Alabama’s Gulf Coast is lush and thriving with wildlife, and we’re traveling along the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail on this Wild Wednesday just in time as thousands of birds begin migration into the Gulf of Mexico.
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The Alabama Coastal Birding Trail runs along a series of five loops that wander through Baldwin and Mobile counties. Each of the loops offers natural beauty and wildlife to explore and can be enjoyed on a leisurely day trip or a extended weekend getaway. We’re making a stop at the Gulf Shores – Orange Beach Loop that starts at the bridge over Perdido Pass, east of AL 59 on AL 182. Here, you’ll spot the Snowy Plover, which is fond of nesting along the first line of dunes in depressions in the sand far from the water.
As winter settles in you’ll spot Common Loons feeding as the tides change. Keep an eye out for the vagrant Red-throated and Pacific Loon that are often seen feeding along the shore. Take a break, and stop in at the Gulf State Park Nature Center and Education Center to view wildlife exhibit on native animals to the Gulf Coast region. There are naturalist on duty at the center, who can help with photography tips, and the latest updates on bird sighting.
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Travel further down the coast, and you’ll find yourself on the Dauphin Island-Bayou La Batre Loop that is very popular for birding, and starts near the water tower at the southern end of AL 193. When you travel down near the airport you’ll find a trail at the end of the road. Here, you’ll spot the Clapper Rail among the marshes as well as Red-breasted Merganser, as well as Horned and Eared Grebes. If you’re lucky, you may even spot Yellow Rail in the winter. Do be aware of the no trespassing signs for the airport property and avoid these.
At the west end of the Dauphin Island-Bayou La Batre Loop there’s a beach where Snowy and Wilson’s Plovers migrate. There are also many gulls, Common Nighthawks, and other shore birds that frequent the area. This is a great place for a picnic, and there are restroom facilities available.
As you journey along the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail you’ll find many species of birds as well as interesting places to stop along the way. There are a number of nature center’s as well as wildlife and recreation areas offering activities and programs to enjoy too. With the popularity of birding in the region you’ll also find many friendly folks around to offer advice on the best birding spots along the trail.
Tips For Photography Birds Along The Alabama Birding Trail
Nature waits for no one, so be ready, and still. It takes patience to capture a beautiful photo of birds. If you’re patient, the birds may land right in front of you, providing the ideal shooting conditions. Check your settings on your camera, and consider using a fast shutter speed, which will help you capture the action of birds in flight.
When walking along the trails on the Alabama Birding Trail look for a place that will provide a good view of the birds, yet is somewhat out of their line of site. The birds are less likely to fly away if not disturbed; allowing you the perfect opportunity to get some great photos.
Set your camera to the continuous shooting mode. If you’re using an iPhone this is easy to do; just hold down on the shutter button to capture a series of photos. Afterwards, when you start to review the pictures you may find that while you were focusing on a set of birds there was another hiding in the background.
Annual Bird Festivals To Join
Alabama – Festival of the Cranes
The Alabama Coastal BirdFest takes place in October. The next event coming up in the region is the Annual Festival of the Cranes that takes place at the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge located southeast of Decatur. This area is known for attracting Alabama’s largest wintering duck population. There will also be thousands of sandhill cranes trying to find the perfect spot to winter among the white pelicans and whooping cranes. During the festival you can join nature walks, birding workshops, tours of the refuge and more activities.
Florida – Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival
In Titusville, Florida, the Eastern Florida State College will host the Annual Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival in late January. This is considered one of the best birding festivals in the nation, and includes presentations, field trips, as well as a number of classroom and field workshops, and exhibits to enjoy. While in Florida, if you’re cruising along the Keys near Tavernier don’t miss a stop at the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center, where they rescue and rehabilitate wild birds.
New Mexico – Festival of the Cranes
In Mid November in Socorro, New Mexico, they’ll kicked off their Festival of the Cranes at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. Thousands of snow geese call this area home in the winter. You’ll also spot sandhill cranes, and other species of birds popular to the region, and learn more about them on guided tours during the festival and through workshops, and guest speaker lectures.
Quad Cities – Eagle Migration
As winter settles in, Eagles begin to roost in the Quad Cities region of Illinois and Iowa. On Rock Island, Illinois they will host several events like the Bald Eagle Safari, and it an opportunity to talk to expert eagle watchers.
Plan Your Visit Along The Alabama Birding Trail
Some stops along the Alabama Birding Trail charge a small admission, so check with their website as you plan your trip for admission details, and local amenities and accessibility.
For a schedule of activities, guided tours and interpretive programs at the Gulf State Park Nature Center and Education Center call 251-948-7275 ext 124.
Wild Wednesday Facts:
- Pick up a Bird checklist for everyone in your group, and have fun seeing who finds the most birds. You can also download a copy via this link.
- If you’re Birding at Alabama Point along the Gulf Shores – Orange Beach Loop you may spot the federally endangered Perdido Key Beach Mouse.
- As you plan your trip be sure to visit the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism website for ideas on area attractions, festivals, activities, dining options and more to experience after visiting the Alabama Birding Trail.
Do you have a favorite bird?
photos via Melody Schubert unless otherwise noted