each spring. Tundra Swans and American White Pelicans are also frequent spring visitors   Rarities include a Piping Plover in 1997 and a couple of families of (unbanded) Trumpeter Swans in 1995.

Further east, just past the bridge, is a place on the south side of the road where Orchard Orioles have recently been found (this is a hard to find bird in the county and this is the best location).  Sedge Wren and Bobolinks can also be found a little further on where the trees give way to pasture.  If you proceed further east and up a rise, stop and look back on the south side of the road for the Great Blue Heron rookery.

There is also access to view the lake via a short stub road off of Cty 11 on the north side of the reservoir.  You can drive in up to the gate (don't drive through; it may get closed behind you) and view both waterfowl and shorebirds from this location as well.

If you head east on Silver Creek Road after leaving the reservoir, turn north and drive up to the antenna farm area, watching for Eastern Bluebird along the way.  Birding along the road at the stream crossing can be quite good. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers seem to like the area in addition to flycatchers and warblers.

You can also continue an additional mile east on Silver Creek Road up to 80th Ave and make a left turn onto 80th heading north.  This road has been a good spot to look for Gray Partridge, especially for the last mile before you get up to Cty 2.  Also in the same area in the winter you may find Horned Larks, Lapland Longspurs and Snow Buntings.


4
Viola Pond Go To Top 

Directions: East from Rochester on Hwy 14.  Turn left onto East Circle Drive.  Turn right onto Cty 9 at the stop light.  Continue east for 5 miles.  Turn left on 80th Ave.  Turn right on Cty 2 and proceed east for 3 miles to the grain elevator just past Viola.
Seasonal Ratings: 
Spring
Summer

Fall

Winter

 
Primary Species:  Shorebirds, Water Pipit
Viola Pond

View of Viola Pond (minus the cows) Viola Pond is just a dinky little farm pond, usually complete with cattle that wade into the pond.  However, with a definite lack of shorebird habitat in the county (especially if the water levels in the reservoirs are high), this place seems to provide some of the best shorebird viewing. 
Species found here are Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs, Pectoral, Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers, Willet, Wilson's Phalarope and all 4 of the peeps.  Be sure to look carefully in the mud for possible Water Pipits.

On the way out to the pond from Rochester, be sure to bird 80th Ave. This road has been a good spot to look for Gray Partridge, especially for the last mile before you get up to Cty 2.  There is also a wet area about half way up that has been used as a stopping area for a few shorebirds.

If you are heading to Quincy Road from here, try going straight east from the pond, cross Hwy 42 and go straight on 41st St.  Take a right on 122nd Ave at the T.  This takes you through a nice patch of woods that can be productive for warblers, thrushes and possibly a towhee.  Take a left onto 23rd St. and proceed east, watching for sparrows, Loggerhead or Northern Shrike (depending on the season) and Horned Larks as well as possible migrating Lapland Longspurs and Snow Buntings.  At the next intersection turn south (right) to get down to 14th St.  Hang a left here to get to Quincy Road. 


5
Quincy Road Go To Top 

Directions: East from Rochester on Hwy 14.  Turn left onto East Circle Drive.  Turn right onto Cty 9 at the stop light. Continue east for 12.5 mi, crossing both Cty 11 and Hwy 42. Turn left on Quincy Rd NE (one mile after passing Cty 7).
Seasonal Ratings: 
Spring
Summer
Fall
Winter
 
Primary Species:  Passerines, Wild Turkey
Quincy Road

Drive along the road, stopping occasionally, and watch for birds.  The area where the road bends up the hill to the right is good for sparrows.  As you continue east there are several places where you might stop to check the trees for migrating birds.  The best stopping spot is shortly after the cross road (proceed straight) at the bridge. This spot can be quite good any time of year.  From here you can either venture into Winona County (one mile ahead) and find yourself at the Whitewater WMA or you can backtrack to the crossroads and take Cty 107 back down to Cty 9.

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