West Alabama | Hale | Best Seasons: Fall | Spring
The Lock 5 Park and Recreation Area is one of several similar Corps of Engineers–maintained recreation areas along the Black Warrior River. Lock 5 is a small park with plenty of paved parking, clean restrooms, picnic tables, and a boat ramp, all shaded by mixed-age hardwoods. The first thought many birders would have when they hear “lock and dam” would be of eagles, gulls, cormorants, and possibly White Pelicans at the dam in winter. Not so here, as the dam was destroyed many years ago, leaving nothing but the name and a marker in the river at the point where the dam once stood. The site is best considered an additional stop, part of a loop, for trips to the Hale County Catfish Ponds, the State Cattle Ranch (both quite nearby), or even as an adjunct to several of the Demopolis-area sites, some only 20 to 30 minutes away.
Instead of deep-water winter birds, the current site is a good spot to see spring and fall migrants, breeding songbirds – including many Prothonotary Warblers, Parulas, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Summer Tanagers, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Orchard Orioles, Great Crested Flycatchers, Eastern Wood Pewees, and Red-eyed and Yellow-throated vireos. There are numerous Wood Thrushes and Hooded Warblers in the surrounding woods. Decent numbers of woodpeckers live in the woods here, and a few long-legged waders may be seen in the sparse vegetation on the opposite (western) bank of the river.
In birding the recreation area, very good sight lines are afforded along the broad walking trail that parallels the river – a good way to get a quick view of many of the species here, especially in spring and fall. Note the trees and shrubs around the small swamp at the northwest corner of the property, as they are a locus for a great deal of avian activity.
Some of the more interesting birding is to be had on CR 16 en route to Lock 5. The road passes through farmland, and Loggerhead Shrikes and American Kestrels may be found here throughout the year. Watch for Lark and Grasshopper sparrows (both rare) on the fences and power wires. Barn Owls and Red-tailed Hawks are permanent residents here, and numerous waders – and even a few shorebirds — appear at the farm ponds in late spring through fall. In the cooler months, this is a prime area for Vesper, Savannah, and even White-crowned sparrows. Northern Harriers hunt the open fields from September through April, and Short-eared Owls may be seen in winter. Barn Owls reside here year-round.
GPS: 32.5849885 -87.7429369
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) (Mailing address)
Black Warrior and Tombigbee Lakes
34 Resource Management Dr.
Demopolis, AL 36732-1546
From the intersection of AL 25 and AL 69 in Greensboro in Hale County (fuel, food, limited lodging available), proceed south on AL 69 for 7.1 miles. Turn right (west) on CR 16 and continue for 5.5 miles to the entrance of the Lock 5 Recreation Area.
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