Venture to Spring Migration on
Dauphin Island, Alabama
April 20-25, 2012
Whether we have a “fall-out” of trans-Gulf migrants or not I always love our trips down to Dauphin Island, Alabama. Yes, it’s a bit of a drive down from Asheville via Atlanta and Montgomery all the way down to “LA”, but once down on the island it’s a different world. Of course before we even check into our hotel it’s down to the Shell Mounds to see what has just landed. Birding on the island is always about constantly checking the local hotspots while always keeping one eye on the weather. Our introduction to DI was 10 Scarlet Tanagers sitting in a tree at the Shell Mounds so maybe this was going to be a good year…..
The winds shifted and blew strongly from the northwest but not many birds arrived. There were good numbers of Eastern Kingbirds, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and both Scarlet and Summer Tanagers but no large arrival of warblers. Small numbers of Red-eyed Vireos began to arrive and most patches of woodland now seemed to have a Wood Thrush or two, but where were the Warblers? And now it was time for shorebirds- the West End of the island was now just for the birds so we walked down the beach towards the tidal pools and the masses of shorebirds feeding out in the shallows. The majority were Dunlin, Short-billed Dowitcher and Semipalmated Plover, but mixed in with this crowd were Whimbrel, Red Knot, Sanderling and Ruddy Turnstone- some in sparkling breeding plumage. A Snowy Plover was watched mixed in with some Piping Plovers and a couple of Black-bellied were transitioning into very bright coloring.
A Reddish Egret was racing around in one of the pools and a peregrine flew over scattering shorebirds into the wind.
Another excursion took us inland to Coden and Bayou la Batre. This area had been hammered by hurricanes and had barely begun to recover but overall everything did appear to be on the sleepy side, albeit in a very attractive way. A walk through the piney woods produced great views of a singing Yellow-breasted Chat, a family of Brown-headed Nuthatches and a Confederate Jasmine in full bloom (great scent). There were a few late ducks at the impoundment including Redhead, Shoveler and a distant Sora.
Back on the island the northwest winds pushed the “fall-out” into Fort de Soto in Florida and we never got any large numbers of warblers- I believe we finished with 14 species and about 40 individuals……but who could forget the close views of the Kentucky Warbler or the side-by-side comparisons of Hermit, Gray-cheeked, Swainson’s, Wood Thrush and Veery?
Other highlights included a blue carpet of Indigo Buntings, single male Bobolink and male Orchard Oriole that sat for great views at Fort Morgan and a Clapper Rail that walked into view in the airport pools, plus soaring Swallow-tailed Kites in the Tensaw Delta on our way home.
We finished the trip with about 143 species, but great views of many of them during our Dauphin Island migration week.