Selected Cass County sites:
Fargo lagoons/landfill. The municipal landfill and lagoon system have provided area birders with a wealth of rarities over the years, mostly waterfowl, shorebirds, and gulls. Access to these separate sites is limited to walking the perimeter of the lagoon dikes and asking permission to enter the landfill during business hours. Still, either one is worth checking out. Past rarities include Iceland Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Little Gull, Sabine’s Gull, all three scoters, Rock Wren, Common Raven, Sprague’s Pipit, Ruff, Curlew Sandpiper, Garganey, and Eurasian Wigeon. Check perimeter fields around the landfill for loafing gulls.
Brewer Lake. This remote 125-acre reservoir is surrounded by a county park/campground and a state wildlife management area of over 1,000 acres. The lake can hold thousands of Snow Geese and Ttundra Swans in migration. In the park, check the spruce and pine areas for such rarities as Townsend’s Solitaire or Gray Jay. Long-eared Owls have nested in the pine trees on the south side of the lake. Worth a check in any season, Brewer Lake is an under-birded site.
Magnolia Wildlife Management Area. Another under-birded location in western Cass County, Magnolia has a nice mix of prairie grasses, cattail-lined marshes, and copses of large trees. Bank Swallows nest here in good numbers along with Willow Flycatchers, Pied-bill Grebes, Marsh Wrens, and Blue-winged Teal among others. This spot is definitely worthy of more frequent exploration as its habitat suggests an attractive stopover for almost any migrant or vagrant.
Embden. On one’s way to the Alice area, a stop at the renowned Embden spruce grove can be productive almost any time of year. Conifer habitat, if it exists at all in Cass County, has all been hand-planted at one time or another. It is usually found in the form of single-row shelter belts. Near a small church in Embden, though, multiple rows of white spruce make it quite unique. Among the birds found through the years have been White-winged Crossbill, Pine Grosbeak, Varied Thrush, Long-eared Owl, and Northern Goshawk. This small village also hosts a healthy population of Eurasian Collared-Doves (permanent residents).
Alice area/Lake Bertha. Since the recent wet era began (1993), Lake Bertha has grown tremendously, even to the point of inundating roads. Red-necked Grebes nest here along with hundreds of Western Grebes and a few Least Bitterns. Cattle Egrets, Black-crowned Night-Herons, and White-faced Ibises have also nested in the past. In addition, Nelson’s Sparrows, Swamp Sparrows, LeConte’s Sparrows, and others successfully breed. Sedge Wrens exist in the nearby upland areas in large numbers. Huge numbers of migratory waterfowl can be seen in spring and fall. Rarities which have been noted include Common Moorhen, Little Blue Heron, Clark’s Grebe, and Black-necked Stilt. In winter, Snowy Owls and Rough-legged Hawks are possible. Explore the various roads and other lakes south of Alice as well.
Hamilton-Wills Wildlife Management Area. Bob O’Connor writes, “Another of the little explored but potentially wonderful birding spots in our area…” when mentioning HW in his book, Birding the Fargo-Moorhead Area. Indeed very few local birders have even been here. Thus a thorough examination of nesting species is lacking. This 480-acre state-managed site contains an inviting blend of riparian woods (Maple River), weedy meadows and willow thickets. Access is via rural roads and can be confusing --it straddles the river with no available way to cross.
Maps to Secondary Sites: Say’s Phoebe area, West Fargo lagoons, Armour Park (West Fargo), Elmwood Park (West Fargo), Hunter (northern Cass), Holy Cross Cemetery (Fargo), and Riverside Cemetery (Fargo).