|Dauphin Island is one of the most popular places on the Gulf Coast for birding during spring migration. As a classic migrant trap, it can be an overwhelming experience during a spring fallout when a cold front moving southward brings rain and northerly winds that cause birds to literally fall from the sky. Birding can be equally good in the fall but seems to linger longer. Motels are conveniently located for birding as are several excellent restaurants. The loop begins at the water tower on Dauphin Island at the southern end of AL 193, covers the forested eastern portion of the island, then the western portion. The loop then continues across the bridge and causeway to the mainland and ends west of Bayou La Batre.|
|39. Shell Mound Park
[GPS] N30.25586 W-88.10752
From the water tower, drive east on Bienville Boulevard to Iberville Street [0.3], turn left (north) and you will see Shell Mound Park straight ahead. Park on the shoulder and explore the trails through the mounds, which are ancient Indian shell middens. The park is managed by the ADCNR Marine Resources Division, whose offices are on the back side (northeast corner) of the park. Check in the office for a tide table as it will be an invaluable resource if birding for waders and shorebirds. The ancient live oaks provide the insects and cover that neotropical migrants depend on at their first landfall. It is not unusual to see 20 species of warblers here on a good day. Check the information box at the north side of the mounds for recent bird sightings and a bird card for the island. Look northward from here across the field to the feeders on the edge of the lawn. Check for both Shiny and Bronzed Cowbirds that may show up occasionally.
40. Goat Trees
[GPS] N30.25333 W-88.10172
After leaving Shell Mound Park turn left (east) onto Cadillac Avenue and continue east to Grant Street [0.4]. Park on the shoulder out of the traffic and bird the trails amongst the large oaks on the left. Migrants frequently feed in these trees.
|41. Cadillac Square|
[GPS] N30.25172 W-88.10222
Turn right (south) on Grant Street and return to Bienville Boulevard. Across the street you will see Cadillac Square, a roadside park with old live oaks, picnic tables and restrooms. It is also a good place to bird. Black-whiskered Vireo has been seen here in the recent past.
42. Dauphin Island Bird Sanctuary
[GPS] N30.25114 W-88.08761
Continue eastward on Bienville Boulevard passing Audubon Street to the Dauphin Island Audubon Bird Sanctuary [0.9]. Turn right (south) onto a small gravel drive (look for the sign) and proceed to the parking area [100 yards]. During peak migration in mid-April, you may have to park in the median on Bienville Boulevard when the parking lot is full. Check the information box in the parking lot for brochures and study the map. The sanctuary consists of 164 acres of largely maritime pine forest with several miles of trails. Passerines prefer the oak grove of the old Banding Area to the extreme east end of the Campground Trail and the south boundary of the swamp along the Dune Edge Trail. Swainson’s Warbler is regularly found at the Banding Area and Black-whiskered Vireo may be found there occasionally. In addition, a Painted Redstart was seen here in spring 2011, which accounted for the second state record.
43. Pelican Point
[GPS] N30.24978 W-88.07608
Continue eastward along Bienville Boulevard past the ferry landing. You may want to pause here for the restrooms and/or look at the far shore for seabirds, waders and shorebirds. Ferry landings are always good for gulls and terns. Continue past the Estuarium and on around the east end of Fort Gaines to the parking lot at the end of the road [0.9]. This spot provides an excellent view of the Gulf of Mexico and Mobile Pass.
Check the jetties for shorebirds. Black-bellied Plover and Ruddy Turnstone are common. Marbled Godwit and Red Knot are fairly regular in spring along the shore. Bobolinks frequent the field and underbrush between the road and the fort during migration.
|Clapper Rail||44. Airport
[GPS] N30.25746 W-88.12391
Return along Bienville Boulevard back to the water tower. Continue to the next intersection and turn right (north) on Lackland Street after passing the town hall on the left. Proceed on Lackland two blocks to Chaumont Avenue, turn left (west) and continue on Chaumont to Omega Street. Bear right toward the airport where there is marsh on both sides of the road. Continue to the end of the road and park. Observe the no trespassing signs for the airport proper. Though this is a small general aviation strip there is regular helicopter traffic out to the gas wells in the Gulf.
Check the marshes carefully for rails. Clapper Rail is common. In fall and winter, Virginia Rail and Sora are fairly common, though secretive. Yellow Rail is very rare in winter as is Black Rail most of the year. Also check the marshes for Nelson’s and Seaside Sparrows. Check the ponds and sandbars to the north for Reddish Egret. Also in winter, scan the bay for waterfowl including Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Merganser, Horned and Eared Grebes. Long-tailed Duck is an occasional visitor. During spring and fall migration check the brush and trees near Omega Street for passerines, particularly after a front with strong west winds. This is the time and place for possible vagrants.
|Indigo Bunting||45. West End|
[GPS] N30.24877 W-88.19136
From the parking lot, turn right (south) onto Omega Street and proceed to Bienville Boulevard. Turn right (west) on Bienville and continue westward after the boulevard turns to two lanes, and proceed to the parking lot at the end of the road just beyond the turnaround. Parking is not allowed at the turnaround just before the parking lot. Admission is charged at the parking lot when the beach concessions are open. Picnic tables and public restrooms are available here. A spotting scope is recommended to take full advantage of the birding at this locale.
Walk the shore between the water and the high-tide line to avoid disturbing nesting habitat for Snowy and Wilson’s Plovers. Large numbers of gulls, terns, shorebirds and wading birds often congregate along the water’s edge on the sound side of the west end. Watch for seabirds and waterfowl offshore and raptors overhead. Common Nighthawk has been known to breed on the extreme West End. Return to the water tower.
||46. Bayfront Park
[GPS] N30.35748 W-88.11713
From the Dauphin Island water tower, proceed north on Le Moyne Drive (AL 193) across the bridge to the mainland, carefully driving and looking at the same time. Do not stop on the bridge, although the sandbars and shoals will be full of birds at low tide. Continue northward to Bayfront Park on the right (east) [7.7]. This is a county park that affords a good view of the open bay with some marsh habitat. There are picnic tables and public restrooms available. Look for gulls and terns on the pilings in the bay and shorebirds along the shoreline. From the shoreline, walk the boardwalk to an inland marsh. Look closely for Least Bittern and Clapper Rail. During fall and winter, Virginia Rail and Sora are regular, but secretive. Marsh Wren, Common Yellowthroat and Boat-tailed Grackle are also common.
47. Muddy Creek Wetlands Mangaement Area
[GPS] N30.51702 W-88.15276
From Bayfront Park, continue north on AL 193 to a four-way stop [10.2]. Follow AL 193 by turning left (west) and traveling 0.7 miles to the next intersection. Turn right (north), following AL 193 and proceed 0.9 miles to Degussa Road. Turn left (west) on Degussa Road and continue to a stop sign and a railroad track crossing [1.2]. Cross the railroad tracks and turn left onto Industrial Road and travel 0.7 miles to a paved parking lot on the right (north). The Muddy Creek Wetlands Management Area consists of 200 acres of restored wetlands and adjacent uplands managed by the Alabama State Port Authority to mitigate for construction impacts on the Theodore Channel. In cooperation with the Alabama Department of Corrections, restoration actions included clearing rubbish, removing invasive, non-native plants, replanting over 20,000 native trees and shrubs, erecting 80 nest boxes and building an extensive trail system. This national award-winning mitigation project features a 2.3-mile easy-to-walk interpretive trail that traverses through several distinctive habitats offering excellent birding opportunities throughout the year. The upland portions are a reliable place to find Northern Bobwhite, Eastern Wood-pewee, Prairie Warbler and Blue Grosbeak. The trail then leads to a long boardwalk over Muddy Creek and adjacent bottomland forest. Scan the Bald Cypresses, hardwoods and wetland shrubs for an assortment of vireos, warblers and resident species. Eventually, the trail winds to a large beaver impoundment along the northern end of the tract where Wood Duck, Common Yellowthroat and Northern Parula are common. This area is open to the public daily during daylight hours and closes at dark. For additional information about the Muddy Creek Wetlands Management Area, call 251-441-7001.
|48. Bellingrath Gardens
[GPS] N30.43097 W-88.14664
Leaving the Muddy Creek parking lot, turn right (west) on Industrial Road and travel to the Bellingrath Road intersection (CR 59) [1.0]. Take a left (south) and continue 5.7 miles and bear left (east) on a cutoff road toward the gardens. At the intersection, proceed east to the parking lot [1.0]. The entire 900-acre complex is a bird sanctuary and there is an observation tower overlooking the Fowl River and salt marsh. Although good year-round, birding potential for neotropical migrants increases during the spring and fall months. Cruises through the waters of the Fowl River aboard the Southern Belle are available March through November. The gardens open at 8 a.m.; closing time is seasonal. Call Bellingrath Gardens at 251-973-2217 or visit www.bellingrath.org for admission costs to the gardens and the river cruise. Return to Bellingrath Road, turn left (south) and continue to AL 188 [4.0].
49. Coden Belt Road
[GPS] N30.37155 W-88.22811
Turn right (west) at AL 188 and proceed to Clark Road [3.7] in Coden, turn left (south), follow the road to the water’s edge and park at Rolston Park. Continue westward on Coden Belt Road. There will be a few sandbars exposed at low tide, which may be good for shorebirds, gulls and terns. Occasionally a large flock of Black Skimmers can be viewed out over the water. Ruddy Turnstone, Red Knot and Dunlin may be found in winter on the sandbars. If it’s a cold winter there may be bay ducks out on the water.
|50. Henderson Camp Road - Grand Bay Savanna Forever Wild Tract
[GPS] N30.42149 W-88.32637
Coden Belt Road loops back to AL 188 at the Coden Bayou Bridge. Turn left (west) and continue west on AL 188 through Bayou La Batre. Continue following AL 188 by turning left (west) at the McDonald’s [3.4]. Proceed 5.9 miles to Henderson Camp Road and turn left (south). The highlight of this stop is in spring during migration. After 2.5 miles or so, begin scanning the cattle pastures and fallow fields on both sides of the road. In April, look for Swallow-tailed Kite foraging over freshly cut fields and flocks of Whimbrel scattered in the pastures. Whimbrel flock sizes occasionally exceed into the hundreds, making this one of the premier places in coastal Alabama to observe this species during migration. Throughout the winter months American Kestrel, Loggerhead Shrike, Field Sparrow and Eastern Meadowlark are regularly encountered. In spring, Painted Bunting is occasional along fence rows.
Continue south to the gravel parking lot on the left where the pavement ends [3.5] to access the northwestern section of the Grand Bay Savanna Forever Wild Tracts. Four contiguous parcels together make up more than 5,300 acres managed as a nature preserve by the ADCNR State Lands Division and a community hunting area by the ADCNR Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. The tracts host a variety of marsh, bog and lowland forest habitats representative of the northern Gulf Coast. From the parking lot, take either a hiking trail east along the property boundary or walk the dirt road south of the parking lot. Before you enter the property, be sure to check the sheltered billboard during the hunting season. Along the north boundary trail, knee boots are recommended for the low-lying areas the trail crosses. Red-headed Woodpecker, White-eyed Vireo and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher are common here. Alternatively, following the road south allows easy viewing of the pine savanna where residents like Brown-headed Nuthatch are regular year-round. Birding opportunity increases along this stretch during spring and fall migration.
This is the end of the Dauphin Island - Bayou La Batre Loop. Hopefully your tour of the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail was a memorable experience and you will return again and again
to enjoy the extraordinary bird life of our area. Return to AL 188 from Henderson Camp Road. To head for I-10 and Mississippi, turn left (north) and take AL 188 to Grand Bay and I-10.
To retrace your path, turn right and continue eastward on AL 188 to Alabama Port and the intersection with AL 193. At this point you may turn left (north) and return to I-10 and Mobile.
Or, you can turn right (south) and return to Dauphin Island. You may want to stay on the island or take the ferry to Ft. Morgan.
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