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Field Trip: Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge

Sandhill and whooping cranes by Greg Harber

November 20, 2021 , 7:00 am 5:00 pm

Pre-registration is required by 12 p.m. CDT on Friday, November 19th, 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.

Decatur’s Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge is a winter haven for numerous waterfowl species, thousands of sandhill cranes, and a small, but increasingly reliable, population of overwintering whooping cranes—still one of the world’s most endangered bird species. (There are around 800 individuals alive today, up from an almost-unbelievable low of just 16 in 1941.) As such, it holds a special place in the hearts of Alabama nature lovers, and a priority spot on every southern birder’s bucket list.

The details: Meetup is at 7 a.m. at the Fultondale Chick-fil-A (215 Howell Street), located off I-65 (Exit 267) on Walker Chapel Road. Together, we’ll caravan up the interstate toward Decatur and the Priceville exit (Exit 334) to reconvene around 8:30 a.m. at the Hardee’s located at 3241 Point Mallard Parkway SE. After a short break, we’ll head from there to the refuge entrance, just a mile or two up the road. 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.

A birding trip to Wheeler can turn into a long day, so remember to bring plenty of water and snacks, a full tank of gas, insect repellent, rain gear, sunblock, and seasonally appropriate—i.e., warmly layered—attire. In the event of inclement weather, the trip may be cancelled. You may contact the trip leaders the morning of the event.

Registration: To register, click on the button above. If you’re new to our online system and don’t yet have a username and password, simply click the “X” on the pop up and fill out the basic form. If you do have a login, please use it as this helps us tremendously on our end! You should receive an automated email upon registering.

Accessibility: We anticipate most of the areas on this trip will be accessible by car. Lunch at Arrowhead Landing is wheelchair accessible, and there are handicap accessible facilities at the Visitor Center. There is little walking involved on this trip—mostly stopping and birding by car.

Questions about accessibility? Email us for more information about how we can meet your needs.

The food: Bring a picnic lunch, and we’ll plan to eat together at Arrowhead Landing

The birds: We anticipate seeing waterfowl, cranes, and hawks. You’ll find the official bird list for Wheeler on the Fish & Wildlife Service’s website. For real-time updates, visit eBird’s hotspot page here. Click here for the Alabama Birding Trails site for this location.

Trip leader: Greg Harber (205-807-8055) and Paul Franklin (205-542-7647) will lead this trip. Please contact them on the day of the field trip only.

Questions? Email the Programs Assistant.

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.