A little birdy (Mark S. Sasser, certified wildlife biologist at the Alabama Division of Wildlife & Feshwater Fisheries) told me that birdwatching is one of the fastest growing outdoor recreational activities. And the hardcore birders will pay their fair share to get their eyes on the rarer birds on their must-see lists.
That’s why Alabama created the Alabama Birding Trails, which connects individual trails and loops in various terrains across the state, including a patch of woods in Wedowee Kiwanis Park.
But what sort of sites make for good birdwatching?
Sasser says there were multiple things the Birding Trails team kept in mind while selecting sites, like the Wedowee Kiwanis Park, to include in their statewide system. Adequate parking and maintenance, ensuring the sites weren’t environmentally sensitive and could handle the foot traffic, etc. But bottom line, they had to have good birdwatching characteristics.
- Unique habitat = unique birds. Different species of birds flock to different locations. So a tupelo gum swamp, lone leaf pines and open fields appeal to varying birds or species. A good site will attract a unique species that you can’t see anywhere else. The endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker, for example, is very habitat selective and prefers mature pine forests.
- Diversity. Unless they’re an expert birder, most people aren’t going to be on the lookout for that one hard-to-find bird. Thankfully, many habitats are frequented by different species throughout the year, which means visitors can potentially get a peek at woodpeckers, hawks and songbirds all at one site.
- In your face. Modern folks don’t get out into “the wild” much. So the average person, Sasser says, just wants to be out in nature and see wildlife when they’re out on the trail. A good site should have diversity, as well as quantity. Some of the Alabama sites, for example, might feature 10 species with 150 individuals.
Read more about how the Kiwanis Club of Wedowee's purchase of 70 acres of land became the perfect space for one of Alabama's Birding Trails on page 38 of the October 2013 issue of Kiwanis magazine.