The Anniston Museum of Natural History offers the visitor opportunities to bird an attractive mature hilltop pine-oak forest with easy access and good lines of sight.The area around the museum itself is open to the sky, and hawks and vultures are often seen soaring above the complex here. There is a courtyard with a water feature at the museum. There are usually Eastern Phoebes present here. To the left (south) of the parking area and the museum’s main building, a loop nature trail passes through the woods. The trail winds by a series of enclosures containing several species of live hawks and owls. The trees above harbor breeding songbirds from March until mid-June. A good variety of mid-story and canopy species native to north and central Alabama may be found here. The best time of year for the site, however, is spring and fall, when the hilltop forest becomes a first-class place to look for migrants.
The Anniston Museum of Natural History serves as a ‘Gateway’ site for the Appalachian Highlands Birding Trail. This is a good place to get information about the birding trail system. You can also get a checklist of birds seen on the Museum grounds on the Museum’s website, www.annistonmuseum.org. While you’re at the Museum, don’t miss the opportunity to see the Museum’s exceptional collection of mounted bird specimens collected in the 19th century, including Ivory-billed Woodpeckers, Carolina Parakeets, Eskimo Curlew, and Labrador Ducks.
Be sure to spend some time at the Jaycees Park, on the right side of Museum Road, just off US 431. The park’s highlight is a pond, which is generally occupied by resident Canada Geese and Mallards as well as occasional Wood Ducks or other passing waterfowl. Water is the greatest attraction for wildlife, and this pond is no exception. When the area is quiet, Green Herons and the occasional Great Blue Heron or Yellow-crowned Night Heron may pay a visit to the pond or to the rocky stream. A good representative sample of the songbirds of central Alabama may be seen around the pond in all seasons. Watch for Winter Wrens along the rocky banks and bed of the stream that feeds the pond, and for Cedar Waxwings, Myrtle Warblers, and winter finches in the hardwoods near the water. Summer brings flycatchers, particularly Great Crested and Eastern Wood Pewees; Eastern Bluebirds and Pine Warblers are always present.
Follow to the right (S) and park at the end of the road to continue birding the remainder of the park. Check the edges and tangles for White-eyed Vireos from spring to fall. Indigo Buntings are fairly common along the woodland edges during this period, when Wood Thrushes call from the deeper woods, and Hooded and Kentucky warblers are present in the understory.
Directions: From I-20 in Calhoun County, take exit 185 (Anniston/Oxford) and turn left onto S. Quintard Avenue (US 431). There is gas, food, and lodging here and along US 431. Follow northbound Quintard/US 431 approximately 7 miles, turning left on Museum Street. Jaycees Park is immediately to the right. Follow the signs up the hill to the museum.
GPS: 33.6973 -85.8206
Anniston Museum of Natural History
800 Museum Drive
Anniston, AL 36206
Amenities: parking, trails, restrooms, gift shop
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10 A.M.-5 P.M., Sunday 1P.M.-5P.M.
Fee: Adults $6, Children 4-17 $$5, Under 3 Free, Over 60 $5.50