Saturday, April 25, 2015

Sweet Home Alabama, Part 1: Abundance

 [Part of a flock of 40 Indigo Buntings at the Shell Mounds, Dauphin Island, Alabama, April 19, 2015. Click to enlarge all photos]

Some dear friends and I spent the past week on the Gulf Coast, which is where birders often go in April to witness the spectacular trans-gulf migration of neotropical migrant birds, like warblers, vireos, tanagers, orioles, and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.  Both diversity and numbers of birds can be high when conditions are right, which means right for the birders, not the birds. Basically what you want is either north winds or, even better, rain, on the coast or out in the Gulf of Mexico to make migrating difficult, and force tired birds down in the first available patch of cover.

We were in a new spot to witness this amazing annual phenomenon, new for us anyway.  Most birders think Texas when they think of fallouts along the gulf, and rightly, but the other gulf states have legendary birding as well, and we chose Dauphin Island, Alabama for our stay.

[Dozens of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds thronged to the feeder at our rental house on Dauphin Island during a rain squall, April 20, 2015.]

Some of our high counts of birds were impressive - 75 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, 25 Red-eyed Vireos, 25 Scarlet Tanagers, 40 Indigo Buntings - even though we didn't hit true fallout weather conditions.  And I'm glad - seeing stressed, tired birds can be, well, stressful and tiring. . .

[One that didn't make it - a Wood Thrush washed up on the sand at Dauphin Island, April 22, 2015. In severe weather conditions, thankfully rare, thousands of birds can perish before they reach shore while migrating across the Gulf of Mexico.]

[It's not just land birds - shorebirding can be excellent on the gulf, as these hendersoni Short-billed Dowitchers, western Willet, and Sanderling attest.]

[Alabama abundance of a different kind - blooming White-topped Pitcher Plants at Splinter Hill Preserve, north of Mobile, Alabama.  Bachman's Sparrow was singing in the background.]

Up next: diversity (29 warblers!)


  1. Thanks for these posts, Don, your thoughts and photos are always excellent.

  2. Thanks, Mark, it was neat to be on a new part of the gulf coast, worth a trip - or even maybe a tour...

  3. Hmmm ... a tour .... hmmm ... we need a conversation!