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Black Belt Field Trip: Prattville, Autaugaville, Lowndesboro, and the Gator Farm

Cattle egrets at the gator farm in Pine Level, Al. Photo by Greg Harber.

July 10, 2021 All day

Pre-registration is required by 12 p.m. CDT on Friday, July 9th, and space is limited.

Registration is now closed. Check out our upcoming events here.

Participants must complete the mandatory online waiver. Please do not request registration for others when submitting your request.

This trip will consist of two separate parts to accommodate those wishing to bird for the full day or just part of it. Greg Harber will meet the morning group at the Galleria McDonald’s (1731 Montgomery Hwy, Hoover, AL 35244 at Riverchase Promenade) at 8:00 a.m. This group will make a short restroom stop at the Prattville McDonald’s (I-65, exit 179, Cobbs Ford Road) at 9:15 a.m. We’ll begin our day of birding along Autauga County Roads 21 and 135, where we’ll hope to see Mississippi and swallow-tailed kites, various long-legged waders and with luck, painted buntings and wood storks. Grassland species we might encounter include Eastern meadowlarks, loggerhead shrikes, and Eastern bluebirds.

Following lunch in Prattville at a local BBQ restaurant, we’ll make a 30-45 minute drive to Jones Bluff Road (Lowndes County Road 40) on the south side of the Alabama River north of Lowndesboro. The large expanse of pasture along this stretch of road is often a good location for kites, especially if there are hay mowing or baling operations in progress. Our departure from here will be timed to ensure that we arrive at Red’s Little School House (20 Gardner Road Grady, Alabama 36036) at 5:00 p.m., to meet the part-day group on schedule for dinner before leaving for the nearby gator farm.

The part-day group will meet at 3 p.m. at the Galleria McDonald’s (1731 Montgomery Hwy, Hoover, AL 35244 at Riverchase Promenade).  We’ll drive south to join the morning birding party at 5 p.m. at Red’s Little School House (20 Gardner Road Grady, Alabama 36036) for a delicious dinner. Then we’ll all proceed together to visit a private ‘gator farm’ in nearby Pine Level, where Alabama Audubon has obtained permission for members of our field trip to observe thousands of herons coming in to roost after a day of foraging all over central Alabama. Thousands of cattle egrets, great egrets, great blue herons, little blue herons, and white ibis raise their young and/or roost here to take advantage of the protection afforded by alligators lurking in the waters below their treetop nests.  The alligators serve a valuable function in protecting the birds from more destructive land-based predators such as raccoons. The spectacle of so many wading birds packing into the trees surrounding the gator ponds is one you will never forget. Expect to arrive home close to 10 p.m., as we will remain at the gator farm until sunset at 7:52 p.m. to witness this unforgettable spectacle.

The details: For those wanting the full day trip, meetup is at 8 a.m. at the Galleria McDonald’s (1731 Montgomery Hwy, Hoover, AL 35244 at Riverchase Promenade). From there, we’ll caravan to the Prattville McDonald’s (2573 Cobbs Ford Rd, Prattville, AL 36066), meeting there at 9:15 a.m. before beginning our day of birding as detailed above. For those wanting just the half day trip, meetup is at 3 p.m. at the Galleria McDonald’s. The day will end in Pine Level at sunset.

Be sure to bring the usual supplies: binoculars, rehydrating drinks, snacks, a full tank of gas, sunscreen, insect repellant, rain gear, and comfortable layers for staying cool. Be sure to bring a camera due to the unique opportunity the gator farm offers–hundreds of birds in close proximity! In the case of inclement weather, the event may be cancelled. You may contact the trip leader the morning of the event if the weather is questionable.

Accessibility: We will mostly be doing roadside birding with very little walking involved. Bring a chair, if you wish, for the gator farm portion of the trip, as the birds will be returning to their nests/roosts at day’s end and they’ll be coming to us.

The food: Food options include McDonald’s at both the Galleria meetup location or in Prattville. Lunch will be at a local BBQ restaurant in Prattville. Dinner will be at Red’s Little School House (20 Gardner Road Grady, Alabama 36036).

Nestling cattle egret by Greg Harber.

The birds: Mississippi and swallow-tailed kites, painted buntings, wood storks, eastern meadowlarks, loggerhead shrikes, eastern bluebirds, cattle egrets, great egrets, great blue herons, little blue herons, and white ibis are all possible or likely birds to see on one or both parts of this trip.

Trip leaders: Greg Harber will lead the morning group and Anne Miller will lead the afternoon group (Greg: 205-807-8055; Anne: 205-902-1389. Please contact on the day of the trip only). Feel free to email us if you have questions or want to let us know you’ll be meeting up from a different part of the state and need other directions.

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Through more than seventy-five years of conservation work in one of our nation’s most ecologically rich states, Alabama Audubon has seen firsthand how diversity strengthens natural communities. We believe that the same principle applies to human communities, which is why our organization is committed to providing equitable opportunities for all Alabamians to learn about and enjoy wild birds, their habitats, and the natural world. One of the best ways to support that belief is by valuing and actively seeking to strengthen diversity among our staff, our board, and our membership. To that end, Alabama Audubon welcomes the whole of our community to our work, and strives to make our programs, classes, and events open and accessible to all.