The Crenshaw County Public Lake is one of the state’s little-known birding jewels with gorgeous pinewood, old field, and deep-water lake habitats. The park is well maintained for visitors, but natural enough to be a magnet for birds. Enter through a .4 mile corridor of tall pines, with intermittent patches of open scrub. At .1 mile, a small creek passes under the road. Look for Louisiana Waterthrushes and Eastern Phoebes. Over the remaining .3 mile, watch for Yellow-breasted Chats in the open areas. Wood Thrushes, Hooded and Kentucky Warblers, and White-eyed Vireos sing in the dense understory.
The deep-water lake is roughly 53 acres, with public restrooms, picnic tables, and a small pavilion, most on the far (west) side of the lake. Scan the lake for Wood Ducks, Belted Kingfishers, various swallows, Chimney Swifts, Purple Martins, and a variety of herons and egrets. In late winter, there may be small rafts of dabbling ducks, American Coots, and Pied-billed Grebes on the water. Anhingas may breed here in any given year; watch for the “snake birds” in the water, sunning on open branches, or on the lake’s banks. The trees near the water may harbor Yellow-throated Warblers, Northern Parulas, and American Redstarts.
An interesting and unusual aspect of this county lake is that there is a great deal of vegetation allowed to grow around the margins of the lake, and there is a scrubby slope between the road and the woods on the southeast side of the lake. This area, and in fact most of the grassy, scrubby areas near the lake, is excellent for birds, from Indigo Buntings and Gray Catbirds to Swamp Sparrows and Winter Wrens (the latter two from October through late March). The grassy slope may shelter Palm Warblers, along with a small number of Orange-crowned Warblers, in late fall and winter.
The woods are mature, open pine woods with some Loblolly and a great deal of Longleaf Pine. There are acres and acres of beautifully managed mature pine forest, with a light understory of mixed native grasses, forbs, and shrubs. The canopy of the pines hosts scores of woodpeckers – notably Red-headed and Pileated – along with Pine Warblers, Brown-headed Nuthatches, Great Crested Flycatchers, Summer Tanagers, and Eastern Wood Pewees. The understory is particularly interesting; the low growth is home to Indigo Buntings, Blue Grosbeaks, Field Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows (mostly fall through spring), Bachman’s Sparrows (best seen when singing in spring), Gray Catbirds, Eastern Towhees, Northern Bobwhites, Wild Turkeys, Common Yellowthroats, and a handful of Painted Buntings. Mississippi Kites breed in the vicinity and may be seen soaring over the forest from April through September. Otherwise, the common raptors here are Red-shouldered, Red-tailed, and Cooper’s Hawks. You may spot Barred Owls near the water, Great Horned Owls in the pines, and Eastern Screech-Owls in the dense tangles along the entrance road.
Truly one of the more attractive and pleasant birding sites in the region, the Crenshaw County Lake is a “don’t miss” when traveling in the area. Very dense in both numbers of species and individuals, the property also boasts good chances of encountering rarities. In spring and fall, the entire acreage should be very productive.
Directions: From the intersection of US 331 and US 29 in Luverne (Crenshaw County – fuel, some dining, and lodging available), follow US 331 south for 4.6 miles. Turn right (west) on County Lane at the sign for the lake. The gate to the lake is .4 mile ahead.
GPS: 31.6489882 -86.272178
1075 County Lake Road
Luverne, AL 36049