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Stop 3 - Alabama Coast : DAUPHIN ISLAND
The following page is devoted to my roadtrip photos of birds I found on Dauphin Island, Alabama. Clearly, I did not photograph every kind of bird that can be found on Dauphin Island, but I have provided a selection of some of my favorite photos of the birds I did happen to see as I passed through.
My travels next took me east along the Gulf of Mexico to Dauphin Island, Alabama. Like the Upper Gulf Coast of Texas, Dauphin Island is a well-known birding hotspot during spring migration, especially after a late-season cold front entering the Gulf of Mexico. Migrants that departed the previous evening from the Yucatan Peninsula or other sites in southern Mexico, Belize, Cuba, and possibly even points farther south on a tailwind may encounter heavy rain and a wind shift to the north or northwest as they near and cross the cold front. A journey that normally might be some 500 miles and take some 15 hours to complete has now become a battle for life, and birds will look for the first patch of trees or brush along the immediate coast.
When I arrived on Dauphin Island, the sunny weather made for favorable flying conditions, and as a result the songbirds stopped only briefly to refuel when they passed over Dauphin Island in the early afternoon (afternoon is the best time to find birds on this island due to its position along the migration flyway). So after finding empty trees at the popular Shell Mounds and the Audubon Sanctuary on the east end of the island, I went to look for some shorebirds on the west end of the island (where I was happy to find some American Oystercatchers, as at home I had only seen Black Oystercatchers). The next day was a bit more productive for songbirds, as a thundershower generated a population boom of Red-eyed Vireos, and a small (but noticeable) increase in warblers, tanagers, hummingbirds, and grosbeaks.
All in all, my visit to Dauphin Island was a success, as I added several more birds to my growing road trip list: Black-billed Cuckoo, Bobolink, Common Loon, American Oystercatcher, Semipalmated Plover, Spotted Sandpiper, Bank Swallow, Great Crested Flycatcher, and Whimbrel. (However, by the end of my birding road trip, the only bird I had see on Dauphin Island that I had not seen anywhere else on my travels was the American Oystercatcher.)
After Dauphin Island, I continued my quest for the Painted Bunting. I had called around and discovered that the Painted Buntings had arrived at their nesting grounds in South Carolina in mid-April, so I jumped in my Subaru and made the 12 hour drive to the Huntington Beach State Park on the Atlantic Coast of South Carolina, visions of blue and red Painted Buntings dancing in my head.
(My favorite photos are highlighted.)