AL Hwy 148 east of Sylacauga, and Blue-headed Vireo, Black-throated Green Warbler and Ovenbird in the Bull's Gap section of the Skyway Motorway.
We arrived at the Red-cockaded Woodpecker site at 5:15 am and walked immediately to the colony trees. We arrived just in time to watch the last of at least two, and likely three, Red-cockaded Woodpeckers emerge from their cavities. They were quite vocal and active, affording good but somewhat distant views.
Eastern Wood Pewee
American Kestrel- identified by Jessie Griswold
Scarlet Tanager (male) - a stunning sight in the morning light.
Black-throated Green Warbler
Interested in joining a birding group? Then sign up for BAS birding, a Yahoo chat group where impromptu trips are announced as well as sightings of birds in our area. Also check our Facebook page and website for regularly scheduled bird watching field trips
BAS Field Trip to Tuscaloosa environsSaturday, April 7, 2012
Hearing the springtime song of the Prothonotary Warbler is quite special, seeing one in glowing plumage is a treat. Observing at leisure a breeding pair of Prothonotary Warblers at the nest is beyond belief, particularly in full sun and singing their hearts out. But we did and have the photos to prove it. But, first-one of the spots along our route are the overpass for I-59/20 just prior to the exit for Fosters (#62). In recent years, Cliff Swallows have covered the supports and crannies underneath with their little brown jug nests. When we first arrived, no birds were seen, but within a half hour, a nice flock of “Cliffies” came swooping in to inspect the nests and hopefully begin cleaning house and laying eggs.
Continuing on, we arrived at a swamp near a riverside development to be greeted by a continually singing Northern Parula. The group split in half, one set went moseying down to a sod farm, the rest spreading out along the road. Noticing that not much moseying was going on with the first group, we joined them to be treated with the “Sweet, Sweet Sweet” of a Prothonotary Warbler, then another one. Andrew Haffenden had observed a golden streak over the water and carefully searched the many stumps and stobs. He found it perched on the tip of a dead, stubby tree, on fire with the sun. Then away it flew, to be replaced by the second who disappeared into a cavity in the trunk. The show continued the entire time we were there - back and forth, both carrying food. Perching on the power line over the swamp or on the stub. During all this, we were serenaded by a Bullfrog and watched several Blue-winged Teal who were most unconcerned with our presence. At the gated road to the sod farm, some were treated to a fly-over by a Bald Eagle.
Things quieted down for our picnic at Lake Lurleen State Park. The group dwindled afterwards, some returning home, others continuing to Shirley's Bridges where a solo Kentucky Warbler was heard, the remainder to the University of Alabama Arboretum for a quiet late afternoon stroll. We finished the day at the Cypress Inn, a first rate eatery.
23 field trippers enjoyed the day, including a visitor from California, who is undertaking a photographic expedition of the birds of the Southeast. With his permission, we are posting an image of the Prothonotary Warbler. For a more complete write-up of our trip, I suggest a perusal of Andrew Haffenden's posting on ALBirds.
In all, we tallied 50 species, 3 species of vireo, an amazing 6 species of raptor and 5 warblers. The Cliff Swallows, Kentucky Warbler, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Eastern Kingbird and Orchard Oriole could separately be considered birds of the day, but the breeding Prothonotaries outglowed them.
Watercress Darter Sanctuary Cleanup Day Report
Saturday, March 10, 2012
Many thanks to Henry Hughes, Hans Paul, Susan Patton, Carolyn Roberson, Ken Marian, Jeff & Janet Newman and Ken Wills who turned out for our scheduled clean up at the Watercress Darter NWF Sanctuary yesterday. Before getting to work we did a bit of birding and got Yellow-rumped Warbler, Downy Woodpecker, Robin, Blue Jay, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Brown Thrasher, Phoebe, Red-bellied Woodpecker, American Crow, Eastern Towhee, Cardinal and a large flock of Cedar Waxwings.
We picked up trash along the road that passes by the sanctuary and had filled five large garbage bags with paper, bottles and other junk that people had thrown out when a garbage truck drove up, as if on queue, and we loaded it all in.
At about 10:00 am we began cutting and pulling up privet and expanding an open space we had started during previous visits to the sanctuary. Although we will never rid this place of the exotics (privet, honeysuckle, kudzu, white mulberry, etc.) that have invaded and nearly taken over the sanctuary, provided we persist, wemay be able to open up the understory so that some native trees, shrubs and wild flowers will have a chance to re-establish themselves.
Manager Watercress Darter Sanctuary
"Wings Over Wheeler" Trip ReportJanuary 16, 2012
The Wheeler Family Walk was a success! What a great day we had as seven children and three adults carpooled to Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge with six Birmingham Audubon Society’s leaders. We started out at the Welcome Center parking lot where we were greeted by Sandhill Cranes across the field. We then headed out to the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge observation building where we were able to view thousands of Sandhill Cranes up close. To see these big birds was a real treat for all the young kids and their parents. Each person had a pair of binoculars and scopes were set up for those who wanted a more detailed look.
Ducks of all shapes and sizes were everywhere. Pintails, Mallards, Ring-necked Ducks, Coots, and a lone Pied- billed Grebe swam past the observation window for really good looks at all the field marks. The participants were able to match the birds in front of them with the birds in their books which brought much excitement. The kids were able to tell many of the ducks apart and were eager to continue on our journey behind the gates to see if they could find more birds in their books. Before we left, we went upstairs to look for the endangered Whooping Cranes from the second floor windows. Sure enough the excitement filled the air as the group lined up to see this rare bird that was far across the field. It was a once in a lifetime experience for all of them.
A quick trip over to the boat ramp gave us a great view of the Blue and White Snow Geese floating together in a big group. A Bald Eagle flushed all of them as he flew over and the geese actually landed closer to us for an even better view. After our lunch break, we continued our journey behind locked gates to see what we could find. After several stops to scan the duck ponds we were lucky to find the American Black Duck, Canvasback and Bufflehead . The participants were excited to got a good look through the scope to confirm their sightings.
We could not have asked for a better day for the children. They were so excited and enthusiastic about learning about all the waterfowl that we were seeing that they asked when we are going out again. Our next Family Bird Walk will take place at Oak Mountain State Park and the theme of the day will be “Raptors, Up Close and Personal”. Children must be accompanies by an adult to attend this outing on March 25th at 2:00pm. Please call the Birmingham Audubon Education Office at 205-714-8228 to sign up.
Lost Soles and Snipe Hunting in the Bankhead
BAS Bankhead Field Trip Report December 3, 2011
Thirteen field trippers left Birmingham promptly at 7 am and drove to the Bankhead Forest to enjoy the birds, the waterfalls and all the beauty that makes the Bankhead Forest such a delight. Our first stop was the Kinlock Shelter, a massive cliff rock shelter on the western side of the Bankhead, which has attracted people for thousands of years. American Beauty Berry was in abundantly fruiting at the mouth to the shelter. The protected moist parts of the cliff were filled with ferns and liverworts and lots of other plants. We saw Black and Turkey Vultures, Juncos, and Blue Jays here. A few minutes down the road from the Shelter we stopped at Hubbard Falls. Hemlocks shroud this beautiful 45 degree cascade that rolls into a narrow cliff lined canyon. The path down was a little tricky but offered a great view of the canyon and the falls.
Our lunch break was at the Sipsey River Picnic grounds. We found a beautiful spot beside the river and enjoyed our lunch. Only after lunch did we determine that the picnic tables were on the shelf above the spot where we were sitting. Here we saw Belted Kingfisher, American Goldfinch, Yellow bellied Sapsucker, and dusky salamanders on the hike up stream after lunch. From the Sipsey River we pushed on to the Brushy Lake Recreation Area. The wind was blowing and we saw some Pied Billed Grebes, and Phoebes with their creamy breasts. A small brown snake (Dekays ) was also encountered. For our last stop of the day we intended to visit Angel Falls, but the deer hunters made us reconsider and we backtracked to Upper Goldmine Creek falls. This falls is a short hike from the road and no hunters appeared to be in the proximity. We visited the beautiful falls, seeing, Golden-Crowned kinglets and Red Bellied Woodpeckers. Kristin Bakkegard found more salamanders for us at the bottom of the waterfall. During this walk Mat Hunter experienced shoe failure. His entire sole came off the bottom of his boot. As the sun was setting we found ourselves in the dark forest and can clearly report that after an extensive search in this area we found no Snipes. In addition to Kristin and Matt, participants included Ken Archambault, Janice Bonnett, Jim King, Linda Harman, John Morgan, Carolyn and Phil Sankey, Lynn and Bill Niebuhr and Lori Oswald and Hans Paul.
Photos by John Hugh Morgan. View more of John's spectacular photos from this trip.
Moss Rock Trip Report
October 1, 2012
Ken Wills, Leader
The Oct. 1 half-day field trip to Moss Rock Preserve attracted a diverse group, which included traditional birders as well as hardcore hikers and wildflower enthusiasts. The birding was so-so with the highlights including summer tanager, pine warbler, broad-winged hawk, and brown-headed nuthatch. However in fairness the birding, the nature of the group and place led to more hiking and less birding. The rare Nutall's rayless goldenrod was in full bloom on the sandstone glade across the creek from the Boulderfield, and the views from the ridgetop side of the preserve behind my house were clear all the way to Oak Mountain State Park. The group took a lengthy loop hike around the Boulder Gorge area and was able to see significant waterfalls in this normally dry time of year. We even saw an old moonshine still.
As President of the Friends of Moss Rock Preserve, I really enjoyed showing folks around my "backyard", and sharing our conservation successes and continuing challenges in relation to this urban wildland treasure.
All-day Field Trip to Little River Canyon Preserve and DeSoto State Park
September 17, 2011
Russ Bailey Memorial Walk at Lake Purdy
September 5, 2011
BAS field trip to the areas around Autaugaville, Prattville and Lowndesboro
July 23, 2011
I have just a quick report of the BAS field trip to the areas around Autaugaville, Prattville and Lowndesboro. We began our day of birding at the "kite field" at the south end of CR 21, below AL Hwy 14 east of Autaugaville. Although a tractor or two were running in the fields at this location we only observed one Mississippi Kite and several wood storks during our 45 minute stay. We did enjoy good looks at a Loggerhead Shrike along CR 21 north of the field. The slow pace continued as we drove north on CR135 back to Hwy 14. We eventually made our way via various backroads to the southern terminus of CR 29, where we found many Rough-winged Swallows and 6 Mississippi Kites and one young Swallow-tailed Kite.
Following lunch at Fat Boys BBQ Ranch on the banks of Autauga Creek in Prattville, we pointed our caravan toward Holy Ground Battelfield Park in Lowndes County, on the south side of the Alabama River. We hit pay dirt on CR 40, about half way between Lowndesboro and the park. A large hay-bailing operation was underway in the fields on both sides of the road and we observed about 12-15 Swallow-tailed Kites and 25-30 Mississippi Kites. The kites did not disappoint us either. Their acrobatic flight displays were enjoyed by one and all.
An approaching storm hastened our journey to the park, where we strolled out to one of two observation decks at the site. A tight schedule and the rains forced us to forego the visit to the second deck, but who's to say we won't be back again soon?!
Our last stop, in the steady rain, was the little "ghost town" at Robinson's Switch Road. It's a picturesque and photogenic site that really deserves more time for a late afternoon visit when the light is better and it's not raining.
At this point the skies really opened up and it rained hard at times on our way to meet with the members of the River Region Bird Club, for a trip to a heronry near Pine Level. Our thanks to Tommy Pratt for arranging the details of the trip, and to Allen and Priscilla Tubbs for serving as trip leaders. This was my first visit to a large heronry like this and it was indeed a memorable sight. One pond alone held at least 3,000 birds, and there were an additional 4-5 ponds - all of which had birds at them.
The last of the BAS group left at 8:00 for the trip back to Birmingham, but members of the RRBC stayed to see if the Great Horned Owls would appear to make a meal of a nestling egret or wayward heron. Alligators below the willow trees lining the pond snapped up any fallen birds, but they also kept away the raccoons and other predators.
To view some photos of the trip, visit Greg Harber's Flickr page at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gregharber/sets/72157627272678090/with/5971749763/
To view some photos of the Robinson's Switch Road "ghost town" from a previous trip, visit:http://www.flickr.com/photos/gregharber/sets/72157618609680873/with/3558640758/
To view some more photos of the trip submitted by John Hugh Morgan, visit his Flickr page at
Bankhead National Forest Field Trip Report
April 23, 2011
After lunch we made a short hike to Angel Falls, observing Eastern Phoebe nests under the cliff overhang and a lovely Cottonmouth. A truly rare observation was Greg abandoning his expensive new camera and tripod in his rush to get out of the way of the rapidly advancing cottonmouth! The surrounding forest had Kentucky, Northern Parula, Yellow breasted Chat, and more.
To end the trip six tireless people hiked to a Capsey Creek tributary to see three waterfalls in the deep canyons typical of the Bankhead.
Keeping the natural world in balance, participants found lots of birds and the ticks found lots of participants. Scratches, ticks, bruises, wet feet, dirty hands, aches and pains are insignificant when compared to the good memories from this trip.
See Greg's photos at:
The twenty two trip participants contributing to our wonderful experience included Frank Connery, Elberta Reid, Kathy Nix, Brooks Lide, Larry Wright, John Morgan, Don Sizemore, Kathleen , Max and Linda Harman from Huntsville, Jessica Germany, Greg Harber, Pelham Rowan, Mary Crabtree from Anniston, Ruth and Will Varnell, Todd and Karen McDowell, Lori Oswald, Hans Paul and Daisy and Dottie.
Come to the April monthly meeting and see some of the beautiful photos from this trip.
Eoline, Oakmulgee Division
Saturday, March 19, 2011
One of the prime ways to celebrate the first days of Spring is to go birding and to do so in the Coastal Plain with Red Maples and Redbuds painting the woods is a special experience. Birmingham Audubon soaked itself in those colors and the songs of Yellow-throated Warbler, Northern Parula, White-breasted Nuthatch as we began our trip at the swamp near Eoline-Common Yellow-throats being the more vocal of the birds. We then wound our way through the Oakmulgee, in the Talladega National Forest. An added treat was observing the Yellow-throated warbler in full sun, singing its heart out.
During our drive, Forest Service employees Mike Caylor and Crystal Tyndall joined us to lead the group to a beaver pond with an active Bald Eagle nest. Pic-nicing at Perry Lakes was an additional treat with more Yellow-throated Warblers and one Prothonotary Warbler among all the songsters. A drive through Foster Farms (formerly Lakeland) yielded Loggerhead Shrike, Field, White-crowned and Vesper Sparrows. Purple Martins were also observed at various locations.
A small group of inveterate birders wrapped up the day with a late afternoon visit to the Golden Club swamp near Sprott, which was nearing peak bloom and supper at Juane's Mexican at Brent. A chorus of Spring Peepers bade us farewell as the Supermoon escorted us home.
Participants included: Lida Hill, Elberta Reid, Beth Motherwell, Ray and Carol Reidenbach, Phil and Carolyn Sankey, Kathy Nick, Hans Paul, Lori Oswald, Jessica Germany, Frank and Shirley Farrell, Frank Connery, Ken Archambault, Beverly Lynch, Mary Crabtree, Pat Dortch, Ken Wills, Don Sizemore, Maureen Shaffer., Mike Caylor, Crystal Tyndall. I apologize if any one was omitted.
Maureen Shaffer, trip leader
Half Day Field Trip to Five Mile Creek in Brookside, Alabama
Although the skies were overcast, the morning was relatively warm and the winds calm. Bird activity was high along the trail that loops through the park. A pair of Downy Woodpeckers was among the first to line up for roll call, and numerous robins strutted about the ball field lawns looking for worms. A cadre of Red-winged Blackbirds, European Starlings and two Brown-headed Cowbirds joined them in the hunt. Several Fish Crows gave their nasal sounding calls as they gawked from their lofty perches atop the light poles.
Soon, a Northern Flicker joined the ranks of the morning's woodpecker tally, followed quickly by a noisy pair of Pileated Woodpeckers. A lone Hairy Woodpecker closed out their ranks. A small flock of perhaps 10 Cedar Waxwings wheeled about the branches of the bare trees along the creek's banks, descending in time to dine on the berries of Chinese Privet. Adding to the sense of remoteness to the site, the piercing cries of a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks reached our ears as they wheeled in the sky above the creek.
As we walked along the trail, Roger told us stories of his childhood growing up in Brookside and his hopes for this park and greenway trail in the center of town. Canoe and kayak rentals are already available (including pickup service after your trip) and a campground will hopefully be open by early in the summer months. The town's proximity to Birmingham, the availability of restrooms and the canoeing and kayaking options are sure to draw outdoors-oriented families looking for a safe place to enjoy the outdoors. The rope swing at the swimming hole will ensure hours of fun on a hot summer day! The historic Fields Cemetery is adjacent to the park and is named for the Fields family that settled in the area and is the namesake for Fieldstown Road.
The rains that held off during the morning hours started to fall around 10:30 a.m. so we bid adieu to Francesca and Roger and made the short drive St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, the oldest such congregation south of the Mason-Dixon Line. There we were greeted by Fr. Benedict and his wife, the Matushka. Fr. Benedict instructed us on the basic tenets of the ROC faith and explained the significance of the numerous icons on the wall, the reason for the lack of pews and the various other religious items in the small but quaint structure.
Across the parking lot we had a quick tour of the parish hall and the religious articles store, from which they sell a variety of rather colorful gifts. Being that this was a BAS group, our ears perked up at the mention of all the delicious food that is served at the Russian Orthodox festival held each November! Mark your calendar for November 5-6 for this year's festival!
To read more about the history of Brookside, obtain information about camping or canoe rentals, etc, visit the town's web site at http://www.brooksidealabama.com To view photos from the trip, go here.
2011 Great Backyard Bird Count and the Tom Imhof Memorial Family Bird Walk
The Russell Bailey Memorial Labor Day trip to Lake Purdy
September 7, 2009
This summer's rains have restored our lakes and rivers to levels we are more accustomed to, but for both Cox's Creek and Lake Purdy, they have inundated the mudflats where we customarily find fall shorebirds, long-legged waders, Wild Turkeys, plus White-tailed Deer. The Creek was brimming; not one speck of mud was found. Belted Kingfisher and two Green Herons were birds at the bridge, while a stroll in the Bold Springs Presbyterian Church cemetery yielded good looks at a Pileated Woodpecker, Scarlet Tanager, Pine Warbler, White-breasted Nuthatch and Brown-headed Nuthatch. The remainder of the morning was spent at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, where the group tallied more Scarlet Tanagers, Black-throated Green Warbler and Black and White Warbler, while enjoying the fall wildflowers.
Saturday, February 19th, the Birmingham Audubon Society joined with the Birmingham Zoo to participate in the 2011 Great Backyard Bird Count and the Tom Imhof Memorial Family Bird Walk. Approximately 35 BAS members, Zoo volunteers and guests convened at 8:00 a.m. for coffee and hot chocolate before embarking on our walk through the Alabama Wilds section of the zoo. The weather was ideal and the birds were very active. Our trip leader, Greg Harber, recorded the birds we observed and submitted them into the GBBC database; a summary report is listed below.
Following the Bird Walk, a handful of BAS education volunteers joined zoo staff member Jamie Nobles, BAS Education Director Helena Uber-Wamble and zoo volunteers to host GBBC birding events at the zoo. 200 children and their families stopped by our location at Granny's Porch to construct bird feeders, color bird images and play a short question and answer game. Frank Connery was particularly effective in engaging whole families as he explained interesting facts about birds and about the GBBC in general. All the volunteers agreed it was a fabulous way to spend a gorgeous late winter day!
Location: 35223, Birmingham, Jefferson County, AL
Observation Date: FEB 19, 2011
Start Time: 8:15 AM
Total Birding Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Party Size: 35
Number of Species: 35
All Reported: yes
Canada Goose - 8
Great Blue Heron - 1
Turkey Vulture - 1
American Kestrel - 1
Killdeer - 5
Rock Pigeon - 1
Mourning Dove - 6
Red-headed Woodpecker - 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker - 3
Downy Woodpecker - 2
Northern Flicker - 2
Eastern Phoebe - 1
Blue Jay - 9
American Crow - 8
Carolina Chickadee - 3
Tufted Titmouse - 5
White-breasted Nuthatch - 2
Brown-headed Nuthatch - 2
Carolina Wren - 3
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 2
American Robin - 11
Northern Mockingbird - 3
Brown Thrasher - 3
Cedar Waxwing - 50
Yellow-rumped Warbler - 6
Pine Warbler - 2
Eastern Towhee - 10
Song Sparrow - 5
Swamp Sparrow - 2
White-throated Sparrow - 3
Northern Cardinal - 12
Red-winged Blackbird - 8
Common Grackle - 11
American Goldfinch - 7
House Sparrow - 12
Saturday, January 22, 2011
The dire predictions for cold, wet weather thankfully did not pan out the morning of the BAS field trip to Wilson and Wheeler Dams and other birding sites in the Shoals area. We met our local guide, Paul Kittle, at 9:00 below Wheeler Dam, where we observed hundreds of gulls (mostly Ring-billed and some Herring), a variety of waterfowl and a few passerines in the woods near the boat launch.
Nearby Town Creek Marsh was an excellent location for superb views of Bonaparte's Gulls, Wilson's Snipe, Dunlin and a lone Least Sandpiper. A good number of ducks were also here, but the Buffleheads seemed to be everyone's favorite. A short distance away, at The Point, we observed a small flock of Rusty Blackbirds.
We then proceeded to Wilson Dam where we had splendid views of Bald Eagles on the bluff above us, and on the nest across the river. Numerous Great Blue Herons were also nesting in the tall trees across the river.
Following lunch, our small group continued westward to the Key Cave NWR, where we had good views of Savannah, Song and Fox Sparrows. Further down the road we encountered 13 White-crowned Sparrows and we enjoyed spectacular scope views of the clean plumage of the adults and juveniles in the flock.
Our final stop of the day was at the Colbert's Ferry Bridge and park on the Natchez Trace Parkway. We all enjoyed the day and wish to thank Paul Kittle providing us with not only an enjoyable birding outing, but also the natural history and cultural background at each of our stops along our route.
Red Mountain Park Half-Day Field Trip
January 8, 2011
After weeks of dreary cold and rain, Saturday, January 8th, was a severe clear blue sky day. It was the perfect day for a walk in the woods. In this case it was the BAS half day field trip to Red Mountain Park. Sixteen people met at the park Office and were guided around the park property by Jeff Newman, park ranger, historian, storyteller and great photographer.
We walked along the old railroad bed and then on top of the mountain for spectacular views of Western Birmingham as well as Shades Valley. We saw many historical mining structures as well as a few birds ... Red-shouldered Hawk, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Eastern Bluebird, Pine Warblers, Yellow-rumped Warbler, a variety of woodpeckers and more. Consider joining us for our next field trip.
Audubon Teaches Nature Program
"Introduction to Birds of Prey"
January 16, 2011
John and Dale are the founders of SOAR-South (Save Our American Raptors - South) and their energetic and engaging style proved to be exciting for the many kids and adults in attendance. The birds of prey were the real stars of the show, however.
As each bird was brought into the auditorium, John or Dale would narrate the tale of what accident or incident caused the bird to become captive and un-releasable. Sadly, human encounters were a causative agent in nearly all of them. The bright side is that these special birds now serve as ambassadors for all the magnificent birds of the skies.
The Barn Owl proved to be reluctant to take flight in the confines of the auditorium, but most all of the other raptors flew from their trainer's glove to a perch, or from trainer to trainer - across the open room, above everyone's heads! The light, direct flight of the American Kestrel contrasted with the lumbering flight and landings of the Black Vulture, and that vulture had such an engaging personality!
The final bird of the program was a mature Bald Eagle, crippled 19 years ago when its left wing was shot off. Yet the bird was so magnificent in spite of it injury. John and Dale closed the program with an encouraging conservation note to everyone in attendance to do their part to help ensure that these birds continue to fly wild.
Wheeler Wildlife Refuge All-Day Field Trip
Saturday, November 20, 2010
The annual November BAS trip to Wheeler NWR was held Saturday, November 20th. The day was surprisingly warm for late November but not a word of complaint was heard about the weather - it was a gorgeous fall day! The down side was that because the weather had been so warm the duck numbers were down - the lowest they have ever been since 1948 (for the late November survey), according to Dwight Cooley, Refuge Manager and trip leader.
Nevertheless, like all BAS trips, we made the most of it and found an interesting variety of waterfowl, cranes and passerines. The first stop at the Observation Tower on the Beaverdam Peninsula produced several small flocks of Horned Larks and good but distant views of 55 Sandhill Cranes. Also present were Savannah (seen by all), White-throated and Field Sparrows, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and an uncommon Blue-gray Gnatcatcher seen by Andrew Haffenden and Bill Turnock.
At Limestone Bay we had our first glimpse of a variety of waterfowl, including Northern Pintails, Mallards and Hooded Mergansers. Three Horned Grebes in the distance strained the limits of our eyesight and identification skills. Killdeer and Least Sandpipers were numerous on the mudflats and a handful of Greater Yellowlegs added an extra measure of shorebird identification too.
Following a break at a local store, where we had good views of an American Kestrel harassing a Red-tailed Hawk and a Loggerhead Shrike, we motored our way to Arrowhead Landing on the west side of Limestone Bay. Snow Geese were fairly plentiful but teasing out the previously reported Ross's Geese in the flock was difficult in the stiff southerly breeze. Who know geese could bob so much on the water's surface! As always, the bay provided an enticing lunchtime view, and the flyover by a flock of White Pelicans was truly magnificent!
We then went behind locked gates once again as the small caravan worked its way along White Springs dike. More waterfowl, pelicans and a Bald Eagle were in store here, as were many dabbling ducks at the far end of the road. We concluded the birding portion of the day with a trip to the airport fields, in search of Lapland Longspurs. It proved to be a bit early in the season for the longspurs but we did have four Northern Harriers coursing above the fields.
A small group of field trippers opted for an early dinner at Big Bob Gibson's BBQ in Decatur before heading back to Birmingham. If you wish, contact Dwight Cooley at the refuge to arrange to participate in the Wheeler NWR Christmas Bird Count, set for Saturday, December 18th.
Greg Harber, trip reporter
Skyway Motorway, Talladega Mountain, and Kymulga Grist Mill Field Trip
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Here is a quick report of the BAS field trip to the Talladega Mountains area below Cheaha State Park. Morning dawned clear and cool, with bright blue skies the order of the day. The continued drought tamped down some of the fall color, but the sourwood and sumac added a splash of brilliant red color to the landscape.
Our first stop was at a farm pond north of Talladega, on CR 82 east of CR 0005. Here we observed two Wilson's Snipe and a small flock of Least Sandpipers, Blue-winged Teal and Mallards on the water and a pair of kestrels over the fields adjacent to the pond. Also seen were Palm Warbler, Phoebe and a goodly number of Eurasian Collared Doves.
Following a pit stop at the park store we drove south on the Skyway Motorway, stopping to bird along an unmarked forest service road opposite the trailhead parking lot. High in the canopy were Golden-crowned Kinglet, Blue-headed Vireo, Eastern Wood-Pewee and several Pine Warblers. Further down the parkway we enjoyed a fabulous view from the overlook.
A well maintained gravel forest service road picks up where the paved portion of the parkway ends. One stop at an open, somewhat weedy area produced a Common Yellowthroat, towhees, phoebe and surprisingly little else. Further down the road, below the open canopy, we stopped to look for thrushes and found that Black Gum trees were being targeted by the few thrushes we did find: Hermit, Swainson's and Wood.
We then began a bit of a trek eastward to the Kymulga Grist Mill, outside Childersburg, for lunch. Not too terribly much here (young Magnolia Warbler and Ruby-crowned Kinglet) but the habitat was certainly inviting. I suspect if it hadn't been in the middle of the afternoon we might have had more luck.
Our last stop was east of Sylacauga along AL Hwy 148, where the Red-cockaded Woodpeckers have been introduced. In addition to seeing two of the RCWs, we also had Pileated, Hairy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers and a couple of yellow-bellied sapsuckers too. Brown-headed Nuthatches and Pine Warblers were beyond plentiful, as were American Goldfinches. Bluebirds were fairly plentiful too. A lone female Summer Tanager stopped long enough to be identified as such and then continued on her way. The RCWs at the site use cavity inserts but Lee Brewer did find a pine tree where a hole has been started by one of the birds, so that was neat to see. Given how long it takes for one of these birds to excavate a cavity I'd guess that this hole was started last year.
As it was getting late, we called it a day and headed back to Birmingham.
Greg Harber, trip leader
Photo credits: David Ward/USFWS and Pat Dortch
Oak Mountain State Park Field Trip
Saturday, October 2, 2010
Saturday, October 2nd, Birmingham Audubon Society's field trip was a half-day jaunt to Oak Mountain State Park in search of migrating songbirds and butterflies, and if we were lucky - hawks too. We did fairly well with the songbirds and butterflies, but the hawks never materialized.
We began the outing at the fields near the horse stables and farm, just inside the main entrance of the park. We saw and heard several Northern Flickers, with their yellow feather shafts doing a particularly good job of catching the morning light. Bluebirds were plentiful and two Palm Warblers were quite accommodating. A family of Red-headed Woodpeckers was both quite visible and vocal, with Pileated woodpeckers and Red-bellied woodpeckers doing their best to hold up their end of the deal. White-breasted and Brown-headed Nuthatches were hard to find but readily heard. A male Rose-breasted Grosbeak was kind enough to pose in the morning light too. A Magnolia Warbler and American Redstart put in very brief appearances. Vitaly Charny, our co-leader and resident butterfly expert, identified two interesting species that were feeding on some decaying organic matter (as opposed to nectar): Gemmed Satyr and Question Mark butterflies. Also of note in the insect department was a large, gravid (female) praying mantis.
Following a brief restroom break we proceeded to Peavine Falls Road and the ridge along Double Oak Mountain in hopes of seeing migrating hawks, butterflies and more songbirds. The only soaring birds were Turkey Vultures and Red-tailed Hawks. Butterflies, on the other hand, were much more prevalent, with Cloudless Sulfurs and Gulf Fritillaries leading the way. There were a few Monarchs and a handful of dark swallowtails. As we were preparing to leave, at midday, a flock of thrushes and scarlet tanagers appeared and started devouring the berries of a Virginia Creeper slightly below us, offering brief but quite satisfactory views as they flew short sorties into the thickest parts of the vine. Several Wood and Swainson's Thrushes, and two stunning male Scarlet Tanagers were noted, and with some persistent searching two Gray-cheeked thrushes were seen as well.
Submitted by Trip Leader, Greg Harber
Black Belt Birding Trip #2
Saturday, July 31, 2010
Yesterday the Birmingham Audubon Society embarked on its second birding trip to the Black Belt region of Alabama, finding some of the birds we encountered last Saturday while adding a few new delights to make this trip equally memorable.
We began the day at the Heflin Lock Facility on the Tombigbee Waterway northeast of Gainesville. Within minutes we were hearing several Field Sparrows, their sweet "dropped ping-pong ball" notes coming from several directions. A male Orchard Oriole was particularly brilliant in the unfettered morning sunlight. Purple Martins, Barn Swallows and Rough-winged Swallows were present along the wires and around the lock itself. A couple of Mississippi Kites and Wood Storks gave us an early prelude of things to come. Perhaps the rarest sight was a tugboat actually going through the lock. Of course, the tug was not pushing a barge - that might justify the ginormous cost of the construction of the Tenn-Tom Waterway project!
The caravan then motored its way through Gainesville to CR 85 north, turning at the sign for the Heflin Dam itself. Here we had distant views of more kites and storks, plus water hyacinths along the shore and a garfish seeking refuge under the floating mass - even the fish in the water thought the day was a hot one! The stop here was brief, as we wanted to get to Tombigbee Farms further up CR 85.
The group checked the skies thoroughly at the farm but our views of the kites - all Mississippi - were distant. We could draw some consolation from the fact that there were about 10-12 kites in view. At this point Anne introduced a new birding term that I had never heard - sensuous birding. She was tired of hearing, "What are you looking at? Some speck in the distance" and wanted much more intimate views of the kites. Silly me, I thought the term "sensuous birding" referred to the woman sunbathing by the pool at the home adjacent to the field where we were standing. On two occasions directions to locating birds flying in the featureless sky began with, "If you look at the pool and go up..." It was mere coincidence that this catch phrase was uttered by men in the group, but more on this sensuous birding concept later.
Returning to Gainesville, we renewed our acquaintance with Ophelia at Roger's and Sons Store and loaded up on cold drinks, ice cream and ice. Suitably restocked, we took a quick driving tour of some historic homes in Gainesville. A few looked inhabited but most were silent, decrepit sentinels of a bygone era - their weathered and peeling facades standing proud in the bright sunlight.
Turning our attention to birds once again, we drove south from Gainesville on AL Hwy 39. A short distance from town we encountered 12-15 Mississippi Kites feeding above a field adjacent to the road. These birds were much closer than our previous sightings so Anne was satisfied that we were now doing some real, sensuous birding. We had not yet eaten lunch, which we planned to do in Greensboro, and we also wanted to stop and view the chalk bluffs on the Tombigbee River at Epes, so we scooted along without delay. As usual, the local county sheriff was curious about what the caravan on the US 11 Bridge was doing but he returned to town when he realized we were a harmless bunch.
Lunch at the PieLab in Greensboro (www.pielab.org) was more like a mid-afternoon break since we didn't arrive until about 2:30, but it was delicious and well received nevertheless. The unusual architecture in this reclaimed, abandoned storefront was most evident at the bathroom in the rear of the store. I encourage you to visit this place before the summer is out - there's a chance it will close its doors at summer's end. Hours are 9-5, Monday through Saturday.
We then began the second half of our day, even though it was two-thirds over, driving south on Al Hwy 61. A mile or two south of Newbern, at its intersection with Red Bamberg Road, we found the Holy Grail of our target birds - Swallow-tailed Kites. Interestingly, it was another Mississippi Kite flying directly over the road that led me to stop the caravan. Then, upon exiting our cars for a better view, we discovered the Swallow-tailed Kites flying over the fields and tree lines to our west. As was our good fortune, four of the kites - adults with exquisitely cleft tails - came soaring overhead, then plunged headlong into a dive that ended mere feet above the ground not 20 yards away from us! Exclamations of awe rang out as the show unfolded above our heads. The striking black-and-white plumage complimented perfectly the backdrop of blue sky. All in all, there were about 15-18 kites here. Now I have a better understanding of what sensuous birding means.
As we were wrapping up the birding here a huge kettle of 150 or so Turkey Vultures took to the skies to our west, precisely the direction we were headed. At the Rocking R Farm at CR 10 and AL Hwy 25, we once again found an adult Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (the other Holy Grail species for some) on the wires across from the elevated catfish feed grain silos, but the four young in the nest had already fledged. Somewhere, a harried adult was busy trying to herd her clueless gang, trying to teach them the survival skills they'd need.
Having seen all of our target birds, several cars peeled off to return home but a handful of us headed east to Jim's Little Store, south of Marion at the intersection of CR 38 and CR 45. This time we were on a mission: to dress Venus de Milo in new attire. I had heard a few days before our trip that sometimes the proprietor selected her wardrobe, and other times passersby took the task upon themselves in the dead of night. This time, we came to the crossroads bearing a gift: a new Birmingham Audubon Society t-shirt. Mike, working behind the counter, said that if we weren't too modest about undressing a statue of an armless, nude woman he approved of our selection. A few minutes later Ms. Venus became the newest member of the Birmingham Audubon Society. She looked sharp and sassy in her new outfit, Tilley Hat, and binoculars.
If you've read this far, you know that Perry Lakes Park was our final destination for the day. Great Egrets returning to roost in the cypress trees were the closing act. Last week's Cerulean Warbler pair had long since departed, replaced by a fuzzy-faced Yellow-throated Vireo. He was trying, bless his heart - that's a tough act to follow. On the boardwalk below Mary Frances was photographing the day's last fork-tailed beauty, a lime-green Luna Moth. We hurried back to the cars to beat the sunset closing time and concluded the outing at Juane's Mexican Grill in Brent. Final tally was 53 species, some of which were rather sensuous indeed.
Submitted by Greg Harber
Black Belt Birding Field Trip
Saturday, July 24, 2010
The Birmingham Audubon Society took the first of two scheduled summer trips to the Black Belt region of Alabama. Tommy Pratt and Allen and Priscilla Tubbs met us in Prattville and served as our local birding hosts. We always hope for Swallow-tailed Kites and Wood Storks on these trips. As you'll see, we missed the first, saw several of the second and had a handful of bonus birds along the way.
Tommy brought our caravan to a stop before we'd hardly even gotten underway, to show us two Barn Owls he coaxed from the silo that housed their nest box. Tommy said they'd likely fly right over our heads, which is precisely what they did, giving us brief but excellent views.
We then headed west toward Autaugaville, making several stops along the various county roads south of AL Hwy 14 and north of the Alabama River. Swallows were prevalent nearly everywhere we cared to look. Loggerhead Shrikes at our first stop on CR 29 were enjoyed by all, as was a richly colored Fox Squirrel, of which we saw four on the day. Tommy lead the motorcade through some farm properties in hopes of Anhingas but we settled for Little Blue Herons, a lone Snowy Egret and a Copper's Hawk instead.
Heading south on CR 135 we stopped at a locale where Lark Sparrows and Painted Buntings are known to breed but had no luck with either on this hot day. We continued on to the big hay field at the southern terminus of CR 21, where we recorded immature White Ibis, Wood Stork and Osprey, but no kites. As it was now approaching lunch time we drove to Chef Lee's in Autaugaville where we enjoyed good southern-style cooking and a break from the heat.
Tommy and a couple others had to depart from our group at this time, but not before two Mississippi Kites put on an aerial display as we all stood there in the parking lot plotting our route for the afternoon. The first destination was the dam at the end of CR 15. Here we added 4 more kites and numerous swallows. Moving back north on CR 1 there were 7 Mississippi Kites flying over a field, which Andrew Haffenden spotted and reported to me after the fact. I must have been engaged in something really important - like eating - to have missed them!
We then drove west on AL Hwy 14 to Selma, where we continued west on US Hwy 80 to Faunsdale. We stopped for a sweet tea and bathroom break at the Faunsdale Bar and Grill. From there we drove north on AL Hwy 25 and made several stops along the way, primarily in search of more Wood Storks. The Williamson Catfish operation provided only distant views of Great Egrets. The winds picked up at the three bridges at Big Prairie Creek, bringing some relief from the heat while at the same time inspiring about 75 vultures of both species to take flight to the east. Another Mississippi Kite appeared here too.
Since the skies were darkening somewhat to the west, we hurried to CR 10 at Sledge to search for the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher I had seen back on July 5th. As it happens, we found about 20 Wood Storks at the ponds on the north side of the road, and not one - but two - flycatchers on the wires along the south side of the road. Seems the Mr. and Mrs. had set up housekeeping and we found 4 young in the nest, which had built on the crossbar of one of the telephone poles. (If you park at the dirt road entrance where the three elevated grain silos are located, count two poles to the west and look up, and you'll see the nest on the west side of the pole.)
Lightning was now flashing in the west and we decided it was best not to chance fate and to point our cars in a more easterly direction. Some of the caravan left us at this point while a skeleton crew of three cars snaked our way to the Donovan Lakes area south of Marion. The first of two adult Bald Eagles came swooping into view at a farm pond on CR 38, west of Donovan Lakes. Here we also had our sole Double-crested Cormorant on the day. As we were so close, we had to continue on to Jim's Little Store to see how Venus de Milo was attired. There's a statue of her standing at the gas pumps (pump gas, with no arms?) and truth be told, my curiosity was what brought us here - plus the fact that several people in the caravan had never been there to see this most unique and well-stocked convenience store. So, to satisfy your curiosity, she was wearing a orange-and-yellow striped one piece bathing suit.
After stocking up on ice cream, soda and a hunk of Dubliner Cheese we continued north to the Marion Fish Hatchery on AL Hwy 175. A stringer full of Purple Martins massed on the wires at the southern end of the property, and the second adult Bald Eagle, and two Yellow-crowned Night-Herons were at the ponds. We drove on back to Perry Lakes Park, after taking a brief and unanimous poll. A most accommodating Prothonotary Warbler put on quite a display once we crossed the covered bridge, while a few of the resident birds called from the surrounding swamps. Ken, Anne and I continued to the top of the tower, joined a bit later by John. We stayed there almost a half-hour as we watched the Great Egrets come in to roost. A lone Wood Duck also flew past. Ken called to our attention a commotion that was taking place in the top of the oak tree right next to the tower. Flitting among the leaves, and offering only brief glimpses here and there, was a pair of Cerulean Warblers, of all things! They certainly were a treat beyond compare and the fitting end to our day.
We made one last stop to have dinner at Juanes Mexican Grill at the 4-way stop intersection in Brent, where we compiled the day's results: 66 species on the day, with the Cerulean Warblers being species #64 on my tower list.
Article submitted by Greg Harber
"In the footsteps of Philip Henry Gosse"
March 20th, 2010
Birmingham Audubon Society March field trippers enjoyed a marvelous spring day in the Selma area, visiting sites referred to in P.H. Gosse' Letters from Alabama. We were joined by friends and landowners from Selma, without whose generosity and hospitality, the day would have been merely ordinary. Our thanks to Mr. and Mrs. James Alinson who hosted us for a picnic, Olivia Alinson, who guided us throughout the day with enthusiasm, Mr. Harrell Watts, our expert hay wagon driver and Mr and Mrs. Arthur Collias, who opened up the Saffold house to us.
Our first stop, Adams Grove Church and its adjacent cemetery-where we were greeted by a zee-upping Northern Parula. An intriguing bit of white on the ground proved to be a owl pellet with a neatly arranged rodent skull on top attesting that a Barn Owl still inhabited the church. Most certainly it did, as we next had a great opportunity to observe a Barn Owl, unintentionally flushed out of its attic home by the intrepid Ken Wills, who "was just walking up the staircase for historical reasons".
Proceeding along the Gosse trail, we next visited King's Landing, where Philip had stepped off the steamboat to begin his Alabama adventure. It is a quiet and almost lazy place now, that which was once bustling with trade and excitement over new visitors. Purple Martins had arrived in good numbers and were twittering at the stand of gourd nests awaiting them.
On the property of James and Celia Alinson, a Bald Eagle family had moved in, providing a stunning view of an adult guarding the nest. The sight drew excited voices as everyone lined up for views through spotting scopes. On the banks of the Alabama may be found the Alinson's cabin, which provided us a wonderful spot for our picnic.
Afternoon was hay ride time, which through the good will of Mr. Harrell Watts, we rode his hay trailer up to Prairie Knoll or Signal Mound as it is variously called. It was a journey back in time, realizing that the knoll was once an ancient seabed, as evidenced by the fossilized oyster shells one may find there. And back to Philip H Gosse' time, where one could hear the soft whispers of Gosse, relating his delight at the wild flowers fragrancing the air. Then it was on to the home of Judge Reuben Saffold, he who was responsible for bringing Gosse to the area. Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Collias now own the Saffold house and have painstakingly restored it. In a generous spirit, they opened the grounds and house to us, to wander through and appreciate the many details reminiscent of the era that Gosse observed.
Twilight was fading into dusk as a much reduced group of field trippers arrived at Mill Creek, better known as Dobine Creek and the Golden Club swamp. We were greeted by choruses of Spring Peepers and faint gleams of the newly blooming Golden Clubs, a fitting end to a day spent reviving memories of ancient seas, antebellum personages and earlier visits.
A total of 45 species of birds were observed-most notably Barn Owl, Bald Eagle, Purple Martins, Rough-winged Swallow, 6 species of woodpecker, an early Cattle Egret and Northern Parula.
Participants included the following:
Francesca Burtenkant, Beverly Lynch, Susan and Chuck Hutchison, Anne Miller, Kathy Freeland, Becky Smith, Ann Sweeney, Lida Hill, Carolyn and Jerry Jackson, Mary Frances Stayton, Bianca J. Allen, Sara Bright, Paulette Haygood Ogard, Susan Barrow, John Swan, Ethel Owen, Peggy King, Kap and Clyde Garmon, Karl and Margaret Reed, Shirley and Frank Farrell, Carolyn Roberson, Nick and Margaret Holler, Carol and Ray Reidenbach, Jessica Germany, Lee Brewer, Pelham Rowan, Hans and Lori Oswald, Larry Davenport, Ken Wills, Edith Hunt, David and Eleanor Cheatham, Chris Underwood, Mary Carolyn Boothby, Melton O. Cleveland, Beth Motherwell, Kathy Herns, Olivia Alison, Gary Mullen, Celia and Jim Alison, Harrell Watts, Bess and Arthur Collias, Linda Johnson, Bradford, Will and Nan Brecker, Bettie and John Scott. Trip Leaders-Elberta Reid and Maureen Shaffer
There may some participants who were omitted. My apologies.
Lanark - Home of the Alabama Wildlife Federation
March 13, 2010
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On Saturday morning March 13, eleven members of Birmingham Audubon joined the River Region Birding Club at Lanark, home of the Alabama Wildlife Federation. Tim Gothard, AWF's director, welcomed us with a roaring fire at the open air Alabama Nature Center Pavilion. Despite the dreary, drizzly weather our group spent the next four hours exploring five miles of trails that are divided into three different regions-Hilltop Pass, Still Creek Run, and Turkey Ridge. The birding was less than spectacular with a first of the season Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
as the big surprise! Greg Harber managed to pull a Blue-headed Vireo out of his hat at the last minute. Our short visit in mid-March left each of us dreaming of the birding potential in April next year!
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After departing Lanark, some of the group proceeded to Wilderness Park in Prattville to view a large Chinese bamboo forest. It was quite an unusual sight in Alabama.
Coleman Lake area of the Talladega National Forest
February 20, 2010
We arrived at the Pinhoti Trail parking lot near the entrance to Coleman Lake about 9:00 a.m. The North Alabama Birdwatcher's Society had also planned a trip to this location and they had arrived before our group. Dick Reynolds greeted us and reported that Red Crossbills had already been heard in the area but none sighted. Thus, we knew that one of our target birds for the trip was a distinct possibility!
We bid adieu to Dick and headed down the trail to where the rest of the NABS group was gathered. We caught up to them in short order and within a matter of minutes Bachman's Sparrows appeared in response to a taped
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call. The entire group enjoyed close views of the sparrows for many minutes. The NABS members returned to the parking area while we continued on the trail in hopes of spotting either the crossbills or Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. Our search was not fruitful and we were approaching the edge of the suitable habitat these birds prefer. So, we also returned to the parking area, whereupon, of course, we heard some red crossbills calling in the opposite direction!
Rather than head to the Coleman Lake entrance in our cars we started down the trail toward the lake. Soon the habitat changed from open stands of pines to a bottomland deciduous forest. I knew this would greatly decrease our chances of seeing either the crossbills or the woodpeckers so I suggested we turn around yet again. This time, however, the maneuver paid dividends when Jessica Germany heard a crossbill as it flew overhead. It landed in the top of a pine tree approximately 20 yards from where we stood. Turns out our bird was a female red crossbill and we watched her for several minutes as she worked to extract seeds from the cones. Sweet!
We had also been hearing the soft tapping tones of what I presume was a woodpecker but I am not familiar enough with RCWs to know their tapping patterns. Had we not been standing in the midst of all this excellent RCW habitat I would have guessed this was a Downy we were hearing, but who knows? Speaking of "sweet" - the many Pine Warblers that inhabit these woods were in full-throated song! Their sweet trill provided the music accompaniment to what was surely the finest weather day we've had in all of 2010 thus far!
The lunch hour was upon us so we returned to our cars and drove to Pine Glen Campground, south of our location about 5 miles. This picturesque spot on Shoal Creek was a welcome sight. The clear waters of the creek babbled as they tumbled over the low dams children had constructed in summer's past. The wind had risen slightly so finding a picnic table in the sun was imperative. Following lunch the group walked a short segment of the trail leading to Sweetwater Lake. Several of us had engagements back in Birmingham so we turned back while John Swan led a group of 4 onward. They were rewarded for their efforts when John located a Red-breasted Nuthatch.
Article and pictures submitted by Greg Harber
Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge
November 21, 2009
The annual BAS trip to Wheeler produced all the usual suspects so early into the winter season, and the threat of rain never did materialize for us.
Our first stop at the Beaverdam Tower offered some really great looks at Horned Larks
, several of which were performing their dainty aerial ballet before plummeting head-long back to earth. What a treat! Water pipets were also roving about the fields while harriers coursed above the soybean fields.
Down at Limestone Bay about 30-35 Sandhill Cranes
plied the mudflats, and several Great Blue Herons
loafing in the shallows offered the commoners version of what constitutes a "crane." Further around the bend we had distant views of a flock of Snow Geese. Dwight Cooley mentioned that Ross's Goose had been reported but we were too distant to discern that level of detail. In fact, the 4-5 Horned Grebes
that were even further in the distance, became Clark's, Western, Red-necked and Eared, because hey, at this distance who's going to prove you wrong? In fact, however, they were Horned Grebes.
Our lunch stop at Arrowhead Landing on the west side of Limestone Bay was a much better location to view the flock of geese and we did manage to tease two Ross's Geese from among the Snow Geese, which were cloaked in all manner of plumage variations. Here we also had the usual assortment of winter woodland birds, including a Winter Wren that paid Shirley Farrell a visit.
Working our way west on White Springs dike we had some excellent views of American White Pelicans as they flew overhead in formation. An adult Bald Eagle was spectacular as it swooped in from a low circling flight to snatch a fish from the water's surface and flew to a nearby tree to dine on its catch. Stops along the road at the various impoundments yielded satisfying views of Mallards, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, American Black Duck, Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser and Ring-necked Ducks. We drove out the west gate at 4:00, content with our day of lazy birding on a delightful winter's day.
Our final stop was Big Bob Gibson's BBQ in Decatur; suffice it to say, no one went away hungry.
Submitted by: Greg Harber
November 7, 2009
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Clear skies and a Red-tailed Hawk perched on a real-estate sign greeted BAS field trippers Saturday as they gathered for the visit to Tapawingo Springs. Karl Peters, Land Steward for the Freshwater Land Trust, enthusiastically described the restoration efforts the Freshwater Land Trust is undertaking, with the financial assistance of BAS (proceeds of the last Birdathon). Yellow-rumped Warblers, Carolina Chickadees, Eastern Phoebes and a very vocal Eastern Towhee were observed along Tapawingo Road. Forays were made in the property-along the banks of the stream feeding into Turkey Creek, back to the beaver pond, and across Tapawingo Road along Turkey Creek itself. To conclude the morning, we visited Turkey Creek Nature Preserve-enjoying the waterfalls, locating the foundation of the homestead and smithy of the first white settler in the area. Hans Paul, BAS Vice-President, related several stories about the Federal raids at the end of the Civil War. We concluded with a hike through the fall woods along the ridge overlooking the Creek.
Submitted by: Maureen Shaffer
Bankhead National Forest
October 24, 2009
A dull misty day yielded to sunshine and pleasant temperatures, allowing field trippers to enjoy this October Saturday. Yellows and reds mingled with greens along the roads and in the Forest. Roosting Black and Turkey Vultures were observed on the roadside for the first birds of the trip.
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Birding was slow for the rest of the day, with a singing Winter Wren being the most notable. Our pace was leisurely as we hiked to Hagood Creek first, observing the last of the fall wildflowers with outcroppings of limestone and sandstone lining the sides of the trail. After a picnic at the Sipsey Recreation Area, we finished the day with a hike along the ridge overlooking Borden Creek. Several of the group continued on this trail for a successful trip through "Fat Man's Squeeze".
Submitted by: Maureen Shaffer
Tom Imhof Family Bird Walk
October 3, 2009
Today's Birmingham Audubon Society field trip to the woods at the Birmingham Zoo produced a few migrants that were enjoyed by all. This Family Bird Walk is held each spring and fall in memory of Tom Imhof, and we were led today by Harriett Wright and Tom's son, John. Also present were our president, Maureen Shaffer, and members Lida, Mary, Pelham, Brooks, John and yours truly.
Several warbler species were observed: Black-throated Green, Golden-winged, Tennessee, Pine, Chestnut-sided and American Redstart. There were multiple sightings of Philadelphia Vireos (five, I believe), Red-eyed and White-eyed Vireos, Scarlet and Summer Tanagers, Wood and Gray-cheeked Thrushes, Red-shouldered and Cooper's Hawks, Redbellied, Red-headed and Downy Woodpeckers, and Brown-headed and White-breasted Nuthatches. An Eastern Phoebe and Least Flycatcher rounded out the bunch. Escorting all these birds through the woodlands were the usual contingent of chickadees and titmice, who were so kind to loudly announce their arrivals and departures.
When I arrived back at my Southside (Birmingham) apartment I was greeted by the sound of more chickadees and titmice, so naturally I investigated a bit and was surprised to find an Eastern Wood-Pewee, Northern Parula and American Redstart in the tree over head. Hardly what I would call ideal bird habitat around here, but I guess the birds were more interested in the bugs in the hackberry than in the zip code.
Many thanks to Francesca at the Birmingham Zoo for tending to our early morning needs; she supplied the utensils and hot water for the coffee and hot chocolate.
Thanks also to our president, Maureen Shaffer, for bringing the Krispy Kreme doughnuts! We'd also like to thank Francesca for giving us an up close and personal look at Falco, the American Kestrel, when we returned from our walk. Falco is one of several birds in the Zoo's Bird Education Program.
Submitted by: Greg Harber
Mountain Longleaf Pine National Wildlife Refuge and Anniston Museum of Natural History
September 19, 2009
Heavy rains, while dimming our vision, didn't dim the spirits of the participants of the Mountain Longleaf Pine National Wildlife Refuge /Anniston Museum of Natural History field trip. The eastern side of the Refuge is richly forested, with mixed pine and hardwoods, fascinating outcroppings, and wildflowers. By midmorning, the rain had diminished, with sunlight breaking through. There came a flurry of activity: Summer Tanager, Chickadees, Towhee, and Black and White Warbler. Then, it started raining again. The clouds settled down, creating a landscape of gray mystery. On the way through the Refuge, a stop at an area of open fields and dry uplands, good looks were had of a Northern Flicker, Pine Warbler and a quickly disappearing raptor. All participants had a great time at the Museum. A mineral exhibit, African landscape and the collection of birds were the stars. More rain called for an early end to the day, leaving us wanting further exploration of both the Refuge and Museum.
Whigg Meadow (East Tennessee)
September 11-13, 2009
The gentle brush of Autumn had striped the Black Gums with scarlet and swiped white and yellow on the roadsides to welcome BAS field trippers to the Unicoi Mountains. Though we traveled separately and had different stories to relate, all shared the same awe at the beauty of the cove where our base of operations, Telliquah Falls Log Cabins, lies tucked between Mocking Crow Mountain and Queen's Mountain. The slopes of these mountains are clothed with a rich diversity of trees, most still green. Steer Creek and its tributaries flow through this cove, providing us with sweet music while we enjoyed a home cooked meal (Thanks, Lee) and locally produced wine and cheese.
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Several of us were greeted the next morning with the clear call of an Eastern Screech Owl, floating through the fog. Fog was the order of the morning as we traveled on the Cherohala Skyway, the 40-mile road running on the crest of the Unicoi Mountains. From one of the overlooks, only the tops of ridges could be seen, the fog creating gray islands. On the sides of the Skyway and the approach road to Whigg Meadow, masses of fall asters, boneset, the lavender of Sweet Joe-Pye-Weed, and other flowering plants provided us with both easily solved IDs-Baneberry or Doll's Eyes, and some difficult ones, as yet unnamed.
Arriving at the Whigg Meadow banding station, we were greeted by Eric, Jennifer and Ethan Soehren and the other volunteers. Eric thanked us for bringing fine weather; rain and fog had been fairly constant. However, the birds were apparently passing overhead on the winds, Black-throated Blue Warbler, resident Slate-colored Juncos, and Tennessee Warblers being the majority of birds banded.
Upon leaving Whigg, the group had an entertaining supper (Karaoke, anyone?) and ended the day with a subdued sunset at Buck Bald.
Sunday morning met us with fog and the call of the Screech Owl. The group dispersed, with some taking scenic routes home and others absorbing one last time the mountain streams, the Sweet Joe-Pye Weed, and the spectacular Bald River Falls, a one hundred foot cascade on the Tellico River.
Warblers abounded in the Bankhead National Forest for the BAS April field trip. Lured by the bird calls heard from the moving cars we stopped on the ridge above Rush Creek and saw Indigo Buntings, and Prairie and Pine warblers. The cool waters at the Rush Creek Bridge rewarded us with good sightings of a Black-throated Green, Palm, and Yellow-throated warblers
From Rush Creek we went back to the nearby ridge top, parked and walked to the upper Goldmine Creek Falls. We had great views of Prairie, Yellow-throated, and Hooded warblers
. A Broad winged Hawk
and the ever present vultures
soared overhead as we moved through the wildflowers along the edge of the forest toward the waterfalls. At the high-wall cliff faces along the water fall Max Harman found a green salamander. In the area we also saw a Blue winged warbler, Red bellied woodpecker, Summer Tanager and Baltimore Oriole
Lost Soles and Snipe Hunting in the Bankhead
Trip Report BAS Bankhead Field Trip December 3, 2011
Thirteen field trippers left Birmingham promptly at 7 am and drove to the Bankhead Forest to enjoy the birds, the waterfalls and all the beauty that makes the Bankhead Forest such a delight. Our first stop was the Kinlock Shelter, a massive cliff rock shelter on the western side of the Bankhead, which has attracted people for thousands of years. American Beauty Berry was in abundantly fruiting at the mouth to the shelter. The protected moist parts of the cliff were filled with ferns and liverworts and lots of other plants. We saw Black and Turkey Vultures, juncos, and blue jays here. A few minutes down the road from the Shelter we stopped at Hubbard Falls. Hemlocks shroud this beautiful 45 degree cascade that rolls into a narrow cliff lined canyon. The path down was a little tricky but offered a great view of the canyon and the falls.
Our lunch break was at the Sipsey River Picnic grounds. We found a beautiful spot beside the river and enjoyed our lunch. Only after lunch did we determine that the picnic tables were on the shelf above the spot where we were sitting. Here we saw Belted Kingfisher, American Goldfinch, Yellow bellied Sapsucker, and dusky salamanders on the hike up stream after lunch. From the Sipsey River we pushed on to the Brushy Lake Recreation Area. The wind was blowing and we saw some Pied Billed Grebes, and Phoebes with their creamy breasts. A small brown snake (Dekays ) was also encountered. For our last stop of the day we intended to visit Angel Falls, but the deer hunters made us reconsider and we backtracked to Upper Goldmine Creek falls. This falls is a short hike from the road and no hunters appeared to be in the proximity. We visited the beautiful falls, seeing, Golden Crowned kinglets and Red Bellied Woodpeckers. Kristin Bakkegard found more salamanders for us at the bottom of the waterfall. During this walk Mat Hunter experienced shoe failure. His entire sole came off the bottom of his boot. As the sun was setting we found ourselves in the dark forest and can clearly report that after an extensive search in this area we found no Snipes. In addition to Kristin and Matt, participants included Ken Archambault, Janice Bonnett, Jim King, Linda Harman, John Morgan, Carolyn and Phil Sankey, Lynn and Bill Niebuhr and Lori Oswald and Hans Paul.
John's spectacular photos from this trip can be seen at http://www.flickr.com/photos/64280342@N07/sets/72157628296860561/with/6462164529/
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December 3, 2011
Photographer: John Morgan