Logan Martin Dam on the Coosa River should be visited by birders for two primary reasons: first, the shoals below the dam are perhaps the best and most reliable location in the state to see good numbers of Black-crowned Night-Herons at relatively close distances, particularly during the daylight hours; and second, Bald Eagles are present at the dam throughout the year.
To reach the area of primary interest – the dam and the shoals – exit County 54 onto Kelly Creek Road. Take the first left, then park at the public parking lot below the dam. Scan the skies above the dam for Bald Eagles (year-round) and Osprey (primarily spring and fall.) There are always Turkey and Black Vultures aloft here, and Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks are also numerous. Broad-winged and Cooper’s Hawks nest nearby, and are also seen in the air around the dam. Gulls are present here in the colder months. Most are Ring-billed, though you will also find Herring and Bonaparte’s Gulls, as well as more unusual species. You may spot Forster’s Terns both above and below the dam, and Black Terns are seen here in migration. Summer brings swallows and swifts to fill the skies. Typical swallows here are Barn, Rough-winged, and Purple Martin; Tree Swallows have recently been breeding along the river and are becoming more numerous and regular at the dam. Winter waterfowl – “tip-up” ducks, mostly – are relatively scarce here. Look for Wood Ducks below the dam and perhaps a few Blue-winged Teal, Hooded Mergansers, and the like, in migration.
The shoals below the dam are an outstanding place to see long-legged waders in good numbers. Black-crowned Night Herons and Great Blue Herons are common, year-round sights. Great Egrets and Yellow-crowned Night Herons are also present in lower numbers most days. Late summer and early fall brings increased numbers of Green Herons, Little Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, and even the occasional drop-ins of White Ibis and Wood Stork.
From the public parking lot below the dam, a trail proceeds south through a wooded area. This provides good opportunities to see songbirds at all times of the year. The woods here may also prove to be an effective migrant trap in spring and fall.
On your way in or out of the public parking area, be sure to bird the woods along Kelly Creek Road. You will find woodland songbirds, and Wild Turkeys are numerous in the pine-oak woods.
There is no place on the dam road itself to safely park and scan the deep water above the dam or the skies overhead, so drive across the dam from west to east and take the first road to the left. This road leads to a picnic area with covered shelters and public parking. The area provides a good vantage point to scan the deep water for Common Loons, Horned Grebes, and diving ducks (Common Goldeneyes, Buffleheads, Red-breasted Mergansers, Greater Scaup, etc.) which are uncommon here in winter. The short grass around the pavilions may harbor American Pipits in winter. Check the skies and the trees around the water line for Bald Eagles, Ospreys, and hawks. This is also a good place to spot Yellow-throated Warblers and Northern Parulas in spring and early summer.
Directions: From I-20 at Pell City in St. Clair County (fuel, food, lodging nearby) take exit 158 to US 231. Follow US 231 S for approximately 10.2 miles and turn left (east) onto County 54. Follow County 54 for approximately 4.5 miles, turning right onto Kelly Creek Road, and then a left at the first paved road. Follow this road to the public parking area. There are no public restrooms, shelters, or vending areas nearby. Best advice would be to bring food and drinks with you, or to stop for necessities on US 231 on the drive to the dam.
GPS: 33.4263922 -86.33852