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.
County Road 95 Park/Arnica Bay is a small public access point maintained by the county. Various species of wintering waterfowl may be seen. Also look for Brown-headed Nuthatch in the surrounding pines.
D’Olive Overlook 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.
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.