Bull’s Gap – Pinhoti Trailhead, Talladega National Forest

Appalachian Highlands | Talladega | Best Seasons: Fall, Spring

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Bull’s Gap is a ridgetop trailhead on the 100+ mile Pinhoti Trail in the Talladega National Forest.  This makes it an excellent site for migrants in spring and fall, as well as for some notable breeding birds. Shortly after turning from AL 148 onto Forest Service 607 in Clay County, you will see a small gravel parking lot to the left.  Park here while exploring the Bull’s Gap area. The Pinhoti Trail crosses FS 607 and AL 148 here. Note the presence of Longleaf, Loblolly, and Virginia Pines along the ridge. Their presence, along with the Chestnut Oaks that dot the ridgeline, serve as indicators that good birds are located here. Look for breeding Scarlet Tanagers, Black-throated Green Warblers, Ovenbirds, Worm-eating Warblers, and Black-and-white Warblers. Blue-headed Vireos and Sharp-shinned Hawks are present in small numbers and may breed here occasionally.

This is an excellent spot for Brown-headed Nuthatches, as well as for Pileated and Hairy Woodpeckers. The ridgeline offers a good vantage point for soaring birds.  From mid-September through early November, this area is a good hawk-watching site.

While you’re parked, be sure to walk along FS 600-1, a narrow, winding gravel road that follows the ridgeline of Horn Mountain.  This creates an edge along the ridge of Horn Mountain providing open sightlines to scan for soaring hawks, vultures, and swifts, and also to scan the trees for songbirds and woodpeckers. The walk along the FS road itself is easy and pleasant. You should expect good numbers of local breeders, with particularly strong numbers of Indigo Buntings and American Goldfinches.

A birding trip to this area could include a visit to the Red-cockaded Woodpecker habitat that is managed along AL 148, roughly 6 miles to the west of Bulls Gap. The open habitat, composed of mature stands of tall pines, is unmistakable, and the trees with woodpecker cavities are clearly marked with rings of white paint. The birds are most evident in these nesting compartments in the very early morning and very late afternoon. The birds spend the rest of the day in and around their foraging stands, which may be as far as a mile  from the nesting and roosting trees. These foraging stands may easily encompass 120 acres or more, making the birds far more difficult to locate. Red-cockaded Woodpeckers spend most of their day near the nesting site during the breeding season, which runs from April to early June in Alabama, making spring the best time to seek this rare bird. However, don’t get close to the active trees during the nesting season. You may disrupt the critical breeding periods.

Other birds present in the Red-cockaded Woodpecker compartments include Brown-headed Nuthatches, Red-headed Woodpeckers, Summer Tanagers, Prairie Warblers, Yellow-breasted Chats, and the rare and local Bachman’s Sparrows. Bachman’s Sparrows are best located by listening for their highly melodic songs in the April to June breeding season. Listen for the “Heeeeere-kitty-kitty-kitty” song and look for the singer on an exposed perch. There are also Northern Bob-white, Wild Turkey and White-breasted Nuthatch present in the woods.

Directions: From US 280 in Sylacauga (Talladega County [fuel, food, lodging readily available along 280] ), exit onto AL 21, and proceed north. In .3 mile AL 21 becomes Broadway; follow AL 21/Broadway an additional 1.9 miles, turning right onto AL 148. Proceed east on AL 148 for 11.3 miles. (Note the open pine stands, managed for for Red-cockaded woodpeckers, on north side of AL 148 in 5 miles.) Forest Service Road 607 is a left turn onto an unmarked gravel road at the crest of a hill. A small gravel parking area is on the west side of FS 607 just after the turn-off from AL 148. The established trail (Bull’s Gap) crosses the FS road and AL 148 at this point.

GPS: 33.1988772 -86.069206

U.S. Forest Service
1001 North Street
(Highway 21 North)
Talladega, AL 35160
256-362-2909

 http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/alabama/about-forest/districts/?cid=fsbdev3_002555

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