Appalachian Highlands | Jefferson | Best Seasons: Fall | Spring | Winter
The Ruffner Mountain Wetlands (also referred to as the Eastern Trailhead) are a series of small marshes and ponds, traversed by a trail and a boardwalk in need of repair, located on the other side of the mountain from the Ruffner Mountain Nature Center. This wetland area provides visitors to the steep, hilly terrain of the Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve a chance to look for birds in an entirely different type of habitat. Some of the best birding happens on the walk to get to the boardwalk, though!
From the the parking lot and gate on Ruffner Road, follow the signage for a .9-mile trail over relatively level terrain. The trail, an unpaved jeep trail, provides access to a mixed-age, hardwood forest. In summer, the woods ring with songs and calls from Wood Thrushes; Hooded, Black-and-white, and Kentucky warblers; Summer Tanagers; Great Crested Flycatchers; White-eyed, Red-eyed and Yellow-throated vireos; Eastern Wood Pewees; and Pileated and Hairy woodpeckers.
The bird species to be observed as you enter the Wetlands change significantly. The tall grasses and edge habitat at the entry to the wetlands are home to numerous Field and Chipping Sparrows, along with Eastern Towhees and Northern Cardinals. From fall through spring, there are many Song and White-throated Sparrows. Creature comforts in this area include a covered picnic pavilion and a shaded picnic area with many tables, but note that the picnic area is approximately a mile from the trailhead.
This is a good spot to see Gray Catbirds and Common Yellowthroats in the warm months, and Song and Swamp Sparrows in the cooler months. The water should make this a very productive area in migration. There is a spring that provides year-round water just off the trail. In dry periods, it is teeming with life. The edge may produce Palm and Tennessee warblers in particular. Check the small trees around the ponds for Yellow Warblers in migration, and possibly as local breeding birds. Barred Owls and Red-shouldered and Cooper’s Hawks are common here. Waders are generally Green and Great Blue herons, with occasional visits from Black-crowned Night and Yellow-crowned Night herons.
GPS: 33.558581926960585, -86.68910918351484
Ruffner Mountain Nature Center
1214 81st St S Birmingham, AL 35206
This site is not accessible via wheelchair. The ground is level and the path to access the wetlands area is a wide dirt and rock path large enough for a vehicle to drive. Access to the trail is limited to a small gate large enough for a person to walk comfortably through, but not large enough for a wheelchair. For those with mobility issues who are able to walk, the area may prove interesting.
From I-20 in Birmingham (Jefferson County), take exit 132B (Montevallo Road). Food, fuel, and lodging are available at or near the exit. Turn left onto Montevallo Road and follow .5 miles, turning left on 16th Street. In .2 miles, turn right on 2nd Avenue North. In .6 miles, merge onto 1st Avenue North, and in a further .5 miles, turn right onto Ruffner Road. Signage and a small parking lot for the Ruffner Mountain Wetlands are on the left in approximately 1.5 miles.
Amenities Available: Gravel or Dirt Trails, Picnic Tables
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