Dauphin Island: Day One

It’s rare that I’m able to scout a new tour on exactly the same dates set for the tour proper—but it’s worked out just right as I make preparations for next year’s new VENT tour of Alabama’s Gulf Coast. We’ll be back a year from today, and I hope that the trip’s first day is as exciting as this first day of reconnaissance was.

The day started mighty early, with a 3:10 am departure for Newark. The flight to Houston was uneventful (or least I slept through whatever eventfulness there may have been), but the connecting trip on to Mobile was bumpy, boding ill, I feared, for the weather here in Alabama. And in fact, the rest of the day on Mobile Bay and Dauphin Island was unsettled, with occasional light rain giving way mid-afternoon to almost two hours of steady pelting. But it didn’t bother the birds, and so it didn’t bother us.

I won’t list the sites and the 80+ bird species we found at each—eBird’s new Trip Report feature makes that unnecessary—but there were plenty of notable experiences on this, my first visit to Dauphin Island. A brief visit to Shell Mounds at the end of the day, after being rained most vigorously out earlier, revealed an apparent small arrival of passerines, including blue-winged and prothonotary warblers, blue grosbeaks, and orchard orioles. A walk out the Dauphin Island Pier produced a singing sedge wren and a dozen eastern kingbirds; the flooded playground there gave us spectacularly close views of least and semipalmated sandpipers and dunlins. Even more dramatic was a female-type magnificent frigatebird riding the wind just above Fort Gaines, at the eastern end of the island.

Tomorrow takes us to more sites and more birds—and I’ll try to write again afterwards.