The Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center in Conecuh National Forest is an Auburn University facility for classes and research. With diverse plant life and bird habitats, visitors should obtain permission before exploring the 5,300-acre property. Pine forests, cypress swamps, and various bird species can be observed along Dixon Center Road. The center offers guest accommodations, and Blue Pond Road provides a range of habitats and scenic views. Located between Dixie and Rome, the center complements other birding sites in Conecuh National Forest, offering unique plant diversity.
What to Expect
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.