The Centre-Piedmont-Cherokee County Regional Airport property is a delightful blend of open short-grass fields, scrubby fencerows, and a few wet grassy spots. A couple of occasional streams are also present. There are a few scattered trees and light woods at the entrance to County 83 and on adjacent properties.
The site is open and level, with excellent sight lines. “Car birding” can be productive here — pulling off the road and scanning the grass and the fencing for birds — but parking near the headquarters and strolling along the road and the field edges is probably preferable. A spotting scope may be helpful for more distant sparrows and shorebirds.
The airport property is the single best location in this area of the state to see a broad variety of grassland birds. The highlight here is the Grasshopper Sparrow, present from April to September. This is also a fine spot to see Bobolinks and a few Dickcissels in migration, and to experience large numbers of winter sparrows, including Savannah, Vesper, Song, and the possibility of the occasional LeConte’s or Lincoln’s. American Pipits are expected in the colder months, and Horned Larks are present in small numbers in some years. Lapland Longspurs may appear in some winters.
This is an exceptional place for Eastern Meadowlarks – their songs and calls ring out from the fields in every direction — they seem to occupy perches on every fencerow and power line. Northern Bobwhites are here, too. Blackbird flocks host Redwings, Common Grackles, and American Robins. In winter, you may also see a few Rusty Blackbirds. Eastern Bluebirds are common. The wet fields, including the grassy patch immediately northeast of the main building are home to Killdeer, and may have additional shorebirds – plovers and sandpipers – present in migration.
Look for swallows (mostly Barn) and Chimney Swifts over the fields from April to September. There are usually several Northern Harriers coursing the fields from October to March. This is a good location to search for Short-eared Owls in winter and maybe even see Rough-legged Hawks. American Kestrels are present in the area all year, and this is an excellent location for Loggerhead Shrike.
The scattered trees at the entrance to County 83 and the occasional small shade trees growing on the adjacent properties have a few songbirds. Expect to find Eastern Kingbirds, Orchard Orioles, Eastern Wood Pewees, and perhaps Cedar Waxwings as breeding birds. Yellow-breasted Chats and Gray Catbirds also breed in the light woods on the properties that border the airport property.
Red-tailed Hawks are common in the skies above the fields all year, and the open fields are perfect for Barn Owls.
Directions: From AL 68 in Centre (Cherokee County) [food, fuel, lodging available here, as well as in nearby Leesburg and Collinsville], take AL 9 south for 7.4 miles. Turn left (east) on Cherokee Co 83, and follow almost 2 miles to reach the airport.
GPS: 34.0971027 -85.6172894
Centre-Piedmont Cherokee County Regional Airport
8850 Hwy 9
Centre, AL 35960