32 sites that stretch along a narrow swath of 11 counties across the south-central part of Alabama’s rural farm country all the way from Georgia to Mississippi.

With locations as varied as simple boat ramps, where you can launch a canoe to explore the deep recesses of one of Alabama’s river system, to state parks, National Wildlife Refuges and city parks, there is much to see and do.

Alabama Shakespeare Festival

Black Belt | Montgomery | Best Seasons: Fall, Spring, Winter

The Alabama Shakespeare Festival and the Carolyn Blount Museum of Fine Art are the two main entities that occupy the 250-acre Blount Cultural Park. Both have lakes and extensive lawns. Birds are not abundant here, but you can find waterfowl and waders on and near the lakes. Swallows can be quite common in spring and summer. Paved roads wind through the park; park off the roadways and bird the foliage on the park borders for songbirds. The wintering and breeding species you will see here are the expected assortment for southeastern suburban parks and yards, but migrants may be around in spring and fall, especially after the passage of a weather system. Be sure to inspect the quiet little corner that is Shakespeare’s Garden, adjacent to the Festival, and watch for Loggerhead Shrikes in all seasons on the edges of the thin woods throughout the park. Two hours should be sufficient for a productive visit.

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Bladon Springs State Park

Black Belt | Choctaw | Best Seasons: Fall, Spring, Winter

ALERT: Check before visiting. This site is officially closed as of October 15, 2015 due to budget cuts at the Department of Conservation. Confirm before visiting. Bladon Springs State Park is one of the state park system’s lesser-known facilities. Its 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.

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Bloch Park

Black Belt | Dallas | Best Seasons: Fall, Spring, Winter

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.

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Chickasaw State Park

Black Belt | Marengo | Best Seasons: Fall, Spring, Winter

ALERT: Check before visiting. This site is officially closed as of October 15, 2015 due to budget cuts at the Department of Conservation. Confirm before visiting. 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.

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Chilatchee Creek Park

Black Belt | Wilcox | Best Seasons: Fall, Spring, Winter

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.

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Choctaw National Wildlife Refuge

Black Belt | Choctaw | Best Seasons: Fall, Spring, Winter

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.

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Coffeeville Lake (Service Campground Park)

Black Belt | Choctaw | Best Seasons: Fall, Spring, Winter

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.

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Dallas County Lake

Black Belt | Dallas | Best Seasons: Fall, Spring, Winter

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.

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Demopolis River Walk

Black Belt | Marengo | Best Seasons: Fall, Spring, Summer, Winter

Demopolis’ River Walk is an open, paved, level, handicap-accessible stroll along the river in downtown Demopolis. The pathway is immediately adjacent to the river bank, and there are scattered patches of planted shrubs and small hardwood trees along its course. Expect to see swallows from spring through late summer, waders year-round — though more in late summer and fall, and some gulls and small numbers of waterfowl in winter. The River Walk can be adequately birded in 60 to 90 minutes. Consider the River Walk as a late morning-early afternoon stop on a birding loop that covers the Demopolis area.

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Foscue Creek Park

Black Belt | Marengo | Best Seasons: Fall, Spring, Winter

Foscue Creek Park has extensive grassy meadows and tallgrass fields from near the entrance road to the roads to the campground areas, bottomland hardwood forest over the picnic areas, and the open waters of Demopolis Lake along the park’s northern boundary. Expect to find sparrows in the cooler months and excellent numbers of songbirds, woodpeckers, waders, and birds of prey throughout the year. The park merits a short half-day visit in all but the hottest months.

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Gee’s Bend Park

Black Belt | Wilcox | Best Seasons: Fall, Spring, Winter

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.

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Gunter Hill Park

Black Belt | Montgomery | Best Seasons: Fall, Spring, Winter

Gunter Hill Park and Campground lies just 15 minutes and a world away from downtown Montgomery. Paved roads lead through mature woods of pine and moss-draped hardwoods to the banks Catoma Creek, a backwater of the Alabama River. There are two loops here, the Antioch and Catoma loops–the Catoma Loop is far more extensive, encompassing some second-growth, trails, hardwood bottomlands, park-like campgrounds with open understory, bridges over a creek, and bluffs overlooking the Alabama. Expect to find a great variety of birds, including Louisiana Waterthrushes, Acadian Flycatchers, Northern Parulas, Redstarts, vast numbers of Indigo Buntings, Summer Tanagers, Orchard Orioles, and Great Crested Flycatchers.

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Holy Ground Battlefield Park

Black Belt | Lowndes | Best Seasons: Fall, Spring, Winter

Holy Ground Battlefield Park is a small Army Corps day-use area in northern Lowndes County. Trails proceed from an interpretive kiosk along and through mixed woodlands to views of Woodruff Lake and Cypress Creek. You will see a good variety of songbirds on all but the hottest days of summer. Look for Bald Eagles and Ospreys over the water and waders along the shore. Some waterfowl may be present in winter. Allow two to four hours to bird the park and trails.

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Idle Hour / Moon Lake Park

Black Belt | Russell | Best Seasons: Fall, Spring, Winter

Idle Hour Park sits moments from US-80 in Phenix City. It is a sprawling urban park, the outstanding feature of which is Moon Lake. The path around the lake is broad, flat, and handicap-accessible. The surrounding woods are pleasant, and the trails through the Natural Area and the other walking trails on the eastern side of the park are more narrow and undulating. The lake attracts waterfowl in winter, and a few waders may be found on the lake’s periphery most of the time. Woodland species abound along the 1-mile Nature Trail loop. To walk the Natural Area and walking trails in their entirety requires a couple hours.

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Lagoon Park

Lagoon Park is a large urban park, with multiple softball fields, a golf course, a wooded fitness trail, and more to our point, several large lagoons ringed by walking trails. The lagoon portion of the park features extensive shallow wetlands that can be spectacular for wading birds, swallows, small rafts of ducks in winter, and for songbirds in the surrounding woods. Bird the trees along the entrance road for migrants in spring and fall. Look for wetland songbirds in the bottomland forest to the west and south of the parking at the end of the road, and walk the trails around the lagoons to see waders, waterfowl, and possible shorebirds. Allow at least two hours for your visit here.

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