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My Private Gulf Coast Birding Adventure

Flock together to witness the extraordinary spring phenomenon of migratory birds making landfall with regionally immersive culinary and cultural Alabama Gulf Coast experiences

Dates

Thu Apr 22 – Mon Apr 26, 2021

Location

Gulf Shores, Alabama

Cost

$/Inquire

The COASTAL MIGRATION PHENOMENON IN AMERICA’S AMAZON

Birds of a feather flock together, and so must you! Witness this extraordinary annual spring migration of billions of native and migratory songbirds across the Gulf of Mexico causing a vivid array of colorful explosions, all making landfall only once a year in unison on the Alabama Gulf Coast. This specific location of our Adventure is where this natural phenomenon occurs every April, offering avid birders and seasoned bird-watchers the rare opportunity to view this spring migration at its glorious peak. Delve into birding behavior and bird watching with scheduled guided outings during our 3-Day Workshop hosted by the Alabama Audubon Society. Explore the Gulf Coast with expert field guides on fun outings into “America’s Amazon”. In addition, this delightful event includes regionally immersive cultural and culinary experiences including inspiring guest speakers. Spend time free as a bird as you enjoy dwelling within the luxury feathered nest of The Veranda gulf-front residence…all the makings for being as happy as a lark!

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WHAT IS A “MY PRIVATE ADVENTURE”?

This “My Private Adventure Program” is perfect for those who prefer to travel to a desired destination while being with your chosen family and friends. Experience featured inclusive “just for you” special group amenities and tailored services along with in-destination scheduled experiences.

A minimum group size of 6-8 adults required (maximum 20-people) for this unique adventure; ideal for a mixed group of adults or a multi-generational family experience. This adventure includes a fun 3-day educational birding workshop incorporating field-outings, regional activities and explorations with professional guides including transportation each day. During free time and evenings, reside privately within this extraordinary THIRDHOME Residence with your personal group of family and friends.

THE VERANDA ADVENTURE HIGHLIGHTS

  • Stay at The Veranda Beach House Residence – a luxuriously designed gulf-front oasis
  • Meyer CleanShield Assurance – professional residential cleaning and sanitizing services
  • Experience this extraordinary once-a-year Gulf Coast Birding Phenomenon
  • Birding Phenomenon 4-day Workshop with the Alabama Audubon Society
  • Learn about the 600-mile migratory flight of hundreds of species of birds
  • Explore “America’s Amazon” protected marshlands onboard The Delta Explorer
  • Visit Dauphin Island by ferry to explore its 137-acre Audubon Park
  • Tour the beautiful Bellingrath Gardens on a private guided educational stroll
  • Dine at the culinary historic Dauphin’s Restaurant in Mobile on French Creole
  • Access to your very own private beach & spacious swimming pool with a view
  • Participating in this adventure supports Alabama Tourism and the Audubon Society

Accommodations

THE VERANDA AT GULF SHORES, ALABAMA

– Sleeps up to 24 guests
– 10 Bedrooms each with private bathrooms
– 3-story luxury living with stunning Gulf views
– Residential Elevator with access to all three floors
– Spacious living and entertaining spaces throughout
– Private pool and private beach access
– Wrap-around double decks for outdoor relaxing
– Perfect for family & friends gatherings or private events

VIEW THE VERANDA RESIDENCE FOR MORE DETAILS

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Itinerary

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WELCOME TO THE VERANDA AT GULF SHORES

Arrival and check-in by 4PM today at The Veranda Residence. Your group will enjoy an informative meet & greet with the regional guide at the residence. Take part in an afternoon walk with a visit to the Interpretive Center, plus there will be a welcome discussion followed by an included dinner outside or on the covered deck at Learning Campus at the Gulf State Park. (Dinner included)

BON SECOUR NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE

Today enjoy birding during a hike around Gulf State Park with our leaders, conservationists and park rangers. This morning, join your small group and explore some of the 28 miles of trails with park rangers and local conservationists here at the State of Alabama’s Gulf State Park. Trails crisscross the 6,150 acres of the park, providing access to gulf beaches with nesting Least Terns, Common Loons on an inland lagoon and a full complement of neo-tropical migrants. Osprey soar overhead along with Bald Eagles, Purple Martins and a variety of swallows swoop for insects as Great Egrets fish in the shallows.  In addition to the impressive bird life, watch for alligators, bobcats and foxes, plus there is always the possibility of spotting a sea turtle. After lunch, visit the nearby Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge protects beach, dunes, shrub habitat, and woodland on the Fort Morgan Peninsula located west of the lively town of Gulf Shores.   Its range of habitats makes Bon Secour an excellent all-around birding location.  This time of year the refuge is an excellent “fall-out” site for spring migrants when birds that have crossed the Gulf of Mexico hone in on the first wooded land they spot.   Fallouts are most likely to occur when the birds have had to work overtime to make landfall due to weather events out in the gulf, but they always arrive exhausted and ready to refuel after flying hundreds of miles over water.  A single tree may shelter a mix of a dozen vireos, thrushes, warblers, and other species. Begin at the visitor center in your small group to learn about the threatened Snowy Plover and hear about recent bird sightings. Enjoy a couple of the four refuge trails, all of which pass though varied habitats, at one point with a saltwater lagoon on one side and a freshwater lake on the other. Several of the trails are handicap-accessible, and all are relatively easy walking. The refuge bird list totals more than 230 species, with almost all of those possible during spring migration. When it comes to spring migration, just about anything is possible from the entire list of eastern neotropical migrants. Nesting and year-round species include Brown Pelican, Osprey, Common Ground-Dove, Brown-headed Nuthatch, and Pine Warbler.

This afternoon return to The Veranda for time to prepare for fun and food.  There’s no fresher seafood than that pulled from fresh that day from the Gulf of Mexico. When the sun goes down the beat heats up and music locations abound. The most famous is the Flora-Bama Lounge, located with the border of Florida and Alabama running through the building.  The Flora-Bama is a one-place venue for dinner, drinks, music and fun!  The Gulf Coast’s cultural landmark and touted as being America’s “Last Great Roadhouse” is part honky-tonk, oyster bar, beach bar, and unique music venue from country to beach music.  Dinner and drinks are on your own tonight.  (Lunch included today)

DAUPHIN ISLAND & BELLINGRATH GARDENS

Today will be long day but very rewarding.  Early this morning we will depart the residence with private transportation and travel along the Ft. Morgan peninsula to historic Fort Morgan for a visit. Continue onwards to the Dauphin Island ferry for the scenic journey to the tip of the peninsula which is a good vantage point from which to watch migrating raptors on the migration. As you enjoy the ferry ride across the mouth of Mobile Bay to Dauphin Island, you will begin to feel the soul of this legendary birding fallout site in the Gulf Coast. Accompanying us on the ferry will likely be a full complement of Laughing Gulls and Royal Terns, who take the ferry ride regularly. There has been an ongoing effort on Dauphin Island to purchase private land as it comes for sale to be turned into bird habitat, and we’ll see some of this restoration as we explore the island. We will explore the beautiful 137-acre Audubon Park, which is a dedicated bird sanctuary with over 3 miles of trails that wind through maritime forest, marshes, dunes, around a freshwater lake, a swamp, and a beach.  Of the 445 species officially documented in Alabama presently, 420 (95%) have been observed here. This area, and the island itself, has been recognized by the National Audubon Society as “Globally Important” for bird migrations and designated one of seven most “Important Bird Areas” in the state.  Great Horned Owls nest in the sanctuary, Bald Eagles often soar overhead and Osprey are numerous along with Swainson’s Warblers during this season. Smaller birding areas around the island, such as the remarkably popular Shell Mound Park and Cadillac Square with their moss-draped ancient trees, normally have throngs of migrating birds.  The unexpected can be expected here such as rare sightings of Ash-throated Flycatcher, Fork-tailed Flycatcher and Painted Redstart.  Gray Kingbirds now nest on the island and Black-whiskered Vireo appear with some regularity. Indigo Buntings and Blue Grosbeaks are common this time of year, and Painted Buntings are often found mixed into the flocks of migrants. Swallow-tailed Kites are often seen swooping down for a meal while Magnificent Frigatebirds are sometimes spotted soaring high above.

We will depart Dauphin Island and travel to the beautiful Bellingrath Gardens, located off Mobile Bay along the Fowl River.  The entire grounds are considered a protected bird sanctuary.  We will enjoy a visit within the estate and gardens of one of the first Coca Cola Bottlers in the Southeastern U.S.  Enjoy a southern lunch amongst Bellingrath’s award-winning roses, azaleas, hydrangeas and explore the more natural side of the gardens as well. After lunch, we’ll return to Dauphin Island for another glimpse at the fallout possible at Pelican Point, as well as watch for a variety of shore birds.  Ruddy Turnstone and Black-bellied Plover are common.  Snowy Plover regularly nest here and Marbled Godwit and Red Knots are often see each spring.   Watch the bay for Black Skimmer, American Oystercatchers and the usual complement of terns and gulls, keeping a sharp eye out for regulars like Sandwich Terns and Royal Terns to the less common Caspian Terns.  If you are interested and if time permits, visit the Estuarium at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab to discover the Living Marsh and view aquariums highlighting the four key habitats of coastal Alabama. Red foxes, a recent migrant to the island, are somewhat common, though elusive, so keep an eye out. In the early evening we will take the last ferry back to Ft. Morgan and return to The Veranda for relaxation.  Dinner and the remainder of the evening are on your own – or perhaps you might like to enjoy a locally popular seafood restaurant tonight and if so we can drop you off for dinner at Lulu’s (Jimmy Buffett’s sister Lucy’s restaurant). At LuLu’s enjoy award-winning coastal cuisine like a bowl of seafood gumbo or a made-famous-by-her-brother Cheeseburger in Paradise while listening to live music along the intercoastal waterway. When you are finished with dinner, transfer back to The Verandah for overnight accommodations. (Lunch included today)

AMERICA’S AMAZON & HISTORIC GULF COAST ALABAMA

arly departure this morning for a fun adventure into America’s Amazon, the Mobile-Tensaw Delta.  We will first explore some of Historic Blakey State Park’s 3,800-acres of upland hardwoods before embarking out aboard The Delta Explorer where breakfast will be enjoyed on-board. The park is the lower Delta’s longest-running boat tour operator and we have a private experience as we excursion out into what is referred by many as one of America’s Natural Wonders. We will journey by boat through these tranquil waterways and discover this incredibly diverse ecosystem. Here you will find a stunning variety of natural wetland habitats that are home to the state’s largest population of alligators, black bears, the rare red-bellied turtle, ospreys, bald eagles and numerous species of fish.

The Mobile-Tensaw Delta is America’s second largest Delta and one of America’s most ecologically rich thus garnering the nickname America’s Amazon. As we glide through the serene waterways of the Tensaw and Apalachee rivers through the Delta we will catch glimpses of some of the more than 300 species of birds. As the covered boat with comfortable bench seating travels downriver, keep a sharp eye out for the Pileated Woodpecker, North America’s second largest woodpecker, only slightly smaller than the now presumed extinct Ivory Billed Woodpecker, and all but one of Alabama’s other resident woodpeckers should be readily available here, too. You may spot a rare red-bellied turtle as it slides into the water or experience the beauty of a sea of Delta lilies blooming in mass. Next, as you travel down stream to the 320-year-old city of Mobile, imagine what Native Americans and early French settlers might have viewed. Much like then, Osprey still fish overhead as Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons search for food in the shallows. These rivers were the main thoroughfares before roads and canoes the primary form of transportation at the time.  But, today, Mobile is Alabama’s primary seaport and a thriving hub on America’s Gulf Coast. It’s also the home of the original Mardi Gras, made famous by the larger New Orleans celebration. Disembark near downtown at Cooper Riverside Park, and spend the late morning discovering Mobile.

A short ride yields lunch today atop one of the tallest buildings on the Gulf Coast, at Dauphin’s Restaurant and dine within a culinary history of Mobile with a French Creole inspired lunch. After lunch, we will head towards the bay to Meaher State Park, to watch the threatened Least Terns put on quite the courtship display. We’ll watch as male Least Terns, America’s  smallest tern, retrieves small fish and presents it to his partner. Sometimes, the female accepts the fish gratefully; other times it can take a few tries to get the “hand-off” right and the enchanting courtship begins. If the Least Terns aren’t in active courtship yet, we will head over to the smaller 70-acre Village Point Park in Daphne, Alabama. This park boasts nearly 240 e-bird records including almost every neo-tropical migrant that might be seen in Alabama, plus Reddish Egrets (rare), Tri-colored and Little Blue herons, and a multitude of plovers. Later this afternoon, we will journey back along the eastern shore of Mobile Bay with a stop at the Weeks Bay Pitcher Plant Bog, where unique carnivorous plants capture and digest local insects and other small creatures. Here you’ll learn about this remarkable ecosystem from a park naturalist before continuing just down the road to visit the Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Then, venture out on the network of raised walking paths for dusk bird viewing – see Brown Pelican, Clapper Rail, Laughing Gull, Royal Tern and Marsh Wren are common.  Along the bog’s boardwalk, Osprey, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Common Yellowthroat, Pine Warbler and Indigo Bunting are often also seen.

Dinner tonight will be enjoyed at the unique Camp Beckwith, located along the shore of Weeks Bay. Enjoy coastal cuisine amongst a campfire just after sunset.  (Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner included today)

DEPART GULF SHORES

This morning enjoy breakfast on your own, and prepare to check-out of The Veranda. Should you wish to stay longer and extend your time to enjoy and explore the Gulf Coast on their own or with a THIRDHOME Exchange property stay, or any other custom-vacation add-on with us please let us know!

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What’s Included

  • Meet & Greet The Veranda on Arrival Day with local guide
  • 4 Nights Luxury Accommodations at The Veranda Gulf Front Residence
  • Meyer CleanShield Assurance – professional residential cleaning and sanitizing services
  • Safe Travel Pledge & Tour Care (please review below safety measures)
  • Group Meals as noted in itinerary include – 1 Breakfast, 3 Lunches, 2 Dinners
  • Expert Local Naturalists Guides throughout the 3-day Birding Adventure Workshop
  • Cultural and regional educational presentations

What’s Not Included

  • Meals “on own” that are not part of the included group itinerary
  • Residential needs, supplies or stocked pantry requirements for your group
  • Optional local activities outside of the planned adventure

Our Safe Travel Pledge

We’ve created this experience for social distancing outdoors while providing a learning environment throughout the trip. This trip is designed to operate in a COVID environment. Before we operate tours, all of our employees, partners and our guests will take our Safe Travel Pledge. We and our partners will follow enhanced protocols with diligence and rigor; review them frequently as the COVID-19 landscape changes and always make common-sense decisions grounded in purpose and science. We embrace these new and necessary measures to combat COVID-19 and will do our very best to provide you with Safe Travel.

Our New Health and Safety Protocols

Staff

Prior to interacting with guests, each member of our staff is trained in enhanced protocols and participates in a personal health screening. Once on tour, our travel manager, support staff, and partners are responsible for maintaining these protocols with a special focus on cleanliness and physical distancing. They will relay critical information regarding requirements, advise when protocols are mandatory, such as wearing a face covering in group settings and on the motorcoach, and help facilitate guest care should they become ill on tour. All staff will adhere to the same requirements.

Guest Responsibility

When joining tour, every guest is responsible for their own health and, in turn, the protection of their fellow travelers, our staff, our partners and the places we visit. Guests will pledge to follow the direction of our staff and adhere to health and safety protocols. Guests are expected to wear face coverings in all group settings, to wash their hands frequently and to adhere to partner and government regulations. While supplies of face coverings, gloves, and hand sanitizer will be available, guests are asked to bring such personal items for their own comfort.

Our Regional Partners Promise & Tour Care

We are proud to have worked closely with our partners around the South, many of them for years, to deliver the quality, comfort, and safety you expect. Whether it be museums, churches, hotels, restaurants, event venues or transportation companies, their meticulous health and safety protocols reflect their leadership and well-earned respect in our industry. In addition to our partners, we have also been actively engaged with global travel organizations to standardize health and safety protocols throughout the travel industry and we and our partners adhere to these protocols. TourCare are health and sanitation guidelines developed by the tour industry’s major global associations: the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA), The Canadian Association of Tour Operators (CATO) and the European Tourism Association (ETOA).  We, and our supplier partners, meet and exceed these guidelines that require members to adhere to the highest standards in the industry. 

Adventure Pricing

PRICING IS FOR 4-NIGHT STAY BIRDING ADVENTURE

THIRDHOME MEMBER FAMILY & FRIENDS COST:

$1595 per Adult / $1195 per Participating Child (9-13 yrs old) + 6 KEYS FOR STAY

NON-THIRDHOME MEMBER COST:

$1995 per Adult / $1195 per Participating Child (9-13 yrs old)

Non-Participating Child 8 yrs and under – $295 per child

Please Note: A cleaning fee is required of $450 paid to residence owner

A minimum group size of 8 adult participants required (maximum group size of 20-people total) for this unique adventure; ideal for a mixed group of adults or a multi-generational family experience.

This adventure includes a fun 3-day educational birding workshop incorporating field-outings, regional activities and explorations with professional guides including transportation each day. During free time and evenings, reside privately within this extraordinary THIRDHOME Residence with your personal group of family and friends. In addition, THIRDHOME Concierge services are included to assist with any private group needs you might have, outside of the workshop inclusions.

DEPOSITS & FINAL PAYMENTS

Due upon booking: $500 per Participating Adult/Child + Keys (if a THIRDHOME Member)

Final Payment is due 45-days prior to your departure

Deposits & Final Payments are non-refundable for all My Private Adventures

TERMS & CONDITIONS

The above rates are based on APRIL 2021 Birding Workshop dates

CANCELLATIONS & RESCHEDULE OF DATES – This specific Adventure will allow a re-schedule to the APR 2022 “Birding Workshop” annual event dates (TBD) should you need to cancel your trip due to COVID-19 qualifying conditions. No other dates of stay are allowed for re-accommodation on this unique Adventure. If cancellation occurs due to any other personal reasons, then our standard cancellation policy applies – Adventure packages are 100% non-refundable and subject to any change and/or cancellation penalties including the terms & conditions of THIRDHOME and property owner. THIRDHOME strongly recommends the purchase of travel insurance. Click here to view the THIRDHOME Adventures Terms and Conditions.

Reviews

Thank you for a wonderful week in your beautiful home on the beach. Perfect in every way, the furniture is amazing, the bedrooms and baths were absolutely beautiful! The kitchen is a dream with views as you prepare your meals… 5 stars across the board. ”

J. Shaw

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at this property…..beginning with the fact that it had an elevator for all our family’s stuff. It is located directly on a private beach……we loved watching the dolphins swim by everyday. The layout and design of the house is well thought out, and to top it all, it has just about two of everything including an Ice Maker on both main floors. The bedroom are very spacious – with mostly king or queen beds. We had a great time, and cant wait to make a return visit!!!!”

M. Perry

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