The blogger’s biking and birding bonanza in ‘bama

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Painted Bunting

Baltimore OrioleLike last year, when we moved from Dauphin Island to Gulf Shores AL, I took the car on the ferry while poor Steve had to drive Betsy 85 miles around on the highways (Betsy is too big for this ferry).  Arriving at the Fort Morgan ferry landing, I drove straight to Fort Morgan State Historical Park to meet up with Eric and Laurel of Raven and Chickadee, while Steve set up camp at our new site in Gulf State Park across town.  As you may recall, we initially met Eric and Laurel a few weeks ago in Apalachicola, Florida. We had no idea our paths would cross again so soon!

In addition to blogging about our travels, birding and biking are other interests we have in common with them.  Since the spring migration of neotropical birds was at its peak here at Gulf Shores, Alabama birding was pretty much the focus of our activities together.  OK by me!


Eric and Laurel, real birders!

Our first get-together was to observe bird banding at Fort Morgan State Historical Park. The bird banding sessions are operated by the Hummer/Bird Study Group, which was created by Bob Sargent and his wife Martha.  Along with a group of dedicated volunteer bird lovers, they’ve been doing this for the past 20 years.  They gather here to band hummingbirds and other neotropical migrating songbirds in order to study and preserve them.

 Hummer/Bird Study Group

Sargent said, “These birds are all just amazing.  They’ve got a brain the size of half a pea and a navigation system that, even if we live to be 1,000 years old we’ll never understand.”

Once a bird is captured in one of the dozens of nets strung through the Gulf woods, it is weighed, measured, fitted with a tiny metal identification band, recorded, given a quick physical, and then released to continue its northward journey.

Observing the bird banding was a fun and educational experience.  Being able to actually hold and release these beautiful little creatures back to the wild was very exciting for me.

Bob Sargent preparing me to release the bird

Bob Sargent preparing me to release the bird (photo courtesy of Eric and Laurel)

Am I happy or what?

Is this awesome, or what?

Laurel with "her" bird

Laurel with “her” bird

Upon our arrival at Gulf State Park in the afternoon, we were delighted to discover that we were practically next door neighbors.  Steve had checked us into site #37, not realizing that Eric and Laurel were at #32.  That made our happy hour celebration very convenient!

Lowes RV Adventures

Happy Hour at site # 37

On our second outing early the following morning, I loaded my bike into Eric and Laurel’s truck and we drove back to the Fort Morgan ferry landing to take our bikes over to Dauphin Island.  Since I had just come from several days of bird watching there, it was my turn to play tour guide for the day.  And bikes are the perfect mode of transportation for visiting the birding areas, which are all within a radius of only a couple of miles.

As our time on the island was somewhat limited, we went straight to the birding hotspots; Shell Mound Park, Goat Tree, Cadillac Square and finally to the Audubon Bird Sanctuary.  Fortunately, we were also able to catch the Great Horned Owl and her owlets, still at their nesting roost by the beach.

Cadillac Square, Dauphin Island

Lunch break at Cadillac Square

While birding with Eric and Laurel I was able to pick up a few tips, like how to identify the many types of Warblers present on the island that day.  We enjoyed our time together and have planned to meet up again in Texas next winter for more birding adventures.

Green Heron and Prothonotary

The Prothonotary warbler can stand on its own cuteness next to a Green Heron

In addition to my initial bird sightings a few days ago, our two days of birding together resulted in enjoying even more of the colorful, cute little jittery creatures.  The three of us had a great time traipsing through the woods in search of these elusive migrants. Going with real birders made it all the more fun!

Steve stayed home to take advantage of the gorgeous weather and our nice paved parking spot to complete some overdue maintenance under Betsy.  We met up with him at the end of the day and went out for a great dinner at the Tin Top Restaurant.

Lowes RV Adventures

Excellent dinner at the Tin Top restaurant

I learned during our two days of adventures that Laurel is far more than just a blogger. She is an author of several books including Herbal Healing, which you can check out at Amazon.  As an herbalist she is also a columnist and contributing editor for Natural Health magazine.

It was indeed a birding bonanza for the bloggers!


Next up:   Just ‘chillin at Gulf Shores, AL