An extraordinary opportunity presented itself to our Audubon Chapter in recent months! An acre of undeveloped coastal woods on Dauphin Island came up for sale, and the Alabama-based organization, Dauphin Island Bird Sanctuaries (DIBS), was eager to purchase this important habitat for protection in perpetuity, forever in conservation easement status.

The property lies sheltered just behind the dune lines and is heavily vegetated with native plants. This property adjoins, to the south, undeveloped Property Owners Association dune properties and the POA-owned island golf course which borders the Gulf of Mexico. In fall, the property provides abundant food resources for migrants in preparation for their trans-Gulf flight to wintering grounds in the tropics. In spring migration it hosts weary birds that have just flown northward across the Gulf of Mexico. Birds that are permanent residents and other fauna evolved with and benefit from this wooded area that provides vital habitat and food sources.

The FMW Board of Directors investigated donating to DIBS, provided that our funds would be matched dollar for dollar from the Beverly Winn Memorial Fund. Beverly was an ardent conservationist and birder who knew the value of preserving coastal woodlands for the birds. After discussions over several months, and asking many Chapter members if they thought this was a wise use of Chapter funds, the Board unanimously voted to donate $10,000 toward the purchase price. And yes, our donation was matched and suddenly became $20,000 as a result!

DIBS initiated their conservation program for neotropical migrant stopover habitat in 2000 with a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Since that time with the continued support of NFWF and other foundations and private donors, DIBS has acquired 28 individual parcels comprising some 9.5 acres of critical habitat, not including the recent purchase.

Development on Dauphin Island has ramped up in the last few years. Many properties are purchased, built on and flipped for profit. Alas, if you’ve been to the island in the last few years, you know that these lots are typically scraped clean of vegetation before building, and then converted to non-native landscaping and lawns that don’t support native wildlife.

There are approximately 35 undeveloped acres remaining on the island which are crucial for sustaining migratory bird habitat. These include the Tupelo Gum Swamp (11 acres), the Gorgas Swamp (6 acres), and the Steiner property (12 acres). In addition, there are other lots scattered mostly on the eastern end that contribute significantly to the island’s quality habitat. These are considered valuable for providing diverse shelter and food opportunities for migratory birds. The property our Chapter helped purchase consists of four lush, contiguous lots replete with native vegetation.

Purchasing and conserving additional properties on Dauphin Island is an ongoing quest. If you would like to learn more about Dauphin Island, join FMWAS on a field trip there this fall, and consider a personal contribution to Dauphin Island Bird Sanctuaries, Inc. DIBS is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, and contributions are tax deductible.

The address is as follows

Dauphin Island Bird Sanctuaries, Inc

PO Box 1295

Dauphin Island, AL 36528

By Lucy Duncan