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Field Trip: Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge
January 7, 2023 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Pre-registration is required by 12 p.m. CST on Friday, January 6th.
Participants must complete the mandatory online waiver. Please do not request registration for others when submitting your request.
Decatur’s Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge is a winter haven for numerous waterfowl species, thousands of sandhill cranes, and a small, but increasingly reliable, population of overwintering whooping cranes—still one of the world’s most endangered bird species. (There are around 800 individuals alive today, up from an almost-unbelievable low of just 16 in 1941.) As such, it holds a special place in the hearts of Alabama nature lovers, and a priority spot on every southern birder’s bucket list.
At the time of posting this event, the Visitor Center and observation area—both standard first stops on this annual trip—are under construction. We don’t know if they will be open by the time of the trip; however, we have several places in the park that we can go. For sure we will make it to Arrowhead Landing. Other areas will be determined closer to the time.
The details: Meetup is at 8 a.m. at the Fultondale Chick-fil-A (215 Howell Street), located off I-65 (Exit 267) on Walker Chapel Road. Together, we’ll caravan up the interstate toward Decatur and the Priceville exit (Exit 334) to reconvene around 9 a.m. at the Hardee’s located at 3241 Point Mallard Parkway SE. We’ll have instructions about the flow of the day. Feel free to email us if you have questions or want to let us know you’ll be meeting up from a different part of the state and need other directions.
A birding trip to Wheeler can turn into a long day, so remember to bring plenty of water and snacks, a full tank of gas, insect repellent, rain gear, sunblock, and seasonally appropriate—i.e., warmly layered—attire. In the event of inclement weather, the trip may be cancelled. You may contact the trip leaders the morning of the event.
Registration: To register, click on the button above. If you’re new to our online system and don’t yet have a username and password, simply click the “X” on the pop up and fill out the basic form. If you do have a login, please use it as this helps us tremendously on our end! You should receive an automated email upon registering.
Accessibility: We anticipate most of the areas on this trip will be accessible by car. There is some walking involved on this trip—but mostly stopping and birding by car.
Questions about accessibility? Email us for more information about how we can meet your needs.
The food: We will plan to find a local place to eat lunch. You can also pack a lunch to bring with you to eat at any of the stops along the way.
The birds: We anticipate seeing various waterfowl, cranes, pelicans, and hawks. The woodlands will contain woodpeckers, kinglets, and wintering yellow-rumped warblers and year-round pine warblers. You’ll find the official bird list for Wheeler on the Fish & Wildlife Service’s website. For real-time updates, visit eBird’s hotspot page here. Click here for the Alabama Birding Trails site for this location.
Trip leader: Matt Hunter (205-460-9546) and Jonah Cohen (860-202-9259) will lead this trip. Please contact them on the day of the field trip only.
Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
Through more than seventy-five years of conservation work in one of our nation’s most ecologically rich states, Alabama Audubon has seen firsthand how diversity strengthens natural communities. We believe that the same principle applies to human communities, which is why our organization is committed to providing equitable opportunities for all Alabamians to learn about and enjoy wild birds, their habitats, and the natural world. One of the best ways to support that belief is by valuing and actively seeking to strengthen diversity among our staff, our board, and our membership. To that end, Alabama Audubon welcomes the whole of our community to our work, and strives to make our programs, classes, and events open and accessible to all.