Arcola Boat Ramp is located in the area south of Lock 5 on the Black Warrior River, north of US 80, and east of the river. The overall area is often collectively spoken of as the Hale County Bottoms. The fields here are full of Meadowlarks and, in the warm seasons, Dickcissels. A few Lark Sparrows breed here and even fewer Grasshopper Sparrows. In winter, look for sparrows – Savannah, Vesper, White-throated, Song, and White-crowned – in the fencerows. Northern Bobwhites are common, and in the cooler months Northern Harriers are fairly common in the more extensive grassy fields. If birding at dawn or dusk, look for Short-eared Owls in in the same fields as the Harriers; Barn Owls course those fields and the marshes throughout the year, though they are highly nocturnal and thus seldom seen.
The primary public access point here is the Arcola Boat Ramp, a very small park with a single boat ramp, a single picnic table, and a single (overgrown and neglected) nature trail. This site holds potential for all seasons – in the wet areas and beyond are Prothonotary Warblers, Northern Parulas, Acadian Flycatchers, and Common Yellowthroats, Chats and Indigo Buntings, even a few Prairie Warblers in the drier scrubby areas in spring and early summer. Look for Least Bitterns in the cattails and the other thick marsh vegetation. The hammocks near the marsh appear to hold some potential for Painted Buntings. The trees here ring with the songs of the expected woodland songbirds, including Orchard Orioles, Great Crested Flycatchers, and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. Wood Thrush, White-eyed Vireos, and Hooded and Kentucky warblers are found in the thick understory west and north of the boat ramp. In summer, look for the great waders to appear – the resident Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets are joined by Little Blue Herons, White Ibis, a few Snowy Egrets, et al. The cattle in the nearby pastures get company in the form of Cattle Egrets, as well. Red-tailed Hawks and American Kestrels are much in evidence as they patrol the fields, while Loggerhead Shrikes, uncommon as breeders, become more numerous in the colder months. Look for them near barbed-wire fences.
Winter brings Swamp and Song sparrows in great numbers. Look for Virginia Rails in the marsh edges, and numerous Gray Catbirds. Marsh ducks drop in in these colder months, so look for Northern Shovelers, pintails, Blue-winged (fall and spring) and Green-winged teal, Lesser Scaup, Wigeons, and the like to join the resident Wood Ducks from November through March.
GPS: 32.5521172 -87.7834803
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) (Mailing address)
Black Warrior and Tombigbee Lakes
34 Resource Management Dr.
Demopolis, AL 36732-1546
From Demopolis (Marengo County – ample food, fuel, and lodging available) proceed south on US 43 to the intersection with US 80. Join US 80 and follow east for 4.2 miles. Turn left (north) on County Road 62, and Follow County 62 for 1.7 miles (note the dogleg left at 1 mile), and turn right at the sign for the Arcola Boat Ramp. The road ends in 1 mile at the public use area.
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