BEST PLACE TO BIRD-WATCH - 2004
For most of us, memorable bird-watching is an accidental phenomenon: Out of the corner of our eye, we notice a huge raptor hovering in the sky, or a UFO with distinctively bright plumage whizzing through the trees. But if you want to get purposeful about it, the vast acreage of Whitewater--located about 100 miles southeast of the Cities and 25 miles east of Rochester--provides the best year-round variety of potentially fruitful discoveries. According to the latest edition of Kim Eckert's definitive A Birder's Guide to Minnesota, it's one of the state's most consistent nesting and wintering areas for the red-shouldered hawk and a place where a few golden eagles spend the winter. Herons, egrets, cuckoos, owls, ducks, and ruffled grouse also can be found along the spring-fed creeks and the Whitewater River that cuts through the preserve, and wild turkeys are plentiful--Whitewater is the first place in the state where the fowl were successfully introduced back into the woods in the 1960s. Tenderfoots can go to the Whitewater headquarters and watch birds flock to the nearby feeders, or troll down Highways 74 and 37 with eyes peeled. But this is also one of the prettiest parts of Minnesota, with scores of red cedar, high limestone bluffs, and patches of prairie and wetlands within easy reach. If you're lucky, Eckert infers, you may even stumble across a rare Louisiana waterthrush or an even more elusive yellow-breasted chat.