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South Alabama Birdwatching festival attracts birders from across the country

Stephanie Pluscht

The Alabama Coastal BirdFest is a great opportunity to go birdwatching as over 300 different species of birds will be making their way through south Alabama during their fall migration.

The Alabama Coastal BirdFest is Oct. 4th through Oct. 7th. The festival will be taking “Birders” (birdwatching experts) on guided tours through the 200-mile Coastal Alabama Birding trails. Birders will also have the chance to birdwatch on boats and kayaks.

The festival is based out of the 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center in Spanish Fort. This is where the festival will hold its Bird & Nature Expo, closing reception, keynote speaker presentation and birding workshops. This is also the location where a bus will be taking birders to and from the festival’s birdwatching locations.

A local birder and outreach and communications director for the South Alabama Land Trust, Katherine Kuhn, said that South Alabama makes a great location for birdwatching as hundreds of birds pass through the state during their migration.

“It's called a stop oversight, which is really important areas for migrating birds to stop and to rest and to refuel. These spots are particularly good places to watch birds. For some [bird] species, Alabama coast is their last stop before they fly over the Gulf of Mexico to their winter destination. So, if you get out birding on the right day, you can see lots of different species in close proximity. Despite Alabama's relatively small coastline, it is hosting nearly all the birds that can be found along with the Gulf, which I just find mind blowing,” said Kuhn.

Some of the birdwatching hotspots BirdFest attendees will visit from the Alabama Coastal Birding Trails include: Dauphin Island, Fort Morgan, Weeks Bay, the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, Bayou La Batre and Forever Wild Grand Bay Savanna. Attendees will also be making a trip to the Mississippi Sand Hill Crane National Wildlife Refuge.

“We decided to keep the Mississippi trip on for a second year. That trip didn't get a lot of attendees, I think it was around 16 attendees, maybe 20 went to Mississippi and they all came back and were just raving about it. So we decided to keep it on a second year. And I think that trip is now almost sold out. So that's really exciting,” said Kuhn.

The first day of the festival will feature three workshops. Some of these include a workshop on how to use birdwatching apps, an intro to birding and a new workshop on using binoculars and different birding gear.

“Part of birding is definitely the gear you bring with you. The quality of that gear will sometimes allow you to see birds at a further distance or with more clarity. There's all types of brands, shapes and there's even scope as well. In this workshop, we'll go through how to use binoculars you might be surprised to learn that you've been using your binoculars incorrectly the whole time,” said Kuhn.

Funds from the Alabama Coastal BirdFest go towards preserving wildlife and Alabama coastal habitats.

“Protecting land is very, very important right now, because the rate of development, especially in Baldwin County is at an all-time high. When subdivisions go out, typically most of the trees are cleared, and then nonnative plants replace them once the homes have been built. So these non-native plants are easy for us to maintain as homeowners But birds and other wildlife rely on native plants as part of their livelihood, protecting land, it means providing habitat for native species,” said Kuhn.

Registration for the 2023 Alabama Coastal BirdFest is closed, but more information on the event and how to get involved can be found on the South Alabama Land Trust website.

Hannah Holcombe is a student intern at the Alabama Public Radio newsroom. She is a Sophomore at the University of Alabama and is studying news media. She has a love for plants, dogs and writing. She hopes to pursue a career as a reporter.
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