MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The fall months in Alabama are an exciting time for nature lovers and birders in Alabama, with lots of birding field trips and festivals on tap to take advantage of songbirds and wading birds migrating through the state.
Birding is a year-round activity in Alabama, but if I had to pick a slow time it would be, for me, August. But now that September is here, we are already starting to see wood warblers migrating through. An example is a Black-Throated Green Warbler I spotted at Monte Sano State Park a week ago. (See photo gallery.) Other birds are migrating through the state as well, such as these Pectoral Sandpipers in a field in Lowndes County and a Solitary Sandpiper at a pond near Hope Hull. (See gallery.)
When the birds increase and the weather gets a bit cooler, the activities of birding organizations throughout the state pick up as well. Here are some (not in chronological order) I would recommend to readers who might want to get out and enjoy Alabama's natural wonders this fall:
Alabama Coastal BirdFest, Oct. 5-8
This is the 13th year for the Alabama Coastal BirdFest, and each year it seems to offer visitors more activities from which to choose. This year, there are 35 different programs, including workshops on birding and nature photography, birding walks, paddling trips, and scenic wildlife cruises around the Mobile Delta and Mobile Bay. The bird walks range from easy to challenging.
It also isn't just about birds -- there will be plenty of opportunities to see and learn about wildflowers and other wildlife.
Each year BirdFest officials select a nature photographer to feature, and this year it's Janice Neitzel of Fort Morgan. Janice is an outstanding nature photographer and birder. She has graciously allowed me to use several of her photos with this column, and I chose an Avocet flying, a Green Heron hunting, juvenile Black Skimmers and -- one of my favorite birds -- a Painted Bunting, certainly one of the most beautiful birds in North America. (See photo gallery.)
Janice said it is a huge honor to the featured photographer, but anyone who sees her photos will know she is more than up to the challenge.
To see a schedule of activities and registration information, go to: http://www.alabamacoastalbirdfest.com/index.htm
Alabama Ornithological Society fall meeting, Oct. 14-16
The Alabama Ornithological Society holds its fall meeting each year on Dauphin Island, one of the best sites to see fall and spring migratory birds and shorebirds in the United States.
While the meeting is for AOS members, it only costs $25 per year to join. That entitles birders to attend AOS fall and spring meetings on Dauphin Island and a winter meeting elsewhere around the state. Registration and banquet fees for the meetings are modest as well.
Each of those meetings includes several birding field trips and knowledgeable speakers. Membership also entitles you to a copy of the group's newsletter, The Yellowhammer, as well as other occasional publications on birding. Best of all, it allows those interesting in birding to interact with some of the best informed birders in Alabama and to be part of an organization that promotes birding and nature protection.
The fall meeting speaker this year is Dr. Erik I. Johnson, director of bird conservation for Audubon Louisiana. Johnson also will lead field trips during the weekend, as will Andrew Haffenden, a Dauphin Island resident who leads birding field trips around the world.
For information, go to: http://www.aosbirds.org/
Fort Toulouse Bird Walk, Sept. 17
Montgomery birder Larry Gardella will lead a birding field trip starting at 7 a.m. from the main parking area of Fort Toulouse State Park. Larry is one of the most knowledgeable birders I know, and last year I added two birds to my life list on this trip.
It is organized by the untiring Joanne Tanner Ninesling, an avid promoter of the Alabama Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail.
Following the bird walk, an Alabama Birding Trails informational sign will be unveiled at the Visitor Center.
For information, go to: http://alabamabirdingtrails.com/events/
Birmingham Audubon Programs
The Birmingham Audubon Society has a wide-ranging slate of programs and field trips this fall, including a Sept. 17 trip to Ebenezer Swamp and Limestone Park, as well as its September Nature Program on the use of citizen science to study nature on Sept. 15 at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.
Audubon field trips are open to non-members.
Also planned is an Oct. 1 field trip to Oak Mountain State Park and an Oct. 22 trip to Montgomery area birding sites.
In addition, the new schedule should be announced soon for the 2016-2017 Audubon Teaches Nature programs at Oak Mountain State Park. These are wonderful educational programs on a variety of nature issues, from birds of prey to alligators and other reptiles to geology and paleontology. You definitely should check out a few of the programs; I plan to attend all I can work into my schedule.
For details, go to: http://birminghamaudubon.org/
Wiregrass Birding Trail Tour, Nov. 5
This new program at Lakepoint Resort State Park on Lake Eufaula promises to be an exciting addition to fall birding programs in Alabama. The program is a joint project of the Alabama State Parks system, the Alabama Birding Trails system, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division.
The daylong program includes a guided birding field trip in the morning, a "Duckumentary" waterfowl educational program at 1p.m. at the Lakepoint State Park Lodge, followed by a guided birding field trip to Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge.
I'll have more on this program in future columns.