5 Rivers sits on the banks of one of the canals that traverse the Mobile-Tensaw delta. The decks of the Delta Hall and the perimeter trail around the facility provide excellent vantage points to observe birds of the surrounding 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. Check here for migrants in spring and fall.
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.
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.
Bon Secour Bay is found on the eastern edge of Mobile Bay and provides a protected area for wintering waterfowl and seabirds. Scan the bay and the small canal for gulls and tern. Black-crowned Night-herons may be found roosting in the oaks scattered through the area.
The Jeff Friend Trail is a one-mile loop to Little Lagoon. Habitats include maritime forest, freshwater marsh and open water along the north shore of Little Lagoon. A variety of species are possible-waterbirds, raptors, songbirds and other passerines. 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.
Mobile Street is a paved road leading to the beach, with a 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 Myrtle Warbler. This is also a good vantage point for shorebirds and waders, as well as loons and other seabirds.
At the Pine Beach trailhead stands an interpretive kiosk with 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.
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.
Cliff’s Landing is one of the best spots in Alabama (south of I-65) to view Swallow-tailed and Mississippi Kites in the spring and summer. Look for kites and other raptors across the river to the west, with best light in the morning.
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.
Fairhope Municipal Pier and Beach are good places to check for all manner of water-loving birds-gulls, terns, shorebirds and wintering waterfowl.
Fort Morgan 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.
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.
Graham Creek Nature Preserve is a 484 acre natural area managed by the City of Foley. In addition to protecting a portion of the Wolf Bay watershed, this preserve also possesses open pine forest with extensive wire grass and pitcher plant bogs. The combination of habitats is attractive to a diversity of bird species including Northern Bobwhite,, Red-tailed Hawk, Loggerhead Shrike, Yellow-throated Vireo, Pine Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Summer Tanager, Blue Grosbeak and several species of waders along the creek.
There is a small admission for sightseeing, including birding. The end of the pier is an excellent viewing point for seabirds, especially in winter. Previous Christmas Bird Counts have yielded Red Phalarope and all three scoters at this site. Northern Gannet is common offshore during the winter months.
The Gulf State Park Nature Center exhibits plants and animals that are native to the Gulf Coast region. Bird checklists are available and the naturalist on duty can give you the latest information on birds in the park.
Gulf State Park Pavilion is a large, covered picnic pavilion with tables and benches, restrooms and water fountains. The pavilion closes at sunset. This is another great place to look for seabirds, particularly in winter. Northern Gannet is common off shore during migration. Any flock of loons should be carefully studied for Red-throated and Pacific. Walk the beaches for plovers and peeps.
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.
Historic Blakeley State Park offers opportunities to tour a preserved Civil War Battlefield, visit the site of one of the oldest towns in the state, and learn about the plants and animals that inhabit Mobile Bay and the Mobile/Tensaw River Delta, along with observing wading birds and waterfowl in the Tensaw and woodland species in the mixed hardwood/pine forest.
The Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail system was developed cooperatively by the City of Orange Beach and Gulf State Park (Alabama State Parks Division) to provide non-consumptive recreational opportunities through one of the last remaining intact maritime forests along coastal Alabama. In addition to being a preserve for many of the area’s native wildlife, this remnant natural area serves as a lifeline for millions of migratory birds each spring and fall by providing essential food and shelter resources, making the birding potential excellent on any given visit.
Lillian Swamp encompasses nearly 3,000 acres managed for conservation by the ADCNR State Lands Division and hosts a variety of habitats representative of the lower Coastal Plain. At any time of year, Northern Flicker, Blue Jay, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Eastern Bluebird, Brown Thrasher and other resident species are common in the piney uplands and adjacent thickets.
Little Lagoon hosts a fair number of shorebirds, gulls, terns, Brown Pelican and, occasionally, American White Pelican. Chances to see rarities increase during migration. Reddish Egret occurs here regularly. Birding is usually best around low tide.
Magnolia Springs Landfill is a county landfill–ninety-nine percent of the gulls utilizing the landfill in winter are comprised of Laughing, Ring-billed, and Herring Gulls, but rarities like Franklin’s, Thayer’s, Iceland, Lesser Black-backed, and Glaucous Gulls are all additional possibilities. American Pipits (winter), Fish Crows and both vultures are also regular. In January 2009, a Snow Bunting was seen, accounting for the first state record.
Meaher State Park’s 1.327 acres are situated in the wetlands of Mobile Bay. There are two boardwalks that offer the visiting birder an extensive view of the Bay. Winter time brings in American White Pelicans and waterfowl, while in other seasons, a wide variety of wading birds, gulls and terns may be observed.
The best viewing at the Mobile Bay Mudflats 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.
The Mobile-Tensaw Delta Wildlife Management Area is comprised of a variety of habitats-from flooded hardwood bottoms to freshwater marshes. Red-shouldered Hawk, Prothonotary Warbler and Northern Parula are some of the species seen during the breeding season. During summer months, Swallow-tailed Kites may be observed flying just above treeline.
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.
Mullet Point County Park provides an excellent view of the bay from an elevated perspective. This has been a good site in the winter for waterfowl. Surf and Black Scoters have been seen here in the cold weather months.There is ample parking, portable restrooms and picnic facilities.
Check the jetties for shorebirds, gulls and terns. 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.
Perdido Pass/Alabama Point East is part of Gulf State Park and consists of beach and sea oat habitat where there are opportunities for bird observation, fishing, and viewing both Perdido Pass and the Gulf of Mexico. (Formerly Florida Point when the state border was located at Perdido Pass.)
At Perdido Pass / Alabama Point-West, rock jetties extend a considerable distance out into the Gulf on this side and can be accessed by walking west along the beach. The birder then may observe the winter seabirds that may be in the area, such as scoters, loons and phalarope.
Explore the trails through the mounds, which are ancient Indian shell middens. 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.
The Pines provide the best open view of Bon Secour Bay to the north. If it is a good winter for ducks (cold enough in the North to force them south) there can be large rafts of waterfowl and grebes. Long-tailed Duck and scoters have been observed from this point.
French Lake is located on the Clearwater Forever Wild Tract and features an access point into the vast Mobile-Tensaw Delta system via the Bartram Canoe Trail managed by the ADCNR State Lands Division. Several featured trails start from this launch offering great opportunities to experience the natural wonders of the Delta.
Village Point Park (70 acres) is the largest park in the city of Daphne and provides the birder with a mixture of habitats-marsh, salt water bay, woodlands and several ways to observe them- a 3,000- foot main trail that takes visitors westward toward Mobile Bay and an extensive boardwalk and pier. Waders, ducks, and woodland species may be observed and Bald Eagle is not uncommon.
A rarity in the midst of such a vibrant resort city, the 12 acre Wade Ward Park features a pavilion, benches and scenic boardwalks overlooking coastal salt marshes. It offers the birder scenic boardwalks overlooking canals and coastal salt marsh. It features a pavilion, benches and scenic boardwalks.
The Visitor Center is only a short distance from the highway and provides restrooms, bird checklists and other informative material. Inquire here about recent sightings. Explore along the boardwalk leading to an observation platform viewing Weeks Bay.
The West End of Dauphin Island is a birder’s paradise, particularly for shorebirds and other waterbirds. Least Tern, Snowy and Wilson’s Plover use the area close to the parking lot as nesting habitat. Large numbers of gulls, terns, shorebirds and waders fill the sand flats at low tide. Occasionally, a Peregrine Falcon will swoop in for a meal and loons and bay ducks may be seen floating in the Sound.
The trails at William Brooks Park 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.