Migrating birds can be seen throughout Minnesota, but here are a few noteworthy stops suggested by Bob Dunlap, a zoologist who does fieldwork with birds for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Take along a bird guide or an app and a telephoto camera to help build scientific databases such as ebird.org. The eBird site also includes downloadable lists of Minnesota’s birding hot spots with global positioning coordinates.
Best time to go: On a clear day that follows a rainy or cloudy one.
Make it an outing: There are 4 miles of trails threading through Hawk Ridge along Skyline Drive with stellar views of Lake Superior and the city down below (hawkridge.org). Park Point can also be a good spot to see warblers that stop to rest after flying through the night.
Best time to go: Anytime in the fall when more than 280 species are following the Mississippi River. Or, mid- to late-November to see flocks of tundra swans.
Make it an outing: Hike the King and Queen’s Bluff trails at Great River Bluffs State Park, paddle into the Mississippi backwaters, or check out Rieck’s Landing across the river in Alma, Wis. The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge hosts an annual tundra swan watch tour Nov. 12. (1-507-494-6220; fws.gov)
Best time to go: Early or late in the day this weekend and the third week of October when flocks of sandhill cranes gather at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge before their annual migration.
Make it an outing: The refuge hosts tours at dawn to see thousands of cranes that gather, but this year’s guided tours are full. An alternative: Try to find a safe place to pull over along Country Road 70 or other public roads that skirt the northern boundary of the refuge and within views of shallow lakes. Look for more birds on Prairie’s Edge Wildlife Drive or Blue Hill and Mahnomen hiking trails.
Best time to go: Early in the morning or during guided hikes for the expertise.
Make it an outing: Stop into the Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge visitor center in Bloomington and get a map for Long Lake and Bass Pond trails. The refuge also has bird-watching hikes. (952-854-5900)