D. Eastern Shore, Mobile Bay Causeway and Blakeley Island Loop

This loop covers the northern portion of the Eastern Shore from Fairhope to Daphne, then crosses Mobile Bay on the Causeway (US 90/98) and continues northward up US 90A to Blakeley Island. The final site is on US 43 and offers a picnic area and boardwalks overlooking Chickasaw Creek. The balance of this loop will generally involve birds at a distance and a spotting scope is very helpful, if not necessary. There are many accommodations for food and lodging in the area, particularly around the intersection of US 98 and I-10 at exit 35.

Eastern Shore, Mobile Bay Causeway and Blakeley Island Loop Map
23. Fairhope Municipal Pier and Beach
[GPS] N30.52456 W-87.91165
This loop begins at the municipal park at the west end of Fairhope Avenue just off US 98A in Fairhope. There is no charge for the pier, but in summer there is a charge for entry to the beach. The pier is a good location for winter ducks, loons, gulls and terns.

Eastern Shore, Mobile Bay Causeway and Blakeley Island Loop - Sites 23-27 - Map

24. Village Point Park
[GPS] N30.62872 W-87.91215
From Fairhope Municipal Park, follow Fairhope Avenue east to the center of Fairhope and turn left (north) onto US 98A (N. Section Street) [0.5]. Follow US 98A through Montrose to Daphne, turning left (west) at Village Point Park [7.9]. At approximately 70 acres, Village Point Park is the largest park in the city of Daphne. A parking lot with bathrooms and a picnic pavilion marks the beginning of a 3,000-foot main trail that takes visitors westward toward Mobile Bay. Along the bay are a pier and an extensive boardwalk where visitors can walk north towards Bayfront Park, another Daphne city park. Mixed pine and hardwoods dominate the property. Yancey Branch flows along the southern boundary of the park and a small marsh is found near the bay. Common residents include Red-bellied Woodpecker and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. On occasion, Great Horned and Barred Owl might be encountered. Great Blue Heron, Great Egret and Tricolored Heron can be seen along the shores of the bay and marsh. Birds seen year around over water include Brown Pelican, Laughing Gull and Caspian Tern. In winter, Double-crested Cormorant, American White Pelican, Ring-billed Gull and Forster’s Tern are common. Gadwall is the dominant winter duck, although Green-winged Teal, Lesser Scaup and Bufflehead can be common at times. Bald eagle is not uncommon from this vantage point as well.
Belted Kingfisher
Belted Kingfisher

25. D'Olive Bay Overlook
[GPS] N30.66917 W-87.93565
Just before the intersection with I-10 [1.5], D’Olive Bay overlook is on the left (west) behind the Shell service station. This spot provides an excellent view of the bay. In winter, check the bay for ducks and pelicans as well as wading birds year around. In addition, Peregrine Falcons are occasionally seen perching on top of the causeway light poles along I-10.

Tricolored Heron
Tricolored Heron
26. Meaher State Park
[GPS] N30.65145 W-87.91349
From the D’Olive Bay overlook, continue north on US 98 across I-10. You can either turn left (northwest) on US 98 and go to the next site, Meaher State Park (skip to next paragraph for directions to Meaher State Park). Or, you can continue straight 0.1 miles and take the next left onto Larry Dee Cawyer Drive and stop at the Scenic Overlook, which is atop the hill and surrounded by a rock wall. Area information and restrooms are available at the overlook, which is also the location of the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce.

Least Terns
Least Terns at Meaher State Park

From the Scenic Overlook, return to US 98, turn right at the light (west) and proceed to the junction of US 90/98/31 (Mobile Bay Causeway). Continue west on the Mobile Bay Causeway to the entrance of Meaher State Park on the left (south) [1.9]. Picnic facilities and restrooms are available here and the park closes at sunset. Stop at the gate house to pay a nominal entrance fee and then drive to the shell road, which runs a quarter mile to the boardwalk trail. Park here (there is a chain across the shell road at this point) and walk on toward the boardwalk that extends out into Mobile Bay. In winter, watch for Swamp and White-throated Sparrows as you approach the boardwalk. Herons, egrets, and gulls can be seen from the boardwalk, and rarely Least Bittern (summer) and Clapper Rail. In winter, American White Pelican finds this a favorite spot as do large rafts of waterfowl. In summer, this is a great place for terns, including Gull-billed Tern. In addition, Least Terns often gather on the railings of the boardwalk offering excellent views. On the south side of the island, looking west into the bay, there are often White Ibis. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron can be frequently seen near the entrance eating crabs.
27. 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center
[GPS] N30.67511 W-87.93106
Leaving Meaher State Park, proceed directly across US 90/98/31 and follow the signs to 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center. This facility is managed by the ADCNR State Lands Division for outdoor recreation, conservation and land stewardship. Its name recognizes the five rivers of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, which include the Mobile, Spanish, Tensaw, Apalachee and Blakeley Rivers (from west to east) that flow into Mobile Bay. These drainages encompass over 250,000 acres of meandering waterways, floodplain forests and extensive wetlands. The center features an exhibit hall, theater, gift shop, Delta boat tours, canoe and kayak rentals, hiking trails, and picnic areas. Visit the website for hours of operation and upcoming programs and events: www.alabama5rivers.com

The decks of the Delta Hall and the perimeter trail around the facility provide excellent vantage points to observe birds that are representative of the lower Mobile-Tensaw Delta marsh and waterways. In spring and summer look for Brown Pelican, Osprey, King Rail, Marsh Wren and several species of herons and egrets. Occasionally, Least Bittern and Purple Gallinule may be encountered along the margins of the emergent marsh. Painted Bunting may also be possible in the thickets near the buildings. In fall, you may see rafts of American White Pelicans foraging. In winter, the vegetation along the water’s edge is good habitat for Gray Catbird and a variety of sparrows. Across from the Delta Hall are hiking trails that meander through a grove of live oaks. Check here for migrants in spring and fall.

Snowy Egret
Snowy Egret
28. Mobile Bay Mudflats
[GPS] N30.67996 W-88.00183
From 5 Rivers, proceed west on US 90/98/31 toward the Mobile Bay mudflats. Along the way, you may want to stop [3.4] at the public boat launch on the right just west of the I-10 interchange, to view a nesting colony of Cliff Swallows under the I-10 Causeway. Continue west another 0.5 miles to an unpaved overlook on the left (south) side of the causeway. The best viewing at this site is during low tide when the mudflats are exposed. This is a good place to look for herons, egrets and Boat-tailed Grackles any time of year. An assortment of sandpipers and plovers are regular during spring and fall migration. During high tide in winter, American Coot and waterfowl are regular.

Eastern Shore, Mobile Bay Causeway and Blakeley Island Loop - Sites 28-33 - Map

29. Battleship Park
[GPS] N30.68529 W-88.01731
Cross over the bridge going westward and turn into the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park on the left (south) [1.6]. Admission is charged per vehicle to enter the park which entitles you to use the restrooms in the gift shop. Immediately following heavy rains, the lawns of the park can be excellent for shorebirds including Black-bellied Plover, Least Sandpiper, and Short-billed Dowitcher. As you drive into the park, look for a paved walkway to your right leading to an observation deck overlooking Pinto Pass. During low tide this area is filled with herons, egrets and occasionally ibis, especially in late summer. Black-necked Stilt may be around almost any time of the year at low tide. In summer, Gull-billed Tern is present and Least Bittern often fly across from one marshy area to the next. During migration the mudflats are filled with shorebirds. Look for dabbling ducks in the shallows and bay ducks farther out in the deeper water to the south. There may be numbers of Yellow-crowned Night Herons here with many immatures in late summer and Black-crowned year round. Continue around to the parking lot to the east side along the bay, checking for gulls and terns. At the extreme north end, park and survey the lawn from this vantage point for plovers and sandpipers that you might have missed from the other side.
30-32 Blakeley Island and Mud Lakes Dredge Disposal Areas Overview
Leaving Battleship Park, turn west on US 90/98 and proceed straight (past the traffic light at Bankhead Tunnel where the exit from I-10 merges [1.0]) onto US 90A and continue north to the Blakeley Island Dredge Disposal Area stops. There are three stops along this leg of the trail: North Blakeley Island Disposal Area, Blakeley Island Mud Lakes and South Blakeley Island Disposal Area. The dredge disposal areas contained within the dikes at Blakeley Island are the premier shorebirding spots in the state. Spring and fall migration can offer looks at hundreds of shorebirds. It is a reliable place to see a variety of ducks in winter. The shallow pools along the road as you approach the dikes are often good for shorebirds and one of the most reliable spots for Black-necked Stilts.

NOTE: This notice only applies to the Blakeley Island Mud Lakes Disposal Areas. The Mud Lakes are former industrial waste treatment sites and the waters in these dredge material management ponds can be extremely caustic. The ponds are currently used for the disposal of dredge materials by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Alabama State Port Authority. Do not leave the road or the tops of the dikes for any reason! Entry to the upper ponds is by permit only and requires the annual submission of a liability waiver form to the Alabama State Port Authority and notification of a visit beforehand. Weekdays call 251-441-7085, and on weekends call 251-441-7777 to notify the Port Authority of your intention to visit. You may download the required forms from the Alabama Ornithological Society (AOS) web site at www.aosbirds.org/blakeley.php . The forms may be mailed to the Alabama State Port Authority (the address is on the forms) or faxed to: 251-441-9395. The AOS web page also has a map indicating which ponds are currently open to visitors. Insect repellent is in order. Be advised: any of the following trips are potentially long, hard, hot walks, so prepare accordingly.

30. Blakeley Island -- South Blakeley Disposal Area
[GPS] N30.72378 W-88.03659
From the traffic light at the Bankhead Tunnel, continue north on US 90A to access the South Blakeley Disposal Area [1.4]. Park well off the road near the locked gate across from the “Bender Yard 9” sign, and leave the permit sheet visible on the front dash of your car. Bear to the left as you walk on the dirt road leading northeast to the diked pond. At the top of the dike, scan the large ponds in various stages of management; you must stay on the perimeter dikes. Best areas usually are in the northwest and southwest corners of the pond. This is a regular site for Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, where they now breed.

Black-bellied Whistling Duck
Black-bellied Whistling Duck

31. Blakeley Island -- Mud Lakes
[GPS] N30.71260 W-88.03362
Continue north from the traffic light to the locked gate [0.8], access Mud Lakes, park well out of the way, and walk the dirt road up the dike. Continue east on the dike road, remembering not to leave the dike for any reason. Depending on water levels and time of year, the first pond on the right (south) often offers the best conditions for viewing waterfowl like Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Mottled Duck, and Northern Shoveler, and various shorebirds, gulls and terns. This is also one of the best places to find White-rumped and Baird’s Sandpipers in late spring.
Boat-Tailed Grackles
Boat-Tailed Grackles

32. Blakeley Island -- North Blakeley Disposal Area
[GPS] N30.73343 W-88.03795
Continue northward on US 90A to access North Blakeley Disposal Area at the foot of the Cochrane-Africatown USA bridge, where you will note a road to the left (west) with a sign indicating “Alabama State Port Authority” [0.1]. Follow this under the bridge, carefully examining any birds that may be in the canals. As the road veers left, take the second dirt road right, which leads east to a locked gate at the base of a dike to the left [0.6]. Climb the dike to check the area, which, under the proper conditions, may produce waterfowl and shorebirds.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
33. William Brooks Park
[GPS] N30.78175 W-88.07326
Return to US 90A and turn left (north) crossing the Cochrane-Africatown USA Bridge to the intersection with US 43 North [2.2]. Turn right onto a connector road and travel a short distance [0.2] to the US 43 North intersection (Telegraph Road). Take a left (north) and proceed 3.3 miles to Williams Brooks Park located on the left (west) before you cross the bridge over Chickasaw Creek. This site is managed by the City of Chickasaw and features numerous picnic pavilions, trails, a boardwalk system and a couple of piers. The trails pass through a variety of habitats ranging from mixed pine-hardwood uplands to forested bottomlands. Look for migrants during the spring and fall. Prothonotary Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Summer Tanager, and Red-winged Blackbird are regular summer residents. The boardwalk system offers an easy walk that accesses a viewing pavilion. Check for waterfowl, waders and Osprey in the open areas over the creek.

Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird
This is the end of the Eastern Shore, Mobile Bay Causeway and Blakeley Island Loop. To proceed on to the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta Loop, continue north on US 43 to AL 158. Turn left (west) on AL 158 to I-65. Go North on I-65. As you cross over the Mobile River, you will have a spectacular view of the water and forest land below. Continue to AL 225 at exit 31, where you will go north on AL 225. Or you can return to US 90A and go south to the intersection of US 90 and I-10. Head west on I-10 to do the Dauphin Island – Bayou La Batre Loop. Drive on I-10 to the west side of Mobile to exit 17-A, AL 193 South. Go south on AL 193 to Dauphin Island. See the Dauphin Island – Bayou La Batre Loop section for further directions to the birding sites in this loop.