Alabama & Mississippi: Summer 2020

Summer 2020: 1 Jun–31 July

John A. Trent

Recommended citation:

Trent, J.A. 2021. Summer 2020: Alabama & Mississippi. <> North American Birds.

The landfall of Tropical Storm Cristobal in southeastern Louisiana on 7 June was the most notable highlight this season, bringing good numbers of storm-related birds to coastal areas as well as scattered locations inland. Sites such as Columbus Lake in Mississippi saw many coastal tern species that were likely storm-displaced, filtering through the area well into July. Rainfall in both states was near average during the report period. Temperatures in June were near normal while temperatures in July were above average by nearly 2 degrees.  

Contributors (subregional editors in boldface): 

Eric Anderson, Trisha Baker, Wayne Baumgartner, Andrew Bell, Bill Campbell, Steven Chase, Karen Chiasson, Sabrina Cobb, Wendell Colberg, C. Dwight Cooley, Jeff Couch, Bill Finney, Barry K. Flemming, Lawrence F. Gardella, Jeff, T. Garner, Robert Goss, Alban Guillaumet, Andrew Haffenden, Jan Hanson (JHan), Greg J. Harber, Ken Hare, Jeffrey Harris (JHar), Jason Hoeksema (JHo), Greg D. Jackson, Brian Johnston, Rick L. & Ron J. Kittinger, Gene Knight, Craig Litteken, Andrew Lydeard, Paul Mack, Don McKee, Hall Mitchell, Kristina Mitchell, Tom Moorman, Olivia Morpeth, Larry Pace, Autumn Patterson, Mark Pellegri, Steve Phillips, David Reed, Thomas V. Ress, Emma Rhodes, Don & Judy Self, , Daniel Redwine, Kevin Riley, Becky Rosamond, Michael Sandoz (MSa), Marion Schiefer, Terrance L. Schiefer, Damien J. Simbeck, G. Simms, Renea Simpson, John A. Trent, Ken & Ruffina Ward, Satchell Watts-Kerr, James White, Mark Woodrey

Abbreviations: B.B.P. (Black Belt Prairie physiographic region of cen. Alabama and e.-cen. Mississippi); Dauphin (Dauphin I., Mobile, AL); G.C. (Gulf Coastal Region of s. Alabama); I.C.P. (Inland Coastal Plain Region of s.-cen. Alabama); M.R. (Mountain Region of n. Alabama); T.V. (Tennessee Valley Region of n. Alabama); the “seven-county area” refers to the following seven counties in Mississippi near Starkville: Choctaw, Clay, Lowndes, Noxubee, Oktibbeha, Webster, Winston.

Waterfowl through Shorebirds

Numerous sites in the I.C.P. had reports of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks where they are increasing, including six s. of Demopolis, Marengo Co 7–8 Jul (JC, D&JS); two at Tuscaloosa 9 Jul (SWK et al.); two sw. of Prattville, Autauga Co 15 Jul (EA); and one at St. Stephens Historical Park, Washington Co 17 Jul (KR). A Northern Shoveler in s. Etowah Co was the fourth summer record for the M.R. 20 Jul (GDJ). Two male Gadwall summered at McLeod, Noxubee Co, MS providing the eighth summer record for the seven-county area (TLS, JHar, MS, JHan). A female Redhead was present s. of Grand Bay, Mobile Co 2 Jun–5 Jul, representing the fourth summer record for the G.C. (BJ), while two females summered w. of Trinity, Lowndes Co, MS—the second summering record for the seven-county area (TLS, MS, et al.). Uncommon in summer in the M.R., two molting male Ring-necked Ducks were in s. Etowah Co 20 Jul (GDJ). A Lesser Scaup n. of Faunsdale, Hale Co was another rare summer species of waterfowl 7 Jun marking the seventh summer record for the I.C.P. (GJH). The summer occurrence of Ruddy Ducks in the B.B.P. continued, with up to two w. of Macon, Noxubee Co, MS 7 Jun–17 Jul (TLS, MS, JHar); one in s. Lowndes Co, MS 26 Jun+ (TLS, JHar, MS, PM); and a maximum of 33 in Hale Co, AL 9 Jul (JTG). King Rails appear to be returning to a site at Noxubee N.W.R., Wintson Co, MS—one was present 30 Jun marking the second year in a row birds have been present since 2008 (MS, TLS)

An Inca Dove at Ashford, Houston Co returned to one of the few inland sites in Alabama, with one individual seen 30 Jul (RS). The maximum summer count of White-winged Doves in Alabama was tallied at 47 on 2 Jul at Belforest, Baldwin Co (CL). A Limpkin at Dauphin was the second G.C. record and the seventeenth Alabama record 17 Jul (ph. BF). A pair of Black-necked Stilts with two young were w. of Leighton, Colbert Co 14 Jul, marking the fifth nesting record for inland Alabama (DJS, RG, et al.). A Baird’s Sandpiper was late at Blakeley I., Mobile Co 22 Jul (ph. LFG). A Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Ft. Morgan 8 Jun—post T.S. Cristobal—provided the first June record for Alabama (ph. ER). Uncommon inland, a Willet was at Eufaula NWR 4 Jul (AG). A Greater Yellowlegs at Cedarville, Hale Co, AL provided the first June record for the I.C.P. 12 Jun (ph. JAT). 

Skua through Spoonbill

A South Polar Skua was a remarkable find at Gulf Shores & Orange Beach, Baldwin Co 30 Jul+ marking the first record for Alabama (ph. SC, OM, et al.). A Parasitic Jaeger was at Gulf Shores 8 Jun (ph. KC), and a Pomarine Jaeger was at Long Beach, Harrison Co, MS 8 Jun (ph. MSa, et al.) post T.S. Cristobal. Numerous inland Laughing Gulls were scattered in both states post T.S. Cristobal. In Alabama, one was at Walter F. George Dam, Henry Co 7 Jun (JW), 13 were w. of Leighton, Colbert Co 9 Jun—marking the maximum summer count for the T.V. (DR)—and one was at Shorter, Macon Co 14 Jun (ECS). In Mississippi, up to three were at Ross Barnett Reservoir, Madison Co 8–24 Jun (AB, TM), up to four at Columbus L., Lowndes Co 9 Jun with at least one seen again 1–4 Jul (PM, et al.), and 1 at Arkabutla Lake, Tate Co 9 Jun (JHo). Additional Laughing Gulls were seen at Columbus L. through 2 Jul, likely lingering or returning birds post T.S. Cristobal (m. ob.). A Herring Gull at Columbus L., Clay and Lowndes Co, MS 18 Jun–18 Jul was the first summer record for that location (TLS, MS, et al.). 

A Brown Noddy 8 Jun at Gulf Shores was the ninth Alabama record (ph. KC, et al.). Both Sooty and Bridled Terns were seen frequently along coastal areas 7–9 Jun—Mississippi cumulative totals were 32 and 16, respectively, while Alabama totals were 16 and three, respectively (m. ob.). Sooty Tern inland records in Mississippi included up to three at Ross Barnett Reservoir 8 Jun (AB), and one at Arkabutla Lake, DeSoto Co 8 Jun (KM, HM). A Least Tern at Marvyn, Lee Co was a good summer find for the I.C.P. 22–25 Jun (BKF, et al.). Inland Least Terns in Mississippi were at three locations in Clay, Noxubee, and Lowndes Cos. totaling six birds 18 Jun–16 Jul (TLS, MS). Multiple other tern species were at Columbus L., Lowndes Co that are generally uncommon for the area—two Caspian Terns 18 Jun (TLS), one Common Tern 10 Jun (PM, TLS), up to two Royal Tern 6–9 Jul (TLS, et al), and one Sandwich Tern 22 Jul; the latter representing the fifth inland record for the state (ph. MS). 

Rare for the M.R., up to three Wood Storks were at Saginaw, Shelby Co 28 Jun–15 Jul (SP, TB, et al.). Alabama had two locations with T.S. Cristobal-related Brown Booby sightings—one at Fort Morgan 8 Jun (LFG, KC) while another individual was in the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta, Baldwin Co 12 Jun (CL, LFG). Rare inland, a Brown Pelican was near Decatur, Morgan Co, AL 3 Jun (CDC, TVR, et al.). Seven Least Bitterns was a good count at Eufaula NWR 1 Jun, providing the maximum count for inland Alabama (AL, DR); and two individuals at Columbus L. were the first records for Lowndes Co/Clay Co, MS. 7 Jul+ (TLS, PM, MS). Tricolored herons are generally rare inland—two were at Eufaula NWR 15 Jun (MP). The maximum T.V. count of White Ibis was set at nine on 12 Jun at Wheeler NWR, Limestone Co (WB). Each region in Alabama had Roseate Spoonbills this summer where they are becoming more regular in the state. In Mississippi, where they are a rare nesting species, one nesting attempt (that ultimately failed) was documented at Coldwater River N.W.R., Tallahatchie Co that continued from the spring through 11 Jul (ph. BR, GN, LP).

Kites through Buntings

The maximum count for Swallow-tailed Kite in north Alabama was established at 47 on 12 Jul sw. of Cusseta, Chambers Co—a regular summer site for large gatherings of this species (BKF, et al.). A Northern Harrier provided the eighth summer record for Alabama at Hazel Green, Madison Co 20 Jun (GS, RG). Increasing in the T.V., Mississippi Kites were at three locations in Lauderdale Co, with a maximum of 10 w. of Florence 2 Jun (DR, AL). Rare in summer, a Sharp-shinned Hawk w. of Adaton, Octibbeha Co, MS was notable 27 Jun, representing the second summer record for the seven-county area (MS). Several new sites in the B.B.P. region of Alabama were noted for Scissor-tailed Flycatcher outside of the regular sites—two e. of Demopolis, Hale Co and one w. of Browns, Dallas Co 1 Jul (BC); one sw. of Faunsdale, Marengo Co 11 Jul (KH) and one w. of Epes, Sumter Co 17 Jul (RL&RJK). A nesting pair was monitored throughout the season at a regular site at Brooksville, Noxubee Co, MS (m. ob.). A territorial Willow Flycatcher continued from the spring through 26 Jun for the fifth consecutive year at McLeod, Noxubee, MS (JHar, MS, TLS). A Gray Kingbird nested successfully in Biloxi 3 Jul+, representing the first nest attempt in Mississippi since 2000 (DR, MW, et al.). A Warbling Vireo continued at a regular site at Columbus L., Clay Co through the season until 23 July (TLS, MS, PM). Loggerhead Shrikes are now rare breeders in the T.V.—a nest with young was discovered in the Danville quad, Morgan Co 11 Jun (DJS). A Blue-headed Vireo pair was seen south of the current known breeding range in Alabama at the Coosa W.M.A., Coosa Co 24 Jul (JAT). 

Tree Swallows are not currently known to breed in the G.C.—one n. of Grand Bay, Mobile Co was notable as either an early migrant or summering bird 5 Jul (BJ). Two Gray-cheeked Thrushes at Dauphin 8 Jun provided an all-time late record for Alabama (AH, DM). Cedar Waxwings are erratic breeders mostly confined to n. Alabama—one se. of Midway, Bullock Co 23 Jun represented the southeastern most summer record for the state, but no breeding evidence was observed (JAT, AP). Local breeders in Alabama, a Baltimore Oriole was found 3 Jun in the Decatur quad, Limestone Co (K&RW). Rare in Summer, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks singles were se. of Huntsville 14 Jun (WC) and at Lay Lake, Shelby Co 24 Jul (SC), representing the fourth and fifth summer records for Alabama, respectively. Nine Painted Buntings at Blakeley I., Mobile Co set the maximum summer count for Alabama 2 Jun (LFG).

Report processed by José R. Ramírez-Garofalo, 18 July 2021

Photos–Alabama & Mississippi: Summer 2020

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