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Thursday, January 11, 2018

William O'Brien - Light Day, Well Sort of...

At the last minute I decided against adding Scenic and McCarthy Beach on a Sunday route for birding and hiking. After the elevation heavy hikes on Saturday at Carley, Whitewater, and John Latsch I needed sleep. Driving 4 hours north with an hour in between the two parks followed by the 4 hour return wouldn't be viable. Work the next morning at 6:30AM said I needed to sleep in a bit and think about something closer to home.

I "lazily" got up Sunday morning at 7AM and crammed down some homemade yogurt and strawberry syrup along with some Almond Granola. I wanted to hike the lower area of William O'Brien that is actually closed off in the winter to road traffic. I figured this would afford me some relative peace and quiet in the generally active park.

I visited this park about 15 times last year, but until this visit I scarcely noticed the nice sign with painted Red-shouldered Hawk. Funny how an effort like this one has me paying attention to signs that had melted into the landscape before.

Few birds stirred on the hike as just a single Trumpeter Swan flew up river while I rounded the river stretch of trail along the St. Croix River. The hike was very quiet and welcome for lack of elevation beyond the steep hike down and back up to the main winter parking lot.

Riverside trail with the St. Croix River on the left. This trail is a favorite if you can do it early enough in the spring and summer. The campground is surrounded by this trail so it can be a high traffic affair at many other times of the day.

I'll dig deeper into reviewing William O'Brien as spring and summer approach with the bounty of trails available to explore. I know most of them well and look forward to sharing what I find hidden deep within the massive park. This time of year the park is converted to a good amount of cross-country ski space and generally isn't available to the hiker/snow-shoe type person.

For now I'll just say that William O'Brien in the non-winter months is super worth the effort. I have had good quality birds like Prothonotary Warbler nesting in the river bottoms and the park has some history of hosting some quality species like Kentucky Warbler some years back. I just know I can add some great birds this year.


  1. I birded this SP for the first time this past May as part of the TC Urban Birding Fest and we got Prothonotary Warbler, Yellow-Billed Cuckoo and Western Tanager, which I think you tried for in the subsequent days. I'll be back there this spring!

    1. William O has so much potential and is so under birded it is not funny. I think I will plan on some full day efforts this year. Likely with up to 12 miles of hiking.