(Having a DeLorme Atlas makes locating these sites a bit easier.)
1. DeSoto State Park/Mentone. The Mentone area in extreme northeast Alabama offers many excellent opportunities for observing our state's forest dwelling birds. DeSoto SP is probably the best spot to begin as there are many trails within the park that make observing the birds more convenient. A walk along the rim of Little River Canyon is well worth the view, even if the birds are hiding! Look for warblers in summer and during migration; various woodpeckers, acadian flycatchers and both tanagers in the summer. To reach the park exit I-59 in Fort Payne (#218), following AL 35 through town and up the slope of Lookout Mountain. Turn left at the top of the hill onto CR 89 and follow this road to the park. DeLorme Atlas coordinates: page 21, G 7 & 8.
2. Mouth of the Canyon Park. Also in the Mentone area, this park is within the Little River Canyon Preserve and is located just north of where the Little River empties into Weiss Lake. This park is a lovely spot to spend the day with your family. Bluebirds and phoebes can be found in the open fields while a hike up the riverside trail into the canyon will yield hawks, warblers and other birds of the forest canopy. To reach the park, head south on AL 35 from Fort Payne, continue past CR 89 for several miles and turn right onto Canyon Rim Road (AL 176). Follow this road all the way to the mouth of the canyon, a distance of ~ 23 miles. Be prepared for steep sections along the drive. Alternatively, follow AL 35 all the way to Blanche and turn right onto AL 273 and travel toward Leesburg. Turn right at CR 275 at the park's sign, just after crossing the Little River bridge. DeLorme: p. 27, B 7
3. Lake Guntersville State Park. This area has it all, whether you're looking for warblers in migration or waterfowl and eagles in winter. Many people come to the park to view the bald eagles that congregate here during the winter months. The Town Creek fishing center, located a few miles east of the main park entrance on AL 227, is one of the best spots to look for eagles perched in the trees along the cliff face. Within the park itself the campground and beachfront are the best locations to look for winter waterfowl and eagles. Warblers prefer the oaks near the beach gate and at the far end of the campground. Numerous trails offer opportunities for a stroll through the woods in search of year-round residents and summer breeders. To reach the park from Birmingham, take the Tallapoosa Street exit (AL 79) off I-59/20 and head north ~ 70 miles to Guntersville. In downtown Guntersville, turn east (right) on AL 227 and drive ~ 7 miles and turn left into the park's entrance. At the T intersection, turn right to head to the lodge; the campground can be reached from either direction. DeLorme: p. 26, A 1 & 2.
4. Guntersville Dam and city. The dam north of Guntersville and the entire city waterfront are good locations to look for waterfowl and gulls in winter. It goes without saying to keep an eye out for eagles too! To reach the dam, head north out of town on US 431/AL 79. Stay to the left on US 431 when the road splits and continue toward Huntsville. At ~ 10 miles you will see a large sign for Guntersville Dam. Turn left and drive the 3.5 miles to the dam. Look for warblers in migration in the low vegetation around the dam. DeLorme: p. 19, H 10.
Guntersville's waterfront is extensive and is easily accessed as there are many parks and open places from which to bird. Heading north from downtown on US 431/AL 79, turn left just before crossing the Tennessee River. Before making the turn, be sure to check the pilings at the marina on the right for gulls. The drive along the waterfront extends for several miles and there are many places from which to scan the water. If you wish, cross the AL 69 causeway to the other side where there is a boat launch on the left. Scan for loons & waterfowl and be sure to check out the black-crowned night herons that roost on the far side of the small pond.DeLorme: p. 25, A10
5. Paint Rock River Valley. This beautiful location is halfway between Huntsville and Scottsboro on US 72. Just north of the community of Paint Rock turn north onto AL 65 and enjoy the scenic drive up the valley. Numerous pastures and open fields along the way offer excellent chances for seeing birds of prey, bluebirds, indigo buntings and blue grosbeaks. DeLorme: p. 19, D/E 10; p. 20, C/D 1.
6. Monte Sano State Park. This park, located east of downtown Huntsville, sits atop the mountain and is an excellent location to look for warblers and other birds of the forest. Summer and scarlet tanagers are possible here and look for kinglets and juncos in the winter. To reach the park, head east from Huntsville on US 431 and turn left (north) on Panorama Drive to the park. DeLorme: p. 19, D 8.
7. Borden Creek Trail/ Bankhead National Forest. Located in the heart of Bankhead NF, this an easy hike along the creek and is especially enjoyable in the spring when the neotropical migrants have returned and wildflowers dot the terrain. Look and listen for Louisiana waterthrushes and Cerulean, Hooded and Kentucky warblers. To reach the Bankhead, head west from B'ham on US 78 (I-59/20, Arkadelphia Rd exit) to Jasper. In Jasper take AL 195 north to Double Springs, where you will then catch AL 33 north toward Wren. Just north of the Lawrence/Winston county line, turn left onto CR 6 and follow this road west for ~ 4-5 miles. There is a parking area on the right at the Borden Creek bridge. Pack a lunch and enjoy the day! DeLorme: p. 23, B 9&10.
8 & 9. Wheeler and Wilson Dams. Excellent for gulls and waterfowl in winter, warblers in migration and many resident species. See the attached superb article by Steve McConnell from the November 1998 ABA newsletter, Winging It. DeLorme: p. 17, C 7 & C 10.
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