27-29 January 2023
Unless otherwise noted, all activities for the AOS Winter Meeting begin or occur at Guntersville State Park (address below):
Guntersville State Park Lodge
1155 Lodge Drive
Guntersville, AL 35976
To register online for the AOS Winter 2023 Meeting, CLICK HERE
FRIDAY, JANUARY 27
5:15 p.m. Registration in the Goldenrod Room
6:00 p.m. Member Social
6:45 p.m. Announcements/Discussion of Weekend Field Trips
7:00 p.m. Members Photography Show
8:00 p.m. Adjourn
SATURDAY, JANUARY 28
6:45 & 7:00 a.m. Field Trips:
FIELD TRIP 1
Lake Guntersville Waterfront.
Explore the waterfront along Sunset Drive and other locations around the lake looking for ducks, grebes, loons and gulls with our Speaker Tiffany Kersten and a local guide. An early start will be made to look for uncommon loons and grebes from the Hwy 69 bridge before traffic pushes birds further back into the lake. We’ll meet at 6.45 a.m. at the boat ramp parking area on the south-east (Guntersville) end of the Hwy 69 bridge and make stops as we cross the bridge. For this outing a scope is very useful. Due to restricted room on the bridge and elsewhere along the route car-pooling is recommended. The outing finishes at lunchtime.
FIELD TRIP 2
Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary and the J.D. and Annie S. Hayes Nature Preserve.
Part of the North Alabama Birding Trail, both locations are located on Hwy 431 North about 35 minutes from Guntersville. The Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary, a newly established area, is located along the Flint River and is home to a variety of habitats with over three miles of trails winding through bottomlands, swamps, and sloughs that harbor an abundance of bird species. Hayes Preserve, located directly across 431N from Goldsmith-Schiffman, consists of 10 miles of trails and greenways that follow along the Flint River through low riparian habitat, old fields, and a golf course. We’ll start at Goldsmith-Schiffman then head across to Hayes as time and bird activity dictates. We’ll depart at 7 a.m. from Guntersville State Park Lodge with a pickup at 7:20 at the carpark at the south base of the Hwy 431 bridge. There is a meat and three, Grandmother’s House, close by for lunch.
12:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m. Lunch and bird on your own.
5:15 p.m. Registration in the Goldenrod Room
5:30 p.m. Banquet and Keynote Speaker: Goldenrod Room
5:30 p.m. Social Hour
6:30 p.m. Banquet Buffet
7:15 p.m. Announcements/Discussion of Weekend Field Trips
7:30 p.m. Keynote Speaker: Tiffany Kersten
9:00 p.m. Adjourn
SUNDAY, 29 January
7:00 a.m. Field Trip:
High Falls and Morgan’s Cove.
This is a new destination for our Guntersville meetings, one that Linda Reynolds says is a “must see.” After viewing the falls and searching for winter visitors, a drive through Morgan’s Cove offers opportunities to observe open-land birds, hawks and eagles. Meet at 7 a.m. in the parking lot at Guntersville State Park Lodge. Return can be in time to check out of the lodge at 11 a.m. and compilation at noon.
12:00 p.m. Compilation in Lodge Lobby. Return can be in time to check out of the lodge at 11am and compilation at noon.
FOR GUNTERSVILLE STATE PARK LODGE
Rooms available for Friday (January 27, 2023) arrival with a two night stay:
|Quantity||Type of Room||Rate Per Night|
|10||Double Queen Bed
Upper Floor, Bluff-side
|10||Double Queen Bed,
Lower Floor, Bluff-Side
|10||One Queen Bed,
GROUP CODE 9332
Please note that room rates are subject to lodging tax, city and state surcharges, as well as a 4% resort fee. Rates reflect occupancy by up to two people. There is a $10.00 per person charge for each additional person. Check-in begins at 4:00 pm and check out time is before 11:00 am. Individuals lodging at the Lake Guntersville State Park Lodge should call 256-505-6621 to make reservations. To ensure that you receive the special rate extended to our group, please mention you are with the AL Ornithological Society – Group Code 9332. You can also make reservations online at https://www.alapark.com/lake-guntersville-state-park-reservations. Please note that a deposit is required for each reservation made. Deposits are the sum of one night’s lodging plus taxes and are due at the time the reservation is made.
MEET THE KEYNOTE SPEAKER — TIFFANY KERSTEN
Tiffany is a Wisconsin native, turned Texan by way of New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Hawaii. She holds a B.S. in Wildlife Ecology from Northland College, and has spent over a decade as an environmental educator, teaching about raptor identification and migration with the Cape May Bird Observatory, monitoring shorebirds on Cape Cod, banding Honeycreepers in Hawaii, and finally landing in South Texas where she worked at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, then Quinta Mazatlan World Birding Center, and managed the McAllen Nature Center, before founding her own company, Nature Ninja Birding Tours. Tiffany didn’t set out to do a big year, but after a series of unanticipated and serendipitous events, she suddenly found herself amidst one. As a sexual assault survivor, she spent 2021 traveling to all corners of the lower 48 states, tallying birds and gifting personal safety alarms to women she met along the way. Her goal was to see 700 species, and to raise awareness of women’s safety in the outdoors. She ended up surpassing her goal and setting a new lower 48 Big Year record of 726. In her presentation, Tiffany will speak about the fear, empowerment, struggles and healing that all played vital roles in the personal growth she experienced on this wild adventure.
Tiffany Kersten (left) will be the speaker for the AOS winter meeting at Lake Guntersville State Park. Tiffany is the founder of Nature Ninja Birding Tours and completed a Big Year of 726 species in 2021.
TOP SITES FOR WINTER BIRDING AT GUNTERSVILLE
Greg D. Jackson
For those new to the Guntersville area, attending the organized field trips of the upcoming Alabama Ornithological Society meeting (27-29 January 2023) is a great way to learn the best birding spots. However, many may also wish to investigate on their own before, during, or after the meeting, and a few of the top sites are outlined for independent discovery. These focus on the town of Guntersville itself, though include Guntersville Dam to the west. The full itinerary can be birded in 3-4 hours depending on numbers of birds at the sites, though you could linger and spend the whole day working this area.
At the north end of town just before US 431 crosses the Tennessee River, you’ll see Guntersville Harbor on the east side. This area has recently been renovated with restaurants and shops, decreasing the birding potential, but still is an important and easy site to check. Over the years many rarities have been discovered here, and it is worth making multiple checks as the birds change frequently.
A parking lot is located on the west side of the harbor near the base of the bridge, providing good views
of the harbor, adjacent waters, and the floating piers which often attract gulls and terns (when the
cormorants don’t overwhelm them). Lighting is best from the parking lot in afternoon but even in the
morning is acceptable.
Sunset Drive Trail and Ogletree Park/Civitans Pier
At the southern base of the large US 431 bridge near the harbor, you can drive west and then south on Sunset Drive Trail. At the US 431 intersection, the building on the south side of Sunset Drive Trail is the Lake Guntersville Chamber of Commerce. You can park in the small lot and scan the water just west of the bridge, either from the lot or by crossing the street to the little park on the shore. The eastern portion of Sunset Drive Trail, which parallels a paved walking path, has limited access but can be birded with care; note that if conditions are wet the grassy roadsides can be slippery. Best spot for brief parking is at the intersection with Albert Smith Drive near the small pond. Continuing southwest, soon you will see the large parking areas on the left near the Lurleen B. Wallace Pavilion; these allow excellent vantage of a huge expanse of water often good for diving birds. From here, make a right turn at the intersection with Ringold Street to continue on Sunset Drive Trail. In the next stretch there are many pull-offs to allow scanning, and this section is the location of a well-known Bald Eagle nest (look for the crowd of photographers usually present).
The continuation of Sunset Drive Trail once you cross AL 69 is called Sunset Drive, which gives excellent access to the north portion of Brown’s Creek. Just past AL 69 on the right is the Parks & Recreation Center, where you can walk a short distance to the shoreline. Often a flock of ducks and coots is present, with an occasional rarity. Just to the south of the recreation center is the parking area for the public restrooms close to the shoreline. Continuing south on Sunset Drive, the next stop should be the large parking area for the public beach. Walking to the beach gives a broad view of the surrounding waters, often very good for ducks, grebes, and loons. Because of limited parking access, it is best to continue about 3⁄4 mile from the beach to the small lot near the end loop of the walking trail (just north of the small water treatment plant). This can be an excellent location for flocks of ducks and other waterbirds, and has yielded rarities on several occasions. Just beyond this site Sunset Drive ends at Willow Beach Road. Turn right and drive about a half mile to a right turn on Lakeshore Road. At the end of this short road is a small boat launch allowing additional scanning opportunities.
AL 69 Causeway
The AL 69 Causeway stretching across the north end of Brown’s Creek is well known as a great place for loons, grebes, gulls, and others, and is a frequent site for rare species. It is probably best early in the morning, but can be good all day. The area near the bridge, a favored spot for fishermen, is often excellent for loons, which can be quite close and are found on both sides of the road. The best method for coverage is to park at a few spots along the causeway and thoroughly scan the water to the north and south, particularly looking for flocks. At the west end of the causeway there are two sites of interest. On the north side a marina has covered slips close to the road which may have roosting gulls, and ducks are often common along the shore looking north. On the south side is a large boat launch which can give good views of the water in afternoon light; the shoreline south of the boat launch, which can be seen from the causeway, often has roosting Black-crowned Night-Herons.
IMPORTANT NOTE: This is a four-lane road often with heavy traffic including trucks moving at highway speeds, and birding from this causeway requires marked caution. You are allowed to park on the shoulder to fish or bird, but the shoulder is narrow and a guardrail is closely adjacent; use care in pulling off and, particularly, in returning to the roadway. Look before opening doors and exiting/entering your vehicle, and if you cross the road on foot to examine the opposite side be extremely cautious. A suggestion is to scan from the shoulder in front of your vehicle instead of behind for added safety; if you have a window mount for a scope it can be handy to use it from the passenger side of your vehicle. Expect gusts of wind from passing trucks, and this seems the coldest spot in Guntersville, so dress accordingly.
Guntersville Dam South
The south side of Guntersville Dam can be reached in about 15 minutes from the AL 69 Causeway. Continue west on AL 69 and turn right in 3.4 miles on Union Grove Road, then turn right again in 2.3 miles on Snow Point Road (a small but pretty waterfall can be seen behind the building near this intersection). Drive through farmlands to the steep wooded descent into the river canyon. At the bottom, swampy areas can be interesting for Wood Duck and woodland birds. Continue to the south side of the dam, checking wetlands along the way, and park near the rest rooms. You can walk to the shore from here and scan the water below the dam, usually with good light in winter. It can be variably good for gulls here. It is an excellent area for Bald Eagles, both near the dam and looking downstream along the river banks. Drive west along the river to the boat launch for additional beautiful views. This area can be good for woodland birds, and a trail leads farther west along the shore.
The northern end of Spring Creek can be viewed from AL 227 (Lusk Street), though parking is very limited. You can pull briefly into a small space on the right at the western end of the causeway just beyond the pump house; this is at the gated north end of the Spring Creek walking trail, which runs about 1.5 miles along the western shore. View the water near the bridge and take a quick look at the marshy pond to the southwest, all from the gate itself (best not to park here to walk on the trail). Directly across the street on the north side you will see a large gravel parking area along the west shore, often used by trucks. This is private property, but you can park briefly just across the railroad track and view the water to the north and east. (Please do NOT go farther into the property.) In some years this area is excellent for ducks, and usually a few birds are present along the rocky western shore and out in the open water; also look across the water to the bank near the feed plant.
The area to the south where US 431 crosses Spring Creek is usually good. Just west of the highway on the north side, you can walk to a small pier from the Publix parking lot to view the water, and farther west via Thomas Avenue is a boat launch also offering birding without the need for highway precautions.
On the south side of Spring Creek, take the first left after crossing the bridge on Wyeth Drive and immediately turn left again into the small Guntersville Municipal Park. The pier often has a small flock of gulls and is an easy spot to check. View the water to the north, and also look back to the west close to the road, where gulls may congregate if water is low. The inlet to the east of the park (Lindsey Hollow) may have a few birds, and scoping across the water to the lodge and restaurant piers often reveals flocks of resting gulls. Especially if you note something of interest on these piers, it is possible to drive to the lodge/restaurant area and discreetly get closer views; this is done by continuing east on Wyeth Drive and turning north on Val Monte Drive at the signs for Top O’ The River restaurant. Sometimes gulls roost on the roof of the adjacent marina, too. On the west side of the highway south of the creek, Spring Creek Marina occasionally has flocking gulls, which can be viewed either from the causeway or by driving to the parking lot of Wintzell’s Oyster House.
There are many other sites to explore in the region of Guntersville, but these are some of the top areas close to the town. Additional options include visiting the north side of the dam, driving to the end of Buck
Island Road, sites at Lake Guntersville State Park, the shoreline of Town Creek, early morning viewing at
the eagle roost (ask at the state park), the boat launch at the end of Meltonsville Road, multiple shoreline
points and boat landings along north bank of the river from AL 79, etc. Possibilities are endless!