A closer look at an Audubon Coastal Bird Survey
By: Larry Gardella
On September 20, I woke to the sounds of light rain and a brisk wind. Since our power was still out from the hurricane, and my phone battery was extremely low, I had to make a judgment whether the rain would at least pause long enough to let me run the pulse. Just before 6:30 the rain diminished and the skies got a bit lighter, so I decided to walk over to the starting point for Bayfront pulse. Binoculars were a must, as were a light rain jacket and an umbrella, but my camera would stay at home.
Most of the usual suspects were perched, flying or calling near the pier that serves as the starting point. And the rain had stopped, temporarily. There were only a few more obstacles on land than usual, but the streams running into the Mobile Bay were all at high flow. Since I hadn’t worn my reef shoes I had to go a bit into the woods and either use branches to help me over a narrow part of a stream or walk to a spot where I could cross on land.
As I proceeded with the count, the low battery forced me to keep the data in my head instead of on the eBird app, like much birding in the pre-eBird days. A group of herons and egrets hugged the shoreline. A spotted sandpiper teetered along ahead of me. Wave action was light, so it was fairly easy to hear the woodland birds calling. Blue jays, Carolina wrens and northern cardinals predominated, but squeaks of a brown-headed nuthatch and the sharp pweet of an Acadian flycatcher came through along with calls of woodpeckers. At the bottlebrush by the yellow house, I paused to locate a ruby-throated hummingbird just as a very light rain started.
When I got to Bayfront Park and Village Point Preserve, there were no people on the beach – as expected. I had checked out the parks after the storm when I was limited in how far I could go off birding (limited to foot travel) by the big tree that was blocking our street. The Bayfront parking lot was closed, and the path down from the Village Point Preserve parking lot to the beach had enough trees down to make progress difficult, particularly on the bridge over Yarbrough Branch, where two fallen trees were somewhat intertwined. Gulls, terns and brown pelicans were out at the edge of the spit along with two black-bellied plovers and two sanderlings, undisturbed.
Despite the threatening weather, it was a most enjoyable walk up the bay.