A great blue heron overlooking the Gulf of Mexico in Orange Beach, Alabama.By John Mullen

December 14, 2018 – Orange Beach, AL (OBA®) - It’s not a question you hear every day.

“I don’t know if you’ve ever been inside a water tower?” Melissa Vinson asked. “Not many people have. It was my first time.”

Vinson, the Coastal Programs Coordinator for the City of Orange Beach’s Wildlife Management Center and Management Program, climbed in one this summer to get up close and personal with an osprey.

“It was the inside part underneath where the water is stored,” Vinson said.

Laughing Gull on the Gulf of Mexico in Orange Beach, Alabama.She and her staff and interns have been handling local wildlife and rehabbing injured or exhausted ones at the center near the city’s recreation center. Most of their animals are shorebirds and a wide variety of them live on the island year-round, in seasons or pass through during migration during the change of seasons.

The variety is part of what’s driving growth in ecotourism market as more and more vacationers are discovering variety in the Gulf region not just diversity in winged creatures but wildlife in general from foxes to coyotes to alligators and all kinds of snakes and marine life.

The osprey are fulltime residents and have several nests all over town. One is behind the Orange Beach library and is equipped with a webcam that has fascinated wildlife fans all over the world when babies hatch in it.

Brown Pelican on the Gulf of Mexico in Orange Beach, Alabama.This particular osprey was in for a rough day.

“I think they were checking something and doing some work and left a hatch open,” Vinson said. “Someone came by not too long after that to check something else and noticed the osprey flying around in there. He was trapped in there and in July you know how hot it is. It was like an oven in there so that was a really unique rescue and capture.”

The inside, Vinson said, is a maze of ladders all around the insides of the bottom part of the tank.