Trek to the Western Water Track

For years, Minnesota Biological Survey (MBS) ornithologist, Steve Stucker has dreamed of visiting the western water track peatland feature just north of Upper Red Lake in Beltrami County. Recently, the Red Lake Peatland was recognized as a Wetland of Distinction by the Society of Wetland Scientists making it one of only twenty such areas in the lower forty-eight states to receive this designation. Scientists are among the few people who have visited this remote area- part of the Red Lake Peatland Scientific and Natural Area (SNA)- and typically are dropped in by helicopter due to the difficulty of accessing the site by foot!

Walking into the site required a very soggy 5.5 mile hike, accompanied by hordes of deer flies. Assessing the quality of habitat for Yellow Rails (Coturnicops noveboracensis) and Nelson's Sparrows (Ammodramus nelsoni), and perhaps finding these special concern birds, required an overnight stay as both species usually call at night. Nelson's Sparrows were found, but no Yellow Rails on this particular visit (although habitat for these birds appeared suitable). Other birds present included American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus), Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis), Wilson's Snipe (Gallinago delicata) (winnowing throughout the night), Sedge Wren (Cistothorus platensis), Le Conte's Sparrow (Ammodramus leconteii), and numerous Bobolinks (Dolichonyz oryzivorus).

Learn more about Minnesota's Red Lake Peatlands!


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