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The Southeastern Loop of the Piney Woods Birding Trail (Sites 15-23) traverses the Lime Hills, Dougherty Plain, and Southern Pine Hills. Geologically, the landscape here comprises fossil-rich marine clays, marls, and limestones, which have weathered to a gently rolling topography. In addition to abundant fossil mollusks, sea urchins and shark teeth, two notable vertebrate fossils have been found in this region’s geologic formations.

North America’s oldest primate comes from a thin layer of sand at the base of the Hatchetigbee Formation that was deposited about 54 million ago. And Alabama’s State Fossil, Basilosaurus cetoides, a 45- to 70-foot primitive whale (Archaeocete) is commonly found in the formations of the Jackson Group (33 to 37 million years before present). In fact, Basilosaurus fossils were so common that early settlers used the large vertebrae as andirons for fireplaces and blocks to support cabins. Although much of the area’s forests have been cut and planted in pine plantations, eastern red cedar is still prominent in some areas of the Lime Hills. Long-leaf pine forests once covered much of the Southern Pine Hills.

Today this once-widespread ecosystem is preserved only in the Conecuh National Forest and a few other places, making Conecuh a must-see site for birders. Forest managers in the Conecuh National Forest use management techniques like prescribed burning to maintain and improve long-leaf pine habitat, which is home to such specialists as Bachman’s sparrow and the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.

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. Bird the undergrowth at the boat ramp for Brown Thrashers, Gray Catbirds, and White-eyed Vireos. Norther …

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Iron Bridge access to the Sepulga River Canoe Trail

This is the put-in for a 7.5-mile paddle down the Sepulga River to the Brooklyn take-out (Piney Woods Birding Trail [PWBT] site 18 and southern terminus of the Sepulga River Canoe Trail). Second growth river bottom hardwood forest with a good bit of cy …

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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. Although there are no hiking trails as such, there are poorly maintained access roads in the forest almost all of the way around the lake that can be birded. A US Forest Service sponsored Red-cockaded Woodpecker restoration project is active around the lake.

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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 around the picnic area and lake will produce a number of open woodland species such as Brown-headed Nuthatches, Eastern Bluebirds, Pine Warblers, and Northern Cardinals year-round. Winter brings flocks of American Robins, Chipping Sparrows, and American Goldfinches. Pied-billed Grebes winter on the lake.

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Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center

The Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center in the Conecuh National Forest is operated by Auburn University and 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.This is an excellent birding site. There are multitudes of pinewoods birds, including numerous Bachman’s Sparrows, and good numbers of wetland birds. Swallow-tailed Kites breed nearby. 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.

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Staples Bridge access to the Sepulga River Canoe Trail

Staples Bridge (US Highway 84) is the take-out for the most popular paddle on the Sepulga River Canoe Trail. It is also the put-in for the 13.4-mile paddle to the Iron Bridge (PWBT site 17). The paddle to the Iron Bridge is long and without amenities o …

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Travis Bridge access of the Sepulga River Canoe Trail

This site is the northernmost put-in for the 29-mile-long Sepulga River Canoe Trail and the starting point for an 8-mile paddle down the Sepulga River to Staples Bridge on US Highway 84 (PWBT Site 16). Under normal conditions, this paddle is classified …

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Turtle Point Environmental Science Center

Common Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds are attracted year-round to the diamond leaf and water oak, tupelo, and bald cypress that grow in the wetlands. Brewer’s Blackbirds join them in the winter. Belted Kingfishers are a common sight on Big Escambia Creek as are Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, and Green Herons. Mississippi Kites forage just above the tree tops in spring and summer, and the occasional Osprey may be seen during spring and fall migration.

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