Black Belt | Montgomery | Best Seasons: Fall | Spring | Winter
Oak Park is a 40-acre day-use park located in downtown Montgomery, scarcely more than a block north of the bustling I-85 freeway. An island of green in the shadow of the state capitol, the park is an essential birding stop when in the city of Montgomery, especially during migration.
Oak Park is navigated by a paved loop road with ample parking available along its route. Several (mostly) paved paths proceed from the park road, some of which are handicap-accessible. One of the park’s major attractions is the city ’s W. A. Gayle Planetarium, located in the southeastern portion of the park. The park is a popular site for picnics and social gatherings on the weekends. The activity and noise of these may prove to be counterproductive for birds and birding, so the best times to visit for those interested in nature are weekdays and early mornings on weekends.
The park is primarily forested by hardwoods – much of the canopy is formed by mature live oaks — and though the canopy is thick, it is not particularly tall. The sight lines here are fair to good and the access is excellent. The best time to visit Oak Park is during spring and fall mornings, especially those following the passing of a weather front when migrant songbirds can be quite numerous. Winter birding can also be rewarding when loose multiple-species feeding flocks roam the park, including sapsuckers, Purple Finches, Pine Siskins, kinglets, Brown Creepers, and occasional Red-breasted Nuthatches joining resident chickadees, titmice, White-breasted Nuthatches, Blue Jays, woodpeckers, and Cardinals.
The understory here is mostly clear, but for the banks of azaleas and other shrubs that border portions of the loop road. Look there year-round for Carolina Wrens, Brown Thrashers, and Eastern Towhees. They are joined by White-throated and Song sparrows, juncos, and the odd Palm Warbler, House Wren, or Common Yellowthroat in winter. Raptors here include resident Red-tailed and Cooper’s hawks, with Broad-winged Hawks seen from April through September and Sharp-shinned Hawks from October through April. Barred and Great Horned owls are present much of the year, but can be difficult to locate by day.
Breeding birds are those typical of southern cities and suburbs, with the notable exception of the strong numbers of Red-headed Woodpeckers present throughout the year.
Allow two to three hours to cover the park comprehensively, less if birding the periphery via the loop road.
GPS: N 32.369161 W -86.287333
1010 Forest Ave
Montgomery, AL 36106
From I-65 in Montgomery, take exit 171 to I-85 E. In 2 miles, take exit 2 and turn left on Forest Avenue. In .3 miles, turn left into Oak Park Drive. The address of the park is: 1010 Forest Avenue, Montgomery AL 36106.
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