Bird Banding at Ft. Morgan October 2009

Today we went with some friends to Ft Morgan AL to watch the bird banding.  The group doing the banding is set up until the 22nd, we’re told. 

Ft Morgan AL

Ft Morgan AL

Ft Morgan info with scenic view

Ft Morgan info with scenic view

We got to the fort and searched for the banding without luck.  So, meanwhile we looked around the fort; the boys ran from room to room, over hills, around corners, up stairs and ladders, stopped for a few brief photos and finally said, “let’s find the birds.”

Nicholas, Travis and Austin inside a room at Ft Morgan

Nicholas, Travis and Austin inside a room at Ft Morgan

Going through the Fort tunnel

Going through the Fort tunnel

The Museum opened at 9 and we gathered our info and drove to the banding spot.  It’s really at the entrance.  Had we stopped where there were a few cars along the road we would have found it.  It wasn’t very well marked.  There were two banding areas: one at the entrance to Ft. Morgan before the ferry drive-up and one on the other side of the trees to the south of the ferry drive-up.  We found the one to the south, which we learned was the spot that was actually catching birds.

Red-eyed Vireo

Red-eyed Vireo

Banding tools/banding a Red-eyed Vireo

Banding tools/banding a Red-eyed Vireo

Here’s how they do it: there are nets set up on a trail along the trees.  Several of the banders walk the net path looking for birds, butterflies and dragonflies.  The butterflies and dragonflies get released but first identified and listed on a white board for the daily tally.  The birds are gently pulled from the nets and brought back to the tent/station where they are identified, measured, weighed and banded.  The information is recorded on a data base and the bird is released. 

Guess what???!!!  I got to hold and release an Acadian Flycatcher.  No one else wanted to; the boys were either too scared (or just hesitant) to touch it or too timid to admit they wanted to release it so I did to.  It was so sweet.  It was cool holding a bird.  The feet grabbing onto your finger may have made the boys uneasy.  I could see both of mine dropping it; although birds do fly so it would have saved itself. 

Me holding an Acadian Flycatcher

Me holding an Acadian Flycatcher

We hung around for another bird.  This time it was a red-eyed vireo and again, none of  the boys didn’t want to release it so another visitor did.

Their list of banded birds since they started on Saturday was impressive; including a lot of warblers, which my Life List is short on.  I’ll try to get a copy of the list and post it here.  If I remember correctly the most caught bird was the Magnolia Warbler, which I’ve never seen.  I’ll have to get there again before the fall migration ends; maybe early next week, while the banders are still there.  There is supposed to be a drop in temperatures after the weekend.  The cooler mornings might attract more birds than this hot, sticky day we just had.  Update October 17: With the cold front there should be a great amount of birds to be seen.  I heard a bunch of western strays were banded.  I don’t know which ones but I wish I had been there.  I might make another trip tomorrow.

If you go: take bug spray( if its warm), water and sunscreen.  Be prepared to pay an entrance fee to the Fort, the banding is free (no extra charge).  This weekend is the Alabama Coastal Bird Fest and there will be banding over the weekend at the Fort.  There are also other great activities including the festival on Saturday in Fairhope at Faulkner State University.  There are other non-birding related events in Fairhope that day, too.  Check out www.hummingbirdsplus.org for banding information and www.alabamacoastalbirdfest.com for festival information and other activities this weekend starting Thursday.

 Fort Morgan is really cool to check out.  From the top you can see Sand Island Lighthouse, Dauphin Island and Ft. Gaines, lots of oil rig platforms, some ships coming in and out of Mobile Bay, small craft, and the ferryboat.  Check out http://www.nps.gov/nr/twhp/wwwlps/lessons/73morgan/73morgan.htm for info about the Fort and some lesson plans.

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