I awoke to a glorious spring morning last Thursday with thoughts of exploring two unexplored (for us) wildlife and bird sanctuaries just a few miles away from home. Both had just been featured in the latest issue of the "Minnesota Conservation Volunteer" and we were anxious to check them out. With latte's in hand we hit the road at 7am towards West Duluth and an unlikely industrial part of the St. Louis River estuary. Our first destination was Grassy Point, a restored wetland where migrating birds take refuge and others stay to nest. As we started our walk on the boardwalk which leads out into the marsh for great viewing we were dumbfounded by a yet unsighted bird bawling loudly nearby. Much to our surprise it was a young fawn lying camouflaged in the grass just steps away who, in its fright, managed to stagger to its feet and run for safety (good thing we didn't bring the dogs!). The marsh itself provided a good view of red wing blackbirds, swamp sparrows and other birds we did not identify. This area has been reclaimed after sawmills in the 1900's dumped tons of wood byproducts into the area. 11,000 cubic yards of material has been removed in this effort by the DNR and EPA, enabling the native grasses and cattails to proliferate once again.
After a short drive we reached the Western Waterfront Trail which runs for 5 miles up the estuary. We parked at the Munger Bike Trail lot across from the Duluth Zoo and hiked about an hour on this very quiet urban/wilderness trail through woods and along the St. Louis River estuary's shoreline. We were amazed at all we saw! Vibrant American redstarts and Baltimore orioles called and flitted among the branches. A family of geese proudly paraded by through the calm waters as three great blue herons hovered and fished. A loud splashing sound revealed a deer plunging through the water to a nearby island. In the shallows of the estuary many fish were careening and splashing about with fins and tails visible, spawning. We weren't sure what species of large fish we were witnessing. Many unknown bird songs surrounded us, but we enjoyed them nonetheless. The beautiful warm spring morning was perfect!
It was a rare morning for us when we didn't have guests to serve breakfast to, so we lingered a bit and then headed home for a personal culinary favorite of yogurt, fruit and homemade maple granola. We will definitely recommend these areas to guests and would be happy to pack some muffins and coffee for early risers.