Alabama Coasting 2019 - Page 18

The town works hard to protect its environment “so that it’ll be bird-friendly,” explains Mayor Jeff Collier. “This coincides with the fact that we are a barrier island. The things we do to in- crease a sustainable bird habitat also increase our sustainability as a barrier island.” To demonstrate the town’s commitment Island residents Don and Dena McKee, share a story. Last spring, they had a spe- cial request for the Mayor: “Please don’t mow our right of way.” The McKees had noticed some healthy Lyreleaf Sage growing along the street and as active birders knew that this presented a unique opportunity. With the town’s permission, they roped off the area and in a short while were rewarded with new temporary neigh- bors as Indigo and Painted Buntings arrived to feast on the Sage seeds. It became a bit of a street party, as visit- ing birders, photographers and residents stopped by to enjoy the show. Both Andrew Haffenden and Don McKee enthusiastically invite anyone on the Island to take up the sport of birding. It’s a great way to explore the unique natural environment of the Island. In fact, it’s a wonderful family activity advises McKee: “Children love being taken for a walk in the woods. And the best time to teach people about birds is when they’re young and still curious.” It’s easy to get started. All it takes is a decent pair of binoculars, a Bird Guide, a (waterproof ) journal and curiosity (along with a little patience). While ful- ly committed birders may spend thou- sands on top-of-the-line binoculars, you can get started with your mom’s opera glasses or your granddad’s WWII ser- vice pair. Suitable lenses for the begin- ner range from $50 to $200. The goal is to enhance your vision so that little birds in nature aren’t so little – and ar- en’t disturbed before you have a chance to identify them. For your first foray into the birding world, start off at the Audubon Bird Sanctuary. Pick up their Birding Check- list and Trail Map and head out. The three miles of trails are well marked and include educational signage iden- tifying the various animals and birds you’re likely to come across. For a good selection of Guide Books, drop in to the gift shop at the Estuarium. You can also download the Audubon Bird Guide mobile app which, as you might imag- ine, has more information than you can possibly use. A neat feature in this app is the inclusion of bird calls and song. Another popular app is E-bird which allows you to keep a checklist without being connected to the internet. And finally, the last tool – patience – better described as “presence”. The sport of birding is an exercise in quiet curiosi- ty. It allows you the opportunity to slow down, and even learn a little something. To quote environmentalist John Muir, “In any walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” To learn more about birding on Dauphin Island, visit the Dauphin Island Bird Sanctuaries website and the Dauphin Island Park and Beach Board website 18 ALABAMA COASTING’S DAUPHIN ISLAND LIFE 2019