Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge and How to See it

When you’re looking for ways to take in the beauty of Alabama’s Gulf Coast, there are a few ways to get the most out of your effort. One of the most interesting places in the entire area is the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. The appropriately named refuge, French for “safe harbor,” is home to a plethora of native species, including endangered ones. There are over 7,000 acres of habitat for these species, and an array of family-friendly activities perfect for your next vacation to the area.

Are you looking for the most incredible experiences on Alabama’s Gulf Coast? Then, you’ve come to the right place! Here at Sunset Properties, we consider ourselves experts on the area. Therefore, you can trust our free Vacation Guide to steer you in the right direction when it comes to amazing experiences on Alabama’s Gulf Coast.

What You’ll Find at the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge

The Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge features wetlands, beach dunes, and pine-oak maritime forests. And, it is one of the few remaining coastal ecosystems left in Alabama. As a result, the scenic beauty of the refuge is surely one to behold, making the perfect opportunity for outdoor adventure! Here are a few different ways to experience the refuge for yourself!

  • Explore the refuge from the water! This is a great way to see the refuge in ways you wouldn’t otherwise. The waterways are passable by canoe or kayak with a launch site on Gator Lake or from the Jeff Friend Trail at Little Lagoon. You can also take your electric trolling motorboat on Gator Lake.
  • Keep your eyes peeled for native wildlife! More than 350 species of bird call the refuge home, and it is part of the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail. You can also find several animal species, some endangered, like the Loggerhead Sea Turtle and others.
  • Bring your fishing rod with you! With your valid Alabama Saltwater Fishing License in hand, kids and adults alike can try to reel in a fresh catch on Gator Lake, Little Lagoon, or on the beach!
  • Put your hiking boots on and explore! There are four hiking trails covering every habitat within the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. Be sure to stop at the Welcome Office before hitting the trails. There, you can pick up your Discovery Pack, a totally free kit that provides hikers and visitors with a map of the refuge along with other important information regarding the habitat.

A Great Day Trip When You Stay in Our Beach Properties

Whether you’re looking for a way to explore the area or just to get off the beach for a day, then the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge is for you! And, for all those other days when you just want to lay out on the sand, our condos and beach houses are the perfect solutions. Here at Sunset Properties, our properties are all ideally situated in respect to the beach. That means, that you’ll be just minutes away from the beach! For the best beach experience, though, you’ll want to hurry up and claim your booking! So, browse our available condos and beach houses! Then, contact us today to book your stay! And, if you need more ideas for incredible things to do on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, then download our free Vacation Guide, as well!

Delta Wildlife Boat Eco Tour

A don’t miss trip for nature lovers big and small take a Delta Safari!  This charter departs daily from Tacky Jacks in Gulf Shores and tours the scenic and historical and Mobile Delta system.  You can learn local history enjoy beautiful scenery and learn about our unique ecosystem and the animals that live here on this family friendly hour and a half trip.

Experience the swamps of the lower Mobile-Tensaw Delta on this highly rated wildlife tour. This is the “must do” tour for all avid lovers of nature and its creatures when visiting Mobile, Alabama. The Mobile-Tensaw Delta is Mobile’s biggest jewel – If you do nothing else, take this trip!

TOUR COST: Adult: $19.99, Child (6-15): $14.99, Under 5: FREE.20160328_165924
DEPARTS: Daily. Charters available 7 days.
LENGTH: 1.5 hours. Reservations suggested.

As we float among the open Marsh watching for a variety of wildlife including Alligators, Bald Eagle, Osprey, Heron, Cormorant, Pelicans, Nutria and more, learn about these unique animals of the swamp and how they live. Commentary includes points on the history, geology, ecology and characters of the Delta, as well as Alabama State Lands mission in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta and the ‘Forever Wild’ program.

Perfect for children of all ages, Delta Safaris operates over 100 school field trips annually – we know kids and welcome yours aboard. For Children 5 and Under, please email us after booking and we will add their FREE tickets to your booking.

All commentary provided by experienced Delta Nature Guides.

Includes: The best eco-tour in Alabama, showing off the best delta eco-system in the USA. As seen in National Geographic – Adventure Magazine, Southern Living Magazine and on National Morning Shows.

Operates: Additional tours are offered on busy days. This public tour operates 5 days a week from February 15 – December 31st each year. From January 7 – February 14, it operates on Saturdays and Sundays only. Closed on Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Private Group Charters available year round. Book Online above, Call: (251) 259-8531 or Email: info@5RDS.com for more information.

Delta Safaris is the only State of Alabama authorized Concessionaire offering tours of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, Bottle Creek Indian Mounds and Champion Cypress. We believe in a Leave No Trace policy, in educating and preserving these amazing jewels for future generations.

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Policies & Disclaimers:
Cancellation Policy: Rainchecks will be provided in the event of inclement weather. Unsafe passage call will be made by Captain on day of event. All other cancellations require 24 hour notice for refund.

What to Bring: Comfortable clothing, cameras and binoculars. Packed food and drink is welcome on board – no glass containers please.

Should I Tip?: Tips are not required but are graciously received. Our guides strive hard to educate and entertain. Please let your guides know how they did.GS Sunset

Cancellations: Rainchecks will be provided in the event of inclement weather. An unsafe passage call will be made by Captain on day of event. All other cancellations require 24 hour notice for refund.

Be sure to call and book your trip to enjoy this unique trip with your family!

Leave Only Footprints – Keep Alabama Beaches Clean!

As a child growing up just over the state line in the Pensacola area of Florida I remember a similar idea of leaving only your footprints behind. As I’ve gotten older I’ve always wondered why Alabama Beaches didn’t have the same signs for all the beach goers. The beaches across Alabama are implementing a similar plan and it is called Leave only Footprints!

The leave only Footprints, works off of the idea that, “you must be change you want to see in the world”. With that idea in mind and with the direction of U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the cities and areas of the Alabama Gulf Coast have enacted several new rules regarding litter and items on the beach.

1. Personally owned structures and equipment left on the beach an hour after sunset will be removed byIMG_1355 the beach patrol.

2. Avoid walking on beach vegetation. Plant roots hold together the fragile dunes.

3. Keep the natural ecosystem intact by avoiding the removal of shells, driftwood or other items you may find during your island explorations.

4. Explore away from bird nesting areas. Nests may be located in the ground and camouflaged to resemble the surrounding environment, so please watch your step!

5. Consider the best type of transportation to see the island: your feet! Walking is not only a great form of exercise, but it’s an eco-friendly way to experience the Alabama Gulf Coast.

New Trash Cans and Recycle containers will be all along the beach to help keep trash and recyclables off of the beach and out of the water. Keeping Alabama beaches clean and safe for all of its inhabitants and visitors.IMG_3017

Each year more than 5 million visitors travel from across the nation and the world to enjoy the turquoise water and white-sand beaches of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Come, stay, play and enjoy the striking beauty and laid-back lifestyle of our 32 miles of sugar-white sand. We simply ask that you take with you all those happy beach memories . . . and leave only your footprints.

The Leave Only Footprints program exists to ensure it stays that way for generations to come. Will you join us?

Alabama Coastal Birding Trail

When visiting the Gulf Coast, one might see a seagull flying around waiting to be fed, a pelican plunging into the water to grab its fishy lunch, or one of the many shore birds wading at the water’s edge pecking for food and nesting. Alabama’s Gulf Coast is home to many feathered creatures – not just the ones we see hanging around the beach area. In the late 90s, a birding trail was opened to offer the opportunity for people around the world to come experience a wide variety of bird species along the Alabama Gulf Coast.548386_329999303727100_100001510997017_856982_1705441458_n

The Alabama Coastal Birding Trail is 200 miles, consisting of six birding loops between Baldwin County and Mobile County. The loops can be followed in order, in full or in partiality. The six birding loops include:

  • Gulf Shores – Orange Beach Loop
  • Fort Morgan Loop
  • South Baldwin County Loop
  • Easter Shore, Mobile Bay Causeway and Blakeley Island Loop
  • Mobile – Tensaw River Delta Loop
  • Dauphin Island Bayou La Batre Loop

Fort Morgan Loop

The closest to our Sunset Properties community, Fort Morgan Loop starts at the intersection of AL 59 and AL 180 in Gulf Shores. Most of the Fort Morgan Peninsula falls in the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, making it great for birding and enjoying nature. As you explore the Fort Morgan Loop, you’ll run across the Jeff Friend Trail, Pine Beach Trail, Mobile Street, The Pines, Fort Morgan, The Stables, Ferry Landing, Middle Ground, The Fort, and The Marsh. All of these trails offer a variety of terrain and views, as well as a number of conveniences – easy parking, restrooms, a snack bar, a museum and more.

While on one of the many loops listed above, you will see birds such as Black Bellied Plovers, Clapper Rails, Indigo Buntings and so many more. Directional and informational signs along the way will guide you easily along the loops.  Plan your days accordingly; tackle a different trail each day or you could even do two or three during a day. Each loop is close enough to where you could drive to one after another. In between each trail, you and the family could stop and grab a bite to eat at one of the favorite local restaurants or take a look inside one of the many gift shops.

Not just for the bird lovers, these trails offer something for the outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. Along with the birding trail, there is a time for hunting. The season usually lasts from October until February; however, non-consumptive use is allowed all year long. Along with hunting, you can also grab that fishing pole and take out the boat or stand on the coast for a relaxing day of fishing. So grab those binoculars, fishing poles, and more and come experience an outdoor paradise that’s fun for any age!

Fall Bird Banding 2013 Fort Morgan

Just for all you nature lovers! I wanted to give a recap of our experience at the 2013 fall Bird Banding. About 2 weeks ago Alex and I woke up very early and made our way toward Fort Morgan to see all the happenings at this year’s bird banding session. We got out of the car on the cool October morning and headed across Fort Morgan road into a secret little clearing just to the west of an old brick path.

Once in the clearing the humming of constant activity catches your attention. A small army of volunteers are traveling back and forth from the bird banding tent, covered with scales, measuring tools and reference books to unseen locations.
Every volunteer made their way to a table just inside the tent occupied by at least 2 workers. The volunteers each had small bags attached to a belt or apron around their waist. Each mesh bag held a bird. These bags were hung on a sort of Lazy Susan stand until it was its turn. Once the bird in the bag made it to its turn it was carefully removed from its bag, weighed measured, its sex and age is determined, and it is given a special band for its leg.

This bird is then handed off to one of the experts who teach the crowd about that type of bird and bird banding in general. Then one visitor is allowed to release the bird back in to the wild. This entire process takes just a few minutes. This valuable information is used to track migration patterns, lifespan, and health of the population of each type of bird that is banded.

To me the most exciting part was seeing these beautiful creatures up close. I had the opportunity to release a juvenile ruby throat-ed hummingbird after it received its band. This tiny bird was brilliantly colored and weighed something similar to a dry tea bad in my hand. His emerald green feathers had a shiny quality to them and he was so young that he had only a single red feather on his throat so far. More mature males have red throats that sparkle like a ruby as they zip from one place to another.

As we were taught before this little jewel was placed in my hand it takes a huge number of these uniquely labeled bands to even weigh an ounce. Once our new found education was complete the head Bird Bander, Mr. Sargent, asked me if I wanted to let him go. He carefully placed the tiny bird in my hand and his little warm body rested in the center of my palm and I could feel his little heart beat. He rested for just a moment in my hand watching all the spectators. His rest was just long enough for Alex to snap a picture and then he was suddenly hovering over my palm. The next moment a little green flash shot off toward Fort Morgan.

This special little bird is just one of half a dozen that we watched released that morning. This particular humming bird will continue to eat in Fort Morgan and gain weight before he travels in one non-stop flight to South America for the winter. Many of the birds we saw being banded are fairly local residents. They do not travel south for the winter but stay in the area and enjoy the mild Fort Morgan weather. They Bird Banding team was excited to see the increase in the population for these finely feathered friends.

If you are visiting Fort Morgan during the first two weeks of October be sure o take a morning and witness the Bird Banding in Fort Morgan. This is a great event to bring your child to or that nature lover in your life. If you are interested in learning more about Fort Morgan bird banding visit Mr. Sargent’s Humming Bird site. You and your family can enjoy the next bird banding in the spring of 2014. We always offer special rates for folks coming to enjoy this special event. Give us a call when you are ready to book your spot for the spring. See you there!

Bird Banding in Fort Morgan

I have said it so many time but I’ll say it again.  The fall is the absolutely the best time to be at the beach.  Warm day cool evenings and so much to see and hear.  At the Sunset Properties office we leave the doors open most days.  This of course invites all sorts of flying friends in.  We are regularly shewing out dragon flies and bugs of all sorts sometimes even a bird on occasion.   The birds are loving the weather as well.  You can hear them singing constantly.

This great weather and the plentiful food and shelter makes the Ft. Morgan area the perfect place for a lay over for our feathered friends.  They are heading south but they are enjoying the beauty of the Fort Morgan area before they keep going south.  Our tiny piece of land is a major landing strip for migrating birds twice a year.  When they land a dedicated group of volunteers take time to weigh measure and count each of these creatures.  This valuable information is shared with researchers all of the world studying birds.  We feel truly blessed to play host to the birds traveling through the area.

If you are here right now you can witness all the excitement in Ft. Morgan.  Just head toward Fort Morgan, and head off to the right when you start seeing vehicles.  The friendly volunteers will give information about what they are doing and information about each bird you see.  If you are very lucky you may even have a chance to let this gorgeous creature fly again, right out of your palm.  Try to come down in the next couple of weeks and join the bird banding team.

Sea Turtles Have A Banner Year In Fort Morgan

We have always enjoyed Sea Turtles on our beaches.  This year is a booming year for these elusive creatures.  Thus far 71nests have been laid on Ft. Morgan Beaches.  So this has not only been a record breaking year for human visitors but for the Sea Turtle Visitors as well.  From here on out well in to the fall just about any time you come you have an opportunity to see baby Sea Turtles hatching, and making their march to the water.

Be sure to check with the Bon Secour U. S.  Fish and Wildlife Refuge to see when and where the closest nest is to you.  This is a definite don’t miss on your vacation.  So pack some beach chairs,  or towels to sit on,  bug spray and a snack and come see this amazing site with your little ones.  This should be a don’t miss on your beach vacation to do list!

The Dunes Beach First Sea Turtle Nest!

Turtle season is well under way!  We are thrilled to announce the first nest on our beach.  I was getting ready for work when I received a phone call from Jackie Issacs the Wildlife  Biologist from the Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge.  She was invited me down to help and was gracious enough to let me make a little video.  This is a quick video of what a sea turtle nest  looks like and the processes it takes to move it to a safe place on the beach.  Watch our video and we hope to see you soon.  In 55 days the will be ready to hatch!  You can keep tabs on this nest and all the others on Alabama’s gulf coast at www.alabamaseaturtle.com .  Hope this is a great start to your summer!

Here Come The Turtles!!!

Sea Turtle season stated yesterday and the very first patrol got to see a mother turtle preparing her nest and laying eggs.  Witnessing a mother sea turtle lay a nest is a once in a lifetime event.  Yesterday, the very first nest of the year was a Kemp’s Ridley Turtle.  This turtle is very rare to our area.  Tyically only one or two a year are all that we see.  This turtle is unusual because it lays its eggs during the day.

Mama turtle is heading home
Mama turtle is heading home

  This is a very vulnerable time for a mother turtle because during the daylight hours predators can see her dark body against the light sand in our area.  Most predators will leave her alone but they will go after her unprotected eggs once she heads back to the water.  This is why she buries them.  In fact she buries these ping pong ball like eggs so well often you can even tell she has been there.  The only tell tale sign is her flipper and body marks she left as she came out of the water and returned to it.  These marks are called a crawl.  This is what the volunteers from the share the beach program look for when doing morning patrols.

Once these nests are fond by the patrol they are dug up to make sure we know the exact placement of the eggs.  Once they are found if they are not too close to the water they are recovered and marked so that they are not trampled by visitors to the beach.  You will see them surrounded by 4 stakes and brightly colored ribbon arond with signs telling about the federally protected animal. 

After about 55 days the turtles are ready to hatch out of their leathery shells.  Once they are out they head to the surface of the nest whichs the beach. They take a brief rest on the beach they like little soliders they march often in line to the water just as quickly as they can.  The Kemps Ridley babies hatch during the day as well which makes them vulnrable as they make their way to the water.  Once in the water the babies look like they are flying.  They swim to the nearest seaweed bed to eat and grow for a few years.

We cannot always post when a nest is found however the Bon Scour refuge does keep trackof them and they have a site dedicated to Alabama Sea Turtles.  You can keep track of nests you may have seen on vacation.  You can also learn all sorts of information on this site about sea turtles.  Hopefully you and your family will have a chance to witness this once in a life time happening!

The migration has begun!!!

We see all kinds of animals migrate through our area. We sit in a unique area that allows us to witness birds, butterflies, even different sea life migrate past our little stretch of island. Right now we are enjoying our finely feathered friends as the migrate through. The Alabama Gulf Coast is a critical stopover point as migratory birds return from Central and South America. The bird banding station opens before dawn each day and;operations usually cease between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., depending on the flow of birds. Bring a lawn chair, binoculars and inquisitive mind but leave the pets at home.
Admission: Admission to Fort: $5:00 adults, $3:00 children 6-12, free to younger children. Banding is FREE.

Dates & Times
Mar 31, 2012 – Apr 12, 2012
Location
Fort Morgan, 51 State Highway 180 West, Gulf Shores, AL 36542

The migration has begun and we are enjoying these beautiful painted beauties as rest right outside our door.

scarlet tanager
scarlet tanager