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Lake Livingston and Trails

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

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.

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Lake Tuskegee

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

Tuskegee City Lake is a delight—a pleasant medium-sized lake located just off a major thoroughfare.Used by locals primarily as a picnic destination and for bank and small-boat fishing, you’ll find lots of swallows and flycatchers and some waterfowl and gulls in winter. There are waders year-round, but they’re most prevalent in summer and fall. Allow a few minutes to simply scan the entire site from near the (abandoned) HQ building, a couple of hours to take the lake loop and bird the site in earnest.

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Live Oak Cemetery (Selma)

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

Live Oak Cemetery in Selma is a stunning image of the old south with row upon row of massive live oaks draped in Spanish moss. The oaks hold good numbers of breeding birds – from Red-shouldered and Cooper’s hawks to warblers, vireos, Summer Tanagers, and various flycatchers. Winter brings many sparrows to the open understory, and mixed-species feeding flocks of songbirds. A visit here shouldn’t require more than a couple of hours.

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Montgomery Zoo

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

The Montgomery Zoo encompasses 40 acres just off Northern Boulevard (US-231) in the city limits of Montgomery. The zoo’s landscape is largely open, but the periphery of the park incorporates lush planted habitat for native species. Make it a point to bird the lake at the extreme northwestern part of the property. Look for migrants and mid- and understory songbirds in the dense second growth, and for waders and waterfowl around the lake. Brown-headed Nuthatches and Red-headed Woodpeckers are common permanent residents here. The zoo is entirely handicap-accessible. An admission fee is charged, and zoo hours vary by the season.

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Oak Park

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

A 40-acre park in downtown Montgomery, Oak Park is a lovely place to pass a few hours in search of birds. A paved loop road that winds through the park provides ample parking. The park is transected by numerous paved trails, several of which are handicap-accessible. The park is primarily forested by mature hardwoods – many live oaks – with an open understory. Oak Park is most productive for songbirds, and is at its best on spring and fall mornings when migrants can be numerous. Most of the low cover available for ground-dwelling birds is in the shrubby borders along the roadway. These areas are most productive in the colder months. Breeding birds are a typical mix of urban parks and suburban southern backyards.

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Old Cahawba Archaeological Park

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

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.

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Old Cahawba Prairie Preserve

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

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.

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Paul M Grist State Park

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

A particularly attractive Dallas County site for woodland and riparian songbirds. Home to waders in late summer and fall, as well as a smattering of ducks in winter. Paul M Grist State Park is a convenient and easily reached site well-worthy of a half-day’s visit. The extensive hiking trail around the lake is worth the trip by itself.

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Perry Lakes Park – State Fish Hatcheries-Barton Beach

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

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.

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Phenix City Riverwalk

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

The Phenix City Riverwalk in Russell County snakes along the banks of the Chattahoochee River for almost 1.25 miles as it traces the Alabama-Georgia state line. Follow the elevated boardwalks and the paved walkways and seize the opportunities to trek down to the river’s edge or to scramble over a boulder field. The woods here – largely mature hardwoods with varying amounts of understory — are rife with riparian-forest songbirds. Look for waders and swallows over the river, with some gulls and the odd tern in winter. As this site requires no less than a 2 1/2 – mile walk, expect to spend a short half-day to cover most if not all of the trail. If pressed for time, spend 1-1 ½ hours birding the southern portion from the entrance near the Ampitheatre to the 13th St bridge and back.

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Prairie Creek Campground

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

Prairie Creek Campground is an Army Corps facility that sits along the Alabama River in northern Lowndes County. The entrance road features grassy meadows, while most of the accessible areas of the campground are forested in mature hardwoods hung with Spanish moss. There are several good vantage points for the river along the paved park road, and there are short trails to walk through the woods. Birds here range from warblers, vireos, tanagers, orioles, woodpeckers, and thrushes in the woods to waders along the river’s edge. You’ll also find meadowlarks, bluebirds, kingbirds, and shrikes along the entrance road. A couple of hours should be sufficient to bird the park.

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Robert F Henry Lock and Dam

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

The Henry Dam on the Alabama River in northern Lowndes County is a “must-see” stop for birders in the area, as it provides extensive grasslands, rocky shoals below the dam’s spillway, and a deep-water impoundment above the dam – habitats difficult to find elsewhere in the area. Loggerhead Shrikes are permanent residents, and the fields are exceptionally good for spotting sparrows – expect to see Vesper, Song, and Savannah in winter; Swamp Sparrows nearer the river. Northern Harriers and Kestrels hunt the fields from fall through spring, and look for the occasional Short-eared Owl in winter. Gulls are seen near the dam in the colder months, waders are seen below the dam throughout the year and the scattered shade trees harbor orioles and flycatchers in season. An hour or two at the site should be sufficient to build a good list of birds.

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Roland Cooper State Park

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

Roland Cooper State Park is a lovely, wooded lakeside park in rural Wilcox County, which gained a measure of fame as one of the state’s first Bald Eagle nesting sites as the species began its comeback. Eagles are still present much of the year. The park is also home to many Wild Turkeys, Pileated Woodpeckers, and numerous species associated with bottomland woods and lakes. After a two-hour visit to Roland Cooper, take the scenic ferry ride across the River to visit Gee’s Bend, and then Chilatchee Park 15 minutes up the road.

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Shell Creek & East Bank Parks

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

Shell Creek Park and East Bank Park are twin sites that straddle the Dannelly Reservoir along the Alabama River in Wilcox County. Shell Creek is best noted for a large, active Osprey nest and substantial early second-growth woods along the entrance road. East Bank Park is better for waders and waterfowl, and the southwest corner harbors nesting Least Bitterns. The parks are compact, and neither requires more than 90 minutes to survey. Include these sites as stops along a loop that should include Chilatchee Creek, Gee’s Bend, and Roland Cooper State Park.

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Sherling Lake Park

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

Sherling Lake Park is only 3 miles west of Greenville, the largest town in Butler County. It is just 5 minutes from I-65 and can be reached by state highways from the interstate. It exists primarily for its 41 campsites, two fishing lakes, and tent camping opportunities. Because it is well-wooded with relatively quiet human activity, and because there is a large amount of water on the property, the park attracts a variety of birds. Expect to find numerous woodland songbirds in all seasons, with waders present near the lakes, and some waterfowl in winter. A short half day – two hours or so – should be enough for good birding.

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