Report on the Fall AOS Meeting on Dauphin Island

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The October meeting of Alabama Ornithological Society on Dauphin Island found good birding despite part of the island remaining off limits because of lingering damage from Hurricane Nate. Nate’s winds and storm surge pushed sand over roads and damaged some homes on the island’s West End, and the road to that section remained closed when AOS met there Oct. 13-15. But the remainder of the island was open for birding.

On Friday morning, AOS birders took the ferry from Dauphin Island to the Fort Morgan peninsula for a day of birding. At Fort Morgan’s stables area, they gathered for a ceremony to honor the late Bob Sargent and his widow Martha, who for years ran a hummingbird banding program on the site. In addition to banding thousands of birds, Sargent taught banding to dozens of young birders.

A dedication ceremony for two benches and a plaque honoring the Sargents was led by Bob Reed of Montgomery, who edits the AOS magazine, The Yellowhammer. The benches sit in a small clearing in the middle of one of the better birding spots on the Fort Morgan peninsula.

After the ceremony, field trip leader Andrew Haffenden led birders around the stables area and the fort.

On Friday evening, AOS members heard a presentation by AOS members Bob and Lucy Duncan on how the weather affects migratory birds around the Northern Gulf Coast.

On Saturday evening, Dr. Frank R. Moore, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Southern Mississippi University, spoke on bird migration along the Gulf Coast. For 25 years, Moore and his students have studied the challenges that migratory birds face during migration, and what factors affect when and where they migrate.

Also on Saturday, Moore led a field trip to birding spots around Dauphin Island. Meanwhile Saturday, Haffenden led a group on a walk along the shore of the island where members spotted a Lesser Black-Back Gull, Snowy and Piping plovers, Red Knots, Ruddy Turnstones, Dunlins, Black Skimmers, and flyovers by a Merlin and Peregrine Falcon.

On Sunday morning a field trip to Blakeley Island Mud Lakes recorded a rare Cinnamon Teal, Roseate Spoonbills, Black Bellied Whistling Ducks, Black-Necked Stilts, Stilt Sandpipers, American  Avocets, Wilson’s Phalarope and many other species.

As is the tradition, AOS members gathered at noon on Sunday for a compilation of the bird species seen by members during the span of the meeting. When the counting was done, the total number of species was 170.