Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail

Nine counties offer up 34 official birding sites covering over 3.5 million beautiful Alabama acres!

SITE of the WEEK: Maplesville City Park, Chilton County

Maplesville City Park offers forty acres of mixed hardwood & pine, with two athletic fields. A paved, 1/3 mile walking trail and several additional unpaved pathways provide opportunities to bird the woodlands, including several creeks that intersect the park. The walking trails give easy access to the open habitat along the trail, which is home to Blue Jays, Northern Cardinals, Brown Thrashers, and Carolina Wrens, along with canopy-dwelling birds such as White-breasted Nuthatches, Red-bellied and Downy Woodpeckers and Pine Warblers. #PPBT

Additional Information: https://alabamabirdingtrails.com/sites/maplesville-city-park/

Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail's cover photo

BIRD of the WEEK: Great Horned Owl
Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail Mascot

With its long, earlike tufts, intimidating yellow-eyed stare, and deep hooting voice, the Great Horned Owl is the quintessential owl of storybooks. This powerful predator can take down birds and mammals even larger than itself, but it also dines on daintier fare such as tiny scorpions, mice, and frogs. It’s one of the most common owls in North America. #PPBT

Additional Information: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Great_Horned_Owl

SITE of the WEEK: Southern Union State Community College, Randolph County

The entrance to the college is dominated by massive mature pine trees and tall hardwoods. There is no significant understory and little midstory, so the birds found here spend the majority of their time at significant heights. Expect to see numerous Red-headed Woodpeckers, Brown-headed Nuthatches, and Pine Warblers throughout the year. On the right at the crest of a hill as you drive onto campus is a log cabin, built by students in the 1930s. #PPBT

Additional Information: https://alabamabirdingtrails.com/sites/southern-union-community-college/

Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail's cover photo

Made a lunch-time visit on Tuesday to the three birding sites in Autauga County: Jones Bluff Park, Jones Bluff Powerhouse and Dam, and Swift Creek Park. These Corps of Engineers properties are wonderful birding locations! I always see birds at the dam, including the Killdeer who was flailing around, even though I was not nearing her nest. Jones Bluff Park is full of bird noises and great, lush greenery. Swift Creek Park was active with fishermen and bird noises. Even found the 'signature' water fountain! Don't miss seeing these sites! #PPBT

Red-winged Blackbird (Female)
Photo: Lew Scharpf

One of the most abundant birds across North America, and one of the most boldly colored, the Red-winged Blackbird is a familiar sight atop cattails, along soggy roadsides, and on telephone wires. Glossy-black males have scarlet-and-yellow shoulder patches they can puff up or hide depending on how confident they feel. Females are a subdued, streaky brown, almost like a large, dark sparrow. Their early and tumbling song are happy indications of the return of spring. #PPBT

Additional Information: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-winged_Blackbird

Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail's cover photo

SITE of the WEEK: Fox Creek

Fox Creek offers good access for birding where Fox Creek empties into Lake Wedowee, adjacent to the Fox Creek boat ramp. The terrain is a great mix of open land, brush, forest and lakeshore, attracting a wide variety of birds from herons to hummingbirds. More than 1.5 miles of walking paths have been fully developed, with another mile of rustic trail available and much more in the works.
Expect to see swallows and Purple Martins in spring and summer, and Belted Kingfishers, wading birds, and Wood Ducks throughout the year. During the winter months, additional waterfowl, gulls, and terns appear. Keep your eyes peeled for Ospreys and Bald Eagles. #PPBT

Additional Information: https://alabamabirdingtrails.com/sites/fox-creek-at-lake-wedowee/

BIRD of the WEEK: Pectoral Sandpiper
Photo: David Frings

A medium-sized, chunky shorebird, the Pectoral Sandpiper is found most commonly on mudflats with short grass or weedy vegetation and seems more at home in the grass than in the water.
This has a moderately long: neck, moderately long, slightly drooping bill, and moderately long, yellowish or greenish legs. It has a dark, densely streaked chest showing sharp border with white belly with a dark center rump and tail. It's back is reddish brown with two thin white lines extending it length. #PPBT

Additional Information: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Pectoral_Sandpiper

SITE of the WEEK: Wedowee Kiwanis Park, Randolph County

Wedowee Kiwanis Park offers several distinctly different habitats in a relatively compact site. The park is heavily wooded, predominately in hardwoods. The most productive birding will likely be the woods beyond the parking area, which should produce a variety of songbirds in all seasons. The open field beyond the creek bridge may yield some birds of open fields, such as Eastern Meadowlarks, Eastern Kingbirds (warmer months), and Northern Bobwhites. A loop road begins here. There is considerable understory and midstory to the right. Explore this often wet habitat for Eastern Towhees, Carolina Wrens, and Chipping, Field, and Song Sparrows all year. #PPBT

Additional Information: https://alabamabirdingtrails.com/sites/wedowee-kiwanis-park/

The Special Issue of Birds & Blooms magazine is chock full of hummingbird articles and photos!

Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail's cover photo

BIRD of the WEEK: Harris's Hawk
Photo: Lew Scharpf

A handsome hawk of the arid Southwest, Harris's Hawk is a standout with bold markings of dark brown, chestnut red, and white; long yellow legs; and yellow markings on its face. The most social of North American raptors, these birds cooperate at nests and hunt together as a team. When hunting, a group of hawks surround their prey, flush it for another to catch, or take turns chasing it. This hawk's social nature and relative ease with humans has made it popular among falconers and in education programs. #PPBT

Additional Information: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Harriss_Hawk

audubon.org

Why You Need to Try Paddle Birding

Here in the Piedmont region, we've been paddle birding for several years now! We were ahead of our time! We've paddled Fox Creek in Randolph County and seen parts of the creek folks hadn't seen in a very long time. The scenery was phenomenal. And bird noises were incredible. We've paddled the Tallapoosa River and Elkahatchee Creek in Tallapoosa County. Both great hot-spots for paddle birding! #PPBT

audubon.org When in a canoe or kayak, you can observe and experience birds in a new way—and bank some memorable adventures while you're at it.

Made a quick stop at the Opelika Wood Duck Heritage Preserve & Siddique Nature Park Saturday morning. There was a great crowd, great weather and doughnuts! Met a couple from Montgomery that often come up just to go to the Preserve. The volunteers and bird-lovers at this site are so active and regularly have events. But you don't have to wait for an event to visit this site. Always open, go any time! To walk around the entire property is probably only a mile and a half or two miles. A great distance, completely wooded, with two blinds to quietly view waterfowl. Great bird noises each time you go. Here's their Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/wdhpsnc/
#PPBT

So excited to finally have the grosbeaks back...haven't caught the female yet, although I think I spied her 'fleeing' when I unexpectedly (for her) opened the door. Alexander City #PPBT

SITE of the WEEK: Lineville City Park, Clay County

Lineville City Park provides access to two lakes, one of which is used for fishing. The lower lake is more secluded, and is more likely to be visited by wild waterfowl in the colder months. Expect to see long-legged waders – herons and egrets. Search for resting night-herons and possibly American Bitterns where the vegetation is thickest. There are multiple ball fields, best for spotting Killdeer, Eastern Bluebirds, Common Nighthawks (in the evenings above the park lights from spring through fall), and Loggerhead Shrikes and American Kestrels, especially in the colder months. #PPBT

Additional Information: https://alabamabirdingtrails.com/sites/lineville-city-park/

Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail's cover photo

BIRD of the WEEK: Summer Tanager (Female)

The only completely red bird in North America, the strawberry-colored male Summer Tanager is an eye-catching sight against the green leaves of the forest canopy. The mustard-yellow female is harder to spot, though both sexes have a very distinctive chuckling call note. Fairly common during the summer, these birds migrate as far as the middle of South America each winter. All year long they specialize in catching bees and wasps on the wing, somehow avoiding being stung by their catches. #PPBT

Additional Information: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Summer_Tanager

SITE of the WEEK: Crooked Creek Watershed Nature Trail, Clay County

The nature trail leading through the densely-forested tract at Crooked Creek Watershed Site #3 is remote and has limited access, but the potential for finding good birds here is quite high. The habitat around the 53-acre lake is hardwood-dominated and the bird community is diverse and plentiful. Some swampy and marsh areas provide excellent habitat for waders and other water-loving birds. #PPBT

Additional Information: https://alabamabirdingtrails.com/sites/crooked-creek-watershed-site-3-nature-trail/

Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail's cover photo

audubon.org

What Nesting Materials Are Safe for Birds?

audubon.org Follow these dos and don'ts if you want to help your feathered neighbors build their homes this spring.

Made time yesterday to take advantage of the wonderful weather and visited four of the official sites in Tallapoosa County of the Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail. There are two photos from each site in this order: Sportplex, Coon Creek, Cherokee Ridge and Wind Creek State Park. All of these sites are in great shape and look wonderful with abundant, early Spring growth. A huge Mountain Laurel on the trail at Cherokee Ridge was a highlight. The gourds at Wind Creek seemed to be completely inhabited with eager Purple Martins (I hope that's what they are!). Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon this weekend seem to be perfect for getting out and enjoying these wonderful locations! #PPBT

BIRD of the WEEK: Snow Goose (Blue Morph)
Photo: Lew Scharpf

Watching huge flocks of Snow Geese swirl down from the sky, amid a cacophony of honking, is a little like standing inside a snow globe. These loud, white-and-black geese can cover the ground in a snowy blanket as they eat their way across fallow cornfields or wetlands. Among them, you might see a dark form with a white head—a color variant called the “Blue Goose.” Snow Geese have skyrocketed in numbers and are now among the most abundant waterfowl on the continent. During spring and fall migration, the geese will stop over in open habitats along the four major North American flyways. #PPBT

For additional information: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Snow_Goose

youtube.com

Wood Duck Heritage Preserve in Opelika Alabama

Many thanks to Kevin Beasley for sharing this wonderful video he created at the Opelika Wood Duck Heritage Preserve, one of the most popular sites on the Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail.

The male Wood Duck is one of the most beautiful birds on the planet! His vivid bright colors, the shape of his plummage and his red eyes sets him apart from ...

SITE of the WEEK: Clay County Public Fishing Lake

Wood Ducks breed nearby and are regularly seen here. The lake may be one of the better local sites for spotting wintering waterfowl. The land to the left (east) of the entrance road provides an opportunity to survey old-field habitat. Expect to see Eastern Meadowlarks, Northern Bobwhites, and Field Sparrows throughout the year. Red-tailed Hawks hunt here, and this is a good spot to find Great Horned Owls. Look for Wild Turkeys along the edges of the fields, particularly at dawn and dusk. #PPBT

Additional Information: https://alabamabirdingtrails.com/sites/clay-county-public-fishing-lakes/

Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail's cover photo

BIRD of the WEEK: Cooper's Hawk
Photo: Lew Scharpf

Among the bird world’s most skillful fliers, Cooper’s Hawks are common woodland hawks that tear through cluttered tree canopies in high speed pursuit of other birds. You’re most likely to see one prowling above a forest edge or field using just a few stiff wingbeats followed by a glide. With their smaller lookalike, the Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawks make for famously tricky identifications. #PPBT

Additional Information: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Coopers_Hawk

SITE of the WEEK: Cheaha State Park, Clay County
Photo: Paul H. Franklin

Cheaha State Park is located in the middle of the Talladega National Forest, so the area consists of vast tracts of undeveloped forested land, and these woodlands provide nesting and wintering habitat for a wide variety of birds, as well as providing corridors for spring and fall migrants. Use the many pull-outs along the Talladega Scenic Drive (Hwy 281) as you approach the park. At the lower elevations, Summer Tanagers, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, and Wood Thrushes are common.

Additional Information: https://alabamabirdingtrails.com/sites/cheaha-state-park/

Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail's cover photo

BIRD of the WEEK: Olive-sided Flycatcher
Photo: Lew Scharpf

A distinctive large flycatcher of the boreal and western coniferous forests, the Olive-sided Flycatcher gives its "quick-three-beers" song from the tops of tall snags. It makes dashing flights from its high perch to catch flying insects, then returns to the same perch. #PPBT

Additional Information: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Olive-sided_Flycatcher

SITE of the WEEK: Lake Chinnabee, Clay County

This is perhaps the “birdiest” site in this entire unit of the Talladega National Forest. Watch for a variety of woodland birds, including Red-eyed Vireo, Scarlet Tanager, Northern Parula, and Yellow-throated and Hooded Warblers. The lake has marshy areas good for shore birds, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets and Wood Ducks. Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks nest in the area, and a variety of ducks are routine visitors in winter months. The Recreation Area provides access to several hiking trails.

Additional Information: https://alabamabirdingtrails.com/sites/lake-chinnabee-recreation-area/

Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail's cover photo

BIRD of the WEEK: Indigo Bunting
Photo: Lew Scharpf

Sometimes nicknamed "blue canaries," these brilliantly colored yet common and widespread birds whistle their bouncy songs through the late spring and summer all over eastern North America. Look for Indigo Buntings in midsummer along rural roads, where they often sing from telephone lines or wooded edges for hours on end. One of the best ways to find them is to learn to recognize the bouncy quality of the paired notes in their song. #PPBT

Additional Information: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Indigo_Bunting

SITE of the WEEK: Turnipseed Camp, Talladega National Forest, Clay County

This small, rustic campground offers overnight camping and access to hiking and birding in the mature, mixed pine-oak forest. A good location for breeding Scarlet Tanagers, Black-throated Green Warblers, and Ovenbirds. Watch for Blue-headed Vireos. Excellent birding spots along any of the 3-4 hiking trails that intersect this site. Turnipseed is a U.S. Forest Service trailhead for the Pinhoti Hiking Trail. Habitat types are mature hardwood, mixed pine/hardwood, old field succession, agricultural field, marsh, lake/river, mud flats and more. The trail takes hikers through both upland and riparian habitat. #PPBT

BIRD of the WEEK: Orange-crowned Warbler
Photo: Lew Scharpf

Orange-crowned Warblers aren’t the most dazzling birds in their family, but they’re a useful one to learn. These grayish to olive-green birds vary in color geographically and have few bold markings. There’s rarely any sign of an orange crown, which is usually only visible when the bird is excited and raises its head feathers. They might have you scratching your head until you recognize their slim shape, sharply pointed bill, and warmer yellow under the tail. These busy birds forage low in shrubs, and are one of the few warblers that's more common in the West than the East. #PPBT

Additional Information: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Orange-crowned_Warbler

A great event at the Kreher Nature Preserve in Auburn Saturday. Birmingham Audubon (birminghamaudubon.org) graciously gave of their time to lead several groups of 10-15 each around the 120-acre preserve. Some of the species seen/heard were: Canada Goose, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee, Pileated Woodpecker, Pine Warbler, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Northern Cardinal, hawk (sp), Black Vulture, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Blue-headed Vireo, Downy Woodpecker, White-eyed Vireo, Rub-crowned Kinglet, American Goldfinch and many, many more. There will be more events at this wonderful birding site in the future. Visit here: https://www.facebook.com/auburnpreserve/
More birding with Birmingham Audubon Saturday afternoon at the Opelika Wood Duck Heritage Preserve & Siddique Nature Park. Visit here: https://www.facebook.com/wdhpsnc/ #PPBT

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Tallapoosa River at Jay Bird Creek
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