Dauphin Island Airport is set in a salt water marsh in which may be found Clapper Rail (common), Virginia Rail and Sora are fairly common(fall and winter), though secretive. Yellow Rail is very rare in winter as is Black Rail most of the year. Nelson’s and Sharp-tailed Sparrows may be seen in the grasses on the edge of the marsh. Long-legged waders may be seen feeding in the ponds on either side of the entrance.
Battleship Park presents the birder with a diversity of habitat to explore and a great variety of birds to observe. Pinto Pass and the mudflats of Mobile Bay filled with waterfowl in winter and shorebirds during migration, short grass lawns for dowitchers and Black-bellied Plover, salt water marsh with herons and egrets. During low tide this area is filled with herons, egrets and occasionally ibis, especially in late summer. Black-necked Stilt may be around any time of the year and in summer, Gull-billed Tern is present.
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.
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.
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.
The Mud Lakes on Blakeley Island are well known to Alabama birders as one of the best spots in South Alabama for shorebirds and waterfowl. The Island, at the western end of the Mobile Causeway, along the east side of US 90A, can be reached from either US 90 or I-10.
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.
Cadillac Square and its complement of old Live Oaks, is a star attraction on Dauphin Island. Migrant warblers and other songbirds may be observed up close and personal. Black-whiskered Vireo has been a visitor in the recent past. The Live Oaks throughout this historic site are all that remain of the home of Governor Cadillac and the capital of the Louisiana Territory. Amenities include picnic tables and restrooms.
Coden Belt Road provides the gull and tern lover excellent close-up views of these species on the pilings. 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.
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.
The storied “Goat Trees” of Dauphin Island no longer shelter goats, but harbor the warblers and other songbirds that pay their twice yearly visits during migration. Tanagers, flycatchers, buntings and other songbirds may be observed.
Henderson Camp Road provides the birder with opportunities for observing spring migrants. Swallow-tailed Kites have been seen foraging over freshly cut fields and flocks of Whimbrels may be found in the pastures and fallow fields on both sides of the road. 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.