B. Fort Morgan Loop

The Fort Morgan Loop begins at the intersection of AL 59 and AL 180 in Gulf Shores. Much of the Fort Morgan Peninsula is in the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, and the extreme western end is in the Fort Morgan Historic State Park. Other parts of the peninsula are under intense development and much of the access is on private property. Although there are no motels on the peninsula, there are rental condominiums, beach houses and bed and breakfast accommodations. Only a few service stations and restaurants are available.
Fort Morgan Loop Map
Maritime Forest on Bon Secour NWR
Maritime Forest on Bon Secour NWR

11. Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge -- Jeff Friend Trail
[GPS] N30.24433 W-87.78747
From AL 59, travel westward on AL 180 to the Jeff Friend Trail on the left (south) side of the road [6.0]. Drive through the gate and follow the road to the parking lot and trailhead. The Jeff Friend Trail is a one-mile loop to Little Lagoon and is accessible to disabled persons. Habitats include maritime forest, freshwater marsh and open water along the north shore of Little Lagoon. A small observation deck midway down the trail at Little Lagoon is a great place to set up a spotting scope and scan the water. In winter, look for Bufflehead, Common Loon and Horned Grebe. In spring, Osprey, Sandwich Tern and Northern Rough-winged Swallow are regularly seen. Expect to see Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Summer Tanager and Northern Parula during the summer months. At dusk and dawn (please keep in mind the refuge is closed at dark), Chuck-will’s-widow and Great Horned Owl are commonly heard. Eastern Screech-Owl is also occasionally detected. The two-mile Centennial Trail connects the Jeff Friend and Pine Beach Trails and has forested wetlands on the eastern end. Along this trail, look for Northern Waterthrush, Prothonotary Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler and other species during migration. Return to AL 180.
12. Bon Secour NWR -- Pine Beach Trail
[GPS] N30.24758 W-87.82941
From the Jeff Friend Trail, travel westward on AL 180 [1.5]. The refuge office is on the right (north; look for sign on left) and you may want to stop for information about the refuge and the latest bird sightings. From the office, continue westward on AL 180 for 1.5 miles (three miles west of the Jeff Friend Trail) until you see the Pine Beach Trail on the left (south) side of the road. Enter the parking lot. An interpretive kiosk here has trail maps and bird lists. This is a two-mile trail (each way) southeastward to the beach by way of Little Lagoon and Gator Lake. The hike is an enjoyable walk through a variety of habitats including oak mottes, sand pine scrub, fresh and saltwater marshes, dunes and beaches. The Pine Beach Trail will generally have the best birding on the refuge during migration and can also provide excellent winter birding opportunities. Species commonly observed in woodland areas during migration include Red-eyed Vireo, American Redstart, Magnolia Warbler, Palm Warbler and Yellow-rumped Warbler. Open habitats along the trail often have Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Bluebird and Prairie Warbler. Once you reach the western shore of Little Lagoon, look for Red-breasted Merganser, Bald Eagle, and Peregrine Falcon during winter. A large observation deck near the bridge at Gator Lake will provide a good opportunity to set up a scope and look for wintering ducks, alligators and grebes. The two-mile Centennial Trail connects the Pine Beach and Jeff Friend Trails and the western end of this trail features an observation deck where you may spot Sora, Common Yellowthroat, and Swamp Sparrow. At the end of the trail, keep an eye out for Common Ground-Dove in the dunes and Snowy Plover on the beach. Please be sure to stay on the trail and observe all closed area signs since this is a Snowy Plover nesting area.

Pine Warbler
Pine Warbler
13. Bon Secour NWR -- Mobile Street
[GPS] N30.23641 W-87.83038
Just west of the Pine Beach Trail parking lot is Mobile Street, a paved road leading to a public parking lot near the gulf beach. There are in-holdings in this area so birders should be particularly careful to respect the private property here. The road out to the beach is through marsh and palmetto habitat with the occasional opportunity to observe American Alligators. Caution is urged in these places, some of which are fenced to provide a healthy reminder not to get too close. There is also good habitat for winter sparrows and some waders in the wetland swales along the road. About 0.75 miles down the road on the left is the parking area for the one-mile (each way) Gator Lake Trail, which connects Mobile Street with the Pine Beach Trail. This narrow trail can be good for winter birding where you may see Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Yellow-rumped Warbler. At the end of Mobile Street, the beach provides a vantage point for Common Loon, Northern Gannet and other seabirds and shorebirds. Common Ground-Dove is often spotted near the dune walkover. Return to AL 180.

Beach/Dunes
Beach and Dunes


14. The Pines
[GPS] N30.23905 W-87.89011
From Mobile Street, continue westward on AL 180 to the wide open beach and boat ramp at the site known as the Pines [4.0]. This provides the best open view of Bon Secour Bay to the north. If it is a good winter for ducks (cold enough northward to force them south) there can be large rafts of waterfowl and grebes. Long-tailed Duck and scoters have been observed from this point.
15. Fort Morgan
[GPS] N30.22951 W-88.00827
Fort Morgan [2.0] is located at the western extremity of the peninsula and is an important stopover for spring and fall neotropical migrants. This is a classic migrant trap, and a birding paradise when adverse weather during spring migration may cause spectacular “fallouts” of colorful migrants. Many vagrant species find their way to this favorite birding spot, which can equal Dauphin Island in excitement. In fall, hundreds of migrating hawks can be seen moving west over the Fort. Winter produces many waterbirds and sparrows. Summer is the slowest season, but can be good for terns. There are restrooms at the ferry landing and at the museum, plus a snack bar at the ferry landing. Bird checklists are available at the museum.
Fort Morgan Detail
15A. Stables
[GPS] N30.23018 W-88.01197
Just after the entrance kiosk at the eastern sea wall, park and bird the wooded area on the right known as the Stables [0.2]. This is the best spot in the park for passerine migrants, and should be explored thoroughly. The Hummer/Bird Study Group maintains their banding station in the Stables area each April and October and welcomes visitors.

Brown Pelican with Laughing Gull
Brown Pelican with Laughing Gull
15B. Ferry Landing
[GPS] N30.23164 W-88.01497
From the Stables, continue west to the ferry landing parking lot [0.1], where an admission fee is paid to enter the park. The ferry to Dauphin Island runs every hour and a half starting at 8:45 a.m. Check the adjacent lawn and Live Oaks just west of the parking lot for migrants.

 

15C. Middle Ground
[GPS] N30.23082 W-88.01485
The brush and scrub opposite the landing are known as the Middle Ground, another good migrant spot. Fields and lawns to the west, between the ferry landing and the museum, are excellent for open-country birds.
15D. The Fort
[GPS] N30.22916 W-88.02168
From the ferry landing parking lot, continue west to the Fort parking lot [0.5]. Check the thick vegetation around the Fort for a variety of migrants.

Six Flags of Mobile
Six Flags of Mobile

15E. The Marsh
[GPS] N30.22712 W-88.02380
The marsh and field area south of the Fort can be observed from the sea wall on the south side. Please take care around the homes here. Walk to Mobile Point to the south, either along the beach or between the dunes and the marsh. This is a good seawatching spot, and the point itself is excellent for gulls and terns.
This is the end of the Fort Morgan Loop. At this point you may either return to Gulf Shores, perhaps to rest for the evening,
or start the South Baldwin County Loop by driving north on AL 59 to the US 98 intersection.