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Miami, FL: Coconut Grove, Key Biscayne, Biscayne National Park, South Beach
August, October, November 2011


Florida part I (August)
Work brought me to another place in the world that I probably never would have spent time in: Miami, Florida. I was on a somewhat restricted time schedule, so didn't get to visit many wildlife rich areas.

I spent my mornings walking around a marina and the parking lot to see what might show up. I was happily surprised to see some interesting birds. Though they seem common and abundant down in Miami, I enjoyed watched the Green Herons and White Ibis. The Green Herons picked around the styrofoam trash floating next the seawall trying to pick off small fish that should wander in striking distance. The White Ibis picked in the lawn and in the flooded parking lot. Yellow-crowned Nightherons were also pretty common in the small bay. I was happy to see a Little Blue Heron walking up and down the dock, seemingly hunting next to the pilings and snatching at food that hovered near. Of course there were the ubiquitous Laughing Gulls, Northern Mockingbirds and Fish Crows. But they aren't found at home so they were still fun to see. In a small patch of mangroves, I saw a Prairie Warbler and a secretive Yellow-throated Warbler. The Prairie Warbler was fairly bold as it starred at me out in the open at eye level. It reminded me of my previous encounter with a Prairie Warbler out in the Gulf of Mexico while on a research cruise.

In the parking lot, there was a surprising amount of activity. My theory is that parking lots are one of the few places the city planted trees (for the purpose of creating shade for the parked cars). So they become a sort of oasis surrounded by concrete. The mockingbirds were the most abundant. But I also saw a Blue Jay, a trio of Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and a Red-shouldered Hawk in the few trees. A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher's familiar mew call caught my attention as I had always associated them with the desert. Above the hustle and bustle of the city and the parking lot a small group of Gray Kingbirds sallied from the light posts.

Away from all the pavement, I was able to visit the Billy Baggs State Park on Key Biscayne. There I saw 3 Swallow-tailed Kites gliding high above the beach. At the Biscayne National Park visitor center, I saw a Magnificent Frigatebird, a Loggerhead Shrike, a Common Ground Dove, and many large Orb Weavers. At South Beach, I was surprised to see Brown Pelicans, Royal Terns, and Gull-billed Terns hunting in between the masses of people in the water. They were successful however, as I saw several Gull-billed Terns flying over the beach with fish in bill.

Though I'll admit I saw a few life birds in Miami, I would have preferred to see these birds in their more natural habitats. Watching a White Ibis in a flooded parking lot isn't quite the same as seeming them probe for food in the Everglades or even a naturalized wetland.

Florida part II (October)
A return trip to the same area of Miami yielded a surprising amount of birds and even a few life birds. Though we worked most of the time there, I did have a few moments early in the morning and later in the evening to slip out and do some birding. I could only travel by foot so all of my birding was concentrated to the Alice Wainwright Park and the Rickenbacker Causeway both of which are on Biscayne Bay.

When driving over the Rickenbacker Causeway during a storm, I noticed several Magnificent Frigatebirds flying over the bridge. But later when the weather broke, they were no where to be seen. On a small island of the causeway, several groups of sandpipers roamed the sandy beaches. Ruddy Turnstones and Sanderlings loosely foraged together. There were also a few Semipalmated Plovers with one Western Sandpiper. Also foraging along the beaches was a lone Willet and a Marbled Godwit. Brown Pelicans, Laughing Gulls, and a few Royal Terns patrolled over the water.

The first two days in Miami were stormy - windy and showery. I didn't get out until the second evening when the storm broke and a layer of light gray clouds hung in the sky. I walked over to the Wainwright Park for the first time, not really knowing what to expect. But before I even got to the entrance of the park, I was greeted by an Ovenbird bobbing and walking along the median strip. Once my binoculars heated up and the condensation stopped building on my lens, I was able to get a great view of the little bird as it foraged among the grass and fallen palm leaves.

I finally entered the park and didn't go much farther then 10 ft before I stopped in my tracks to watch all the bird activity surrounding me. Warblers galore - everywhere in the trees. I definitely was not prepared for this spectacle. At a couple of points, I had to stop looking at the birds to consult and focus on my field guide. It was quickly overwhelming and amazing at the same time. There were many Blue-winged Warblers, Prairie Warblers, Red-eyed Vireos, a few Northern Parula and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. Singly were a Black-and-white Warbler, a Bay-breasted Warbler, an American Redstart, a Black-throated Blue Warbler, a Veery, a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, a Cape May Warbler, and a Palm Warbler. The migrants abound and the flurry of activity was quite invigorating. But alas the sun quickly set and within an hour I had added four new life birds to my list. Before I left the park, a Great Horned Owl started hooting from the trees, quite a surprise in the small park. With all the warbler activity I didn't have a chance to view the entire park, but I knew I'd be back the next day.

The next morning the storm had cleared away and the sun entered the blue sky. I got up early to explore the park and to hopefully get another dose of warbler action. The park was made up of two main components - one part for people and one part for conservation. The conservation area was completely fenced off. I don't know eastern fauna, but the area was thick with brush and trees - it looks like good habitat for some wildlife (and several feral cats that I saw hanging around). The people part of the park was what one would expect - basketball court, bathrooms, play area for the kids, picnic tables and benches, and lots of mowed grass. The whole park was pretty small probably not much more than an acre at most, which is small on Seattle standards, but maybe big by Miami standards.

Upon entering the park, the trees were a little more quiet. I walked down to the waterfront edge of the park where I saw a couple of Palm Warblers and a pair of Indigo Buntings. In the trees above the picnic area, there were many warblers feeding around the dried up fruit of a tree that I couldn't recognize. Tennessee Warblers and Cape May Warblers were abundant. Also still present among the trees were the Black-throated Blue Warblers, a Black-and-White Warbler, and American Redstarts. Palm Warblers seemed to littered the ground - hopping around and wagging their tails. A few female Painted Buntings feed on the grass seeds on the ground and many Morning Doves napped in the growing sunlight. A Great-crested Flycatcher snatched a dragonfly out of the air and an Eastern Wood-pewee called from the dense treetops. Bird activity slowed by mid-morning. It was still a good turn out for birds, but not nearly as furious as the first evening.

I returned to the park over the next couple of days, but the warbler activity seemed to have subsided. I think the storm kept the warblers and migrants grounded and concentrated them in the small oasis of the Wainwright Park. I was lucky to have witnessed the magically abundance of these jewels in one brief but memorable evening.

Florida part III (November)
Repeat returns to the same area is starting to give me idea of the seasonal changes of Miami. The weather doesn't seem to change much but the birds do. Interestingly, in August, Black Vultures dominated the skies. Now two months later Turkey Vultures have taken over. The warblers definitely have moved on too. I only saw a handful of warblers on this trip. All of warblers (Palm, Blue-winged, Yellow-throated and Northern Parula) were ones that commonly winter in Florida, not too surprising I suppose.

Florida park IV (July 2012)
I didn't really think I would be back in Miami for work, yet that's where I found myself for one more week. During some down time we took an airboat ride in the Francis S Taylor Management Area, which was only a short drive from downtown Miami. The airboat captain was a pretty entertaining guy, who really loved the Everglades and his job. Not all of his facts were true, but his enthuasium seemed to help glaze over some of the inaccuracies. He had a love of the animals in the Everglades - even feeding them cheese puff to lure them in both for his entertainment and the tourists. Can't say I agree with him feeding the animals, but it was sure entertaining watching a Purple Gallinule family come down to the boat for the junk food. I didn't spend much of my free time birding the local areas near our hotel as I have in the past. Perhaps I'm getting burnt out, or I was just sick of being in Miami. I'm not sure if I'm going back to Miami for work, but I wouldn't rule it out, unfortunately.


Pictures (click on thumbnail)

Bird List
Muscovy Duck (Domestic type)
Magnificent Frigatebird
Anhinga Billy Bagg's Cape Florida State Park
Double-crested Cormorant
Brown Pelican
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret flyby at marina
Little Blue Heron Marina by hotel
Tricolored Heron Biscayne NP
Cattle Egret roadside in fields
Green Heron many in marina by hotel
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron at marina
White Ibis
Purple Gallinule Francis S Taylor Managment Area, Everglades
Common Moorhen Francis S Taylor Managment Area, Everglades
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Cooper's Hawk
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon 4 circling in thermal and more around hotel
Swallow-tailed Kite Billy Bagg's Cape Florida State Park
Red-shouldered Hawk parking lot near marina
Swainson's Hawk
Killdeer heard only
Semipalmated Plover
Spotted Sandpiper 1
Ruddy Turnstone 3
Sanderling 3, South Beach
Marbled Godwit
Laughing Gull many around water
Forester's Tern
Little Tern Everglades
Gull-billed Tern South Beach
Royal Tern at beaches
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove many
White-winged Dove
Mourning Dove
Common Ground-Dove Biscayne NP
Aratinga sp. flock flew over road in city, also heard at marina
Yellow-billed Cuckoo Alice Wainwright Park
Great Horned Owl heard, Alice Wainwright Park
Chimney Swift
Common Nighthawk
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker 3, parking lot near marina
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Great Crested Flycatcher
Gray Kingbird parking lot near marina
Loggerhead Shrike Biscayne NP
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay parking lot near marina
Fish Crow
Barn Swallow
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher at Alligator Farm and marina parking lot
Veery 1, Alice Wainwright Park
Gray Catbird 1, Alice Wainwright Park
Northern Mockingbird
House Wren 1, Alice Wainwright Park
Common Myna in city
European Starling
Ovenbird Alice Wainwright Park
Blue-winged Warbler Alice Wainwright Park and around town
Black-and-white Warbler 3, Alice Wainwright Park
Prothonotary Warbler 1, Alice Wainwright Park
Tenessee Warbler many, Alice Wainwright Park
Orange-crowned Warbler 1, Alice Wainwright Park
Common Yellowthroat 1 male, 1 female, Alice Wainwright Park
American Redstart Alice Wainwright Park
Cay May Warbler many, Alice Wainwright Park
Northern Parula 2, Alice Wainwright Park
Bay-breasted Warbler 1, Alice Wainwright Park
Black-throated Blue Warbler many, Alice Wainwright Park and around town
Palm Warbler many, Alice Wainwright Park and around town
Yellow-throated Warbler Peacock Park
Prairie Warbler Peacock Park
Summer Tanager Alice Wainwright Park
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 1 female, Alice Wainwright Park
Indigo Bunting 1 male, 2 female, Alice Wainwright Park
Painted Bunting 3 female, Alice Wainwright Park
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle around city
Boat-tailed Grackle around city
House Sparrow
Other Critters:
Spotted Eagle Ray
Ghost Crab
Alligator Francis S Taylor Management Area
Spiny-tailed Iguana
Brown Anole
Lizard sp.
Eastern Gray Squirrel
Raccoon eating trash on beach



Billy Bagg's Cape Florida State Park
Biscayne National Park

Francis S Taylor Management Area
Pennekamp State Park


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page updated: 7/18/12