Bull’s Gap is a ridgetop trailhead on the 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. Look for breeding Scarlet Tanagers, Black-throated Green Warblers, Ovenbirds, Worm-eating Warblers, and Black-and-white Warblers. 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 observing soaring birds. From mid-September through early November, this area is a good hawk-watching site.
One of the most significant birding sites in Alabama, Coleman Lake is at present the only reliable location in the state for Red Crossbills, and boasts roadside looks at endangered Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. This is a good location for Bachman’s Sparrows. It is also a great spot for viewing migrant and breeding songbirds and is excellent for spring and fall wildflowers, as well.
Bankhead National Forest’s Sipsey Wilderness Trail (Site #15, Northwest Loop) takes the birder a step back in time with its tinkling waterfalls and moss-covered stones decorating one of the finest forests Alabama has to offer.
The Oakmulgee Division of the Talladega National Forest contains the state’s largest population of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. The birds nest and forage exclusively in stands of open, mature pines, where they are easiest to find early and late in the day. The best season is spring, when adult birds are near their nests much of the day. Bachman’s Sparrows are found in the same or similar habitat, and numerous songbirds are found here, both in the pine forest and in nearby tracts of hardwoods. This is an extremely productive area – well worth a special trip.
Payne Lake is a productive site for woodland and riparian birds in all but the dead of summer. Open, mature trees near the lake are excellent for riparian songbirds. The pinewoods slopes along the road to the north have Bobwhites and turkeys. Look for Bald Eagles around the lake, and Swainson’s Warblers, Acadian Flycatchers, Louisiana Waterthrushes, and cuckoos along the nature trail to the extreme north.
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 in its wetlands, and Swallow-tailed Kites and Painted Buntings thinly scattered throughout the forest. Packed with breeding birds and a haven for wintering songbirds and waterfowl, the Conecuh deserves to be listed in the highest echelon of birding sites in Alabama.