Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge and Prairie Bird Exploration Field Trip, May 12 & 13

May 12, 2017 @ 6:00 am – May 13, 2017 @ 2:00 pm


Spring on the prairie is a magical time! Each year millions of geese, ducks, Sandhill Cranes and swans travel through and reside in the northwest region of Minnesota in remnant prairie potholes reserves, not to mention at least 36 species of shorebirds, Greater Prairie-Chickens, a number of western species unseen elsewhere in the state, for a total of well over 300 species of birds. The volume of birds is breathtaking, and early season vegetation scarce, so sightings of those harder to see species like rails are much easier.

Greater Prairie Chicken by Laura Erickson

Greater Prairie Chicken by Laura Erickson

Highlights of the tour will include Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge considered, by some, to be Minnesota’s finest refuge, where during this time of year it is possible to see 5 species of grebes (6 if the occasional Clark’s Grebe is present!), White Pelicans, Sandhill Cranes, Tundra Swans, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Franklin’s Gulls, several species of rails, numerous duck species including Canvasbacks and Ruddy Ducks, and many other species. We will spend two enchanting days exploring some of the highlights of the region during some of the peak migration season with two passionate guides. Join us for an exploration of this regions unique and critical habitats beyond Agassiz, such as Tympanuchus Wildlife Management Area and the Nature Conservancy’s Pankratz Memorial Prairie tracts, and others.

TRIP DETAILS (Limited to 12 participants; minimum of 5): Transportation and guides will be provided during the two day expedition. Participants should plan to meet in Thief River Falls, MN early in the morning on Fri. May 12th. Lodging and meals will be on your own, though we will likely have an optional evening meal as a group on Friday evening. Bag lunches will be needed for both Friday and Saturday, as we’ll be in the field. Be prepared with layers and sunscreen for early spring weather, as temperatures can range from the 30’s to the 70’s and beyond. Water bottles and any snacks needed during the day are a good idea as well. Participants will receive further information prior to the trip with updates and other important information.

The field trip will run from 6 am to late afternoon on Fri. May 12th, with an optional evening group dinner and potential evening expedition, and from 6 am to 2 pm on Sat. May 13th. Participants should plan to meet at America’s Best Value Inn and Suites, 1915 Hwy 59 S, Thief River Falls, Minnesota.

Cost: $250 for Members of Hawk Ridge, Friends of Sax-Zim Bog, and/or Minnesota Master Naturalists, $300 for others. Excursion will be limited to 12 participants with a minimum of 5 required to conduct the tour. Note: Excursion will run with one vehicle with first 5 participants, and additional 4 will be required to secure a second vehicle. No more than two vehicles will be provided for a maximum of 12 participants. MUST REGISTER ON-LINE BELOW

Lodging Options in Thief River Falls

Participants are free to choose from a number of hotel options within Thief River Falls or the surrounding area.

C’mon Inn- 866-573-4235

Quality Inn- 866-925-8676

AmericInn- 866-76-0278

America’s Best Value Inn & Suites- 855-828-1972

Grand Stay- 218-681-9988


MARGIE MENZIES lived in Northwestern Minnesota for a number of years and annual visits to Agassiz NWR were greatly anticipated and essential rites of spring. She loves birds, learning, and sharing the natural world with people of all ages. Margie joined the Hawk Ridge staff in 2011 and is currently the Public Program Director.

CLINTON NIENHAUS is the Head Naturalist for the Friends of Sax-Zim Bog, as well as the Education Director for Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, thanks to a grant from the Lloyd K. Johnson Foundation for 2016-2017. Clinton completed his M.Ed. in Environmental Education at the University of Minnesota- Duluth and is the Vice President of the Duluth Audubon Society. Birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians, plants, and dragonflies are his passions, but really, for a naturalist everything is exciting! Clinton is a native of Southern Minnesota and currently lives in Duluth.


Image Credits: Laura Erickson