Hi All 😊! For those of you new to us, the North Alabama Birdwatchers Society (NABS) is an informal group that focuses on birding in northern Alabama. We have been around since 1976 and are the only birding group in our area to offer a set of regularly scheduled trips each year. We visit a variety of areas across this part of the state, most of which are included on the North Alabama Birding Trail (NABT, https://alabamabirdingtrails.com/). We also have a Facebook group page, North Alabama Birdwatchers Society (NABS), where folks can join NABS, post pics, discuss birds and related subjects, etc. NABS is open to everyone, including beginners, and especially young folks with an interest in birds; there are no membership dues.
The protocol for NABS outings is pretty simple. We convene at the designated time at our meeting spot, from which we’ll either drive (usually) or walk to our birding area. Typically, we hang around for 10-15 minutes after the meeting time before we depart, which gives us a bit of time to work out logistics, talk about where we’ll be going, etc. So, it’s best to be on time, for obvious reasons. Attendees are responsible for their own transportation, although there usually are opportunities to carpool and we’ll usually have a van for trips to Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge (NWR).
Our ultimate goal for any NABS outing is to give everyone an opportunity to observe (and hopefully hear) every bird species we encounter. That seldom happens, but we usually get pretty close. Cameras are welcome too, although the emphasis is on birding. Our rules of etiquette are few but the ones we do have are important:
1. Be reasonably restrained, as to making noise (no dogs or unruly children);
2. While cameras are most welcome, please don’t let pic-taking disrupt the birding (see ultimate goal above);
3. Don’t get out in front of the group — flushing the birds before others can see them is not very nice;
4. Use of song/call recordings to attract birds is up to the discretion of the trip leader. The focus of using such is tied to our main goal of giving everyone a chance to see the species we encounter, especially uncommon or difficult-to-observe birds (e.g., Winter Wren). Beyond a certain point, recordings can become a form of harassment for the birds, thus it should be used sparingly. In particular, recordings should never be used around breeding birds, which can cause nest abandonment or even attract predators to a nest.
5. Above all, follow the guidance of the trip leader.
By birding with NABS, you’ll have the opportunity to go out with experienced people who are familiar with the places we visit and who love to share their knowledge. NABS can also provide greater access to certain areas where such is restricted, e.g., driving behind locked refuge gates at Wheeler NWR, or visiting the privately-owned Jones ‘Hawk Farm’.
Although the focus is on birds, NABS outings also offer opportunities to become more generally familiar with many of the beautiful and diverse natural areas characteristic of northern Alabama. The places we’ll visit provide excellent opportunities to observe, study, photograph and appreciate a variety of flora and fauna, including wildflowers, trees, insects, reptiles/amphibians, and mammals. Some NABS regulars have considerable knowledge of these other groups and would be glad to answer questions and provide information during trips.
Most of our trips are on Saturdays, although we have a few Sunday outings, especially during the spring. Please note that we have different meeting times for our trips, depending on time of year: Aug-Oct and late March-May meeting time is 7 am, while for Nov-early March trips we’ll meet at 8 am. Generally, birding is best, especially for songbirds, early in the morning during warmer times of the year (especially when migration is in full swing), hence the early start times then. Our trips usually require 2-3 hours, although half-day trips are usually the norm for our Wheeler trips and others that involve more travel. If we are done by lunch, we often find a spot to eat together, for those interested. Bring your binoculars, spotting scopes, cameras, field guides, refreshments, bug repellent and rain gear, as needed. We seldom officially cancel trips; if the weather is bad (heavy rain) or dangerous (icy roads, severe storms) enough to warrant cancellation, we will send out an email notice.
For those of you who don’t already know, this past season we implemented a rule that eligibility to attend NABS outings would require being on the NABS email list. This is related to 2 things: 1) establishment of rules several years ago by Wheeler NWR that limits attendance and number of vehicles allowed for group activities into restricted areas, and 2) much greater exposure of NABS to the public in recent years, primarily due to our having a NABS FB page. This has been a good thing in general, as attendance has improved quite a bit, but it also makes it necessary to keep a closer tab on attendance. We are currently restricted to a total of 5 vehicles into restricted areas (behind locked gates) on Wheeler, one of which can be a 15-person Refuge van, when available and with a qualified person to drive it (It’s worth mentioning too that there is also a minimum attendance requirement of 8 for groups driving in restricted areas). Our other trips don’t have a formal limit on attendance although, past a certain point, it could adversely affect the quality of some trips. As a result,we may have to restrict attendance; the email list is the best tool we have for doing that.
Finally, a note on covid. We’ll be following CDC guidelines relative to covid for all our trips. Given guidelines may be modified over time, I’ll be updating information in trip reminders, as needed. As of now masks won’t be needed outside. However, attendees should bring one, just in case, especially on Wheeler trips, given how crowded the carpooling may be. Finally, those who are not vaccinated should not attend.
Send your comments, questions and suggestions to Rufina or Ken Ward (256-679-3570 or 8332;firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com). PLEASE NOTE OUR PHONE AND EMAIL INFORMATION HAVE CHANGED (the old wowway email no longer exists).