Winfred Thomas Agricultural Research Station (WTARS, NABT #27)

WTARS is Alabama A&M University’s research farm; it is a 970-acre property with lots of open grassland and pasture areas, plus small patches of forest. It is one of the best places in the state to observe open country birds and always makes for a great trip (our most popular). Species we’ll likely encounter include Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (breeding and probably nesting by this time), Grasshopper Sparrow, Dickcissel, Lark Sparrow, Blue Grosbeak, Eastern Kingbird, several swallow species, Bobolink, Horned Lark, Loggerhead Shrike, Northern Bobwhite, etc. From Huntsville, take Hwy 431 north and just past Meridianville Middle School, turn right on Walker Lane (light), then take the first right onto the farm; park at the first building on the right (34.900839 -86.560256). – Ken Ward, Leader (256-837-5646; phinken@wowway.com)

Leighton Area, Town Creek (NABT #4, 5)

We will explore the Leighton area and Town Creek, targeting shorebird migrants, whose movement through our area should be strong at this time of year. Our success will depend largely on water levels and weather. We’ll meet at the Ingalls Boat Harbor Pavilion in Decatur: from the direction of Huntsville, cross the river bridge and take the first right onto Alt 72/20 (Wilson St.). Go about a mile and turn right on Neher St., follow to pavilion parking lot. – Harry Dean and Dick Bruer, Leaders (256-461-0626; hdean@hiwaay.net)

Indian Creek Greenway

The Indian Creek Greenway is a pleasant place to bird, with opportunities to get good looks at migrants. The major reason this trip was planned a few years back was to look for Mourning Warblers. This species is a secretive late spring migrant through this area that is rarely seen. We have had good trips here over the years, e.g., Mourning, Wilson and Canada Warblers, Warbling Vireo, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Black-billed Cuckoo, Yellow-crowned Night Heron and a variety of other species. We’ll be meeting at the greenway trailhead on Old Madison Pike, a bit east of its intersection with Slaughter Road. This is a walking trip, probably at least a couple of miles, but it’s easy to leave early, as necessary. The new parking lot is nice, just east of the bridge on the north side of the road (34.709083 -86.701369). – Ken Ward, Leader (256-837-5646; phinken@wowway.com)

William B. Bankhead National Forest (NABT #14)

Bankhead National Forest (BNF) in northwestern Alabama is 180,000 acres of mesic hardwood, mixed pine-hardwood, shortleaf pine, oak-hickory, hemlock-white pine and mountain longleaf pine forest, with many limestone bluffs, swift flowing streams and waterfalls; the 26,000-acre Sipsey Wilderness is also found here. Migration birding this time of year is usually quite productive in BNF and we’ve had some great trips there the past few years. We’ll meet at Site 14 of the North Alabama Birding Trail (Central Firetower). From Huntsville, take I-565/Hwy 20 to Decatur, then AL Hwy 24 west toward Moulton. From the intersection of Hwy 24 and AL Hwy 33 near Moulton, head south on Hwy 33 for 11.4 miles into BNF. The orientation kiosk is located near the firetower on the left side of the road. From there, we will go south a short distance and spend most of our time birding along the Northwest Road (where the Black Warrior WMA check-in station is located), a beautiful setting with a wide range of forest habitat types varying in age, composition, and management (bordering the Sipsey Wilderness). Other areas we may visit include Brushy Lake Recreational Area, Sipsey River Picnic grounds, Borden Creek trailhead and Walston Ridge Road. You are encouraged to visit the BNF website for more information on birding opportunities there. From west Huntsville/Madison to the meeting place is about an hour-long drive, via Decatur (34.3452, -87.3393). – Ken Ward, Leader (256-837-5646; phinken@wowway.com)

Monte Sano State Park (NABT #29)

Join us near migration peak as we bird one of the best spots in the state for spring migration. The Park can be filled with birds this time of year, including an impressive variety of beautiful warblers in breeding plumage, orioles, grosbeaks, both species of tanagers, 4-5 species of vireos, all thrush species we can see in this area, etc. The birds are often relatively easy to see, too; several hotspots near our meeting spot are easy to find, including the overlooks, camp store, Japanese Garden, planetarium, cyclists’ and hikers’ parking lots, etc., not to mention numerous accessible trails. You are also encouraged to visit the park at other times during late April-early May, especially after a weather front has passed through, which will often concentrate the migrants. There are almost always a few birders around the hotspots early mornings during this period. To get to our meeting spot, take Monte Sano Boulevard off Governors Drive at the top of the mountain and follow the signs to the park; once there, go in the direction of headquarters and park at the Camp Store, in the gravel, if possible. PLEASE NOTE THAT THE BIRDING IS SOMETIMES BETTER EARLIER; FEEL FREE TO COME UP BETWEEN 6:00 AND 6:30 IF YOU LIKE, AS SOME OF US WILL PROBABLY ALREADY BE AT THE OVERLOOK (34.745325 -86.511672). – Harry Dean, Leader (256-461-0626; hdean@hiwaay.net)

Wheeler NWR Spring Migration Count (NABT)

The format for this count is similar to Christmas Counts – identify and count all birds seen or heard from dawn to late afternoon/dusk; different groups bird different parts of the refuge and nearby areas. Birders of all skill levels are welcome and needed, as we are usually short-handed for migration counts. Arrangements can also be made to spend part of the day counting for those who can’t commit to the whole day (morning or afternoon). We’ll regroup at the Wheeler NWR Interpretive Nature (Visitor) Center (34.547406 -86.951136) around 6:00 pm for compilation. Since we won’t have a single gathering spot for folks to meet and join a group, new participants should contact Dwight Cooley. – Dwight Cooley, Leader (256-565-6239; sabrewing@earthlink.net)

Wheeler NWR – Blackwell Swamp/Penny Bottoms/Buckeye (NABT #26)

This area has been getting more attention lately as a prime birding spot. There is flooded woodland and marsh habitat here, which can be explored by car, on foot or by canoe. A variety of wetland species may be present, including Great Blue Heron, Great Egret and Green Heron, and perhaps some other less common species, such as Snowy Egret or Little Blue Heron. Common Gallinule and Anhinga are rarely found here and you might get a glimpse at an alligator 😊. There should be a few migrants around by this time, including such returning breeders as Prothonotary Warbler and Common Yellowthroat. This is also good woodpecker habitat, especially for Pileated and Red-headed. To get to our meeting place, take County Line Rd south off I-565, head south 5.5 miles and turn left on Jolly B Rd; there is a white 2-story house, with a rail fence, on the left just before the turn. From here it’s about a mile to a gravel parking area on the right. We’ll explore several areas, including a tree-lined refuge road near the parking area (good for songbirds), other wooded spots and several viewing areas on both west and east sides of the swamp (time permitting). – Dick Bruer, Leader (256-714-1992; dick.bruer@gmail.com)

Hays Nature Preserve/Goldsmith Sanctuary (NABT #29)

NABS has birded both areas regularly, especially Hays; there should be a few migrants present, especially neotropical songbirds. Meet at Hays which, from Huntsville, is about a mile past the Publix shopping center near Hampton Cove on Hwy 431, on the left just past the Taylor Lane light (there is a sign). Follow the road to the parking area on the right (34.644106 -86.466389). – Bill McAllister, Leader (256-534-8354; billmcallister94@gmail.com)

Monte Sano State Park (NABT #29)

On this trip, we hope to catch some early spring migrants, especially Louisiana Waterthrush. To get to our meeting spot, take Monte Sano Boulevard off Governors Drive at the top of the mountain and follow the signs to the park; once there, go in the direction of headquarters and park at the Camp Store, in the gravel, if possible. (34.745325 -86.511672). – John Ehinger, Leader (256-536-2716; johnehinger@yahoo.com)

CANCELLED: Wheeler NWR-Limestone Bay/Arrowhead Landing/White Springs Dike (NABT #20, 23, 24)

CANCELLED:

Our final trip to White Springs Dike for the season is in its third year, at a time when we are usually taking a break, as waterfowl start moving out of the area, and prior to spring migration. Duck numbers are still usually good, but with less variety, with migrating Blue-winged Teal moving through, good numbers of Green-winged Teal and Shovelers around, etc. A couple of years ago we got a big surprise, with the presence of a beautiful male Cinnamon Teal in the marshes near the Decatur end of the dike (last year one turned up on the golf course at Point Mallard). Take the Mooresville exit off I-565, go south on Mooresville Road and meet at the parking area near where it intersects with old Highway 20 (34.627442 -86.880186). – Ken Ward, Leader (256-837-5646; phinken@wowway.com)

Mallard-Fox Creek Wildlife Management Area/Wheeler Dam (NABT #1, 2)

We’ll start with the Mallard-Fox Creek WMA and work our way west, searching for water birds, sparrows and other winter residents or early migrants. Mid- to late-February is a transition period for waterfowl and other birds, and weather will play a key role in what we see. We’ll meet at the Ingalls Boat Harbor Pavilion in Decatur: from the direction of Huntsville, cross the river bridge and take the first right onto Alt 72/20 (Wilson St.). Go about a mile and turn right on Neher St., follow to pavilion parking lot. – Dwight Cooley, Leader (256-565-6239; sabrewing@earthlink.net)

Guntersville Waterfront/Peninsula, Guntersville Dam South (NABT #35, 36)

This trip starts on Sunset Parkway along the west side of Guntersville. We should see a great variety of ducks, many loons and grebes, possibly some odd terns and gulls, eagles, etc. Meet in Guntersville at the Chamber of Commerce parking lot on the south end of the Hwy 431 bridge. From there, we’ll go west on the Lake Loop Road and bird the waterfront. The tour will then go south and across the Hwy 69 Causeway to the south end of Guntersville Dam (34.363686 -86.29116). – Bill McAllister, Leader (256-534-8354; billmcallister94@gmail.com)

Town Creek Embayment, Wheeler Dam, Joe Wheeler State Park (NABT #2, 3, 4)

This trip primarily targets waterfowl and other water birds, but also includes some productive songbird areas, especially in the state park. We’ll meet at the WalMart parking lot off Hwy 72 W in Athens (34.786933 -86.958486). – Dick Bruer and Harry Dean, Leaders (256-461-0626; hdean@hiwaay.net)

Guntersville City/Dam North/Hawk Farm (NABT #37)

The Guntersville area provides some of our best winter birding, as we explore a variety of habitats along Guntersville Lake, the Tennessee River and nearby areas. We’ll convene at the Guntersville Chamber of Commerce parking lot, on the south end of the Hwy 431 bridge, birding first along the lakefront and some other spots of interest; we should see a large number and variety of waterfowl, water birds, raptors and songbirds. We’ll break for lunch around 11-11:30, then reconvene about 12:30 at Guntersville Dam, north side, off Hwy 431 (10-15 miles back in the direction of Huntsville, to your left; watch for the sign). Meet at the picnic pavilion parking lot near the dam, to the left, as you face the dam. After birding near the dam, we’ll visit the nearby Jones ‘hawk farm’. The dam area and farm are both excellent for raptors. There should be nesting Bald Eagles around, both types of vultures, Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks, Kestrels and Harriers. If we are lucky, we may pick up one or two unusual species that have been seen irregularly over the years, e.g., Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, Rough-legged Hawk, or Golden Eagle. Another treat may be Wild Turkey, which we encounter fairly regularly on the farm. WE’LL ALL NEED TO BE TOGETHER TO VISIT THE FARM AND ARE NOT ALLOWED BEYOND THE STABLE AREA AT THE TOP OF THE HILL. (34.363686 -86.291161). – Ken Ward, Leader (256-837-5646; phinken@wowway.com)

Wheeler NWR -Beaverdam Peninsula Tower/Limestone Bay/Arrowhead Landing/White Springs Dike (NABT #20, 23, 24)

Join us for another trip to one of our favorite birding areas, as we look for waterfowl, raptors, cranes, a variety of songbirds, etc. Expect to be behind locked refuge gates for 2-3 hours, afterwards lunching at Apple Lane Farms, for those interested. Take the Mooresville exit off I-565, go south on Mooresville Road and meet at the parking area near where it intersects with old Highway 20 (34.627442 -86.880186). – Dick Bruer, Leader (256-714-1992; dick.bruer@gmail.com)