Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Apr 1 (Day 91) - A quiet day on Dauphin Island, I've made it 1/4 of the way!

I was hoping to find at least a few migrants on Dauphine Island today. However, the strong southeast winds apparently kept the birds moving right over the island as there were very few migrants around all day. This is not altogether surprising as locals say this is what normally happens when there is a strong southeast wind. The winds are supposed to be very similar for the next few days; This means that this area is not going to be as productive as it can potentially be under other conditions. As a result of this, I am going to depart Dauphin tomorrow and start making a bit of ground west towards Mississippi. This will be another new state for me!

Just 10 miles around Dauphin today

Today fit a pattern that has been developing for 5 consecutive days; I added two new birds to the year list today. I picked out a single, distant Whimbrel (#269) among a large group of shorebirds very early this morning, and a bit later I had 3 fly-by Gull-billed terns for species #270. Both of these birds were found on walk down what locals call Pelican Point. This long, sand spit juts southward into the Gulf from the middle of the Dauphin Island. It seems very out of place as the spit runs exactly perpendicular to the east-west axis of the rest of the island. It is vaguely reminiscent of the 13-mile sand spit on which Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge sits in my adopted home state of Massachusetts. Pelican Point is not nearly that long, but it is still probably between 1.5 and 2 miles in length. 

I started at Pelican Point in the morning, and since land birding was so slow I returned to this same area at the very end of the day. Caspian, Royal, Sandwich, and Gull-billed terns were all over the place, and I racked up a very nice list of shorebirds as well. These included:

Semipalmated plover
Piping plover
Black-bellied plover
Wilson's plover
Snowy plover
American oystercatcher
American avocet
Greater yellowlegs
Short-billed dowitcher
Least sandpiper
Western Sandpiper

I was able to grab a few photos today. Pelican point is a fantastic photography spot, and this activity provided a very welcome distraction from the dreadfully slow land birding. I must confess that it is really nice to have the photography to keep myself interested on the really slow birding days. Yes, I probably could have tried to grind out some additional birds in the woods, but it was so painfully slow that I just could not face doing this for the whole afternoon. Instead, I spent a lot of time working on photographing shorebirds in flight. This is a real challenge for anyone who wants to tackle it!

***click for bigger images***

Gull-billed tern rocketing past!

Short-billed dowitcher

Short-billed dowitcher


Unidentified shorebird - any ideas?

Please remember what today's (now yesterday's) date is/was!

Today represents the completion of the first quarter of my year (well, technically it's at 6am tomorrow). Things have unfolded incredibly well from several standpoints. Most important, I am healthy. I survived getting hit by a car, and my body generally feels good at the moment. I have seen lots of birds, visited many new parts of the country, and made lots of new friends and birding contacts. I have been amazed by the interest in the project, and the lengths to which people will go to aid me in bird finding, lodging, and foraging. I have no idea how the next 9 months will unfold, but I am ready for whatever happens. Right now I'm just focused on making it to Mississippi, and from there we'll see what happens. 


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  2. I think you are right about the stint Bill but Dorian did remind us of yesterday's date (April Fool's Day). Is that an old Rufous-necked Stint photo??

    1. Yes, this is a photo of a Little stint in Massachusetts that I took a few years back.

  3. 1st Alabama Little Stint on April 1st?

  4. I'm really enjoying following your journey. I left the ABA for a week in Sonora and saw a couple of the same birds you did. Black bellied Plover and Willet. Keep birding, you're an inspiration.