Black Belt Birding Festival 2022

Christopher Joe, Casey Girard, and Alex Troutman at the Joe Farm.

Black Belt Birding Festival was a blast. I am so grateful I was able to attend and be a part of it this year’s Fest. This is the second year it has run.
This festival was pulled together by a group of birders that wanted to share their joy of birding and share the history and land of the Black Belt of Alabama. The Joes, @birdsandnaturetours, wanted to share their Black owned Family Farm, the Joe Farm, and the Kites that show up and Meg Ford wanted to bring awareness to the history of the land. These were two of the original folks that brought this together along with Alabama Audubon.

Casey selling at the Vendor Expo Kick-off Event

The event kicked off with a get together at a local park, to share local organizations, vendors and music. It was a lively event that set a tone of we are having fun! I so appreciate everyone that came out and supported the event and my work.

Freya McGregor, the creator of Birdability, came to the event, so we finally got to meet in person and chat.

Casey and Freya McGregor

Day two was all about birding. We started early with birding field trips. I chose to attend one led by Alex Troutman and Wes at the Perry Lake Park & Barton’s Beach Cahaba River Preserve. It was a hidden gem of a spot, with cypress swamp, low land hardwood forests, and river beaches. I got to see my first Cottonmouth!

Then we headed to the Joe Farm! All the morning field trips ended in time to get to the Joe Farm in time to watch Mr Joe mow the field and draw in the Kites. It was truly special to get to be at this family owned farm. Read more about the farm here.

A lunch special was hosted by Abadir’s, the food was delicious.

The event continued with a Keynote by Dr. Rashidah Farid and afternoon field trips, wrapping up Saturday night.

Can’t wait for next year, I hope to see more folks.

Alabama Red-Bellied Turtle


About Them: Alabama Red-Bellied Turtles or Cooters a word derived from “kuta” the word for turtle in Bambara and Malinké the language of enslaved people brought to the south east. These are really beautiful turtles. They start out tiny with red shell bellies and intricately patterned top shells. They reach about a foot long when grown, the females a little larger. They take 4 to 6 years to reach maturity and have clutches of 4 to 9 babies.

Their plight: They live in a very limited habitat making them highly susceptible to human interference. The river delta they live in is dredged disturbing their food source and possibly harming the turtles. They are sought out and taken from the wild as pets. They are prey animals meaning many animals rely on them as a food source. As their population weakens this is a tax they can’t handle. They are often hit by cars trying to cross roads that split the path between different waterways.

What we should consider: When purchasing an exotic pet do the research to make sure you are getting that pet from a reputable captive breeder and not the wild. Avoid purchasing endangered species as pets. There are other red-bellied cooters available make sure it is one that is safe to own.

Nesting locations are in sandy soil that is on land. With river play or exploration it could be very easy to disturb the nest. At one time I’m sure there weren’t enough people causing these disruptions to cause much effect on the population of turtles. Now, there are a lot humans, we are able to spend more time playing and exploring, therefore, are more likely to cause damage to wildlife. It is another complicated balance humans have to reach, we want to explore and enjoy nature, but we ourselves are disruptive even without big machines.

What is being done: The first step of being on the Endangered Species List is a good start. It provides funding to engage actions that protect the turtles. A fence was installed along along Battleship Parkway that helped keep turtles from crossing it as they exited the Mobile-Tensaw Delta and Mobile Bay. It brought down roadway turtle deaths by 80%.

How to help: Continue bringing awareness. Be a thoughtful participant while on any river walk or wilderness hike. Call into state senators when legislation is being passed that could affect the continued support of policy that protects wildlife and waterways. Support locally.

Support can be:

  • donating to science groups
  • helping to ensure funding to the organizations that creating breeding programs
  • being a citizen scientist through
    • land restoration project
    • trash clean ups
    • species counts
    • bio blitzes
  • getting people you know excited about how incredible our planet’s biodiversity is.

Joining your local Audubon Society or other local conservation group is a great first step into finding activities and ways to become a citizen scientist and environmental advocate.

Further Reading, my sources:\

[This is a blog of my opinions. I speak for myself. I am a one person team and if I have misinterpreted a fact or made an error please feel free to get in touch to correct me. I will make edits and updates to post. I would appreciate corrections to be polite. I will not engage in hate.]