This past spring I finally got the chance to visit the Agassiz Audubon Center, formerly known as the Wetlands, Pine and Prairie Audubon Sanctuary, just east of Warren, Minnesota in Marshall County. There’s plenty of wild land in northwestern Minnesota, but not many organized wilderness centers or organizations.
I learned that the Agassiz Audubon consists of 640 acres full of wildlife, including an incredibly diverse bird population. Here there are birds that can’t be found anywhere else in North America. What makes the Center unique, besides the bird population, is the location. To the west lies Tall Grass Prairie and to the east, Aspen Parklands. You can see the beach ridges of Glacial Lake Agassiz on the property. Across the road sits an impoundment that stores floodwater, which draws even more bird species to the area.
Immediately upon arriving, I spotted some birds that I’d never noticed before: common redpolls. I tried to snap a quick photo, but they disappeared to the sound of my window opening. I grabbed my bag, opened the car door and was immersed in a cacophony of singing birds. It was incredible.
Because of the deep snow, I wasn’t able to hike around the property much. Heidi, the director, gave me a tour in her vehicle. She showed me a boreal owl that had died on the property recently due to starvation. She explained that the Bell Museum would be retrieving it for their collection. She also told me stories of the abundant wildlife she sees on a daily basis. Her excitement about this resource was palpable. Unfortunately, few people seem to know about or realize its value. Heidi is doing all she can to change that.
The Center is in the process of modernizing. The organization hopes to build a visitors center and construct a camping area, in addition to other infrastructure improvements. Right now, the buildings are sorely outdated and in serious disrepair. She’s already made steps to restore the prairie and take out non-native, invasive trees and plants. Heidi’s focused on outreach right now, too. She writes articles and gives talks at area libraries and elsewhere to educate and instill an appreciation of the natural resources in the area. She’s a wealth of information. And, her work has been successful. After my visit, I attended a talk at my local library on backyard birds that was very well-received.
Right now, the Center itself is far from showy, but if you make the trip I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Visitors are welcome. This Saturday the public is invited to attend the annual meeting, which includes geocaching, a nature scavenger hunt for kids, a presentation on purple martins and a tour. If you can’t visit the Center in person, check out the Facebook page. Heidi posts numerous photos of northwestern Minnesota’s wildlife, including owls, pelicans, cranes, fisher and many more.