They paved paradise and put up a birding spot.
“Parking Lot Birding.” Who wudda thought? It’s an idea from Texas in a recent book with that title, highlighting parking lot opportunities in the Lone Star State. A guide to Texas birding isn’t useful up here (unless you plan a birding trip to Texas, a very good place to see interesting birds). It’s the idea that has potential anywhere.
There might be more birds in the woods that the parking lot serves, but as author Jennifer L. Bristol says, you often can see them better from the pavement. Parking lots also are ideal for people with mobility issues.
Bristol’s suggested parking lots, filling more than 200 pages, favor places already known as birding destinations, like parks, reserves, preserves, refuges and such.
That makes sense.
A very good choice here, for instance, particularly at this time of year, would be Colvill Park on the southern outskirts of Red Wing, with access from Hwy. 61. It has a huge riverside parking area, where you can view eagles through your windshield.
This is what the website Explore Minnesota has to say: “Situated on the west bank of the Mississippi River, the floodplain forest of Colvill Park is one of the most popular spots in Minnesota to watch bald eagles returning from winter sites.
“In the spring and fall migrating ducks such as mallards, common mergansers and common goldeneyes can be seen feeding. Whitetail deer, mink and gray squirrels are also commonly seen.”
Another good choice is in Minneapolis, the T.S. Roberts Bird Sanctuary at 4124 Roseway Road, adjoining the Lyndale Park flower gardens (1300 W. 42nd St.) and across the street from the Lake Harriet Band Shell.
There is parking at the gardens, the band shell and across the street from the sanctuary’s western entrance.
Parks aren’t the only places to look. The only place I’ve seen pileated woodpeckers making nest holes in power poles is from the lot serving shoppers in Wayzata’s Colonial Square. It also happens to be adjacent to a small preserved piece of Minnesota’s historic Big Woods. You never know.
You can make a parking lot a one-off destination or fatten your list on multiple visits.
(Bird before you shop so the ice cream doesn’t melt.) The publisher, Texas A&M University Press, will soon be out with another book-based good idea for birding — cemeteries. Like Lakewood in south Minneapolis.