In October 2009, I enrolled in an Elderhostel (Exploritas) class on Birding in Mobile, Alabama. This gave me the opportunity to travel in my GTRV Westy camper and visit several Florida State Parks and other points of interest. 10 Parks in 11 Days This was my second Elderhostel course. The previous one was photography on Jekyll Island.
This was Program Number 14106RJ, Fall Migration: Great Birding on the Alabama Coast. Duration was 4 nights, Theme: Snapshots; Outdoor Adventures: Birding, 10/13/2009 - 10/17/2009. Day 1 (Oct. 13, Tuesday, 90.3 degrees) was registration and check-in at the Ashbury Hotel in Mobile. Then orientation and introductions in the classroom. University of South Alabama (USA) and handout materials including schedules and bios were discussed followed with question and answering period. Class roster included 29 people plus staff of at least 3 people.
Dinner at 6 pm in the hotel consisted of rosemary baked chicken, garlic mashed potatoes, vegetable casserole, house salad, freshly baked yeast rolls, and baked apple crisp cobbler. The hotel chef personally spoke with each student to check on what anybody wanted and visit with everyone. Meals were served in the Hotel Dining Room, unless otherwise indicated. Classes met in Jasmine 3.
At 7 pm, Don McKee gave a program on "Birding Techniques on the Gulf Coast." He concentrated on how to get and use an efficient set of binoculars. In October 2007, after serving as a agent for State Farm Insurance Company, he intended to be "more actively involved in preserving our natural resources and fostering our natural history learning more myself, and better able to show others how to connect with nature." He was supposed to have a power-point presentation on birds, but something was not working on his setup. He now lives on Dauphin Island, Alabama. Married to noted watercolor artist, Dena McKee, and has four children and two grandchildren, who are already learning the basics of bird-watching.
Oct. 14, Wednesday. 78.4°. 6:30 - 7:30 am Breakfast. Continental breakfast was served every morning - scrambled eggs, sausage patties, sausage links, toast, dry cereal, milk, orange juice, coffee. At 7:30 am the bus left for Fort Morgan in Gulf Shores, Alabama. It was amazing how much that area has grown with many businesses and subdivisions. Foley, Alabama, just had one hardware store when we first went camping at Gulf Shores State Park in the 1960s. Now it is very developed and traffic was heavy all through Fairhope, Foley, and Gulf Shores. On the way there, after a warning about possible mosquitoes, a couple sitting across from me started spraying themselves with insect spray. In so doing, they also smelled up the whole bus. A few people started coughing and sneezing. Bird banding with Bob Sargent was scheduled for 9 to 11 am. Got a few bad pictures of a few birds that were being banded.
Had a box lunch 11:30 am to 12:30 pm - turkey and Swiss cheese on Kaiser roll, large delicious apple, Little Debbie oatmeal cake, and bottled water - at a city park in Orange Beach - shaded picnic tables and a fairly comfortable breeze. Birding on the Catman Road (an outdoor paved and boardwalk trail) with Don McKee and David Dortch was scheduled 1:15 - 3:15 pm. It got too hot and we left the area about 3 pm, after using all the bottled water they brought on the bus.
11am - 12 pm - Box lunch at Cadillac Park on Dauphin Island. Roast beef and Swiss cheese on Kaiser roll, fruit, chips, bottled water. That was what was scheduled, but we had lunch at the home of Don McKee where we sat on the wrap-around second floor porch and enjoyed the ocean breezes and watched the black crowned night herons in the trees in his yard. Also toured the inside of his home which was decorated with numerous bird books and photos done by the photographer who will present the program tomorrow. One interesting set of pictures were close-up photos of birds' eyes.
12 pm - Bus leaves for 5 Rivers Wildlife Management Area. There was a neat museum there. The guide asked me what the name was of a mounted duck. I told him it was a merganser - a hooded merganser. He was so surprised - he said I was the first person who knew what the duck was. It certainly looked like a hooded merganser - nothing else would look like that. I also told him the name of the shoveler. He kept following me around and asking questions. I finally asked him one - that was about the weird sort of fish skeleton. He pressed a button and the fish did all sorts of different motions with a music background. An artist guy made the fish program, the junk blue heron, driftwood octopus, and several other sculptures. 1 - 3 pm - Pontoon boat tour, 5 Rivers delta film, museum, and gift shop.
3:15 pm - Bus leaves for Ashbury hotel. Upon arrival, did the bird checklist with the group. 5:30 - 6:30 pm - Dinner - BBQ pork riblets, kernel corn, baked beans, house salad, fruit slaw, dessert. 6:30 - 8pm - "Birds of Prey" program with Anita Salinas.