By Karen Gray
Special to the Caledonia Argus
Thurman Tucker will cut a ceremonial ribbon to mark the official opening of the Norwegian Ridge Birding and Nature Trails in Spring Grove on Father’s Day, Sunday, June 16 at 1 p.m. All are invited to this attractive rural environment away from the hustle and bustle of urban life.
This exciting opportunity will be of interest to birders, naturalists and eco-tourists. The trail is part of a public trail system that includes Trollskogen and Roverud Parks, both within the city boundaries, and it is designed to showcase birds and spectacular scenery for local residents and visitors.
The trailhead is just on the south side of Red’s Hometown Market that is located along Hwy. 44 on the east edge of Spring Grove. It is marked by a hand-carved sign made by Larry Wolfs, a member of the task force. Funding for the trail is made possible through a grant given by the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation of Owatonna, and from gifts by private donors.
For the past several months a task force of volunteers has met often to create and develop a two-mile trail called Gå På Tur, the third link in the trail system that has a one-mile option for those who might be short of time. There are 56 signs that identify birds one might see while on the trail. Each sign shows the male and female, tells approximate size and gives the scientific name, the common name and the Norwegian translation of the name.
In addition, the signs list nesting habits, eating preferences and whether or not the bird migrates. Each sign shows a QR Code for smart phone users to access the bird’s song as well as additional information. The people on the task force have a keen interest in the education of all ages to the benefit of songbirds and of preserving habitat for many species.
Located in the bluff country of this driftless region, the trail is mowed and crosses meadows and deciduous woods going past ponds and small streams where water trickles over rocks on its way to larger streams as it traverses private lands. Some birds love that type of habitat, while others prefer woods or open meadows. There are three geo-cached sites along the trail as well. Families and their friends are encouraged to honor Dad by going out in nature and learning about birds while getting some beneficial exercise. We encourage you to linger along the trail with binoculars in hand. There are benches along the way where visitors can sit and enjoy the sounds of birds above and rushing waters behind your bench. Early in the spring there are a variety of wildflowers blooming. During spring and fall many species migrate through this area, including scarlet tanagers, osprey and Eurasian ring-necked doves, plus an exciting myriad of warblers. During the quiet time of evening there is a lot of owl activity year around.
The task force has decided to create four Northern Bobwhite Quail Habitat Restoration spaces close to the trail as well. The advisor for this part of the endeavor is Thurman Tucker, Minnesota Quail Forever state coordinator, who received the Volunteer of the Year Award in February.
At approximately the half-way point of the two mile trail, a picnic table is provided for anyone who wishes to bring a lunch. Spring Grove soda, a tasty libation that has been made in Spring Grove for 115 years, will be available for tasting at that location.
Join the celebration
Walkers may wish to pick up a trail map with lists of birds to check off as they see them. The first 50 walkers will receive a free water bottle with the trail logo on it. In addition, a special T-shirt will be awarded to the oldest and youngest walkers who finish the trail, and to the walker who traveled the greatest distance in order to walk the trail on opening day.
Water bottles, hand-carved walking sticks and T-shirts are available for sale at Giants of the Earth Heritage Center, 165 West Main Street in Spring Grove, until 5 p.m. on Father’s Day, and Monday through Fridays thereafter. It is located next door to the Spring Grove Cinema. A free movie, “The Big Year,” will be shown at 5:15 p.m. June 16 at the Heritage Center. Check out the Scandinavian Gifts available in the store as well.
Birds, white tailed deer, wild flowers, mink, fox and grouse – we’ve got it all and it is waiting for you at Norwegian Ridge.
Whether you’re a novice bird enthusiast or a seasoned lister, you’ll enjoy the trail year-round and find it to be a great place to snowshoe, exercise, walk your dog, photograph nature and more. Plus, there is no admission charge. Visit sgbirdwalk.org for more.