A New Bird on a New Year

January 1, 2013 was awesome. I added a bird to my Birding Life List. While sitting in my backyard, trying out my new camera, I spotted a Red-breasted Nuthatch. Who knows how long it’s been visiting my back backyard each winter since I moved here 3 1/2 years ago, but I finally spotted him.

My new camera is a Nikon Coolpix L810 with 26x zoom.  It’s my birding buddy.

What a great new year!

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Hobbit/Hermit Hut in Fairhope, AL

Fairhope contains some beautiful old buildings.  Among these you can find a bit of quirkiness. The Storybook Castle sits off in the woods just north of downtown, as does the hermit house at Tolstoy Park. Well, it’s not really a park, but rather a round, little domed hut once owned by a man named Henry Stuart who owned several acres near my house. He built this hut to live in. I have always wondered about this little building. A facebook friend recently posted some information about it.  An author by the name of Sonny Brewer has written a novel around this little building called “The Poet of Tolstoy Park”.  I couldn’t resist to go investigate.

I’ve seen this building many times driving home from Fairhope and always wondered what it was. It sits in the parking lot of an office park that was built around the hut, preserving it. Now I know the story. The building is off of Parker Rd near the Fairhope Publix.

I took my family to check it out. The building was open so we went in, took pictures and signed the guest book. The floor was rather puddly; we had a rain this morning.  Stop by and visit this quirky little home but read the links I’ve provided above in bold for some more history. If you’d like to read the book, there’s a great little bookstore in Fairhope called Page and Pallett; they should have a copy.

August Events Around Baldwin County, AL 2009

Some great stuff in happening in my county this month.  So far here’s what I found:

August 6-8: Annual Professional Rodeo at the Foley Horse Arena.  For info: jennifermoorefoundation.com/rodeo.asp or call 251-975-8877

Across the Bay in Mobile is the Saenger Theatre Summer Classic Film Series.  Each Sunday in August at 3pm they show a classic film.  This year’s selections include: Gone with the Wind, Showboat, Ocean’s Eleven and Abbott& Costello meet Frankenstein.

Friday, August 21 from 6pm-9pm: Grand Opening of The Hot Shop @ Orange Beach Art Center. Located at 26389 Canal Road in Orange Beach, AL.  This is the grand opening of Alabama’s only public access glass studio.  Its a free event.  Great music, food and drink.  Glass blowing demonstrations by glass equipment donor, Joe Thompson (Bear Creek Glass), and resident glass artist, Joe Hobbs.  Bring your friends and family.  For more info:  http://www.orangebeachartcenter.com

August 22nd at the Orange Beach Parks and Rec you can learn to kayak.  Held at the Waterfront Park, classes are $65/person and you must be at least 13 yrs old.  Registration is a must.  Call 251-981-6039.  There are some other great classes held during the summer; mostly in June.  Sorry I missed them.  Call that same number for information on other events and classes they’ll have this fall.

5 Rivers has a free movie matinee on August 23 called “Life in Cold Blood: Armored Giants”.  I imagine it’s about reptiles.  The Tensaw Theatre is located in the same building as the gift shop.  Time: 2-3pm

They also have a Saturday class from 11:30-2:30 for children in grades 3-7.  You need to register and the class on the 29 is called “Fun with Feathered Friends.”  Call 251-625-0814

Monday, August 31st from 6-9pm “join the fun” in Downtown Fairhope.  They’re hosting “The Magic of Mainstreet” with a parade, fireworks, book signing (who? and where?) music, tree lighting and art walk.  For more info: 251-928-6387

At the end of the month is the reinactment of the Battle of Ft Mims in the northern part of the county. Here’s the information and the link:   The reenacments of the Battles of Burnt Corn and Fort Mims will be held on August 29th and August 30th this year.  Commemoration activities will begin at 8:50 a.m. The Battle of Burnt Corn will be held at 11:00 a.m. on both days. The Battle of Fort Mims will be at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday and 2:00 p.m. on Sunday. A $5.00 admission is requested for ages six and up.   www.fortmims.org

So far that’s the info I can find.  If you know of more, please leave a comment with the info and I’ll post it.

Moving around the Gulf Coast

Right now we’re living in Fairhope, AL.  It’s a nice little town.  Lots of people retire here.  I’ll talk about it later.  But first I have to give an update on my bird watching.  We live in a wooded community that looks like totally old forest with houses nestled among the trees.  I think it’s a bird sanctuary, too.  I’ve seen a ton of those signs.  Ok…its not on the white, sandy beaches of FL but it’s nice for now. 

I get to look for a different set of birds living here.  Shore birds are a shore mile or two away through the woods.  I saw a laughing gull and a snowy egret fly over my house today, so I’m ok with living in the woods for now.

Our backyard is a bunny paradise.  Dixie, my black lab, has done well to restrain herself but not so with the squirrels.  She’s still trying to climb trees after those critters.  I miss the tail-less squirrel that lived in the canopy area of Siesta Key near my house.  I wonder how it’s doing.

Birds. Well, here’s what I’ve seen just in the back yard: a cardinal pair, a towhee pair, a black capped chickadee, brown thrushes galore, red-bellied woodpecker, mockingbird, red-headed woodpecker (I’ve missed seeing them), blue jays, tufted-titmouse, house finch pair.  I’m not good at identifying warblers by sound but I recognized one.  It’s hard to tell a mockingbird (sometimes) from a warbler.  You have to keep listening and if it doesn’t change it’s tune, its not the mockingbird.  I’ll have to keep listening to the warbler and write about it later.   Tonight as I walked the dog in front of the house (heavy woods across the street) I heard for the first time a chuck-will’s-widow.  There were two of them.  I’d never heard one before and shared the sound with my son, Travis (who I think is pretty interested in birds).  I logged onto www.enature.com/birding/audio.asp   and listened to sounds of noctural birds and found this identical match.  How cool!  I just wish I could see one but the information I read said they are hard to spot.  I’ve been owling and, while it took a while to locate the eastern screetch owl, I was able to find him.  Maybe if this CWW is a resident, I can try to locate it. 

The Fairhope waterfront park and pier are a great place to birdwatch.  Once again I live along a birding trail, this time it’s the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail.  We’ve been there a few times in the past week.  The city has put up purple martin apartments along the waterfront. 101_3118 There are a ton of these birds flying around this whole side of the Mobile Bay.  I don’t know about the other side but I’ll find out sooner or later.  Meanwhile, I’ve seen them along the bay front from Daphne (at a friend’s house) down to Point Clear (at another friend’s house).  The sign in the picture basically says that purple martins pass through this area twice a year.  They winter in South America and come north around the first of the year.  They arrive here late-January/early-February.  Since they eat several thousand tons of flying insects they are helpful to the area:  less bugs to ruin the local agriculture, less pesticide to spray in the community, etc.  They nest late-March to early-July and head south by the end of August.  The City of Fairhope put up the purple martin apartments in February 2001. 

101_3123They are such cool birds.  I really like their color and shape when they’re flying.  Plus they’re great bug eaters.   Come visit; it’s cool to see.  So, add purple martins to the Alabama list, plus a great blue heron, brown pelican, cattle egrets.

Fairhope will be a good stop for a while.