Spring Break Nature Fun

As winter is winding down so that spring can be ushered in with its bright blooms and fascinating migrants, Alabama State Parks have plenty of sights to see. We encourage you to take advantage of the warming weather and plan a visit to the parks. Spring break is coming up for many of you, and the parks are a great way to get the kids outside. Spending time in nature has been shown to have many benefits, and the Nature Conservancy put together a great infographic detailing some of these (see below). Whether you find time to explore in your own backyard or plan an adventure to one of our 22 parks, we hope that you discover something new about Alabama’s rich natural resources. To help plan your spring outing, check out this great scavenger hunt from the Nature Rocks program of the Nature Conservancy. If you have questions about any of the treasures on the list, one of the Alabama State Park naturalists is just an email away! You can also check out the Alabama State Parks Calendar of Events for fun upcoming activities.

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Go explore!

Header photo credit: 2015 Outdoor Alabama Photo Contest; Mammals Honorable Mention-Angela Regner 

Focus On Nature

Header photo: A great blue heron shows off its plumage for this great photo taken during Focus on Nature, 2014

Alabama State Parks are full of quiet places to retreat from hustle and bustle and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. Alabama offers both its residents and visitors opportunities to see an overwhelming variety of plant and animal species. From the foothills of the Appalachians to the Gulf of Mexico, Alabama provides habitat to the fifth largest number of plant and animal species of any state in the United States! In coming posts, we will explore some of these amazing species, and highlight the many Alabama State Park destinations that provide opportunities to explore trails and watch wildlife. There are also exciting events scheduled throughout the year which feature noteworthy speakers and guided activities to help you learn about and enjoy our vast natural resources.

Joe Wheeler State Park will be hosting such an event at the end of February. Focus on Nature will be held February 27 to March 1, and plans for the weekend include field trips and presentations emphasizing nature photography. The weekend will cater to both novice and experienced photographers, and everyone is welcome. You can find more information about lodging and dining packages along with the weekend itinerary at the event’s web page or on Joe Wheeler State Park’s Facebook page.  

Plan your trip today to spend time enjoying the biodiversity Alabama has to offer. Try your hand at capturing a stunning photo of one of the many common species in the park. You may stumble upon a nesting pair of wood ducks or a great blue heron waiting for it's next meal. A whitetail deer may offer the perfect photo opportunity as it browses through the park or perhaps you can capture the beauty of a bald eagle through your camera lens. 

Return

For many people, the month of January is a time to return from the holiday schedule to work, school, and the normal routine. For the folks at Lake Guntersville State Park, January represents the return of the esteemed Eagle Awareness weekends. This year marks the 30th anniversary of Eagle Awareness, and there is a sense of excitement in the air with each of this year’s programs. Not only is the celebration in honor of the founders and participants who have made the program successful through the years, but also for the achievement of bald eagle restoration in Alabama.

THE RETURN OF THE BALD EAGLE

The word “return” implies that there must have been a departure. Unfortunately, there was a time when spotting a bald eagle in Alabama was a scant occurrence due to serious population decline. This decline was caused primarily by the effects of the pesticide DDT, habitat degradation, and poaching. In 1984, the Nongame Wildlife Program of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources began a bald eagle restoration project. Eagle Awareness was created to coincide with these efforts, and to promote the importance of conserving our natural resources. Between 1985 and 1991, 91 juvenile bald eagles were released in Alabama as part of this project to restore Alabama’s nesting population. Researchers now estimate there are more than 77 nests in the state, and the restoration efforts are revered as a true conservation success.

This success can be seen firsthand during one of the eagle watching field trips during Eagle Awareness Weekends at Lake Guntersville State Park. While seeing photos and watching nest cameras can cause you to pause and appreciate our nation’s symbol, there is something very special and almost indescribable about seeing these powerful birds in flight over the beautiful landscape of Lake Guntersville. On January 4, 2015, a handful of folks witnessed quite the display as nearly 30 bald eagles flew over the Town Creek Fishing Center in less than an hour and a half. An early morning showing like that is not easily forgotten, and one that is sure to trigger a sense of pride in the conservation efforts that caused the return of nesting bald eagles to Alabama.

THE RETURN OF FRIENDS

    

Great eagle watching opportunities along with exciting (and free!) programs featuring live birds of prey are just a couple of the reasons folks come back to Eagle Awareness each year. Return guests are yet another success of the Eagle Awareness program.  Not only is their support of Alabama State Parks deeply appreciated, but their excitement over conservation efforts is to be applauded. Passing conservation education from one generation to the next is a task of utmost importance to Alabama State Parks, and seeing it in action during Eagle Awareness weekends is truly humbling. During the opening weekend of Eagle Awareness this year, there was a family in attendance who first starting participating in the Eagle Awareness programs nearly 25 years ago! They faithfully made the drive this year from the southern part of Alabama with their (now college-aged) children, and spent time reminiscing over one of their first visits when their oldest child was but a toddler. What special memories! Their story is just one of many of the longtime friends of Eagle Awareness at Lake Guntersville State Park.

PLAN YOUR RETURN (OR YOUR FIRST TRIP) TO EAGLE AWARENESS

Whether you are an Eagle Awareness pro or would be a first time guest, you are invited to experience the excitement of the 30th anniversary of Eagle Awareness. Come celebrate the return of the bald eagle to our state and enjoy watching them as they soar above the beauty at Lake Guntersville State Park during one of the many field trip opportunities. There are still lodging and dining packages available, but hurry before they are gone! Also be sure to check out the schedule of presenters and hop on over to Outdoor Alabama Weekly to read the weekly column by David Rainer with more information about this year’s Eagle Awareness events.

    
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