The luckiest visitors to Mobile Bay sometimes enjoy the fruits of a mysterious natural phenomenon called Jubilee, when many species of crab and shrimp, flounder and eels, will leave deeper waters and swarm in a shallower area of the bay, creating a fresh catch of unbelievable magnitude. A much-celebrated occurrence, the shores of Mobile Bay are the only place in America to regularly experience this event, and it attracts large crowds, many drawn by the promise of abundant and easy-to-catch seafood. As jubilees only happen when the conditions are right – on warm summer nights, often in the early pre-dawn hours, with a full moon above – the event takes on the aspect of a joyous community beach party, adding yet another reason why this corner of Alabama is treasured as a one-of-a-kind destination.
The most celebrated and well-known butterflies in North America, Monarchs are well-known to Alabama, bringing their dazzling orange and black colors to the shores of the Grand as they make their annual migration stop here, in a brilliant display, before heading on to the Gulf of Mexico where they winter. Called the Great American butterfly, by midsummer these tireless travelers inhabit every state, then return in great flocks during the month of October, roosting in trees each night and feeding on the nectar of the Alabama shore’s still-blooming plants along their southward migration route. The Gulf Coast – and particularly the abundant natural habitat of the Grand Hotel – is considered a grand place for viewing the migration, where butterflies are so numerous, the trees are “noisy” with the flapping of their tiny wings, an incomparable spectacle to behold.
Recently, Monarch Butterflies have been placed on the endangered species list. The Grand Hotel, thru the hard work of our horticultural team, is dedicating a portion of our Estate Garden to provide the needed plant material for the Monarchs. These plants will allow the Monarchs to feed, refuel, and energize prior to migrating South across the Gulf of Mexico. Hummingbirds and other pollinators will also benefit from the following plants, flowers, herbs, and other eatables: Milkweed, Gaillardia, Bee Balm, Dwarf Buddleia, Celosia, Chives, Blue Daze, Verbena, Strawberries, Blueberry bushes, Muscadine & Scuppernong grapes, Ruellia (Rajun Cajun), Rosemary, Peachtree, Apple tree, Cassia Tree, Firespike, Fig trees, Banana plants, Pentas, Oregano, a few varieties of Mint, Turmeric, Lemongrass, Lavender, Red Salvia, Cuphea (Cigar plant), Lantana, Coreopsis, Satsuma tree, Pawpaw tree, Dwarf Bottlebrush, Rudbeckia (Blackeyed Susan), Dwarf Ruellia, and Gaura (Whirling Butterflies).
With over 430 bird species documented in Alabama, the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay is an ideal location for bird-watching year-round. Alabama provides critical habitat for hundreds of bird species, from the Endangered Red-cockaded woodpecker to the now flourishing Bald Eagle. Alabama boasts 8 birding trails (Appalachian Highlands, Black Belt, Coastal, North Alabama, Piedmont Plateau, Piney Woods, West Alabama, and Wiregrass) including 280 bird-watching sites from the mountains to the gulf. Whether you are a seasoned birder or just want to add a little nature to your next visit, we welcome you to get out and explore.
The Grand Hotel is located along the Coastal birding trail which features 6 birding loops, and 51 sites totaling over 200 miles in Baldwin and Mobile counties. Each loop covers different ecological regions representative of the Northern Gulf Coast and enables birders to experience different assemblages of bird species within each region. The Coastal sites included: Bellingrath Gardens, Historic Blakeley State Park, Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center, Dauphin Island, Fairhope Pier, Fort Morgan, Gulf State Park, Meaher State Park, Mobile Tensaw Delta Wildlife Management Area, Shell Mound Park and Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. The Fairhope Municipal Pier, Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, and 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center are the closest to experience birds as they thrive along our rich biological systems.
The Grand Hotel's gardens include 550 pristine acres featuring a stunning selection of colors. The Southern charm of our Grand Oaks, dripping with Spanish moss, is a favorite to our grand guests. Along with magnificent flower, herb, and vegetable gardens, over 150 stunning live oak trees are a highlight of the Grand Hotel’s lush historic landscape. Each historic oak tree is numbered and receives monthly care for future generations to enjoy.
The Mobile-Tensaw Delta is the area where five rivers (Mobile, Spanish, Tensaw, Apalachee, and Blakely) all flow into Mobile Bay, creating a mixture of saltwater and freshwater known as an estuary. The Mobile-Tensaw Delta is nicknamed America’s Amazon because it has more species per square mile than any other state.
Mobile Tensaw Delta
Alabama Coastal Foundation began Alabama’s Oyster Shell Recycling Program, which takes oyster shells from restaurants and recycles them back into the environment to be used as reefs. This keeps shells out of landfills, and the reefs they build help prevent shore erosion, give new oysters a place to grow, and create habitats for wildlife in the water.
Live Oak trees are part of Coastal Alabama’s charm and can be seen dripping with Spanish moss. Here at the Grand, each of the over 150 oak trees is numbered and receives monthly care. 70% of the state of Alabama is covered in forests. The state has 23 million acres of forests.
Off the coast of Alabama, an ancient forest of cypress trees lies 60 feet underwater in the Gulf of Mexico. These trees are over 70,000 years old and were preserved for most of that time by sediment until Hurricane Ivan uncovered them.
Alabama Underwater Forest
The Underwater Forest - This Is Alabama
This is the 4th largest estuary in the United States and is connected to 132,000 miles of rivers and streams. There is no other state that has more aquatic diversity of life than Alabama.
Mobile Bay Estuary
Alabama is home to the most biodiverse pitcher plant bogs in the country, containing 9 out of the 11 pitcher plant species in America.
Pitcher Plant Bogs
The State of Alabama has the largest artificial reef program in the country. The state’s first artificial reefs were built by car bodies.
Manatees can regularly be seen migrating through Alabama’s waters during the Summer as they work to escape Florida’s heat. The Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s Manatee Sighting website has a map of all the reported manatee sightings in Alabama.
Alabama is home to only one species of tortoise-the Gopher Tortoise, which is protected by federal and state laws.
Alabama is home to more species of freshwater turtles than any other state in the United States.
Alabama’s Sea Turtle Conservation Program, Share the Beach, helps protect sea turtles by keeping the beach clean so they can nest, monitoring the nests until the eggs hatch, and making sure that hatchlings make their way to the water safely. Sea Turtles are often seen nesting along the Gulf of Mexico Shore.
Sea Turtle Conservation