Islands are for the birds: Birdwatching in Alabama

Calling all ornithologists! What is an ornithologist you might inquire?
You know, birders — those folks who pass the time hunting, viewing and
studying multi-hued winged creatures in their natural habitat through
the eyes of a pair of hight-priced, German-engineered binoculars. This
weekend is all about the birds at Fort Morgan Road and Bon Secour, two
major sites along the expansive Alabama Coastal Birding Trail, which is
240 miles of trails. And if the birds’ southern migration to warmer
climes holds to its traditional schedule, this will be the optimal time
to admire these exotic birds of paradise in our area.

Birding is considered eco-tourism — a billion dollar industry in the
tourism sector throughout the United States. Birding enthusiasts
converging on the Florida/Alabama Gulf Coast this month inject
important dollars into the economy in an otherwise slow time for
tourism.

According to the Alabama Gulf Coast Convention and
Visitors Bureau survey in 2002, 8 percent of tourists listed bird
watching as their primary activity, and in 2006 that figure jumped to
just fewer than 20 percent. Despite hurricanes and commercial swelling,
that number continues to rise.

“The bird-watching periods are a
catalyst of economic growth, driving in numerous tourists,” said Joanne
McDonough nature tourism specialist along the Alabama Gulf Coast. “The
region brings in somewhere near $100 million dollars per year. The
Alabama Coastal Birding Trail Web site has had a hit rate increase of
90 percent since 2002.”

read the full story: The Penscola News Journal

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