Monday, October 27, 2008

Ft. Morgan Raptors

Once again, weather is not actually changing history, but it does affect our vacations. A dry cold front arrived in the Gulf area overnight, dropping the temperature and whipping the wind in gusts that felt like 40 mph (although the Weather Channel says they were only 18 mph.) Cold, even with a sweatshirt. Brrrr! Tomorrow doesn't look any better. At Bon Secour NWR, we saw a Heron fighting to land in a tree and "treading" air to reach for the branch. With a squawk of frustration, he eventually dropped down to the water as the easier alternative.

Fort Morgan on Mobile Bay is our next stop on the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail, and just right down the road from our condo. The sign notes that this site is Internationally important. Its wooded areas give shelter and food to migrating birds going both north and south every year. With the wind pushing us around, I felt a great sympathy for the poor little birds trying to fight their way through the air. Near the Fort itself, we struggled and finally gave up, eating lunch in the car, instead of exploring more. Yet in the "Middle Ground" and the "Stables" area, I could share the relief birds must feel. The pine trees broke the power of the wind, and reflected the sun to the ground, warming the sheltered area. Enormous old live oaks provided even more sheltered space in their branches and leaves. We saw warblers -- we think they were Yellow, Magnolia and Louisiana Waterthrushes-- along with a vocal group of Bluebirds and Blue Jays.
The Fort Morgan area is known for hawks migrating through as well, and we really hit the jackpot today with raptors. Unlike the songbirds, the raptors seemed to enjoy the strong winds, soaring gracefully through the air. We saw Merlins, American Kestrels and Harrier, all from the warmth of our car in the parking lot! The strong wind made it easy for the Kestrels to "kite", hovering in one place without moving a wing. Then they landed on a phone line to search for another tidbit in the mowed grass. The Harrier swooped close to the ground, as usual, showing his white rump when he turned for another attack. The Merlins would soar nearby, then disappear, only to pop up again down the road. A Red Tailed Hawk enjoyed the gusts, causing me to have a big case of BIADD (Bird Induced Attention Deficit Disorder)! Good thing there wasn't much traffic on the road, because I drove slowing and stopped whenever something interesting appeared.

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