Alabama Audubon is re-creating a “prairie meadow” for birds at Putnam Middle School

Volunteers at W.E. Putnam Middle School’s Audubon-Datnow Forest Preserve. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

This past Saturday, Alabama Audubon and their partners at the Jones Valley Teaching Farm planted nearly 1500 native plants at the Audubon-Datnow Forest Preserve on the grounds of Birmingham’s W.E. Putnam Middle School.

Their goal? Turn a portion of the woodland preserve into a prairie meadow.

About 30 to 40 volunteers worked between 9:00am to 2:00pm, planting native plants and placing small orange flags where each seedling was planted.


A Haven for Birds and Education

Photo of a red-tailed hawk

Despite being surrounded by a Walmart, hotels, a retirement home, residential homes and commercial offices, W.E. Putnam School has become  a haven for birds and environmental education.

In the back of the school, there is a Jones Valley Teaching Farm and the recently established Audubon-Datnow Forest Preserve.

According to Alabama Audubon (which is formerly Birmingham Audubon) Putnam’s ten acre footprint provides much-needed urban habitat for Red-tailed Hawks, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and climate-endangered Brown-headed Nuthatches.


From Binoculars to a Preserve

Students from the fraternity Delta Epsilon Psi fraternity volunteering at the Audubon-Datnow Forest Preserve. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

Alabama Audubon’s interest in Putnam began a few years ago when they gave a small grant to the school to purchase binoculars. That relationship blossomed into volunteer workdays and field trips with the school.

By removing invasive plants like Chinese privet and Bradford pear, Alabama Audubon opened up room for the school’s forest understory to regenerate.

As a result, the much-improved urban habitat has become a prime location to identify and learn about birds.


National Attention

The local Audubon chapter’s partnership with Putnam and the community  caught the attention of the National Audubon Society.  The school was featured in Audubon Magazine, a national publication, and  there has been a video produced.

In addition to the national publicity, this past summer, the Audubon-Datnow Forest Preserve was dedicated at Putnam in honor of Alabama  Audubon  volunteer Claire Datnow, an educator and author who founded a trail and outdoor classroom during her tenure at the school in the 1990s.

What’s Next

Flags where native plants have been planted at the Audubon-Datnow Forest Preserve. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

Alabama Audubon will be holding additional work days and field trips throughout 2019-2020.


Flags where native plants have been planted at the Audubon-Datnow Forest Preserve. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

Meanwhile, in the coming months and years to come, a prairie meadow filled with native plants will be attracting nature lovers and birds alike.

Volunteers and Supporters Needed

Want to volunteer and support Alabama Audubon’s conservation efforts at W.E. Putnam Middle School?

Follow Alabama Audubon on social media about upcoming events and “bookmark” their website at alabamaaudubon.org  for updates on this exciting project.


 

Author: Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.