Birding/Not-Birding in South Florida

By josh • Nature, Wildlife • 1 May 2015

After a few months of feeling confined by the cold and winter obligations, last week we took a family vacation to the Miami area with my folks, partly in celebration of one of my mother’s birthdays that ends in a ‘0’.  As such, we asked her to set the priorities for the trip, which were predictably ‘nature’ and ‘fun with the kids’.  Turns out South Florida is pretty great for both of those things!

Anole sp.
Coconut Grove, Florida
April, 2015
Canon 100mm EF at f/4, 1/160s, ISO 400

While we didn’t rack up species at the rate we would have if it was strictly a birding trip (we drove past the giant yellow-chevroned parakeet colony at the Dadeland Mall four times without stopping to look for yellow-chevroned parakeets), we still managed about 70 species over three days of kid-friendly activities, 8 lifers for me (with 3 additional that were new for me in the ABA area) and 23 lifers for my Dad.  We also managed gobsmacking views of some really dazzling (if locally common) birds, and gave the boys some remarkable wildlife experiences.

American Alligator
Anhinga Trail, Everglades National Park
April, 2015
Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/10, 1/320s, ISO 200, handheld

Most of the photos I got were trips to the Everglades along the main park road and to Crandon Park on Key Biscayne.  Unfortunately much of our day in the National Park was washed out by heavy rain, but we did spend a wonderful hour or so along the Anhinga Trail at the Royal Palm Visitor Center near the park entrance.  Here are a few from Royal Palm:

White Ibis
Anhinga Trail, Everglades National Park
<April, 2015
Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/5.6, 1/320s, ISO200, handheld

Great Blue Heron
Anhinga Trail, Everglades National Park
April, 2015
Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/5.6, 1/320s, ISO200, handheld

Anhinga
Anhinga Trail, Everglades National Park
April, 2015
Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/7.1, 1/320s, ISO200, handheld

Green Heron
Anhinga Trail, Everglades National Park
April, 2015
Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/5.6, 1/320s, ISO200, handheld

Asher was watching that Great Blue Heron from close range when he spotted an Anhinga catching a fish. The heron ran over squawking and chased the Anhinga away. It speared the fish (which Asher called a bluegill, but who knows!) and then swallowed it whole about 4′ from us. I don’t think he’ll soon forget that.

The following day at Crandon Park we spent a few hours at the beach and an hour or so wandering around the Gardens. Lifer #350 for me were the Egyptian Geese wandering around everywhere here. It seems cheap that a minor milestone came on an exotic that has just been added to the ABA list, but #351 was Reddish Egret, and that more than made up for the geese. Plus, the geese are actually quite interesting, and the goslings are super cute.

Egyptian Geese
Crandon Park Gardens, Key Biscayne, Florida
April, 2015
Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/8, 1/640s, ISO320, handheld

Black Skimmer
Crandon Park Beach, Key Biscayne, Florida
April, 2015
Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/8, 1/1250s, ISO320, handheld

Eurasian Collared-Dove
Crandon Park Beach, Key Biscayne, Florida
April, 2015
Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/8, 1/640s, ISO320, handheld

Crandon Park Gardens are full of Indian Peafowl and Sandhill Cranes among other things. We saw Mottled Ducks, Common Gallinules (with chicks!), Palm and Prairie Warblers, and rampant Green Iguanas. The peacocks are pretty grumpy but still fun to watch. The Sandhill Cranes are breeding in the Gardens and didn’t seem to alarmed to have us wandering by from 50′ away.

Sandhill Crane
Crandon Park Gardens, Key Biscayne, Florida
April, 2015
Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/9, 1/640s, ISO320, handheld

Sandhill Crane
Crandon Park Gardens, Key Biscayne, Florida
April, 2015
Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/5.6, 1/640s, ISO320, handheld

Sandhill Crane
Crandon Park Gardens, Key Biscayne, Florida
April, 2015
Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/5.6, 1/640s, ISO320, handheld

Someday we’ll go back specifically hunting for birds (there are still 28 Code 1 and Code 2 species that are common in South Florida and the Keys that I haven’t seen!), but this was a great start and, more importantly, my Mom had a nice birthday trip and the boys had some excellent, close encounters with nature.

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One Response

  1. Aunt Ninner

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful photos and memories. I’m happy to hear that you all had a good time. I’m sure your mom enjoyed every minute of her birthday trip.

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