Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Alabama Coastal BirdFest

I am an official hard core birder now, having just attended the recent Alabama Coastal BirdFest, held on Mobile Bay in Alabama. Each morning at 6:30 am, we climbed onto a large tour bus to drive down to the rivers, bayous, marshes and ocean around Mobile Bay. It rained over 9 inches the first day, and we saw more mosquitoes than birds, but went back for the second trip any way. You could see the storm fronts crossing the bay, and we were glad for a nice dry bus when they arrived. Everyone was interested in birds, and very helpful to those who were not expert, pointing out the warblers in the branches and the subtle differences between small shore birds. When asked what birds we would like to find, I answered the Purple Galinule, which we did not see this year, but we added many other new birds to our "life" list. The experts were great help, but we were more proud of the birds we found and identified on our own. On one trip, the group sighted 67 different species, while the next day's group total was 56 species. Dick and I didn't count anything the group saw that we could not find, but still came up with 86 confirmed species that we personally saw in a five day period. As with most birding efforts, some of my photos are terrific, and others a little blurred due to the distance. This will be the first of several posts inspired by this trip. As always, just click on a picture to see a larger version.
We had one American Pelican at the Falls this summer, and everyone was excited to see it. They winter on the Gulf Coast, and we saw the V's of Pelicans coming in by the hundreds at Bayou La Batre. They even napped on a sandbar right off the city pier in Daphne. When nap time was over, they flew to the water, and floated or swam to another island out in the bay in a short time, looking like masses of white marker buoys in the distance.
The Brown Pelicans always put on a show. They can be so graceful when flying in formation, yet so awkward looking when they come in for a landing. Our last night in Daphne, we went to the pier where we had so much luck before, and saw the Brown Pelicans actively feeding, diving into the water with lots of splashing. Unfortunately, it started to rain, and I didn't want my camera and binoculars to get soaked, so we headed back instead of staying to watch. Better rain gear is on my wish list for Christmas. The Gulf Coast has been hard hit by hurricanes in the last five years, yet people keep building back in the same places for the most part. We saw houses tilting on their pylons, waiting for the insurance claims to be settled, two years after Katrina. Only the empty lots remain from other houses. A sand berm was built along the shore on Dauphin Island, intended to give people time to get away before being washed out to sea. Part of the berm was washed away by the thunderstorms alone, leaving a gap like a missing tooth in the wall of sand. The road along this barrier island was flooded. Our big tour bus got water in the electrical system and stalled out in a huge puddle in the road. It's beautiful along the ocean, but Dick and I concluded it would be better financially for the people and ecologically for the birds and the endangered Alabama Beach Mouse, if only camping were allowed there, and no permanent structures. Philosophy aside, we plan to go back to Gulf Shores and make our own birding trips to Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, Fort Morgan and Dauphin Island some year for the spring migration.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great pictures. It is hard to pick a favorite, but the landing in
the water with stopped water molecules is a close winner. I also apreciate the additon of philosophy. A hard core birder has earned the right to pontificate. shall we shp for your rain gear together?