The Arcola Boat Ramp is essentially the only public-access area in the region known collectively as the Hale County Bottoms. Look for wetland songbirds, other bottomland and wet-woods birds in the timber, and scour the marsh for American Bitterns (fall-spring) and Least Bitterns (spring through fall) as well as King Rails and Moorhens. Ospreys and eagles nest nearby, and watch for kites over the open areas in late summer. The hammock here would be a fine place to look for Painted Buntings.
Exceptional grassland birding awaits at the State Cattle Ranch. Standout birds include Dickcissels, Loggerhead Shrikes, American Kestrels, Grasshopper and Lark sparrows, Northern Bobwhites, and Barn Owls as breeding birds. Summer waders include Wood Storks, and look for Least Bittern on the pond edges. Winter sparrows, including White-crowned, winter waterfowl, and birds of prey make this unique spot well worth a special trip.
Jennings Ferry is a pleasant island of hospitality on the banks of the Black Warrior River. Mature trees ringing the parking areas are good for songbirds from fall through spring, and there is a well-maintained nature trail loop through the southern end of the reservation. Look for swallows over the river in the warmer months, and waders around the impounded lake to the south.
One of several similar recreation areas along the Black Warrior, Lock 5 is a small park with ample parking, restrooms, a picnic area, boat ramp, and mixed-age hardwood and pine woodlands. The site is good for spring and fall migrants, breeding songbirds – many Prothonotary Warblers and Parulas. The broad walking trail that parallels the river affords very good sight lines.
The park’s many large Mississipian-era American Indian mounds dot a large open field with multiple marshes. Red-winged Blackbirds, a few herons, and the occasional shorebird may be seen here. The west side of the park abuts the Black Warrior River. In the parking and picnic areas are scattered mature trees, and the north side of the park is bordered by a dense stand of hardwoods. A good mix of songbirds, woodpeckers, and raptors may be found at the park, making this a fruitful site for three seasons.
Vastly similar to other such parks along the Black Warrior River, Lock 8 offers deep river, mixed woods along the banks, a picnic shed, and a boat ramp. Good for Northern Parulas and Prothonotary and Yellow-throated warblers. You will find woodland migrants in the thicker woods, and look for Swainson’s Warblers in swamps near the entrance. Vultures and sometimes eagles roost in pines on the riverbank.
Payne Lake is a productive site for woodland and riparian birds in all but the dead of summer. Open, mature trees near the lake are excellent for riparian songbirds. The pinewoods slopes along the road to the north have Bobwhites and turkeys. Look for Bald Eagles around the lake, and Swainson’s Warblers, Acadian Flycatchers, Louisiana Waterthrushes, and cuckoos along the nature trail to the extreme north.