Lake Livingston in Sumter County and the system of nearby trails constitute one of southwest Alabama’s most outstanding birding sites. The 54-acre lake attracts waders, swallows (warmer months) and some waterfowl (colder months). The extensive series of trails pass along the lake’s banks, through mature forest, by second-growth and scrub, and eventually through wonderfully restored Black Belt prairie grasslands. This unmatched variety of habitats provides for a long list of birds. There is potential for a series of lengthy hikes here. A half day is a short visit; it would be easy to spend a full day and never get bored.
Bloch Park and the adjacent Valley Creek Park occupy a most attractive tract of land between AL-22 in downtown Selma and the banks of the Alabama River. The open areas, especially along the walking trails and bounding a large open field in the center of the park, are good for Eastern Kingbirds, Loggerhead Shrikes, and Eastern Bluebirds. Check the bridge and creek below for Louisiana Waterthrushes, Acadian Flycatchers, and Eastern Phoebes. Beyond the open field lies Valley Creek Park. The trees host Yellow-throated and Red-eyed Vireos and Northern Parulas in warmer months, and Pine Warblers year-round. Almost any of Alabama’s migrant species can be found here, along with a good mix of breeding and wintering birds.
Chilatchee Creek Park is a working campground consisting of mixed mature riparian woods located along the Dannelly Reservoir. You will find many Northern Parulas, Yellow-throated and Pine warblers, Brown-headed Nuthatches, American Redstarts, Yellow-throated Vireos, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Red-headed Woodpeckers, Red-shouldered Hawks, Barred Owls, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, and Orchard Orioles. You will see Wild Turkeys throughout the park. Bald Eagles nest nearby and are frequently seen in the area. In winter, you may find gulls and waterfowl along the creek.
Dallas County’s Public Lake is conveniently located less than 15 minutes from Selma. It presents an excellent opportunity to see waders up close and swallows and bluebirds in large numbers. The wet woods in the back (northwest) portion of the property offer some great looks at woodland songbirds. There is substantial early second-growth habitat bordering the property, which is excellent for Chats, Prairie Warblers, Indigo Buntings, Blue Grosbeaks, and many more. A good site worth a short half-day’s birding. Call (334) 874-8804 for more information. Note that the lake is closed on Mondays and all of December and January.
Old Cahawba, Alabama’s capitol from 1820 to 1826, is a present-day ghost town and archaeological site situated inside an oxbow of the Alabama River. The forest here is primarily all-age bottomland-type hardwoods, with varying degrees of understory density. There are open short-grass fields adjacent to the main (paved) road. The site hosts a good selection of woodland songbirds, from warblers and vireos to Summer Tanagers, Great Crested Flycatchers, and Yellow-billed Cuckoos. There is an abundance of food and shelter here, and a minimal amount of disturbance, so populations of birds are good.
One of Alabama’s premier birding sites, Perry Lakes and the State Fish Hatcheries are worth a visit any day of the year. Alot at least a half day to sample the full site: woodland songbirds abound in the hardwood bottomlands at Perry Lakes, while the hatcheries feature a variety of waders, shorebirds, swallows (spring to fall), and even a smattering of ducks and geese in winter. The landscape is flat and the entire acreage can be easily traversed with minimal effort. Do not miss the opportunity to experience the view from the 100-foot-high birding tower, which offers eye-to-eye views of songbirds, as well as excellent views of soaring raptors. The gated recreation area is open at no charge from sunrise to sunset.
The Old Cahawba Prairie Preserve in Dallas County adjoins the historic Old Cahawba Archaeological Park, site of the state’s first capitol. The 3,000+ acres preserve substantial black-belt prairie habitat, and include native grasslands and pine-plantation forest. The Old Cahawba Prairie abuts the Cahaba River and includes portions of Big Swamp Creek. Expect a mixture of grassland birds, such as sparrows, buntings, and Blue Grosbeaks, second-growth lovers, such as Chats and Prairie Warblers, and pine forest denizens, such as Brown-headed Nuthatches and Pine Warblers.
Bladon Springs State Park’s well maintained 357 acres are accessed by a single main road, which leads to picnic pavilions, 10 camper hookups, and 4 mineral springs. The central portion of the park is forested in open mature pines and a few hardwoods with a mowed understory, while the park’s periphery features a dense hardwood canopy with a think understory. There are good numbers of songbirds and woodpeckers (including Hairy and Pileated). Expect to see numerous Northern Parulas, Yellow-throated Warblers, Orchard Orioles, Eastern Wood-Pewees, and Summer Tanagers.
Choctaw NWR is composed of over 4,000 acres of rivers, sloughs, bottomland hardwood forest, and a small amount of tall-grass cropland. Swallow-tailed and Mississippi kites, Anhingas, Purple Gallinules, Least Bitterns, King Rails, and Common Moorhens nest here, with Painted Buntings as likely breeders, too. Ospreys and Bald Eagles are a common sight, and as many as 10,000 waterfowl winter here most years. There are large numbers of Northern Parulas, American Redstarts, and Acadian Flycatchers.
Chickasaw State Park consists of 520+ acres, of which several acres are open mature mixed pine-oak woodland. The park has a few picnic pavilions, restrooms, a small wading pool, a playground, and several camper hook-ups. The interior of the park is forested in mature, open pines and hardwoods with little midstory and a mowed understory. There is a belt of dense, all-age woods surrounding the developed part of the park. Look for migrants and wintering songbirds, especially canopy species in all but the hottest months.
Coffeeville Lake (Service Park) in Choctaw County deserves a brief visit by anyone planning a visit to Choctaw NWR and/or Bladon Springs State Park. The lakeside woodlands hold impressive numbers of bottomland songbirds, particularly in migration. Eagles and Ospreys nest nearby and are often seen over the lake. Waders often hunt from the lakeshore. Budget a couple hours for a visit in any season.
The tiny Wilcox County community of Gee’s Bend will provide an entertaining and educational visit. World-famous for its museum-quality quilts, it also provides habitat to good numbers of bottomland woodland birds, including vast numbers of Turkeys and Bobwhites. Come here after Chilatchee Park, spend a couple of hours at Gee’s Bend Park and the Boykin community, then take the historic Gee’s Bend Ferry across the Alabama River and visit Roland Cooper State Park.