Famed for the free-flowing Cahaba River and for the rare wildflowers found here, the Cahaba River NWR is an extraordinarily good birding destination. Expect abundant riparian songbirds – Louisiana Waterthrushes, Acadian Flycatchers, Northern Parulas, Prothonotary and Yellow-throated warblers, and American Redstarts – from early spring through fall. Other woodland songbirds can be found in large numbers in the woods along the road through the refuge.
The Bevill Visitors Center grounds feature short-grass lawns with scattered small shade trees. The property is home to numerous bluebirds and various blackbird species. There are numerous songbirds in the trees in and near the parking areas. Look for gulls, eagles, and deep-water ducks in the adjacent Aliceville Lake in winter. The heavily wooded entrance road leading to the visitors center offers outstanding songbirding opportunities throughout the year.
Brierfield is an attractive, open, well-maintained park with restrooms, staff, a country store, picnic pavilions, rental cabins, and RV spaces. It features open, mature hardwood forest with good access points and sightlines. The park is an excellent spot for migratory songbirds in season, and for breeding and wintering birds. The wet-weather stream and the Furnace Trail are hotspots for birds, as is the edge habitat bordering the road at the far end of the park.
The Oakmulgee Division of the Talladega National Forest contains the state’s largest population of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. The birds nest and forage exclusively in stands of open, mature pines, where they are easiest to find early and late in the day. The best season is spring, when adult birds are near their nests much of the day. Bachman’s Sparrows are found in the same or similar habitat, and numerous songbirds are found here, both in the pine forest and in nearby tracts of hardwoods. This is an extremely productive area – well worth a special trip.
Though known for the rare and unusual wildflowers found on the 480-acre preserve, the Bibb Glades are also good for woodland songbirds. The open, rocky glades and scrub combined with light woods makes this a good spot to find towhees, Field Sparrows, wrens, Bluebirds, and thrushes. Situated as they are on bluffs above the Little Cahaba River, the glades are a reasonably good spot for spring and fall migrants. The entrance road is bounded by open, mature pine woods. Look for Brown-headed Nuthatches, Pine Warblers, and possibly a few Bachman’s Sparrows.
Runaway Branch Park has two segments – called RP I and RP II – that bound the same body of water from the east and west. Expect the water to draw spring and fall migrants and riparian-type breeding birds. Look for both kites and Wood Storks in summer, and waterfowl in winter.
This Corps of Engineers-maintained site is similar to most others along the Black Warrior system: boat ramp, picnic area, deep water, well maintained facilities. Expect the usual complement of riparian woodland songbirds, a few waders, and a few waterfowl in winter. Spend some time birding the pine woods and scrub along the entrance road for Chats, Prairie Warblers, White-eyed Vireos, Bobwhites, Field Sparrows, even a few Bachman’s Sparrows.
This is an extensive recreation area that stretches from a picnic area and small boardwalk to a campground complex 2.5 miles down the road. Visitors can follow the road a few more miles to reach the west side of the Bevill Lock and Dam. You’ll find many different habitat types here: early second-growth, open park-like pine-oak woodlands, riverbanks, and the lock and dam. The numerous habitats attract a great variety of birds, and some very interesting ones, too, such as Anhingas and Wood Thrushes.
The Arcola Boat Ramp is essentially the only public-access area in the region known collectively as the Hale County Bottoms. Look for wetland songbirds, other bottomland and wet-woods birds in the timber, and scour the marsh for American Bitterns (fall-spring) and Least Bitterns (spring through fall) as well as King Rails and Moorhens. Ospreys and eagles nest nearby, and watch for kites over the open areas in late summer. The hammock here would be a fine place to look for Painted Buntings.
There are two sections to this recreation area. To the south is a more park-like development with a camping area and a few picnic tables. The northern section is a parking lot overlooking the river and a boat ramp. A general mix of woodland songbirds are found here, most notably many Prothonotary Warblers, Northern Parulas (both sections), and Louisiana Waterthrushes (southern portion). Consider combining this stop with the nearby Eutaw Airport for field and pinewoods birds.
The park’s many large Mississipian-era American Indian mounds dot a large open field with multiple marshes. Red-winged Blackbirds, a few herons, and the occasional shorebird may be seen here. The west side of the park abuts the Black Warrior River. In the parking and picnic areas are scattered mature trees, and the north side of the park is bordered by a dense stand of hardwoods. A good mix of songbirds, woodpeckers, and raptors may be found at the park, making this a fruitful site for three seasons.
A level .4 mile stroll from a small parking lot, the mounds are at the end of a path bounded by open-row crop fields to the east and south, and wooded streams to the east and north. Birds at the mound site are decidedly suburban (cardinals, mockingbirds, Blue Jays, Carolina Wrens) and those found during migration (Summer Tanagers, cuckoos, Catbirds, White-eyed Vireos, Indigo Buntings) are more interesting. This park makes for a pleasant walk and a good partner site to a visit to the public lake 5 minutes away. Look for soaring hawks over the fields, and sparrows, pipits, and perhaps Horned Larks in the fields in winter.