Please note that this area is part of the Oakmulgee Wildlife Management Area. Be aware of hunting seasons and wear blaze orange when hiking in this area from October through March. The gate will be closed March through October. After exploring these areas along 745A, you may proceed 0.46 miles along FS 745 to the next interpretive site on your left.
Welcome to Forest Service Road 745A. This trail features several points of interest to explore including a well-managed RCW foraging and nesting habitat, a mature longleaf pine plot, and a well-maintained food plot.
This easy 0.32 mile hike along the gravel-lined ridge features longleaf habitat, which showcases RCW foraging areas. In order to create the correct habitat to provide RCWs with adequate food, the USFS uses management methods such as prescribed burning, mechanical removal of unwanted plant species, and the use of herbicides to control unwanted plants. The resulting understory is home to plants such as ragweed, goldenrod, morning glory, wild grapes, winged sumac, and legumes.
This area is divided into four different stands (numbered 14, 22, 19, and 11) maintained using a combination of methods. Visitors may refer to the maps for more a more detailed visual of 745A.
Stand 14 is composed of 157 acres of longleaf pine originating in 1962. In 2006, a grant program through NFWF involving the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), Alabama Power, allowed the USFS to restore/improve habitat health and diversity for the endangered RCW and other southern birds. Find out more at http://www.southerncompany.com/planetpower/pof.aspx.
Stand 14 was chosen for this program. Of the 157 acres in the stand, 74 acres were commercially thinned. The remaining 83 acres were safely and effectively thinned with mechanized logging equipment. Following the thinning harvest, all of the smaller hardwoods were cut down. The hardwood stumps left behind re-sprouted over the next few years. In 2011, the USFS sprayed the understory and mid story, which consisted of these re-sprouted stumps, with a dose of herbicide. The chemical treatment left a pine over story and mostly grass understory, followed by prescribed burns that created a habitat that closely matches pre-European historical conditions. Minus the mid story, the grassy understory and pine over story have become a hatchery for a variety of insects that all types of birds and wildlife eat.
Stand 14 is currently considered forage habitat for the RCW as the individual tree diameters and ages are insufficient to house roost/nest cavities. Adjacent stands contain many cavity trees, both natural and artificial in the three active clusters in residence. In this stand, you can often hear and occasionally see RCWs as they forage insects. In the spring, you are likely to see Turkey hens foraging insects in the grass with their broods.
Further along road 745A is stand 22, where you will find 70 acres of longleaf pine along a narrow ridge. Many of the ridge tops were thinned in 1972 and again in 1986. In 2007 to 2008, 49 acres of this stand were treated by cut-and-leave mid-story removal using chainsaws. The primary tree species choking up the mid story was longleaf pine regeneration. As this stand holds all of the cavities for an active RCW cluster (251), it is important to maintain an open mid story. Longleaf pine is very resistant to fire and often flourishes in post-fire conditions, creating a mid-story concern when prescribed fire is used alone. The mid story must be treated to reduce the number of longleaf saplings per acre.
Stand 19 is a 51-acre longleaf pine stand, which contains RCW cluster 252. It serves as a combination roost/nest area and forage area for the cluster. Portions of this stand, primarily along ridge tops, were thinned in 1972 and again in 1986.
Stand 11 is 35 acres of longleaf pine, portions of which were thinned in 1986 most likely for RCW habitat and longleaf natural regeneration. Stand 11 contains both the roost/nest and some forage habitat for RCW cluster 251.
This open understory also creates an ideal insect habitat that attracts a variety of birds. The Wild Turkey takes advantage of this abundant food source, and plans are in place to make this a future home to Northern Bobwhites.
Birds You May See in the Area:
Year-round: Great Horned and Barred owls; Common Nighthawks; Red-headed, Pileated, and Red-bellied woodpeckers; White-breasted Nuthatches; Pine Warblers; and Chipping Sparrows.
Spring and Fall: Tennessee Warblers, American Redstarts, Magnolia and Chestnut-sided warblers, Scarlet Tanagers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Black-throated Green Warblers, and Bachman’s sparrows.
Summer: Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Chuck-will’s-widows, Eastern Wood-Pewees, Red-eyed Vireos, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Black-and-white Warblers, Wood Thrushes, Yellow-throated Warblers, Acadian and Great Crested flycatchers, Worm-eating and Kentucky warblers, and Summer and Scarlet tanagers.
Winter: Brown Creepers, Winter Wrens, Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned kinglets, Palm and Yellow-rumped warblers, Blue-headed Vireos, Hermit Thrushes, Swamp Sparrows, and Pine Siskins.