On a work-related trip to Alabama this summer, I stayed overnight in the town of Fairhope, on Mobile Bay. I took a short walk around town to the Fairhope pier, which has a set of purple martin houses set around it in the water.
Purple martins nest in holes in trees, but are having real problems competing with European starlings for nest sites. As a result, they do best in artificial nest boxes like the ones in Fairhope which people help keep starlings away from. As far as I know, there’s only one purple martin colony in the Eastern US that uses natural trees to nest in anymore, and that one is in the Orlando Wetlands Park.
Fairhope sits on bluffs above the bay, and it’s always nice to see some coastal topography, coming from Florida. Rain was moving in across the bay-an afternoon thunderstorm, which was pretty Florida-like-so I didn’t stay long at the pier. I headed back uphill to the hotel, walking through a park on the way.
Bluffs or no, the park was covered with pine woods that seemed fairly Florida-like. In fact, they are a remnant longleaf pine forest, which once covered a large part of the coastal SE US, including central Florida. Unfortunately, the longleaf ecosystem has been pretty impacted by human development; what’s more, this ecosystem is fire-dependent. It’s hard to say what will happen to the longleafs of Fairhope, since it’s unlikely that the town will be willing to manage the habitat with controlled burning right on the edge of town
So I got back to the hotel before rain started to fall. Martins and pine woods are nice any day, so I enjoyed my stroll in Alabama.