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Miami, Florida, April, 2014

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Old Sunday 20th April 2014, 13:51   #1
Hamhed
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Miami, Florida, April, 2014

Tired of a lingering winter, my Mom and I made a short birding trip to the Miami, Florida, area in the second week of April. I researched the birding potential by following the TAS site (http://www.tropicalaudubon.org/tasboard/tasbb.html), Bill Pranty’s “A Birder’s Guide to Florida” and, of course, Birdforum. The resulting list of hotspots to visit was overwhelmingly long for the time we had. Deciding where to go and when was a bit of a logistical nightmare. But go we did and here is an account of our days there.

Day One was Thursday the 10th when we arrived on a late flight, picked up our rental car from E-Z Rental (really!) and drove a short distance to our reserved lodging at OrigamiHaus, arranged through Airbnb (https://www.airbnb.com/). Our only birds that day were balanced towards the exotic, being European Starlings, Eurasian-collared Doves, Boat-tailed Grackles, English Sparrows and a Mourning Dove.

Day Two started late; the rush and rigors of traveling took its toll on my mother, now in her 87th year. While she caught up on sleep, I found Blue Jay, Northern Mockingbird, Catbird, Northern Cardinal and one urban raccoon in the mature vegetation surrounding the house.
Our choice of destinations that day was the Everglades National Park, via the Florida City Burger King, rumored to have Common Mynas. The Mynas were there, competing with the Starlings in cleaning up discarded french fries. Mid morning arrived by the time we parked at the Royal Palm Visitor Center. Another few minutes was spent tarping our car as protection from the rubber-destroying Black Vultures. The day was already warming up on the Anhinga Trail, alligators basking by the dozens. Our list here includes mainly common birds:
Fish Crow
Turkey Vulture
Black Vulture
Great Egret
Blue Jay
Anhinga
Double-crested Cormorant
Red-shouldered Hawk
Great Blue Heron
Green Heron
Red-winged Blackbird
Cattle Egret
The birding highlight came when we tried a section of the Gumbo Limbo trail and found a pair of fledgling Barred Owls.
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Old Sunday 20th April 2014, 13:54   #2
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Leaving the ENP, we made the much anticipated stop at Robert Is Here (http:www.robertishere.com/xcart/home.php), picking up Purple Martins for the trip list as well as a pair of terrific fruit smoothies. Close to that location, we made a quick pass through a neighborhood west of Florida City, finding White-winged Dove and a pair of Bronzed Cowbirds. A drive through the Dadeland Mall grounds got us a Gray Kingbird but parking was impossible and stopping was nearly so. Our last stop in the late and warm afternoon hours was at the grounds of the Kendall Baptist Hospital, our first hospital birding experience. Here were plenty of Muscovy Ducks, a few Ring-billed Gulls and White Ibis. There was much chattering from some type of Parakeets but they were out of the reach of my now overheated and exhausted mother. In the evening, after a long break at the OrigamiHaus, we walked a short distance to small park, and added Laughing Gull, Cooper’s Hawk and Merlin. Because I’d left my camera in the room, the Merlin posed perfectly, holding its avian prey and perching on a easily viewed horizontal limb.
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Old Sunday 20th April 2014, 13:56   #3
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Saturday found us up a good bit earlier and meeting a birding friend, Jose, at Brian Piccolo Park, north of Miami in adjacent Broward county. A pair of Burrowing Owls were immediately spotted at the edge of the ball field, encircled by a perimeter protection of yellow rope. They hardly took notice of us, preening and swiveling their remarkable heads in all directions. Nearby electrical towers held Monk Parakeets nests and we watched several gathering material in ground level shrubberies. A bit west at the Southwest Regional Library Wetlands, we found a Least Bittern but little else. Further west, at Chapel Trail Preserve, was also fairly birdless but we added Loggerhead Shrike, Tri-colored Heron and a pair of Purple Swamphens.
A Killdeer and a LIttle Blue Heron were seen en route to coastal Hugh Taylor Park, where the entertainment was provided by a trio of young raccoons. We checked off Brown Pelican and Red-bellied Woodpecker before calling it too hot to continue birding.
After Mom visited St. John Bosco church, we made an evening run to Miami Springs, a community north of the Miami airport. Though the expected a showing of Parakeets never materialized, our stroll beneath the shade of the large trees on Curtis Parkway, was pleasant enough. We added Chimney Swift and Cedar Waxwing to the list.
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Old Sunday 20th April 2014, 14:00   #4
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On Sunday morning, we were able to leave before 7am, driving in the surreal experience of mostly empty streets. Out of the car at the University of Miami, our first bird sighting was a singing Spot-breasted Oriole. Jose and another birder joined us just after the bird flew; we all spent a short time relocating it back at the same leafless tree with a few Parakeets. I will offer one picture up in hopes of confirmation of both Mitred and Red-masked. The three of us left for an appointment with a woman in nearby Coral Gables who was feeding Blue-and-yellow Parrots. Our timing did not coincide with the Parrots arrival and we ended up further south at Matheson Hammock Park. A small flock of Warblers was here, including Prairie, Black-and-white and Northern Parula Warblers. We relearned that timing is everything when Mom disappeared into the restrooms just before two Yellow-chevroned Parakeets flew by. On the way to our second visit to the Baptist Hospital, we tried visiting Tropical Audubon to find their office closed so instead went to Fuch’s Park, not really expecting much. A fruiting tree produced noises of Psittacids, closer inspection revealing a trio of Orange-winged Parrots and more Mitred Parakeets. Multiple visits to this fruiting tree would likely turn up other exotics. Two Hill Mynas were close by and another pair of Egyptian Geese paddled about in the small lake. Not a bad showing for a little park next to busy Route 1. Our final stop of the afternoon, at the hospital, had us hugging the shade and seeing nothing new. After a much needed stop for ice cream, both my Mom and I that were ready to call it quits for the day. Parted company with Jose and headed back through the now congested streets and avenues of south Miami. We revived long enough to make a sunset drive out onto Key Biscayne.
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Old Sunday 20th April 2014, 14:03   #5
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Monday was our last full day. A trip to Shark Valley was the event of the day. An early start allowed us a visit to City Bank, where White-winged Parakeets are reported to be found. We neither saw nor heard anything over the morning traffic and so moved on west down the Tamiami Trail. Target bird number one, Snail KIte, was seen overhead as we motored towards Shark Valley. A good view was had as we slowed almost directly underneath the dark raptor. Our arrival at Shark Valley was a few minutes before opening time. We found White-eyed Vireo, Carolina Wren and a flyover Roseate Spoonbill at the gate. Once inside, we signed up and paid for the earliest two hour tram tour. A school group from California loaded onto our tram but our fears of noise and commotion were not realized; the teens were there for much the same reason we were. The narrator was non-stop and a little full of himself. At times, I wished for just two minutes of quiet. Birdlife was pretty good. We saw the expected Egrets and Herons, another Spoonbill, two Sandhill Cranes, Glossy Ibis, a single Wood Stork and a number of Shorebirds that the tram did not stop to identify. I guessed some were Yellowlegs and a Solitary Sandpiper was barely visible at one point. A Caspian Tern flew low in the area of the observation tower at the halfway point. The return trip produced two Purple Gallinules and, on the grassy roadside, a family of 6 Limpkins, who were not fazed a bit by the people filled, moving tram. It is hard to say in retrospect whether we saw more alligators than Anhingas.
Back at the entrance gate, I stopped the car and we got out to watch a soft-shelled turtle excavate a hole in the sand to lay its eggs. The 10-12 foot alligator that Mom walked past was apparently not having tourist that day. A better than expected lunch for us was at the Miccosukee Restaurant. We watched Common Mynas and a Great-crested Flycatcher while we ate and cooled off. Back in Miami, we decided a return visit to the University of Miami was in order so we headed that way and walked the grounds, keeping to the shade and ducking into air-conditioned buildings when possible. The top birds had to be a pair of Blue-and-yellow Macaws that landed over our heads in a fruiting tree adjacent to Stanford Circle. Stunning birds, they were the species we had hoped to see in Coral Gables. We felt we couldn’t do better and quit while we were ahead. Packing for our flight the following day still allowed us time to make another late evening visit to Curtis Parkway in Miami Springs but we were skunked again. I’m not sure how this place got its reputation; we certainly put in the time without results.
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Old Sunday 20th April 2014, 14:04   #6
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More from our Shark valley day:
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Old Sunday 20th April 2014, 14:08   #7
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The morning of our last day was spent at Billy Baggs Park at the end of Key Biscayne. I could see plenty of potential here in the vegetation. The likes of Black-whiskered Vireos, White-crowned Pigeons and Mangrove Cuckoos could have been in any one of the sea grapes or red mangroves. However, we lost momentum after walking one non-productive trail and decided to just relax, explore the lighthouse and enjoy the scenic views of Biscayne Bay and Stiltsville. We did see one each of Common-ground Dove, Black-throated Blue and Magnificant Frigatebird.

E-Z car was really easy; I’d recommend them. They found it a little odd though that I asked them to return my Sunpass (https://www.sunpass.com/index). It is tied to my credit card so I thought it an appropriate request. Delta was a real pain; I wish I could avoid them. Our flight home was four hours late. My Mom deserves a medal for putting up first with the Miami afternoon heat and then the inefficiency of Delta airlines. We went from 83 degrees in Miami to a windy 35 in Asheville, NC. Ugh - welcome home!
On my next visit to southwest Florida, I’ll be sure to allow time to visit the Keys where I expect chances of finding additional Florida specialties would increase and hire a local expert like Carlos Sanchez.
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Old Sunday 20th April 2014, 16:10   #8
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Thanks for the report. I'd like to get back there myself to pick up a few more exotics.

Your Mom indeed deserves a medal. Its great that you can still go birding with her. My parents are both in their mid-70s and we really enjoy our birding trips. I kind of see them as an opportunity for me to repay them for taking me out as a kid.
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Old Tuesday 22nd April 2014, 14:17   #9
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Glad you had a pleasant stay here at the southern tip of Florida!

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Old Tuesday 22nd April 2014, 20:54   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ptickner View Post
Thanks for the report. I'd like to get back there myself to pick up a few more exotics.

Your Mom indeed deserves a medal. Its great that you can still go birding with her. My parents are both in their mid-70s and we really enjoy our birding trips. I kind of see them as an opportunity for me to repay them for taking me out as a kid.
I agree; it's payback time!

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Old Tuesday 22nd April 2014, 20:59   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by csanchez7 View Post
Glad you had a pleasant stay here at the southern tip of Florida!

Carlos
Thanks, Carlos. Next time, I'll give you a shout so you can help me find the balance of my wish list.

Steve
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