2023-06-23 Crossing Alabama & Mississippi

Tufted Titmouse - Baeolophus bicolor
I began my drive in Dandridge Tennessee. After crossing the northwest corner of Georgia, I stopped at a rest area called the Alabama Welcome Center. I needed to stretch my legs, and when I saw some of its bird-life, I knew just how to spend my next hour.
Brown Thrasher - Toxostoma rufum
I ended my drive through Alabama with a stop at the Mississippi Welcome Rest Area to spend the night. Before retiring, I could not resist spending time with the local birds.

For the benefit of readers unfamiliar with my adventures, my earlier blogs have the details. Let me provide some background. My plans to visit Nova Scotia this spring were thwarted by the devastating fires there. So I turned my RV/Van south from the Canadian Great Lake province of Ontario with a plan to experience nature in the Appalachians. I spent my first week visiting old friends in southern Pennsylvania. When I continued my trek, Virginia enticed me to linger, and I found several locations to quench my thirst for meeting bird-life.

The weather was fair during my stay in Virginia. But when I reviewed the forecast for the road ahead, a week of storms were predicted. I knew that would limit my opportunities to meet and photograph the local birds. There were places in Texas I wanted to visit, and birds that would leave if I didn’t arrive there on time. So when I got to Tennessee, I thought it would be a good time to put some miles down, and I headed toward the Lone Star State.

I got up early, eager to get through Knoxville’s traffic. I scouted out a promising cafe about an hour’s drive south called the Huddle House. The Knoxville traffic on I-75 lived down to my expectations, but if nothing else, the adrenalin it generated got me fully alert.

The weather continues to threaten rain, but for the first hour I was only pestered with some drizzle. My route took me through Chattanooga on I-24, only an hour south from my breakfast place in Sweetwater. South of Chattanooga, my route cut through 22 miles of Georgia’s northwest corner, and picked up I-59 before entering Alabama. I hoped to cover some ground this day. There will be many Alabama miles ahead. Perhaps too many to cover in a single day. but I resolved to go as long as I could. Mississippi would follow, then Louisiana. From there, there are a ton of Texas miles to cover before getting to Brackettville, and hopefully the Black-Capped Vireos at Kickapoo Caverns. 

Friday I crossed the Alabama border on I-59 from Georgia. I found a rest stop just inside the Alabama border and I took advantage by pulling in to take a break from the road. To my delight there was a sanitary dump station conveniently located as I drove in. So I filled the tanks that needed filling, and emptied the ones that needed emptying. Then I parked and walked through the grassy park, stretching my legs at this Alabama Welcome Center. No sooner than I got out of the vehicle I noticed Eastern Phoebe’s. After walking for a few minutes I went back and got my camera gear and spent about an hour trying to get as many pictures of the birds here as I could. It was nice to get out and put the camera to work again.

When I finished with the birds, I headed back to the van and set myself up for another grind on the highway. I put in a lot of miles. I even got a little “rest area birding” in. As I continued my drive southwest into the “Sweet Home” state, I found that not every rest area had fully functional sanitary dump facilities. Because it was good to break the long drive up, I pulled into every rest area I found to insure blood circulation in my legs.

My Friday drive was long and exhausting. It started in Tennessee, crossed a bit of Georgia, and cut a long diagonal path through Alabama. When I reached the Mississippi Welcome Center Rest Area, I had had enough of the road for the day. But there was still daylight, and I could see birds on the grounds. So after parking my rig, I broke out my camera and chased my quarry. When the day was done, I’d traveled 421 miles and photographed Brown Thrashers, Carolina Wrens, Chipping Sparrows, Common Grackles, Northern Mockingbirds, and Tufted Titmice.

Before surrendering to the horizontal plane, I studied my route to Kickapoo Caverns. When I realized High Island Texas was only a 20 mile detour, I arranged a two-night stay there. It would have been sinful to pass by without a visit to the Smith Oaks Bird Sanctuary.

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