Dauphin Island Birding - Spring 2017
American Avocet
Dauphin Island Chamber of Commerce
Our plovers are returning to their traditional nesting
areas on the of the Katrina Cut on the gulf side. They nest
in the sandy dunes on Pelican and along the more
vegetated sandy parts along the cut. These two Snowy
Plovers appeared to have a nest on the white sand
behind the big lagoon that starts a little east of the pier,
the one out on the beach not the two small ones halfway
along the pier. The nest is nearthe start of the lagoon. But
others may nest further along, as will most likely Wilson's
Plover and perhaps Willets. So please stay out of the
dunes, and especially don't allow dogs in there or along
the Katrina cut wall, even on a leash, and especially on
those long 30ft ones. There's no reason to be in the
dunes, and we need to give these small birds every
chance they have of raising a family. They have enough
other challenges. Here's the pair I saw today, and some
photos of chicks and a nest, showing how hard to see
both are. The nest is very easily missed if you are not
specifcially looking down for it; it's only about 3 inches
across. Nest and chicks are from this general area last
year.  A.H.

Migratory birds are just starting to trickle on to the island.
But it's not just in the trees and on the beach. Look up!
While it's always nice to see our island eagles soaring
around, one of, if not the, most beautiful US raptor has
been seen on the island over the last few days, the
Swallow-tailed Kite. They head to the delta and other
bottomlands to nest, then after that gather in the black
belt and similar agricultural areas to hawk for
grasshoppers and other prey revealed after mowing. This
one was circling over Bienville, near Cadillac Square.

Peregrine Falcon
Scarlet tanager
Osprey family
Painted bunting
Yellow warbler
Bald eagle
It's that time of the year, and will be for another few weeks, when we
should all take care not to drive over pine cones on the road, but box
turtles. These turtles often stop when they see or more likely feel a
car approach, and their shell is no match for a couple of tons of
vehicle. On my street this morning I saw a just mashed turtle, and this
live one 50 yards further on sitting still on the road. There was a third
on a side street a couple of hundred yards away. If you see anything
on the road, please avoid it, and keep a better eye out for such
objects. If you do see a turtle, it's best to stop and move it into the
woods off the road, not just on the grassy shoulder. Thanks.
Lots of Northern Gannet activity offshore over the last few days with these strong southerly winds.
Virtually all immatures, but a couple of adults around. Unfortunately still a long way out, but managed to get
some photos. Not quality ones as far as detail, focus,
light etc - late afternoon shooting into the sun - but these give a better idea of how these high diving birds
approach the water after their fish prey than just watching, or even through binoculars.
This Gray Kingbird was seen by many at the Shell Mounds
yesterday. While a generally nondescript bird, certainly not
like the colorful warblers that have been arriving on the
island in the last few days after crossing the Gulf, it is
significant in one way. It is rare, but regular, away from
southern Florida but one pair has chosen Dauphin Island for
it's summer home. In 2014, 2015 and 2016 a pair successfully
raised young, bringing them after fledging to the utility wires
around the pier beach carpark for a week or so before
heading back south to over-winter. There are records of
multiple birds in July and August prior to this, so other than a
few years hiatus after hurricanes Ivan and Katrina they likely
have been breeding here most years. As this is not a
generally wandering species, it is likely that the same birds
and their offspring are making the trek back here each year.
I'm looking forward to seeing their family later this year in
Bird migration has been going on for a few weeks now, both on the beach and in the woods. Generally though, the
woodland birds have been pretty sparse, though they are regularly trickling in. Yesterday a couple of our more
beautiful birds,
Blue Grosbeaks, arrived in the field behind the fort and took advange of the seeding grasses
and weeds. Another good reason to ease off on mowing at this time of the year for a bit - the hungry, just arrived
birds will appreciate it. The grosbeaks are larger than our more common Indigo Buntings, and a deeper blue with
obvious brown wings.
04/102017  Andrew Haffenden - Dauphin Island Wildlife

A surprise yesterday, found by a visiting bird photography, was a group of
22 Avocets in a lagoon on the beach. They have moved out of their still
beautiful black and white plumage into their summer breeding plumage. We
occasionally see a few each year, but this was a big group, and they hung
around all day without worrying too much about people. Probably our softest
looking birds, and the camera thinks so too, as getting defined sharpness
on their feathers or around their eyes seems impossible, even when the
hard parts are sharp. Although otherwise similar, males have a longer and
straighter bill than the obviously upturned bill of the femaale. Enjoy.