Date: 10/17/20 3:52 pm
From: Greg D. Jackson <g_d_jackson...>
Subject: [ALbirds] Oxford area explorations this morning (17 Oct) and a conservation question
AL Birders:

Wanting to do something different, I headed east before sunrise to the
Oxford area, arriving just in time for the drive-thru at Panera to open
for much needed coffee and sustenance. My first target was nearby
Choccolocco Park, based on a brief visit there a couple of weeks ago
while returning from a work stint in Atlanta. When Debi and I drove
through then, we were thrilled to find vast fields of chest-high
wildflowers and mixed grasses, especially at the back of the park, with
a great access road and several trails cut through the fields. These led
to meandering Choccolocco Creek and some great-looking hardwood forest.
Though we didn't have time to really bird then, it was exciting to find
such beautiful and accessible habitat.

So when I arrived in the Park I nearly dropped my breakfast wrap. The
/entire /park, from entrance gate to the woods, had been completely
mowed! I mean every-last-plant-to-the ground kind of mowed. I was
crushed! Why would they have gone to the trouble of cutting obvious
walking and access trails, just to completely denude the place shortly
thereafter? Not even a tiny buffer was left at the woodland or creek
borders, as the mowers had worked not only to, but through the trees
along the creek. Acres upon acres of great habitat for sparrows and
other field species, as well as butterflies and other wildlife, just
obliterated for no reason. The "hay" rolls were all that remained,
though surely the value of those rolled weedy plants couldn't be too high.

Trying to make some lemonade out of the lemons, I walked the perimeter
of the now quite expansive lawn, hoping for a few late migrants in the
hardwoods. The creek itself didn't yield much, but I did find a nice
flock of migrants at the edge of the back woods, such as Blue-headed and
Phildelphia vireos and several warblers including Tennessee,
Bay-breasted, Blackburnian, Chestnut-sided, and Black-throated Green. As
can be imagined, sparrows were now quite scarce, so I was surprised to
find an immature White-crowned.

The change in habitat forced a change in plans. Since I was in the area,
I decide to go up beautiful Choccolocco Mountain, in Mountain Longleaf
NWR. Driving to Bains Gap, I headed south on the ridge road.
Unfortunately, the wind had really kicked up, making birding quite
difficult. Even in the few relatively calm spots, bird activity seemed
diminished. But what a stunning place! I've been up there several times
in the past, mostly in spring and summer, and it's wonderful. The forest
is somewhat dry in most spots of the mountain, with some areas mostly
pine, others mostly hardwood, and a lot of mixed habitat in a rocky
soil. When I'm there I feel like I'm farther north in the Appalachians
rather than in Alabama. Winter was already on the mountain in terms of
birdlife, with no transients seen but several wintering birds already
present. These included my FOS junco, and I'm now officially enrolled in
the I've-seen-a-Red-breasted-Nuthatch-this-fall Club.

Now for the conservation question. Choccolocco Park, which I believe is
administered by the City of Oxford, is a large tract (370 acres) which
seems to pride itself on a multi-purpose philosophy. While sports are
emphasized, there are walking trails and even historical/archeological
points of interest, as there is evidence of habitation going back 10,000
years and even a mound complex was on the site. The park is a partner
with Choccolocco Creek Watershed, so has some conservation-oriented ties
already. While the damage to this habitat is already done for rest of
this fall and winter season (in Southern Speak: "they've done gone and
did it!"), it would be wonderful to work out something to lessen that
impact next year. This area has great potential for enthusiasts of
birds, wildlife, butterflies, and plants. I don't mind trying to help
with this, but I'm just a stranger from Birmingham, likely easily
ignored. Trying to go through the Watershed folks might be promising. If
anyone has insight into the situation, the organizations, etc., please
contact me off list.



Greg D. Jackson

Birmingham, AL


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