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Birding in Rochester, MN (Olmsted County)

by Bob Ekblad



Locations
  1. Silver Lake
  2. Quarry Hill Park
  3. DNR Headquarters
  4. Downtown Area
  5. Plummer House
  6. 2nd St Ponds
Rochester

1 Silver Lake Go To Top 

Directions: North from the city center area on Broadway (Hwy 63). Right on 7th st and then left on West Silver Lake Dr.  Turn into the parking lot right after passing the fire station .
Seasonal Ratings: 
Spring
Summer
Fall
Winter
 
Primary Species: Canada Goose and other waterfowl
Public access trails available Some trails are paved
Silver Lake

Silver Lake is excellent in winter and early spring for viewing waterfowl. The lake stays open all winter and is about the only place in the county that early migrants can find open water. In early spring the lake can be loaded with several species of puddle and diving ducks in addition to grebes and an occasional Common Loon. You may have to look around or sort through the multitudes of Canada Geese (they peak at about 30,000 in the fall and several thousand will stay through the winter) or you can time your visit when the geese are out feeding in the local countryside. During migration both phases of the Snow Goose and an occasional White-fronted Goose or Tundra Swan will stop in. Once in a while the more rare Ross's Goose will also make an appearance.  In 1995 a family of unbanded Trumpeter Swans made an appearance on the lake.

In the winter you can expect to find Common Goldeneye in addition to the regular contingent of Mallards.  In the summer just about the only duck you will find is Mallard.  You may be able to pick out a Black Duck or two in any season, but they are becoming more difficult to find.  Other migratory duck species include most of the regular Minnesota species (exceptions are Cinnamon Teal, Harlequin Duck, Oldsquaw, and the scoters).


2 Quarry Hill Park
    (& Nature Center)
Go To Top 

Directions: East from Rochester on Hwy 14.  Left (north) onto East Circle Drive (Cty 22).  Straight (crossing Cty 9) at the stoplight and then left into the park after crossing the railroad tracks.
Seasonal Ratings: 
Spring
Summer
Fall
Winter
 --
Primary Species: Warblers, thrushes, sparrows
Public access trails available Some trails are paved
Quarry Hill Park

Quarry Hill Park and the Nature Center are located on the eastern edge of Rochester. The park is excellent for migrating sparrows, warblers, thrushes, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets, and most of the usual birds that frequent the feeders, often including winter appearances by Purple Finches and Red-breasted Nuthatches.  

Cedar Waxwings can be found year round.   Barred Owls can often be seen in the area around the nature center.  Occassionally a Northern Saw-whet Owl might also be spotted in the winter in the planted evergreen area to the north and east of the park.

The west side access to Quarry Hill park can be reached by taking 9th St NE going east off 11th Avenue.  There is a parking area and picnic shelter (with restrooms) at this location.  There are several trails that offer good access to varied habitat, including through the old quarry area. A paved trail that connects the two entrances to the park is a good spot to bird, but you will also want to walk some of the other trails that head north from the Nature Center or go up into and north of the quarry.
.Trail Map of Quarry Hill Park

3 DNR Headquarters Go To Top 

Directions: East from Rochester on Hwy 14.  Left (north) onto East Circle Drive (Cty 22).  Left onto Cty 9 at the stoplight. Take the first right (just before the soccer fields) and then turn right again to enter the DNR SE Region headquarters parking area.
Seasonal Ratings: 
Spring
Summer

Fall
Winter
 --
Primary Species: Sparrows
Public access trails available
DNR Headquarters

The land east of the DNR headquarters buildings includes a grassy field that is good for sparrows - including White-crowned and Harris's. In 1996, a Great Gray Owl was found here that was one of several birds that invaded well south of their range due to iced over snowcover up north.  The area is also accessible from East Circle Drive but parking is probably safer at the DNR.

4 Downtown Go To Top 

Directions:  From the city center of Broadway (Hwy 63) and 2nd St SW proceed a whole block to the Mayo Clinic and Plummer buildings.
Seasonal Ratings: 
Spring
Summer
Fall

Winter
 --
Primary Species:  Peregrin Falcon
Downtown Rochester

The downtown City Center may not sound like a premier birding location, but it can be if you look up high in the sky around the taller buildings in the area. You may only see pigeons and starlings, but, if you are lucky, you may spot one of the Peregrine Falcons that hang around in this area. There is a hack box located high up on the south side of the Plummer building (the older ornate one to the east of the big white Mayo Clinic building). Peregrines were released here for several years until the population got on a bit more secure footing. If you are here in the spring, you might even want to stop in at the subway level of the Mayo building or the lobby of the Methodist Hospital and check out the TV monitor to watch the peregrines taking advantage of the hack box (maybe with some young).

5 Plummer House  Go To Top 

Directions: South from the city center on Broadway.  Turn right onto 4th St SW (after the fire station) and proceed west.  Left on 10th Ave SW (don't drive into the St Marys Hospital campus).  Then right on 6th St SW at the stop sign.  Make a left on 12th Ave and then proceed straight through the 5way intersection onto Plummer Circle.  Take Plummer Lane to the Plummer House about half way around the loop
Seasonal Ratings: 
Spring
Summer
Fall
Winter
 --
Primary Species:  Warblers, kinglets, thrushes, sparrows
Public access trails available
Plummer House

The Plummer House is located at the top of the hill just north of Apache Mall. The gardens around the Plummer House are excellent for migrants, including Ruby and Golden-crowned Kinglets as well as sparrows, thrushes (Hermit, Swainson's, Gray-cheeked, and Veery) and warblers. You can wander the trails  that take you through the garden areas as well as the more natural areas on the hillside.  A Black-throated Blue Warbler was found here in the fall of 1998.

6 2nd St Ponds Go To Top 

Directions: From the city center of Broadway (Hwy 63) and 2nd St SW proceed west on 2nd St.  Cross over Hwy 52 and continue west to the Mayo Clinic employee's parking area (on the right).  The ponds are viewable from this area.
Seasonal Ratings: 
Spring
Summer

Fall
Winter

 --
Primary Species:  Waterfowl
2nd St Ponds

The gravel pit ponds north of 2nd Street (County 34) and south of Hwy 52 are good for waterfowl in the spring and fall. There are several different ponds and each has a different access.  One pond is best viewed from the Mayo Clinic Employees surface parking lot on 2nd street. The pond further west can be viewed from the shoulder of 2nd street or from the housing developments on the east and west sides of the pond.  A third (and largest) pond can be viewed from the street that runs along its northern edge (accessed via West Circle Drive - go east and then north).  The pond on the north side of the gravel pit complex is only viewable from Hwy 14 as you head east toward Rochester from the business area where TradeMart is located.  You can pull off of the road near the east end of the pond but you will need to walk over to the shoreline in order to view the west end of this pond.  This pond is usually the best of all of them because there appears to be food available in it (the others tend to be resting locations with minimal food source).  Several species of waterfowl were present here during the Christmas Bird Count in 2001, including a pair of Long-tailed Ducks (very rare for the county).  There are also a few additional ponds along the south and east part of the gravel pit complex that can be viewed by driving north of the large condos and retirement centers. 

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Silver Lake ParkQuarry Hill Park & Nature CenterDNR HeadquartersDowntown RochesterPlummer HillSecond Street Ponds