Springtime Wildlife to Spot Around the Gulf Coast

As warm weather makes its way from the south, the Gulf Coast becomes teeming with life as birds sing, turtles nest, and alligators sunbathe. The rising spring temperatures mark heightened activity among our native species, with many migrating, mating, and feeding. With much more stirring, we play an increasingly important role in appreciating and protecting our local wildlife—being mindful of their springtime activities. Read on to learn more about the wonders of our thriving spring ecosystem and how you can contribute to the conservation of our Gulf Coast friends on your next visit.

Bird Watching

When it comes to bird watching, it’s hard to beat the sheer variety of those you can spot on the Gulf Coast in the spring! As April unfolds, millions of birds embark on an annual journey, spanning thousands of miles across the Americas as they migrate between their breeding and wintering grounds. Known as the “Spring Fling,” this remarkable spectacle attracts both local and out-of-town birders, excited to lookout for the diverse array of migratory songbirds such as orioles, grosbeaks, tanagers, and various warbler species as they rest up and refuel.

The spring also marks the time for local beach-nesting species like snowy plover and black skimmers to breed. When encountering these nesting birds along the coast, it’s important to remember to maintain a respectful distance. Disturbing a sitting bird can cause it to abandon its nest, leaving eggs vulnerable to predators and environmental harm. Additionally, the birds rely on the natural camouflage of sand and shells, making nests easy to accidentally step on. So, remember to keep a vigilant eye during the spring to preserve these essential nesting sites.

Snakes and Gators

Just as temperatures rise along the Gulf Coast, so does the activity of some of our reptilian neighbors, like alligators and snakes. If you find yourself hiking around Lake Shelby in Gulf State Park or along the many waterways and reservoirs in Gulf Shores, there’s always a possibility of encountering local American alligators emerging from their winter hibernation. While these creatures may appear slow on land, their strength and swiftness come alive in their watery habitats. Interestingly, female alligators care for their young, so it’s not uncommon to spot them in groups (or ‘pods’ as they are called) with one large mother alligator and all her young nearby.

Similarly, warmer weather brings snakes out along trails. However, there’s no need to be concerned about these slithery sidekicks. Snakes are generally more afraid of us than we are of them. If you come across one, the best practice is to give them space and watch them slink away.  The majority one sees are non-venomous, like the black racer, coachwhip, and garter snake. However, you should always watch carefully for cottonmouths and copperheads, two venomous snakes easily recognized by the triangular shape of their heads. Even so, these snakes only attack if they think they are being attacked themselves so, again, you will be quite safe if you keep your distance and walk away. Just remember that these creatures play a vital role in our ecosystem, controlling rodent populations and being valuable members of the food chain.

Turtles and Tortoises

Spring also means it’s time for the sea turtles to begin their crucial nesting season, spanning from March to October. These gentle creatures make their way out of the ocean onto the shore to lay their eggs beneath the sand, sometimes right where you may have pitched your beach umbrella. To ensure the safety of them and their offspring, it’s important to keep the beach free of obstacles. Artificial lighting can pose a significant threat, disturbing the nesting process and disorienting hatchlings. At The Lodge at Gulf State Park, we prioritize the well-being of sea turtles by ensuring that all beachside lights are ones designed to emit a warm amber glow, minimizing confusion.

That’s not the only turtle peeking out their head this time of year. Gopher tortoises are also much more active during this season as they forage for food and seek mates. They are named for their habit of burrowing like gophers, though the tortoises’ burrows are easily told apart by the half-moon shape of the entrance. It is best to observe these fascinating creatures from a respectful distance. However, if you encounter a gopher tortoise attempting to cross the road, lend a helping hand by picking it up and placing it in a safe location in the direction it was heading. Just remember that these tortoises are land animals, so don’t place them in water!

Marine Life

One of the most majestic migrations you can witness is that of the manatee. Traveling from their winter habitats, these gentle giants forage along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. Every spring, the chances of boating propeller strikes become more likely, so be sure to exercise caution by maintaining slow speeds and keeping a safe distance. Be aware of your boating speed, as many areas enforce seasonal speed limits in the spring to align with manatee migration.

If you’re a seasoned angler or enjoy casting a line, the season also brings with it plenty of fish to catch. From king mackerel to sheepshead and cobia, the variety of fish in the Gulf offers a great opportunity for a successful fishing trip. Just make certain that you are aware of what fish are in season and carefully release those that aren’t.

In springtime, the Gulf Coast emerges as a vibrant ecosystem for so many incredible creatures. From the migratory flights of songbirds to fascinating reptiles and sea turtle nesting rituals, our natural coastal community thrives with life. Preserving this special environment means treading lightly and respecting the habitats and behaviors of our wild friends. Together, we can help these species flourish, contributing to their conservation and allowing the Gulf Coast to shine all spring long.



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