Alabama coast event is for the birds

Published 10:43 pm Monday, October 13, 2008

The John L. Borom Alabama Coastal BirdFest will take birding and wildlife enthusiasts on 16 different excursions to view the flora and fauna of the Alabama Gulf Coast during the event’s four-day run Oct. 16-19.

The BirdFest’s new name was designed to honor one of the driving forces behind the festival, which attracts people worldwide.

“From here on, the event shall be known as the John L. Borom Alabama Coastal BirdFest, recognizing John Borom for his long involvement in land and wildlife conservation in Alabama” said Jim Griggs, Director of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ State Lands Division, during a ceremony at Weeks Bay Estuarine Research Reserve, reading from a proclamation from Gov. Bob Riley.

Borom, president of the Mobile Bay Audubon Society and director of Faulkner State Community College’s Fairhope campus, preferred to focus on the events scheduled for BirdFest instead of its renaming.


“Of course, I appreciate it, but I’m just a tiny little cog in a big wheel,” Borom said. “I didn’t do it by myself. It takes a lot of people getting together to make this work. That’s what we’re trying to do with the bird festival.

“We know we enjoy birds and know birds require habitat. The proceeds from the BirdFest go to buy bird habitat. One of the things we’ve been able to do is expand Dauphin island Bird Sanctuary. We don’t make a whole lot of money, about $10,000 a year, but this money is used as match. We put up money; the state puts up money and then we apply for federal grants.”

According to a study done by Semoon Chang, economics professor at the University of South Alabama, the proceeds from the BirdFest is not the only economic benefit to south Alabama. Chang concluded the festival has a total economic impact of more than $150,000. Chang also points out that festival participants are extremely pleased with the event and rated the quality of the guides and presenters as one of the reasons for their overwhelming satisfaction.

Borom said there are currently 622 people registered with participants from 18 states, Canada and France.

“That’s the most we’ve ever had,” Borom said of the diversity and number of participants. “People enjoy getting out this time of year, experiencing nature in all of its beauty. The thing is the BirdFest attracts people who can make a difference in a positive way. People come and meet friends and go on trips together.”

The BirdFest has tours along the 240-mile Coastal Birding Trail guided by birding and wildlife experts.

“You get to ride on nice buses for the tours, or you can take a boat ride in Mobile Bay or hike to Grand Bay Savanna,” Borom said. “When you go with a guide, it’s better than doing it on your own, because you’ve got somebody to identify the bird for you. And you get to experience some of the natural areas along the coast that people don’t get to visit because they’re so isolated. You get to witness some of the fall migration of birds, one of the most fascinating things in the animal world. You get to see butterflies and all sorts of flowers blooming in the fall and lots of birds. And you get to hear about them from experts.”

Thursday night’s Opening Reception will be held at Delta Hall at Five Rivers – Alabama’s Delta Resource Center, located on the Causeway between Mobile and Spanish Fort. Photographer Greg Harber will highlight the incredible migrations of birds in his program called Through the Delta and Beyond.

Dr. Frank Moore, a renowned ornithological researcher and chairman of the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Southern Mississippi, will be the keynote speaker at Friday night’s Barbecue and Seafood Dinner at the James P. Nix Center in Fairhope.

“Dr. Moore and his team have spent many years documenting and studying the behavior and ecology of migration,” Borom said. “They have been banding birds on Fort Morgan for about 20 years. He’s going to tell us about the needs of birds. The reason this is important is that our area is growing at such a rapid rate that we may not realize it, but we are impacting the other things we share the planet with. Every time we build a condo or shopping mall, we’re displacing or removing habitat that many of these birds need, especially along the coast.

“Biologists and birds have known for a very long time that this is a very important area for all these birds that migrate twice a year across the Gulf of Mexico. Now we’re trying to let other folks know the plight of some of these birds. Some of these species are declining for different reasons. They’re declining because of habitat loss in South America and North America. The habitat is slowly disappearing at both ends. Birds are important for a number of reasons, and this is a way people can enjoy the beautiful Alabama Gulf Coast and enjoy the wonder of migration.”

On Saturday, the free Bird and Conservation Expo will be held in Fairhope at the Faulkner State campus and across the street at the new Fairhope Public Library.

“At the expo on Saturday, people can touch raptors and sting rays,” Borom said. “You can hear speakers and we’re giving away bird houses. There will be activities for people of all ages. It’s turned out to be a good educational tool.”

Visit for a complete list of specific tours, which cover the best birding and wildlife-watching locations in Baldwin and Mobile counties. Registration is also available online. A complete list of activities for the free Bird and Exposition Expo on Oct. 18 is available on the website.