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North Alabama Birdwatchers Society

256-837-5646||northalbirding.com

Hi All. For those of you new to us, the North Alabama Birdwatchers Society (NABS) is an informal group that focuses on birding in northern Alabama. We have been around since 1976 and are the only birding group in our area to offer a set of regularly scheduled trips each year. We visit a variety of areas across this part of the state, most of which are included on the North Alabama Birding Trail (NABT; www.northalabamabirdingtrail.com). Each summer, NABS trip leaders get together and come up with a schedule like you see here, which we then post on our website (www.northalbirding.com) and send out by email to our members. NABS is open to everyone, including beginners, and especially young folks with an interest in birds; there are no membership dues. If you show up for an outing, you can consider yourself a member.

Our ultimate goal for any NABS outing is to give everyone an opportunity to observe (and hopefully hear) every bird species we encounter. That seldom happens, but we usually get pretty close. Our rules of etiquette are few but the ones we do have are important:

  1. Be reasonably restrained, as to making noise (no dogs or unruly children);
  2. While cameras are most welcome, please don’t let pic-taking disrupt the birding (see ultimate goal above);
  3. Don’t get out in front of the group (flushing the birds before others can see them is not very nice);
  4. Be reasonably constrained in the use of birdsong apps, pishing, etc. to attract birds, especially breeders;
  5. Above all, follow the guidance of the trip leader.

By birding with NABS, you’ll have the opportunity to go out with experienced people who are familiar with the places we visit and who love to share their knowledge. NABS can also provide greater access to certain areas where it’s restricted, e.g., driving behind locked refuge gates at Wheeler NWR or visiting the privately-owned Jones’ ‘Hawk Farm’.

Although the focus is on birds, NABS outings also offer opportunities to become more generally familiar with many of the beautiful and diverse natural areas characteristic of northern Alabama. The places we’ll visit provide excellent opportunities to observe, study and appreciate a variety of flora and fauna, including wildflowers, trees, insects, reptiles/amphibians and mammals. Some NABS regulars have considerable knowledge of these other groups and would be glad to answer questions and provide information during trips.

Most of our trips are on Saturdays, although we have a few Sunday outings during the spring, when migration is in full swing.             Please note that we’ve decided to change the meeting time for some of our trips: Aug-Oct and late March-May will meet at our usual 7 am, while Nov-early March trips will meet at 8 am. Half-day trips are the norm, although some may include extended birding into the afternoon, for those interested. Please note that, although it’s usually easy to leave early, there are a few trips behind locked gates that involve a 2- to 3-hour time commitment (see Wheeler NWR trip descriptions). Bring your binoculars, spotting scopes, field guides, refreshments, bug repellent and rain gear. We seldom officially cancel trips; if the weather is bad (heavy rain) or dangerous (icy roads, severe storms) enough to warrant cancellation, we will send out an email notice.

If we don’t already have your email address, please consider sending it to us to add to the NABS mailing list. We can then email you this schedule, as well as trip reminders, and a few other items of interest. In addition, a copy of the schedule will appear on the NABS (www.northalbirding.com) website.

Send your comments, questions and suggestions to Rufina or Ken Ward (256-837-5646; phinken@wowway.com).

Below are descriptions of the trips scheduled for this season, with directions, GPS Coordinates (for most of the trips), trip leaders and contact numbers. We have also included some “Events of Interest” for nature lovers. Thanks for your support and we look forward to seeing you this season!

Upcoming Events

November 2018

Wheeler NWR – Beaverdam Peninsula Tower/Limestone Bay/Arrowhead Landing/White Springs Dike (NABT #20, 23, 24)

November 3 @ 8:00 am - 12:00 pm
Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, 2700 Refuge Headquarters Rd.
Decatur, AL 35603 United States
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Free

This traditional NABS route is one of the best we have for productive late fall/winter birding and among the best places in the state to get great looks at a variety of waterfowl, which should just be arriving to overwinter. Birding with a group like NABS provides an opportunity to drive behind locked gates (provided we have at least eight people!), thus gaining access to the best areas to see lots of ducks and geese. We’ll be birding by car…

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Wheeler NWR – Visitor Center and Garth Slough (NABT #16)

November 10 @ 8:00 am - 12:00 pm
Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, 2700 Refuge Headquarters Rd.
Decatur, AL 35603 United States
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Free

We’ll first spend some time around the Visitor’s Center, including especially the wildlife observation building. There should be considerable numbers of Sandhill Cranes in the fields beyond the observation pond and it’s also possible to see a Whooping Crane or two, if some are in the area. We’ll then head to Garth Slough on the Refuge and bird along the Tennessee River and slough, looking for passing waterfowl, cranes, gulls and eagles, songbirds, raptors and possibly some shorebirds, depending on…

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Wheeler NWR – Penny Bottoms/Blackwell Swamp/Rockhouse/Buckeye (NABT #26)

November 18 @ 8:00 am - 12:00 pm
Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, 2700 Refuge Headquarters Rd.
Decatur, AL 35603 United States
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Attendees will get to see another interesting part of the refuge on this trip. This area runs parallel to the Tennessee River and should yield a nice variety of songbirds, raptors, waterfowl and other species. Take the Mooresville exit off I-565, go south on Mooresville Road and meet at the parking area near where it intersects with old Highway 20 (34.627442 -86.880186). - Dick Bruer, Leader (256-714-1992; dick.bruer@gmail.com)

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December 2018

Wheeler NWR – Beaverdam Peninsula Tower/Limestone Bay/Arrowhead Landing/White Springs Dike (NABT #20, 23, 24)

December 1 @ 8:00 am - 12:00 pm
Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, 2700 Refuge Headquarters Rd.
Decatur, AL 35603 United States
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Free

Our second trip to the White Springs Dike area should be productive. Waterfowl variety and numbers will likely be impressive and most or all winter-resident songbird species will be around. We’ll head first to the goose tower observation platform, then bird nearby Beaverdam Peninsula, which is excellent for waterfowl, raptors, cranes, some open-country songbirds (pipits, horned larks, possibly longspurs), etc. Then we’ll head to Limestone Bay and White Springs Dike along our regular route, where we’ll be behind locked gates…

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Swan Creek Wildlife Management Area (NABT #21)

December 8 @ 8:00 am - 11:00 am
Free

This trip will give us a chance to visit one of the most productive segments of the Wheeler NWR Christmas Count circle. There is active duck hunting at Swan Creek and this drives away most of the waterfowl. However, the area has lots of other birds. One area of interest is the set of fields on the north edge of the management area (behind the old warehouse). This spot usually has a number of sparrows, often including White-Crowned and, occasionally,…

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January 2019

Wheeler NWR -Beaverdam Peninsula Tower/Limestone Bay/Arrowhead Landing/White Springs Dike (NABT #20, 23, 24)

January 6, 2019 @ 8:00 am - 12:00 pm
Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, 2700 Refuge Headquarters Rd.
Decatur, AL 35603 United States
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Free

Join us for another trip to one of our favorite birding areas, as we look for waterfowl, raptors, cranes, a variety of songbirds, etc. Expect to be behind locked refuge gates for 2-3 hours, afterwards lunching at Apple Lane Farms, for those interested. Take the Mooresville exit off I-565, go south on Mooresville Road and meet at the parking area near where it intersects with old Highway 20 (34.627442 -86.880186). – Dick Bruer, Leader (256-714-1992; dick.bruer@gmail.com)

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Guntersville City/Dam North/Hawk Farm (NABT #37)

January 12, 2019 @ 8:00 am - 1:30 pm
Guntersville Area Guntersville, AL United States + Google Map
Free

The Guntersville area provides some of our best winter birding, as we explore a variety of habitats along Guntersville Lake, the Tennessee River and nearby areas. We’ll convene at the Guntersville Chamber of Commerce parking lot, on the south end of the Hwy 431 bridge, birding first along the lakefront and some other spots of interest; we should see a large number and variety of waterfowl, water birds, raptors and songbirds. We’ll break for lunch around 11-11:30, then reconvene about…

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Town Creek Embayment, Wheeler Dam, Joe Wheeler State Park (NABT #2, 3, 4)

January 19, 2019 @ 8:00 am - 2:00 pm
Free

This trip primarily targets waterfowl and other water birds, but also includes some productive songbird areas, especially in the state park. We’ll meet at the WalMart parking lot off Hwy 72 W in Athens (34.786933 -86.958486). - Dick Bruer and Harry Dean, Leaders (256-461-0626; hdean@hiwaay.net)

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February 2019

Guntersville Waterfront/Peninsula, Guntersville Dam South (NABT #35, 36)

February 2, 2019 @ 8:00 am - 12:00 pm
Guntersville Area Guntersville, AL United States + Google Map

This trip starts on Sunset Parkway along the west side of Guntersville. We should see a great variety of ducks, many loons and grebes, possibly some odd terns and gulls, eagles, etc. Meet in Guntersville at the Chamber of Commerce parking lot on the south end of the Hwy 431 bridge. From there, we’ll go west on the Lake Loop Road and bird the waterfront. The tour will then go south and across the Hwy 69 Causeway to the south…

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Mallard-Fox Creek Wildlife Management Area/Wheeler Dam (NABT #1, 2)

February 9, 2019 @ 8:00 am - 1:00 pm
Mallard-Fox Creek WMA/Wilson Dam, Key Cave NWR, 635 County Road 579
Hillsboro, AL United States
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Free

We’ll start with the Mallard-Fox Creek WMA and work our way west, searching for water birds, sparrows and other winter residents or early migrants. Mid- to late-February is a transition period for waterfowl and other birds, and weather will play a key role in what we see. We’ll meet at the Ingalls Boat Harbor Pavilion in Decatur: from the direction of Huntsville, cross the river bridge and take the first right onto Alt 72/20 (Wilson St.). Go about a mile…

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March 2019

Wheeler NWR-Limestone Bay/Arrowhead Landing/White Springs Dike (NABT #20, 23, 24)

March 2, 2019 @ 8:00 am - 12:00 pm
Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, 2700 Refuge Headquarters Rd.
Decatur, AL 35603 United States
+ Google Map
Free

Our final trip to White Springs Dike for the season is in its third year, at a time when we are usually taking a break, as waterfowl start moving out of the area, and prior to spring migration. Duck numbers are still usually good, but with less variety, with migrating Blue-winged Teal moving through, good numbers of Green-winged Teal and Shovelers around, etc. A couple of years ago we got a big surprise, with the presence of a beautiful male…

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Monte Sano State Park (NABT #29)

March 30, 2019 @ 7:00 am - 9:00 am
Monte Sano State Park Huntsville, AL United States + Google Map
Free

On this trip, we hope to catch some early spring migrants, especially Louisiana Waterthrush. To get to our meeting spot, take Monte Sano Boulevard off Governors Drive at the top of the mountain and follow the signs to the park; once there, go in the direction of headquarters and park at the Camp Store, in the gravel, if possible. (34.745325 -86.511672). – John Ehinger, Leader (256-536-2716; johnehinger@yahoo.com)

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April 2019

Hays Nature Preserve/Goldsmith Sanctuary (NABT #29)

April 13, 2019 @ 7:00 am - 10:00 am
Hays Nature Preserve/Goldsmith-Schiffman Sanctuary, Hays Preserve TR SE
Owens Cross Roads, AL 35763 United States
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Free

NABS has birded both areas regularly, especially Hays; there should be a few migrants present, especially neotropical songbirds. Meet at Hays which, from Huntsville, is about a mile past the Publix shopping center near Hampton Cove on Hwy 431, on the left just past the Taylor Lane light (there is a sign). Follow the road to the parking area on the right (34.644106 -86.466389). – Bill McAllister, Leader (256-534-8354; billmcallister94@gmail.com)

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Wheeler NWR – Blackwell Swamp/Penny Bottoms/Buckeye (NABT #26)

April 14, 2019 @ 7:00 am - 11:00 am
Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, 2700 Refuge Headquarters Rd.
Decatur, AL 35603 United States
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Free

This area has been getting more attention lately as a prime birding spot. There is flooded woodland and marsh habitat here, which can be explored by car, on foot or by canoe. A variety of wetland species may be present, including Great Blue Heron, Great Egret and Green Heron, and perhaps some other less common species, such as Snowy Egret or Little Blue Heron. Common Gallinule and Anhinga are rarely found here and you might get a glimpse at an…

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Wheeler NWR Spring Migration Count (NABT)

April 27, 2019 @ 6:00 am - 6:00 pm
Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, 2700 Refuge Headquarters Rd.
Decatur, AL 35603 United States
+ Google Map
Free

The format for this count is similar to Christmas Counts – identify and count all birds seen or heard from dawn to late afternoon/dusk; different groups bird different parts of the refuge and nearby areas. Birders of all skill levels are welcome and needed, as we are usually short-handed for migration counts. Arrangements can also be made to spend part of the day counting for those who can’t commit to the whole day (morning or afternoon). We’ll regroup at the…

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Monte Sano State Park (NABT #29)

April 28, 2019 @ 7:00 am - 11:00 am
Monte Sano State Park Huntsville, AL United States + Google Map
Free

Join us near migration peak as we bird one of the best spots in the state for spring migration. The Park can be filled with birds this time of year, including an impressive variety of beautiful warblers in breeding plumage, orioles, grosbeaks, both species of tanagers, 4-5 species of vireos, all thrush species we can see in this area, etc. The birds are often relatively easy to see, too; several hotspots near our meeting spot are easy to find, including…

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May 2019

William B. Bankhead National Forest (NABT #14)

May 4, 2019 @ 7:00 am - 12:00 pm
William B. Bankhead National Forest, 3713 Alabama 33
Moulton, AL United States
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Free

Bankhead National Forest (BNF) in northwestern Alabama is 180,000 acres of mesic hardwood, mixed pine-hardwood, shortleaf pine, oak-hickory, hemlock-white pine and mountain longleaf pine forest, with many limestone bluffs, swift flowing streams and waterfalls; the 26,000-acre Sipsey Wilderness is also found here. Migration birding this time of year is usually quite productive in BNF and we’ve had some great trips there the past few years. We’ll meet at Site 14 of the North Alabama Birding Trail (Central Firetower). From Huntsville,…

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Indian Creek Greenway

May 5, 2019 @ 7:00 am - 10:30 am
Indian Creek Greenway Huntsville/Madison, AL United States + Google Map
Free

The Indian Creek Greenway is a pleasant place to bird, with opportunities to get good looks at migrants. The major reason this trip was planned a few years back was to look for Mourning Warblers. This species is a secretive late spring migrant through this area that is rarely seen. We have had good trips here over the years, e.g., Mourning, Wilson and Canada Warblers, Warbling Vireo, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Black-billed Cuckoo, Yellow-crowned Night Heron and a variety of other species.…

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Leighton Area, Town Creek (NABT #4, 5)

May 11, 2019 @ 7:00 am - 12:00 pm
Leighton/Town Creek, 1074 Fennel Road AL United States + Google Map
Free

We will explore the Leighton area and Town Creek, targeting shorebird migrants, whose movement through our area should be strong at this time of year. Our success will depend largely on water levels and weather. We’ll meet at the Ingalls Boat Harbor Pavilion in Decatur: from the direction of Huntsville, cross the river bridge and take the first right onto Alt 72/20 (Wilson St.). Go about a mile and turn right on Neher St., follow to pavilion parking lot. –…

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Winfred Thomas Agricultural Research Station (WTARS, NABT #27)

May 12, 2019 @ 7:00 am - 11:00 am
Winfred Thomas Agricultural Research Station, 372 Walker Lane
Hazel Green, AL United States
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Free

WTARS is Alabama A&M University’s research farm; it is a 970-acre property with lots of open grassland and pasture areas, plus small patches of forest. It is one of the best places in the state to observe open country birds and always makes for a great trip (our most popular). Species we’ll likely encounter include Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (breeding and probably nesting by this time), Grasshopper Sparrow, Dickcissel, Lark Sparrow, Blue Grosbeak, Eastern Kingbird, several swallow species, Bobolink, Horned Lark, Loggerhead…

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