Cooter’s Pond Park, on the banks of the Alabama River, is divided into two parts — the upper section offers wooded areas, open fields, picnic pavilions, and views of the Montgomery skyline. The lower section offers a riverwalk and access to picnic areas and boat ramps. The proximity of the river creates a variety of good habitats for birds. In the wet ditch on the north side of the entrance road you might see Great Egrets, Great Blue or Green Herons, and other wading birds. The thick swamp that borders the south side of the entrance road may harbor American Bitterns in the colder months, and Anhingas are a possibility from spring through fall.
From the main entrance, follow the park road to the right, where there is a mature hardwood forest dominated by oaks with scattered large pines. Notice the Spanish moss draping the branches. This moss is used for nesting material by many of the local breeding birds, and many species browse the moss for insects on which to feed. Expect Northern Parulas and Yellow-throated Warblers here, as well as many Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. Eastern Bluebirds are commonly seen along the road and in the central area, and Brown-headed Nuthatches and Pine Warblers are easy to spot in the pines. Wood Thrushes and Hooded Warblers breed in the areas with more understory cover, and Summer Tanagers are present in good numbers. From the parking area, walk in to the picnic shed and go right (north) to an eroded area on the bluff above the Alabama River to locate Winter Wrens in season. Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers are residents, and fall brings Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Brown Creepers, both kinglets, and Red-breasted Nuthatches.
Follow the main road past the restroom facilities and park near the concrete cistern. A walk along the path in the warmer months should afford encounters with Northern Parula and Prothonotary Warblers, both in very good numbers here. The open area near the cistern should offer looks at a variety of understory birds, such as White-eyed Vireos, and ground feeders, such as Eastern Towhees and Dark-eyed Juncos (fall to spring).
Follow the main road to the lower section of the park, and park near the boat launch area. Scan the skies above Cooter’s Pond here for possible Ospreys, Bald Eagles, and Anhingas (spring to fall). Scan the trees and shrubs on both sides of the lake and the launch area carefully. Yellow-billed Cuckoos are easy to find in this portion of the park, and Prothonotary Warblers are conspicuous as they sing from exposed perches. Painted Buntings have been found here to the left (north) side of the boat launch area. Also look for Orchard Orioles, Blue Grosbeaks, and Indigo Buntings in this section of the park.
Directions: From I-65 at Prattville, take exit #179 and follow US Highway 82 (many restaurants, motels, and service stations here) west to US Highway 31. Turn left (south) and follow US 31 1.2 miles to the intersection of Cooter’s Pond Road. Turn left (east) onto Cooter’s Pond Road and follow to the park. 1844 Cooters Pond Road.
Amenities: Two boat ramps, docks, riverwalk, picnic grills, tables, basketball court, large green-space for flying kites, touch football, Frisbee-tossing, and family activities. Three pavilions are available for rental. This park is also home to the See, Pick and Eat Nut Grove as well as the Dog Park, both located on the upper level.
GPS: 32.4287143 -86.402156