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Birding in Olmsted County
         (including Rochester, MN)

by Bob Ekblad


Olmsted County is located in the southeast corner of Minnesota.  The largest city in the county is Rochester (home of the world famous Mayo Clinic) with a population of approximately 75,000 people. The rest of the county is mostly rural.  Total population of the county is approximately 125,000.

The county, with an area of  653 square miles, has plenty of diverse habitat including deciduous woods, river valleys, meadows, scattered pine plantations, and a few man made lakes and ponds.  All of these good birding areas are within easy reach of Rochester or even within the city limits.

Olmsted County
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There are several parks and public recreation areas located within the county that have excellent hiking trails.  Most of these sites are good for birding all year around.  Locations in this guide that are open to the public and have trails are marked with a hiker icon.  If some of the trails are paved, then the wheelchair icon is also included.  If canoeing is an option, then an icon is provided to indicate that as well.
   Hiking Trails            Canoeing      Handicap Accessible
Several other places in the county that are excellent for birds are on or near private land.  But that doesn't mean they are inaccessible - some of the best birding can be done from the roadside.  Be sure to ask for permission before entering private property.

As part of the Rochester flood control project, several reservoirs were created on area streams that have significantly improved the bird habitat and therefore the birding in the county. Additional information on the flood control reservoirs may be of interest when planning a birding jaunt through the county..

All locations identified in this guide are marked on the five section maps. Directions on how to get to each location are provided and a site map is provided.

Keep in mind that many species mentioned are migratory and can be found only in the proper season.  Also, some areas may change due to rainfall or "man" and can be good one year and poor the next.  Also, most of the areas that are mentioned as places to look for shorebirds are small since Olmsted County doesn't have any of the large marshes or mud flats that can be found in other parts of the state.

Rochester Area Limited to inside East Circle Drive, West Circle Drive, 37th St NW and 12th St S (Hwy 14)
includes:
Silver Lake Downtown Area


Quarry Hill Park (& Nature Center) Plummer House


DNR Headquarters 2nd St SW Ponds
Northwest The area of the county north of Hwy 14 and west of Hwy 63
includes:
Oxbow Park Northern Hills


Landfill Reservoirs (East & South) Essex Park


Douglas Trail Foster-Arend Park


Oronoco County Park Evergreen Acres
Northeast The area of the county north of Hwy 14 and east of Hwy 63
includes:
Hadley Valley Viola Pond


Eastside WMA (Co 9 Wetland) Quincy Road


Silver Creek Reservoir  
Southwest The area of the county south of Hwy 14 and west of Hwy 63
includes:
Zumbro Bike Path Keller WMA (County 15)


Mayowood Lake Rock Dell


Izaak Walton Wetlands Nelson Fen


Meadow Crossing Road Cty 3 & Cty 6


Cty 104 High Forest WMA


Salem Corners Stewartville & Bear Cave Park


Willow Creek Reservoir
Southeast The area of the county south of Hwy 14 and east of Hwy 63
includes:
Bear Creek Park Simpson


Hwy 63 & Hwy 52 County 19


Chester Woods County Park Spring Road


Highway 52 Pond (& 123 Pond) Dover


Boy Scout Camp Reservoir Vermilya WMA
 Maps

An invaluable resource for birding is a county road map.  There are several insets from the Olmsted County road map provided to aid finding the locations identified, but it is well worth the time to obtain a complete map of the county to help get an overall picture of the area and to find the best routes between birding spots.  The Olmsted County Public Works department (507-328-7070)  provides an official Highway Map of Olmsted County that can be most helpful in finding your way around the back roads of the county.

Road maps of all 87 Minnesota counties are available for a small fee at the Minnesota Department of Transportation building on Highway 52 North.  Most counties fit on one map, like Olmsted, but some of the counties are large enough to require two or more maps. 

If you wish to have maps for more than just a few of the area counties, an alternative is to purchase the DeLorme Minnesota Atlas & Gazetteer which contains topographical maps for the entire state of Minnesota.  This atlas is available at many local bookstores for about $15.

Another useful resource is a very detailed DNR map of Southeastern Minnesota.  It is free at their Regional Headquarters on Silver Creek Road NE in Rochester, just east of the Federal Medical Facility.
 

   Information Exchange

Exchanging information with "active" area birders is still probably the best source for finding the birds.  If you would like to know more information about recent sightings or if you have seen an interesting or unusual species of bird you would like to share, please contact the author.  Also, if you have a "hot spot" in Olmsted County where you prefer to go birding, please pass the information on to the author so it can be shared with your fellow birders.  Call me at 507-775-6949 or e-mail me .
 

   Additional Information

To obtain additional information on birds in Olmsted County (including Big-Day and CBC results and checklist information), click on the "Olmsted Home" icon below.

To obtain additional information on the birds and birding in Minnesota in general (including the state checklist, maps and other good info), click on the "Home" icon below.
 


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