Once Again, Birders Flock to
2005 Alabama Coastal BirdFest!

There were some challenging days in the summer of 2005 and nerve-wracking weather to deal with, but the second annual Alabama Coastal BirdFest, held Oct. 20-23, was another big success. “After the hurricanes, we were worried that people from out of state wouldn’t come, but we had visitors from 13 states, from as far away as California and Maine,” said John Borom, president of Mobile Bay Audubon Society and one of the event organizers.

“We had some very successful trips this year that attracted locals as well as people from out of state. We took nearly 130 people to Blakeley and the Mobile/Tensaw Delta in four trips, 50 people to Dauphin Island in two trips, 35 people to Bayou La Batre, and over 60 people to Weeks Bay in three trips,” Borom said. Other guided tours visited Bellingrath Gardens, Fort Morgan, Bon Secour, and Blakeley Island Ponds.

“This is a vital area for migratory birds; because of that, it’s important to educate people about the need to preserve our Gulf Coast habitats. BirdFest is designed to do just that. I so pleased that the word is spreading around the country.” Proceeds from the Alabama Coastal BirdFest go to preserve and protect bird habitats on the Alabama Gulf Coast.

The speakers for this year’s BirdFest were excellent, and drew large crowds, said Fran Morley, BirdFest coordinator. “We had around 150 people each night. Dr. Van Remsen spoke at the Gulf Coast Exploreum on Thursday about his part in the search and recent rediscovery of the Ivory-bill woodpecker. That search has been a huge item in the news, which was wonderful for us. Dr. Remsen was also one of our speakers last year, and he knew all about the rediscovery at that time, but he was sworn to secrecy. This year, he told all.”

The Ivory-bill woodpecker, a bird thought by many to be extinct until its rediscovery in the woods of southeast Arkansas last year, is still a rare sight in the wild – but one was on view, so to speak, at the Exploreum that night.

“Our visitors were able to see perhaps the most unique Ivory-bill in the world, a solid chocolate life-size sculpture that was created by Chef James N. Hurtubise of the Faulkner State Community College Culinary Department. Even Dr. Remsen was impressed. Surprised, but impressed,” said Morley.

Friday night’s speaker at the Nix Center in Fairhope was Bob Sargent, founder with his wife Martha of the Hummer/Bird Study Group, one of the nation’s premiere volunteer bird banding and study organizations. “The Sargents are greatly admired in the birding world for their dedication, and I’m so pleased that they were able to make time to come speak at BirdFest,” said Borom.

On Saturday, another Ivory-bill expert gave three presentations during the free Bird & Conservation Expo, held on the grounds of Faulkner State Community College in Fairhope. Bobby Harrison is one of the first two people to have a confirmed sighting of an Ivory-bill in more than 60 years. “Bobby’s talk was fascinating. He’s been chasing reports of this elusive bird since he was a teenager, and it really is like the Holy Grail to him.” said Morley. “His enthusiasm in telling the story was so apparent, he really got us all caught up in the excitement of the moment.”

This year’s Expo expanded on last year to include the entire Alabama State Conservation Department, with representatives of State Parks, Outdoor Alabama, State Lands, Marine Resources, and others set up in a huge tent on the grounds of Faulkner. In addition to the Conservation Department, there were workshops, demonstrations, and speakers plus other booths from bird and nature-related vendors, artists, and various non-profit agencies and organizations.

Organizers are already beginning plans for next year. The third annual Alabama Coastal BirdFest is scheduled for Oct. 19-22, 2006. Watch this site for news as it develops or call 251-929-0922