|This loop begins at the intersection of AL 59 and US 98 in Foley. It is an inland route featuring sites offering an interesting mix of habitats and providing great opportunities to see a diversity of species. This section is not really a loop but several excursions off of AL 59.|
|16. Lillian Swamp Forever Wild Tract
[GPS] N30.42215 W-87.41866
From AL 59 in Foley, turn right (east) onto US 98 and drive to Lillian [15.0]. In Lillian, turn left (north) at the last stoplight before the bridge onto Boykin Blvd. Continue to Oak Street [1.7], turn left (north) and park in designated parking area. There is no parking or entrance fee. Be sure to check the billboard for hunting season dates. Enter from the parking lot (past locked gate) and follow the sandy roads into the tract. Bicycles are allowed, but can be difficult to use where roads traverse through deep sand. Lillian Swamp encompasses nearly 3,000 acres managed for conservation by the ADCNR State Lands Division and hosts a variety of habitats representative of the lower Coastal Plain. At any time of year, Northern Flicker, Blue Jay, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Eastern Bluebird, Brown Thrasher and other resident species are common in the piney uplands and adjacent thickets. In spring and fall, varying assemblages of migrants can be seen depending on weather conditions. Continuing north on the road, the piney uplands transition to forested swamplands and open pitcher plant bogs. These areas are good for wintering sparrows, migratory shorebirds, waterfowl and an assortment of waders. Recent notable winter sightings include Rusty Blackbird, a species of high conservation concern. Osprey and Bald Eagle are seen regularly year around, particularly along the Perdido River to the east. Because of the large size of this tract, be prepared to spend at least a half day and bring plenty of water, snacks and insect repellent.
17. County Road 95 Park/Arnica Bay
[GPS] N30.31500 W-87.53737
Return to US 98 in Lillian and turn right (west). Continue to CR 95 [6.7] and turn left (south). While traveling down CR 95, watch for Loggerhead Shrike on the power lines. Proceed to the end of CR 95 [7.3], which dead ends overlooking Arnica Bay. This site is a small public access point maintained by the county. Various species of wintering waterfowl may be seen. Also look for Brown-headed Nuthatch in the surrounding pines.
18. Graham Creek Nature Preserve
[GPS] N30.34847 W-87.62774
Return to US 98, take a left (west) and proceed through the town of Elberta to the Foley Beach Express [6.1]. Take a left (south) on the Expressway and travel to CR 12 [3.6]. Turn left (east) onto CR 12 and continue 1.3 miles to Wolf Bay Road and turn right (south). Follow Wolf Bay Road south and around sharp curve to the east and the nature preserve entrance is on the right [0.7]. The nature preserve is 484 acres and is managed by the City of Foley. In addition to protecting a portion of the Wolf Bay watershed, this preserve also possesses open pine forest with extensive wire grass and pitcher plant bogs. The combination of habitats is attractive to a diversity of bird species including Northern Bobwhite, Great Blue Heron, Red-tailed Hawk, Loggerhead Shrike, Yellow-throated Vireo, Pine Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Summer Tanager, Blue Grosbeak and several species of waders along the creek.
Birding potential increases during migration in spring and fall. Additionally, watch for secretive wintering sparrows like Grasshopper Sparrow foraging between wire grass clumps or within the pitcher plant bogs. Recreational amenities include several jogging/hiking/biking trails, a canoe launch, several wildlife viewing areas, a pavilion and picnic area, and a new comfort station. The preserve is open daily during daylight hours and there is no admission fee. Guided tours are available by appointment. For more information about the preserve and upcoming events, call 251-952-4011.
|19. Magnolia Springs Landfill|
[GPS] N30.44683 W-87.77292
From Graham Creek Nature Preserve (ACBT 18), return west on CR 12 (passing through the Foley Beach Express) to AL 59 [3.0], turn right (north) and proceed to the AL 59/US 98 intersection [3.5]. Turn left (west) onto US 98 and continue to CR 49 in Magnolia Springs [5.0]. Turn right (north) on CR 49 and continue straight through the CR 24 intersection to a sharp curve westward [2.5], and continue another 0.4 miles to the entrance of the landfill on the right (north). This is a county landfill and is open Monday-Friday 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. Proceed to the second gate and enter the landfill. Park in the parking area and stop by the office to ask permission to access the birding sites. Bird checklists are available in the office. After checking in, drive straight ahead (east) and proceed up the hill. At the top, turn left (north) and park well off to the side of the road. A path leads to a viewing platform offering birders a vantage point to thoroughly scan for wintering gulls and other birds. Ninety-nine percent of the gulls utilizing the landfill in winter are comprised of Laughing, Ring-billed, and Herring Gulls, but rarities like Franklin’s, Thayer’s, Iceland, Lesser Black-backed, and Glaucous Gulls are all additional possibilities. American Pipits (winter), Fish Crows and both vultures are also regular. In January 2009, a Snow Bunting was seen, accounting for the first state record. As you leave the landfill, be sure to check the small ponds on the west side of the entrance road for waterfowl and shorebirds during the winter months.
|Magnolia Springs Landfill|
Note: While visiting the landfill, take care not to block or otherwise interfere with the heavy machinery. Do not enter the pit area for any reason. View birds from the roadside or designated sites only..
20. Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
[GPS] N30.41917 W-87.82968
Return to Magnolia Springs and turn right (west) on US 98 and proceed about four miles. After crossing the Fish River, turn into the Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve on the left. The Visitor Center is only a short distance from the highway and provides restrooms, bird checklists and other informative material. Inquire here about recent sightings. Explore along the boardwalk leading to an observation platform viewing Weeks Bay. To the east of the center is a paved trail (paralleling the south side of US 98) that leads to the new Arthur C. “Skipper” Tonsmeire III Weeks Bay Resource Center. Next to the resource center is a public boat launch. At any season, watch or listen for Brown Pelican, Clapper Rail, Sora (winter), Laughing Gull, Royal Tern, and Marsh Wren. At dusk, this is also a regular place to find Great Horned Owl. Hours are Monday-Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For guided tours call 251-928-9792.
|20A. Weeks Bay NERR -- Pitcher Plant Bog Trail
[GPS] N30.41615 W-87.81902
Exit Weeks Bay Reserve and turn right (east) on US 98, continue over the Fish River bridge and turn left onto CR 17 [0.8]. Then proceed 0.3 miles to the pitcher plant bog parking lot on the right (east). The boardwalk offers a pleasant walk with interpretive signs along the way. The boardwalk circles a pitcher plant bog and then continues to its terminus overlooking the Fish River. Bird species expected include Brown Pelican, Osprey, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Common Yellowthroat, Pine Warbler and Indigo Bunting.
|Male and Female Lesser Scaup|
21. Mullet Point County Park
[GPS] N30.41680 W-87.90805
Exit the Weeks Bay Reserve parking lot and turn left (west) on US 98; continue approximately five miles to where US 98 turns abruptly north. Continue straight (west) at this intersection and bear to the left on CR 1, and proceed south approximately 0.4 miles to the Mullet Point County Park on the right. There is ample parking, portable restrooms and picnic facilities. The Park provides an excellent view of the bay from an elevated perspective. This has been a good site in the winter for waterfowl. Surf and Black Scoters have been seen here in the cold weather months.
|22. Bon Secour Bay|
[GPS] N30.30164 W-87.73741
Return east on US 98 back to Magnolia Springs and turn right (south) on CR 49 [8.5]. Proceed through the little village, crossing Magnolia River and continue south on CR 49. Where CR 49 eventually curves east [6.1], it will cross Skunk Bayou and continues eastward crossing CR 19 [1.4] to CR 10 [2.2]. Turn right (south) onto CR 10 and continue to River Road, the main street of Bon Secour. Turn right (west) a few hundred yards to the waterfront and a seafood wharf. Park in the parking lot and scan the bay and the small canal next to the parking lot. In winter look for Black-crowned Night Heron in addition to the usual gulls and terns. Return along River Road, continuing past CR 10 to the eastern end. Park in an out-of-the-way location and walk to the shore where you can look northeast up the Bon Secour River. Please be sure not to trespass on private property, which includes all the piers along the river. In winter look for Hooded and Red-breasted Mergansers and Horned Grebe; Eared Grebe is also a possibility.
|Male and Female Hooded Merganser|