Talking Nature: Anoka County guided bird hikes

By Ron Taube
Contributing Columnist

If you’re seriously into bird watching, or just get out occasionally, this is the time of year that most bird watchers love the most – the spring migration. Anoka County has several parks that are good for bird watching, including the Coon Rapids Dam, Bunker Hills, Rum River Central, Mississippi West Regional Park and Lock County Park. All of these are going to be part of the Bird Watch Series that will be guided by Gary Swanson, the naturalist at the Coon Rapids Dam.

Gary Swanson and his red tailed hawk, Bette. Photo by Ron Taube
Gary Swanson and his red tailed hawk, Bette. Photo by Ron Taube

This year there is construction work going on at the dam that prevents visitors from using the walkway and blocks some of the areas that were normally open for walking, so Gary is taking more of his hikes to other parks in Anoka County. He has always gone to other parks in the county but this year will bring more diversity than ever. My wife Carolyn and I have known and hiked with Gary for many years and he is as good of a birder as you are ever likely to meet. He keeps his hikes entertaining with stories and information about birds, wild flowers and trees. Later in the summer when the migration of birds has waned he will talk about butterflies and dragonflies or anything that is prominent in the parks at the time.

We have seen hundreds of species under the adroit guidance of Gary over the years. He is a lifelong birder and has birded on seven continents. He is always ready to answer questions about bird behaviors and nature trends . If you are a resident of Anoka County, or even if you aren’t, you will find that there are many species of birds and animals in this area that you might be surprised to learn about. Right now the spring migration is underway and we are seeing common and hooded mergansers as well as an occasional red-breasted one. There are many goldeneye on the river as well as eagles and peregrine falcons. Soon there will no doubt be bufflehead, blue and green winged teal, red heads, canvasback and many other waterfowl. Already golden crown kinglets are coming into the area, as well as great blue herons, red tailed hawks and kestrel. If you want to try one or more of these hikes check out the list below or call Anoka County parks at 612-209-5405.

The fee for each hike is $5 plus tax per person. All ages and biding abilities are welcome.

• April 19; 8-10 a.m., Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park, 9750 Egret Blvd., Coon Rapids. This is the Coon Rapids side, the other side is Brooklyn Park.

• April 26; 8-10 a.m., Mississippi West Regional Park. (Meet at Highway 10 and Traprock Road in Ramsey)

• May 10; 8-10 a.m., Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park.

• May 17; 8-10 a.m., Rum River Central Park,  17955 Roanoke St. NW, Ramsey. Meet at first parking lot

• May 24; 8-10 a.m., Locke Park. Meet at lot at end of 71st Avenue NE off University Avenue.

• May 31; 8-10 a.m., Bunker Hills Park, CSAH 14/Main Street and Foley Boulevard, Coon Rapids. Meet at lot #3 north of the wave pool.

• June 7; 8-10 a.m., Mississippi River West Park. Meet at Highway 10 and Traprock Road in Ramsey.

• June 14; 8:30-10:10 p.m., Bunker Hills Park. Meet at campground visitor center. This is a night hike.

• July 12; 4-6 p.m., Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park. Afternoon hike.

• Aug. 30; 8-10 a.m., Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park.

I would also like to add that Gary has phenology hikes on Wednesday mornings from 8-10 a.m. at the Coon Rapids Dam. Also, you should be encouraged to buy the annual parking fee for Anoka County Parks for $25, but if you attend any of Gary’s paid hikes the parking fee is waived.

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