Piney Woods, Southeastern Loop, Wiregrass | Covington, Escambia | Best Seasons: Fall | Spring | Winter
The Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center in the Conecuh National Forest is an adjunct facility of Auburn University which hosts classes and conducts research projects throughout the year. The 5,300-acre tract offers a tremendous diversity of plants, many of which provide food and cover for birds. It’s not unusual to be able to stand in one spot and touch four different species of native hollies. A walk through the Dixon Center is nothing less than a short course in botany. Visitors should make it a point to call ahead (334-222-7779) or stop by the HQ to secure permission before venturing out onto the acreage.
There is only one paved road (Dixon Center Road) on the property. Unless you are driving a vehicle with high ground-clearance and/or all-wheel drive, do NOT venture off onto the sandy unpaved roads here – there are flood-prevention ties embedded in the roads, and there are steep drops and jumps all along the way. It would be extraordinarily easy to get stuck on one of the Center’s roads. Consider parking on the shoulder of the paved road and walking in to sample the habitats.
Begin with the entrance road. There are pine forests in various stages of succession all along Dixon Center Road. You should be able to find a great variety of species along the road: Bachman’s Sparrows, Common Ground Doves, Northern Bobwhites, Prairie Warblers, Indigo Buntings, Pine Warblers, Brown-headed Nuthatches, Eastern Kingbirds, Eastern Bluebirds, Eastern Wood Pewees, Summer Tanagers, Orchard Orioles, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, and Red-headed Woodpeckers. A bit less than a half-mile in from US 29 and on the right (east) side of the road is a formerly open cypress swamp. The swamp has grown up to become quite thick now, but do stop to look for Prothonotary and Swainson’s warblers. Both Swallow-tailed and Mississippi Kites nest in the immediate vicinity. Keep an eye on the sky for kites from March through early September.
When you reach the Center’s rustic and charming complex of buildings, stop by the office for a map of the roads and trails. Guest accommodations in its 45-person capacity cabins, dormitories and dining hall are frequently available. Venture out onto Blue Pond Road for the broadest variety of habitats and to get a good look at what the AU forestry students are taught, as the woods here are beautifully managed. Make it a point to see the Dixon Family Cemetery, one of the highest points in the area; it has great vantage points into multiple habitat types.
The Solon Dixon Center is located within the boundaries of the Conecuh National Forest, on the northern edge of the forest between the small communities of Dixie and Rome. For those birding the area, be certain to allot ample time to visit both the Dixon Center and several other sites within the National Forest. The forest offers many locations with large wetlands or open areas that the Dixon area lacks, while the Dixon Center offers a diversity of plant life seldom seen in the vicinity, or for that matter, anywhere else.
GPS: 31.1425766 -86.698377
Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center
12130 Dixon Center Road
Andalusia, AL 36420
From the intersection of US 84/AL 55 and US 29 in Andalusia (all visitor services available) follow US 29 S for 20.3 miles. Turn right (north) onto Dixon Center Road at the sign for the Solon Dixon Center. The center is at the end of the paved road.
Brooklyn access and southern terminus of the Sepulga River Canoe Trail
The Brooklyn access is the southernmost take-out for the Sepulga River Canoe Trail and the take-out for paddles from the Iron Bridge, PWBT Site 17.
Conecuh National Forest
The 83,000 acres of the Conecuh National Forest house scores of Red-cockaded Woodpecker colonies and hundreds of Bachman’s Sparrows in the pine forests. You’ll find breeding Anhingas, Purple Gallinules, Common Moorhens, King Rails, and Least Bitterns …
Florala City Wetland Park
The twin sites along the shores of 500-acre Lake Jackson provide boardwalk access through and above cypress hammocks, palmetto and scrub woods, and dense tangles of wetland and swamp plants. This is a superb site for wetland-loving songbirds, and a r …
Frank Jackson State Park
Frank Jackson State Park is a 2,050-acre park centered on 1,000-acre Lake Frank Jackson, and offers boating, fishing, swimming, hiking, camping, and picnicking. There are also a number of nature trails and boardwalks providing access to islands and m …
Leon Brooks Hines Public Lake (Escambia County Public Lake)
Leon Brooks Hines Lake is a 184-acre man-made lake surrounded by more than 700 acres of long-leaf pine forest that is subjected to regular burns. There are also some small hardwood stands, and a pitcher plant bog is located at the north end of lake. …
Little River State Forest
Little River State Forest is a 960-acre park that includes 25-acre manmade Blacksher Lake and 4.7 miles of hiking trails. The unpaved 1.5-mile Gazebo Road parallels the Gazebo Trail and offers an alternative to the Gazebo hike. Birding the grounds ar …