The future was misty and unclear when we first started talking about doing a Bird Year several years ago. Malkolm, however, knew one thing. He wanted to be along the upper Gulf Coast during the spring migration. Now I know why.
Before we headed to Dauphin Island, a famous “migrant trap,” we stopped at the bird banding station at Fort Morgan. We were lucky to meet Scott Weidensaul (Pulitzer Prize nominated author of Living on the Wind), and Bob and Martha Sargent, the founders of the banding station. It was a slow day for birds at Fort Morgan.
“The songbirds are all being blown to the interior,” Bob said, pointing up at the trees swaying in the brisk south wind. “A front is coming through tomorrow though – things will be different this weekend.”
He was right. On Saturday the canopy at the Shell Mounds was dripping with warblers, orioles and tanagers. It was hard to know where to point your binoculars. Bird rumors rippled through the birders along the trails. “There is a Painted Bunting down at the bowl. Have you seen the Scarlet Tanager? I heard someone saw a Swainson’s Warbler near the Bee Tree!”
Most of the other birders had heard about Malkolm’s Bird Year and were chasing him down whenever they saw an interesting migrant. By the time the sun set on Saturday, Malkolm found 10 new species of birds – a tough thing to do when you’ve already identified 474 species. Sunday was the same and we were all frazzled at the end of the day.
We were almost relieved when the weather cleared and the south winds resumed on Monday. We could imagine the invisible migrants riding the northward Yucatan Express over our heads. Almost relieved.