With spring here, we wanted to share another bike/birding hotspot we have enjoyed over the years that you may want to add to your True North list of places to explore. Check out several bike trails in the north suburbs of the Twin Cities Gateway this spring and summer. While ground-truthing the maps in the MN Bike/Hike Guide, we noticed many birding haunts in the community of Shoreview, MN.
An area once inhabited by Dakota and Ojibwe tribes, today the Shoreview community has many parks along its lakes and bike trails. These parks provide both residents and visitors places to enjoy bird watching. From these areas alone, you can spot an impressive list of songbirds, hawks, and waterfowl.
Looking for some new birding spots to explore? The Twin Cities Gateway has you covered, starting with a local apple orchard. From there, we have identified several additional birding hotspots worth checking out.
A Birding Hotspot – Victoria Valley Orchard
As warmer weather will soon be upon us, many bird nesting sites can be found in the Victoria Valley Orchard’s apple trees. This is a good place to spot many seasonal birds and hawks. Like many groves around the country, orchards are rich in nesting habitat as the birds forage nearby. Here are a few of the birds that have been observed here: the Baltimore Oriole, Blue-Winged Warbler, Chimney Swift, Osprey, Red-Shouldered Hawk, several species of sparrows, and the Scarlet Tanager.
Location: The Victoria Valley Orchard is located at 4304 North Victoria Street, in Shoreview, MN. You are welcome to wander the orchard throughout the year to spot the different birds that live or pass through here.
Commercially for apples, they are only open from early September through mid-November if you would like to buy some of the 19 varieties they grow there. For more information, please visit their website at http://www.victoriavalleyorchard.com/.
A Birding Hotspot – Snail Lake
Another birding hotspot on our tour in Shoreview is the trail along Highway 96. This trail borders the north side of Snail Lake. One of two areas to observe the birding activity is at the grassy area just off the trail. With a few potholes and a line of trees partially blocking the view of the lake, you may spot several varieties of warblers. Plus, if you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of the Red-Shouldered Hawks. A variety of other marsh birds that use this area can also be seen here.
Location: The trail location is on Highway 96 and across from the Shoreview Public Library. There is a public park at the south end of the lake for another viewing location.
Birding Hotspot – Sucker and Vadnais Lakes
Now heading further east along Highway 96, our next two birding hotspots takes us first to Sucker Lake. Then, across County Road F, the trail takes you into Vadnais Lake’s park area. Both these lakes and the park areas are a part of the Vadnais-Snail Lakes Regional Park and are reservoirs for the St. Paul Regional Water Authority. These lakes are fairly deep, and the wetlands are composed of extensive tamarack and shrub swamps with large marshy areas. Here, the forest area is mainly mature pine plantations with some oak woods for nesting Pine Warblers and Red-Shouldered Hawks. A variety of marsh birds use the shoreline here. Along with the fall migratory waterfowl activity of both lakes, this area is also good for migratory warblers and Red-Breasted Nuthatches.
Location: Just south of Highway 96, take the Rice St. exit from I-694 and go north. The north access and parking are east of Rice St. on Sucker Lake Road. The south entrance is east from Rice St. on County Road F, then north on Sucker Lake Road.
Birding Hotspot – Grass Lake
Another birding hotspot in Shoreview is Grass Lake, which is also a part of the Vadnais-Snail Lakes Regional Park system. The main vegetation here is the deepwater cattail marsh with floating mats. On both the east and west shoreline of the lake, patches of oak can be found. There is a mixture of swamp shrubs and grasslands that are prevalent on the north side of the park. Here at Grass Lake is where Marsh Wrens, Osprey, and Red-Shouldered Hawks commonly nest. Common Loons are often seen in the spring and summer, and many sparrow species stopover here during their return migration.
Location: Grass Lake is reached by turf and paved trails from the parking area off of Gramsie Road. The parking lot can be reached by taking the Victoria St. exit from I-694 and going north to Gramsie Rd., then east to the MacKubin Rd. Intersection. The entrance is on your right.
For more information on these birding hotspots and others, contact Ramsey County Parks and Recreation Department at (651) 748-2500 or www.co.ramsey.mn.us/parks for more information.
A 12.5-mile Bike Loop to Shoreview’s Birding Hotspots
For those interested in riding their bicycle to the above parks described, we have identified an easy path to take to have optimal bird-watching capabilities. Please download both the Shoreview Bike Map and the 12.5-mile Turn-by-Turn Route to begin your bird-watching journey by bike to see some of Shoreview’s birding hotspots.
More map options can be found at the Ramsey County Maps.