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Minnesota Destinations: Festival of Birds

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More than 250 species of birds live in Becker County, because the Detroit Lakes area is in the heart of a transition zone of tall grass prairie, northern hardwood and coniferous ecosystems.

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The 16th annual Festival of Birds is scheduled for May 16-19, 2013. To kick off the festival on Thursday, May 16, Carrol Henderson will discuss what effect the Gulf oil spill has had on migrating birds such as the Common Loon.

Friday night you'll learn how priceless photos are captured from Robert Taylor of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Robert has photographed birds for over a half century and you'll hear how equipment has changed over the years and how this professional photographer, naturalist and writer has been able to get those incredible photos!

The Saturday evening keynote presentation will emphasize the vital roles that birds continue to play in fostering conservation of worldwide biological diversity in his presentation, "Discovering How Birds can save the World."

John W. Fitzpatrick is the Louis Agassiz Fuertes Director at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, NY and had a bird species discovered in 2012 in Peru named in his honor.

You'll be able to hone your Raptor I.D. skills as well as learn the latest on grassland species through our festival workshops. Morning fieldtrips will return to some favorite refuges and make first time stops at new locations.

The festival is popular with both serious birders and beginners, but if you can't make the festival, visit anyway. Detroit Lakes is now part of North America's newest International Birding Trail!

The Pine to Prairie Birding Trail continues north another 300 miles into Manitoba. Any time of year, you are welcome to check out several sites along the trail that are located near Detroit Lakes.

Watch for the Henslow's Sparrow at Hamden Slough National Wildlife Refuge.

Spot several Trumpeter Swans at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge.

Catch a glimpse of brilliant orange Baltimore Orioles in the Detroit Lakes Wetland Management District.

For a true nature adventure, head to the Helliksen Prairie Waterfowl Production Area and scan the prairie for Greater Prairie Chickens and Sandhill Cranes.

Slip on boots and explore the wet meadows of the Waubun Wildlife Management Area seeking out the Yellow Rail.

Take a break with a simple picnic lunch at Dunton Locks County Park while you watch great blue herons fish for their lunch.

Everywhere you go in Detroit Lakes' bird paradise, you're guaranteed to see birds to check off your bird list. Best of all, you'll hear the winsome call of the loon, Minnesota's state bird.

The best time to visit the Detroit Lakes Wetlands Management District's Marsh Trail and Boardwalk are April through June and August through October.

Birds to look for: Waterfowl including Trumpeter Swan and Canada Geese; Northern Harrier; Common Nighthawk; woodpeckers; flycatchers; Sedge Wren; Eastern Bluebird; prairie sparrows; Rose-breasted Grosbeak; Baltimore Oriole; finches and osprey. An active osprey nest can be viewed from the Prairie Marsh Trail.

The best times to visit Hamden Slough National Wildlife Refuge are April through November.

Birds to look for include waterfowl, including Green-winged Teal, Canvasback, Redhead, Common Goldeneye and Ruddy Duck. Shorebirds when marshes are in drawdown, Snowy Owl (winter only), Sedge and Marsh Wrens, grassland sparrows, Bobolink and Yellow-headed Blackbird. Rarities seen include Cattle Egret and Piping Plover.

The best times to visit the large Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge are April through June, August through October.

Birds to look for include the Common Loon; Trumpeter Swan; Wood Duck; Bald Eagle; Red-shouldered and Broadwinged Hawks; Peregrine Falcon; Ruffed Grouse; American Woodcock; Winter, Sedge and Marsh Wrens; many neotropical migrants including 25 species of warblers possible in mid-May.

Rarities seen include: White-winged Scoter; Great Gray Owl; Black-backed Woodpecker; Boreal Chickadee; Townsend's Solitaire; Northern Mockingbird; Cerulean Warbler and Spotted Towhee.

These sites (and sights) are all part of the Pine to Prairie Birding Trail.

For more great ideas on vacations and daytrips in Minnesota, see our entire magazine at www.MNDestinations.com.

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