Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Birding at Turkey Creek (A Photo Essay)

Back in March, I joined the Birmingham Audubon Society for a field trip to the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve about 15 miles north of Birmingham out Highway 79. The director, Charles Yeager, gave us a brief introduction and history of the preserve. It covers 466 acres and was purchased by Alabama’s Forever Wild program and was established through a partnership with Forever Wild and the Freshwater Land Trust. Yeager said that three tons of garbage was hauled out of the area before it could be made ready for visitors, opening its gates to the public in 2009.

Birmingham Audubon Society photo
The Turkey Creek Nature preserve is home to a number of endangered species. There are three endangered species of fish: the Vermilion Darter, the Watercress Darter and the Rush Darter. The Vermilion Darter occurs only in Turkey Creek and nowhere else in the world. It is also home to a threatened bat species (long-eared bat), an endangered bat species (grey bat), an endangered turtle (flattened musk turtle), and an endangered flower (eared cone-flower).

Of course, the original inhabitants of the area were the Native American tribes. One of the first white settlers at Turkey Creek was David Hanby, a blacksmith who set up a mill and blacksmith shop. He was an entrepreneur who made the needed household and farming tools for farmers who came to settle the area. There is currently an archaeological dig at the preserve which has located the site for Hanby’s smith shop.

Photo from the TCNP Facebook sight

The Sights

On our hike along Turkey Creek, we were first greeted by a barred owl, who sat on a tree branch just past the entry gate. He was the only creature who stopped for a photo shoot, with several of us getting some nice shots. We also saw a beautiful blue heron coming up from the water. He flew overhead a couple of times, perhaps checking to see if we had gone yet, but did not stop of pictures. Other birds sighted were phoebes, ruby-crowned kinglets, and a sapsucker. One person sighted both a pileated and a downy Woodpecker. We also caught sight of a couple of hawk soaring aloft just above the treetops.

In addition to the birds, there were many sights of natural beauty along the way. Yeager told us that Turkey Creek flows over a fossilized creek bed and was actually formed before the Appalachian Mountain range emerged. 

The creek is fed by numerous streams flowing out from the rocks and ledges, making it some of the purest, cleanest water around. 

Here is a view of the creek looking down from the ridge as the trail begins to ascend to higher elevations.

If you look closely, you can spot a young anole, sometimes referred to as an American chameleon, climbing up the rock.

This hawk weed’s blossom was closed up when we first passed by, but on our way back, it had opened up in the sunlight.

   There was a beautiful ground cover of these purple flowers
along the lower ridge just above the creek.

Lovely patches of mosses and lichen were found in the rocky area beside the falls. Here one can see lichen, green moss, reindeer moss (a type of lichen), and prickly pear cactus, all growing together. 

More Reindeer moss, or reindeer lichen. A lichen is an organism that consists of fungus and unicellular algae living in symbiosis. 

An old moss-covered tree trunk leans out over the water.

This beautiful area serves as a popular swimming hole 
during the summer months.

Dramatic rock outcroppings  can be seen along the way.

Water drips from several places on the rock cliffs above the creek.

A Few Parting Shots

* All photos were taken by Charles Kinnaird unless otherwise noted

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Details about Turkey Creek Nature Preserve

The following information about Turkey Creek is taken from the Southern Environmental Center at Birmingham Southern College which is in partnership with the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve:

Turkey Creek offers: 
  • Stunning beauty and unique habitats
  • A five-mile national recreational trail system
  • One of the state's top swimming spots
  • A home for three federally endangered fish species
  • One of Jefferson County's first settlements
  • Hands-on educational opportunities
  • Group and individual picnic areas
  • Annual events for the community and public 

Hours and Directions

TCNP is open Wednesday-Sunday the following hours:
8 a.m.-4 p.m. November-March
8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. March-November
Pedestrian only hours: Friday and Saturday, 7 a.m.-9 a.m.

Find us at:
Turkey Creek Nature Preserve
3906 Turkey Creek Road
Pinson, AL 35126

Charles Yeager
Turkey Creek Preserve Manager
Phone- (205) 680-4116

From downtown Birmingham:
Take 1-20 E/1-59 N
Take the Tallapoosa Street exit/#128
Merge onto AL-79 N/Tallapoosa Street
Continue on AL-79 N for 11.9 miles
Turn left on Narrows Road at the intersection of AL-79 and AL-151
Turn right onto Turkey Creek Road

From Huntsville:
Take US-231 S for approximately 60 miles to AL-79 S
Continue on AL-79 S for 23.5 miles
Turn right onto Narrows Road at the intersection of AL-79 and AL-151
Turn right onto Turkey Creek Road



  1. Thanks for sharing these pictures and for reminding us all of the natural world and it's availability to those who seek it.

  2. Thanks for sharing these pictures and for reminding us all of the natural world and it's availability to those who seek it.


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