- Full Itinerary
- Photo Gallery
- Travel Details
- Trip Reports
- Know Before You Go
- Other Trips You May Like
Join us to discover Dauphin Island, one of North America’s top spring migration destinations, on this spring bird migration tour. Of Alabama’s 455 bird species, 95% have been seen here. This is where migrants first see land after crossing the Gulf; a critical rest and rejuvenation stop.
Spot Neo-tropical migrants; 25 or more species of warblers, including Worm-eating, Swainson’s, Cape May, Kentucky, and Prothonotary; and see water, sea, and shorebirds, including Reddish Egret, Magnificent Frigatebird, Roseate Spoonbill, Tricolored Heron, and Snowy, Semi-palmated, and Piping Plovers.
Indulge on fresh seafood and visit several prime birding spots, hand-picked by your local guide. Explore the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, aptly called America’s Amazon, by small boat. We also take time to explore a rare pitcher plant bog and search for Swallow-tailed Kite.
- Bird Dauphin Island’s migration hotspots, including Shell Mounds Park, The Goat Tree Reserve, Cadillac Square, the East End, Audubon Bird Sanctuary, and Airport Marsh
- Spot 20+ species of warblers, both Summer and Scarlet Tanagers, several vireos, orioles, and both Painted and Indigo Buntings
- Off-Island, explore Grand Bay, and Splinter Hill Bog—one of the largest pitcher plant bogs in the world
- Explore the Dauphin Island Sea Lab
- Enjoy an eco-boat swamp cruise of the lower Mobile-Tensaw Delta and see Bald Eagle, American Alligator, Osprey, cormorants, herons, Brown Pelican, and Nutria
Itineraries are guidelines; variations in itinerary may occur to account for weather, road conditions, closures, etc. and to maximize your experience.
Sat., Apr. 13 : Arrive in Mobile | Travel to Dauphin Island
Welcome to Alabama! As our journey begins, you quickly realize why April is the perfect time to be on Dauphin Island. On the way down to the Dauphin Island, we may make a quick stop for snacks and supplies, and detour to a field full of Yellow Pitcher Plants. Once on Dauphin, we bird if there’s action, or check in first and then go out . In contrast to most birding, the afternoons are often the best on the island; the fastest fliers start to arrive off the Gulf at about 2:00 PM. From about 4:00 PM onward seems to be the busiest time, and depending on weather, the birds may touch and go, or stay until nightfall.
Accommodations for the week at Gulf Breeze Motel or similar, Dauphin Island (D)
Sun., Apr. 14 : Dauphin Island
Today is an island day; we hit the hotspots wherever the birds are. With big influxes, these hotspots can be all over the island, though often just one or two areas are birdy, while others are quieter. Our guide, Andrew Haffenden, lives on Dauphin and has been birding solidly over the last few days; his knowledge and networking should have us in the right spots at the right times. The biggest factor is the weather; our order of activities takes this into account. If a day looks slow for migrants, we travel off-island, swapping an activity later in the tour to leave that day open for island birding. Birds in areas like the Delta, and Splinter Hill Bog are not subject to the same weather constraints as the migrants. The best migrant trap on the island is Shell Mounds Park, and we return repeatedly. Cadillac Square, The Goat Tree Reserve, Audubon Bird Sanctuary, and the East End all warrant stops, usually several times each, as does the Airport Marsh for rails, Seaside Sparrow, Marsh Wren, herons, and egrets. A good birding day on the island yields about 20 species of warblers, several vireos, both Summer and Scarlet Tanagers, orioles, and both Indigo and Painted Buntings. Excellent days can see many of these species number in the 20s and more. Since we’re on the Gulf, seafood is popular for dinner tonight.
In addition to the migrants, a few winter birds should still be around, including both Snowy and Piping Plovers and Western Willet, as well as freshly-arrived Eastern Willet. (B,L,D)
Mon., Apr. 15 : Dauphin Island
We check the Shell Mounds first thing this morning for lingerers or night arrivals, then head onto Pelican Spit beach. In addition to the well-known neo-tropical migrants, Dauphin offers a wide variety of beach birds, including Reddish Egret; Western, Semipalmated, and Least Sandpipers; Snowy, Piping, Semipalmated, and Black-bellied Plovers; both Eastern and Western Willets; Dunlin; Short-billed Dowitcher; American Oystercatcher; Ruddy Turnstone; a variety of terns, including Least and Gull-billed; and more. Less assured, but regular, are Black-necked Stilt and American Avocet. After Pelican Spit, we have a break for lunch, then visit the Alabama Aquarium during the quiet part of the day. Part of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, the Aquarium is an exciting and educational aquarium, highlighting the four key habitats of coastal Alabama: The Mobile-Tensaw River Delta, Mobile Bay, the Barrier Islands, and the Northern Gulf of Mexico. The Estuarium showcases the plants, animals, and other natural resources found in the estuary and its surrounding marine habitats. There are exhibits with tanks of unusual ocean creatures, including tiny seahorses, skeletons in touch trays, eggs, and more. There’s even a touch tank with rays and sharks. As mid-afternoon approaches, we start to check the warbler traps once again. (B,L,D)
Tues., Apr. 16 : Splinter Hill Bog Preserve
This morning we venture off the island and head north to Splinter Hill Bog Preserve, home to a variety of habitats: sandy upland longleaf pine forests, seepage bogs, and inundated small stream swamp forests. Much of the site is covered by one of the largest and most visually-impressive white-topped pitcher plant bogs in the world. Here, we first listen, and then look for Bachman’s Sparrow, a number of which should be singing loudly. With patience, they often give good views. Other pine forest birds like Brown-headed Nuthatch are also found here. We then check the edge of the delta for birds including Prothonatory Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Swallow-tailed and Mississippi Kites. After lunch in Forrest Gump’s hometown, Bayou La Batre, we then head back to the Island for the afternoon arrival of migrants winging in from the Gulf. (B,L,D)
Wed., Apr. 17 : Mobile-Tensaw Delta | Meaher State Park
Today brings Bald Eagle, Osprey, Alligator, and herons on a Delta Boat tour. We head off the Island early and swing around the bay to meet our small boat for an exploration of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, Mobile’s greatest biological jewel, and an area many think deserves National Park status. We float through the open marsh, watching for a variety of wildlife, including American Alligator, Bald Eagle, Osprey, herons, gallinules, Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga, and the aquatic mammal Nutria. Similar to Clapper Rail, we watch and listen for King Rail, found in small areas of habitat here. Our guides share interesting points on the history, geology, ecology, and biology of the Delta. Meaher Park, where we return to, is checked for marsh birds and ducks and Boat-tailed Grackle, which doesn’t occur on the island. Pine forest birds may also be found here. A late-ish lunch is enjoyed in nearby Daphne, then we return to Dauphin Island checking sites on the way if time permits for the afternoon arrivals. (B,L,D)
Thurs., Apr. 18 : Dauphin Island | Mobile Airport
Today we depart from the island, but check key spots for a final migration experience before heading to the airport. Plan your flight for after 11:30 AM since we plan to arrive at the airport by 10:30 AM. (B)
Cost of the Journey
Cost of the journey is $2290 DBL / $2690 SGL per person, based on double occupancy, from Mobile, Alabama. Cost includes five nights’ accommodations; all meals as stated in the itinerary; group airport transfers; ground transportation; professional guide services; park, preserve, and other activity fees; and miscellaneous program expenses. Tour price does not include: roundtrip airfare to and from Mobile, Alabama, or items of a personal nature such as laundry, porterage, telephone charges, or alcoholic beverages.
Please plan to make air travel plans only after the minimum group size has been met. We will send you a confirmation email as soon as the trip has been confirmed.
Arrival and Departure Airport: Mobile Regional Airport (MOB)
Arrival Details: Please plan flights to arrive April 13, 2024 no later than 2:00 PM. If you are driving and meeting us at the Gulf Breeze Motel, plan to arrive in time for dinner at 6:30 PM and the tour greeting and orientation.
Departure Details: Please plan flights to depart April 18, 2024 after 11:30 AM
Travel Tip: Mobile has some gardens that are lovely to explore in the spring. Bellingrath Gardens are about 30 minutes southwest of Mobile. For those who like to combine culture and nature, Mobile is just two hours from New Orleans, Louisiana, home to amazing street life, music, and dining.
Browse below for trip reports and species lists from past versions of this and other tours from this destination.
Andrew has birded all the southern coastal states, from South Carolina to Texas, and more diverse states and habitats from the mossy rainforests and mountains of Washington to the conifers and bogs of Minnesota to the winter seabirds of New York's Long Island. The dry and desert states of the Southwest have been favorites of Andrew's, from the furthest southwest point in the US to the high mountains and plains of Northern Colorado. Further afield, numerous visits to Mexico, 25+ trips to Central America and 17+ trips to northern South America including Guyana has enabled Andrew to become familiar with the birds of those regions. Some 15 tours to Greater Antilles places him in the top 20 eBirded species in the Greater Antilles. Andrew’s also birded and led tours to several other Caribbean Islands. In addition to Dauphin Island he also leads Naturalist Journeys tours in the Southeast US and Central/Southe America. His many trips to Southeast Asia, and of course a lifetime of experience in Australia and New Zealand round out his wildlife experiences.
Photo credit: Peg Abbott
Other trips with Andrew Haffenden
Christmas in Costa Rica Full! Take a look at our July Costa Rica tour!December 20 - 28, 2023
Best of Belize Full! Check out our Best of Belize tour in FebruaryJanuary 13 - 21, 2024
Best of Guatemala: Birding & Culture Three Great LodgesMarch 12 - 22, 2024, w/Tikal extension
Shorebird School on Alabama’s Dauphin IslandApril 23 - 28, 2024
Belize: Green SeasonJuly 20 - 27, 2024
Georgia Coastal Birding Little St. Simons Island & SavannahSeptember 27 - October 4, 2024
Guyana: Unspoiled WildernessOctober 4 - 16, 2024
- Christmas in Costa Rica
Essential Information +
This information is important for being prepared for your journey; we want you to have the best experience possible. If you only read one section, this one is key!
Ahead of Your Tour
- Please talk with your doctor about general health needs. It is a good idea to consult with your doctor about general vaccinations recommended for travel.
- Please plan to make air travel plans only after the minimum group size has been met. We will send you a confirmation email as soon as the trip has been confirmed. After you make travel reservations, please send a copy of your travel itinerary to the Naturalist Journeys office at email@example.com.
- Travel insurance in case of serious medical emergency is recommended. Full health coverage and repatriation is available through Allianz Travel Insurance.
- Soft sided luggage/duffel bags are easiest for packing the vans. Remember to pack essential medications in your carry-on luggage, as well as one day of clothing and optics in case of luggage delay.
We will share a copy of your health and emergency contact information with your guide. This information will be kept confidential but is very important in case of a medical emergency. In addition to bringing any prescription medications with you, we recommend that you have a copy of the prescriptions in case of loss.
Pace of the Tour & What to Expect
You will receive a Schedule-at-a-Glance and list of hotels (our eContact List) a few weeks before your departure. This will serve as an outline for each day and alert you to any recent changes made in the schedule or to our hotels, if needed.
Our journeys are set up to follow the rhythm of nature. Our focus is on birding and nature; we offer full, well-planned field days and often get up early for that magical time around dawn. We generally follow the published itinerary, but we stay flexible to the weather, wildlife opportunities and the interests of the group. Your guide will keep you apprised of the next day’s schedule at each evening meal, noting what to bring and what to prepare for. Questions and/or concerns are welcome.
The pace of our Naturalist Journeys tours is moderate; to fully participate you should be able to get in and out of vehicles several times a day, and walk 1-3 miles over uneven terrain. It is important to participate with a flexible attitude as adjustments may be made in our schedule to make the most of our time in the field or for other purposes at your guide's discretion. We are not a “listing” bird company that drills down on target species, but at times we do wait for those special species unique to the places we visit. During the day, we take time to stop for photos and for educational opportunities to learn about conservation projects, landscapes, and geology. We appreciate other taxa as well as birds, with mammals often the biggest draw but plants and butterflies are also very popular. Our clients often lend their own expertise to the mix.
We like to make meals a fun and memorable part of the experience, too. Breakfasts are often at hotels, and we carry snacks, fruit, and water in the vans each day. Lunches are a mix of picnics in the field (weather dependent) and a chance to dine with locals at small cafes and restaurants. For dinner, we pride ourselves in our homework to keep up with the best choices for dining, choosing restaurants with atmosphere that specialize in local foods. On occasion we keep dinner simple to go back out in the field for sunset wildlife viewing or night walks. In some remote locations, our choices are limited. If you are tired, room service for dinner may be an option you can choose.
Food & Drink
We carry water and juices/cold drinks in the cooler each day, and sodas if people like them. Please also plan on bringing and filling your water bottle for hiking each day. We try to use as few plastics as possible!
Packing, Clothing & Laundry
Soft sided luggage/duffel bags are easiest for packing the vans. Please pack essential medications in your carry-on luggage, as well as one day of clothing and optics in case of luggage delay.
Dress is informal and is casual even at restaurants. Layering is a great way to stay comfortable. Protective clothing is essential, whether it be from from sun, rain, cold, insects, or vegetation. You need closed toe shoes, and we comfortable walking shoes with good tread. Hiking boots with good support for hiking and on rocky terrain can work well.
Many people ask how much to plan to bring as spending money. Part of that depends on how much you want to shop. Most shops will take VISA and MasterCard or American Express. Typical items people purchase include local souvenirs and T-shirts, caps, and natural history books. You may want to bring cash for drinks with dinner (if available) or smaller local purchases.
Expect the normal tipping protocol to apply for hotel maids and bar service. If at the end of the tour, you would like to show your appreciation to your guides, tipping is entirely appropriate but at your discretion. We hope that you will be pleased with all professional services. Gratuities for group meals are included. For your birding tour guide, we suggest $10-$15 per day per guest. Note that if there is more than one guide, this amount can be split among them.
Cell Phones & Internet Service
Wi-Fi and cell phone service are available in most US destinations, although there are some exceptions in remote locations. Wi-Fi is generally provided in all hotels, lodges, and restaurants you visit, at least in public areas. Please refrain from taking or making cell phone calls in the vehicles when traveling with other passengers unless it appears to be an emergency as this disrupts other guests – please plan cell phone calls on your own time.
Smoking is not permitted in any vehicle or in any situation where the group is participating in an activity together, such as a vehicle excursion or a guided walk. Please respect all designated smoking areas at hotels and restaurants.
For this tour, your guides will drive travelers in either full-size or mini-vans or a combination of those two. We ask all attendees to please rotate your seating, so you ride with different drivers and alternate between front and back seats.
Photo Release & Sharing
We take many group photos and will share photos with the group. And after your tour, we will organize a chance to share photos via Dropbox or Google Photos. Please note that this is our policy and if you prefer to be excluded, we need to know ahead of your tour.
By registering for this tour, you agree to grant to Naturalist Journeys and its authorized representatives permission to record photos and/or video of your participation in the tour. You further agree that any or all of the material photographed may be used, in any form, as part of any future publications, brochures, or other printed materials used to promote Naturalist Journeys, and further that such use shall be without payment of fees, royalties, special credit or other compensation.
Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey.
Packing List +
Please Pack Light!
Soft luggage is easier for us to pack than a rigid hard sided piece, so if you have the choice, please use your soft luggage. Be sure to have your name and address on the inside of the bag, as well as on the luggage tag on the handle. The trip is informal and the weather fine – no need to pack heavily this time of year.
Be sure to pack your personal medication, airline tickets, binoculars, camera, and other essential items in your carry-on bag. Your carry-on bag must be able to fit under the seat or it will be taken away by airline staff and put with the regular luggage. You will want a daypack for field trips, so this is the ideal carry-on.
We recommend that you double check with your airline a week or so before departure to verify luggage size and weight restrictions. A reminder, keep your EMERGENCY CONTACT list with your airline tickets – just in case!
In general, the weather during your stay will likely include days in the 70's and nights in the 60’s. Rain is always possible.
Lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and long pants make ideal field clothing; they protect you from sun, insects, and vegetation. Quick-dry fabrics are ideal, and you may wish to spray your field outerwear with Permethrin beforehand or try bug repellent clothing such as the Craghoppers Insect Shield collection. If you like to wear them, by all means bring some shorts.
Choose clothing you don’t mind getting dirty and that is comfortable and easy to wear. Layering is your best strategy for comfort. While closed toed shoes and hiking boots are ideal for our fieldwork, a pair of sandals will be most welcome for travel days and evenings.
Clothing and Gear
- Long pants, 2-3 pair. One of these might be rain pants you wear over long underwear or tights. Quick dry hiking pants work well if you plan to do hand laundry
- Shorts (optional)
- Lightweight long-sleeved shirts, 2-3 (Loose fitting keeps you cool.)
- T-shirts, short-sleeved shirts or equivalent, 4-5
- Casual clothing for travel days and evenings
- Personal underclothing and pajamas
- Socks – lightweight and easy to wash and dry (Long enough to tuck your pants into, to help protect from chiggers)
- Comfortable walking/hiking shoes such as tennis shoes
- Lightweight hiking boots
- Comfortable sandals or light shoes for evenings, travel days (Crocs work well)
- Lightweight fleece jacket or sweater for early morning walks
- Lightweight raincoat or poncho
- Bathing suit (optional)
- Hat with broad brim
- Bandana (optional, great for cooling off when you are hot and sweaty)
- Equipment and Miscellaneous
- E-ticket confirmation (make a copy to keep in a separate location)
- Personal identification
- Small daypack or fanny pack to carry gear while hiking (essential!)
- Walking sticks (optional)
- Flashlight or headlamp with fresh batteries in good working order Bring extra batteries, just in case!
- Alarm clock (or use your cell phone)
- Sunscreen/lip balm
- Insect Repellent (containing DEET)
- Toiletry articles
- Earplugs if you are noise sensitive
- Binoculars (a hotel shower cap is great to cover these when it is raining)
- Spotting scope (optional). Guides will have a scope to share, but feel free to bring your own.
- Camera and extra battery, memory card, lens cleaning supplies and your instruction manual. Do a good check before leaving. (optional)
- Water bottle (or plan to reuse our store-bought water bottle if prefer)
- Gallon-size ziplock bags for keeping things dry
- Laundry soap for hand washing, travel sewing kit
- Notebook and pen or journal (optional)
- Field guides (optional)
WE DO NOT RECOMMEND TRAVELING WITH PRECIOUS OR VALUABLE JEWELRY – don’t tempt anyone and don’t bring things you’d regret losing, and your mind will be at ease!
Medical and First Aid Items
- Personal medication
- Copy of eyeglass and medical prescriptions, and any medical alerts
- Motion sickness preventatives if likely to be needed in vans or boat
- Personal first aid kit including medications for general and stomach ailments
- Band-Aids, moleskin to protect against blisters
- Foot powder, lotions for dry skin, general “comfort” items
- Small bottle of hand sanitizer
- Insurance information
- Extra pair of eyeglasses or contacts
Suggested Reading List +
There are many great books about nature on the US gulf coast. The following are a few titles that we have enjoyed that can get you started.
Merlin App. A phone-based birding app from Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology. You can download it here.
History & Culture
Your guide will also have a selection of reference books and materials for participants to share. As an Amazon Associate, Naturalist Journeys earns from qualifying purchases, and may get commissions for purchases made through links on this page at no added cost to you.
Useful Links +
Dauphin Island – Sunset Capital of Alabama
Overview - Mobile, Alabama
Nature, Wildlife & Biology
Article about Gulf Migration – Article by AL.com
Bird Watching at Dauphin Island – The Spring Migration” – Article by Courier Journal
Alabama Audubon Society
Alabama Ornithological Society
Alabama Birding Trail
Dauphin Island Wildlife – Facebook Page
Alabama’s Piping Plover
Conservation, Parks & Reserves
Outdoor Alabama: Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Splinter Hill Bog Preserve
Dauphin Island Sea Lab - Alabama Aquarium
Geology & Geography
Geography of Dauphin Island
Geology of Alabama
History & Culture
Dauphin Island’s History
Native American History of Dauphin Island
Film trailer about Native American history on Dauphin Island - you may choose to explore!
Indian Mound Park
Helpful Travel Websites
Mobile Regional Airport (MOB)
Homeland Security Real ID Act
Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
Time and Date
Photo credits: Banners: Black Skimmer, Carlos Sanchez; Cape May Warbler by Peg Abbott; Roseate Spoonbill by Betty Andres; Snowy Egrets by Noel Snyder; Group Birding Dauphin Island Beach by Peg Abbott; American Alligator, Naturalist Journeys Stock; American Redstart, Homer Gardin; Yellow Warbler, Carlos Sanchez; Birding Dauphin Island Beach by Peg Abbott; White-topped Pitcher Plants by Peg Abbott; Alabama Group, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Prothonotary Warbler by Dough Pratt; Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Homer Gardin; Great Egret, Carlos Sanchez; Blue Grosbeak, Carlos Sanchez; Indigo Bunting, Doug Greenberg; Chestnut-sided Warbler, Homer Gardin; Bay-breasted Warbler Homer Gardin; Golden-winged Warbler, Tom Dove; Gull, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Birding Group x3, Peg Abbott; Mobile Delta, Peg Abbott; Prothonotary Warbler by Dough Pratt; Summer Tanager, Tom Dove.