Bird Walk Wrap-Up: 2019 Mother's Day Weekend
What better way is there to celebrate Mother’s Day Weekend than to enjoy Mother Nature’s gifts? That’s exactly what a group of about 30 nature lovers did on our delightful bird walk at the Gardens at Crandon Park on Key Biscayne on May 11, the day before Mother’s Day. Some Phoebes brought their children, and some treated their moms, joining a few newbies for a two-hour stroll through the tropical grounds where the old Miami Metro Zoo was once located. We spotted 21 species including the resident pair of Sandhill Cranes (who appeared to be expecting!) What made this Phoebes walk so special was seeing different generations bonding over birds for a morning.
As it turned out, the first bird of the day was spotted by one of the half-dozen children on the walk while they were being instructed on how to use binoculars. The bird was an American Redstart, most likely refueling on his migration North for the summer. The bird’s telltale yellow and black plumage helped us identify the species and one of our more experienced Phoebes was able to identify it as a young male (which looks more like a female adult than the male adult).
After the children were equipped with child-friendly binoculars on loan from Tropical Audubon Society, and some adults were equipped with more sophisticated binoculars on loan from Leica Store Miami, the group strolled over to a giant pond where we saw Egyptian Geese and their fuzzy goslings waddling about. Yes, they were cute, but sadly Egyptian Geese are non-native species that have proliferated to the point where they are now a threat to native bird populations here in South Florida.
We also saw a Common Gallinule in the pond and White Ibises before continuing our stroll along the paved paths. We were very lucky to have some good long views of a Gray Kingbird perched at the top of a Royal Palm.
Meanwhile, some of the children chased iguanas in the grass, gawked at the warty-faced Muscovy Ducks (they are considered feral here) and non-native Indian Peafowl that were strutting about.
A few Fish Crows flew overhead and at one point we saw two Boat-tailed Grackles, offering an opportunity to talk about some of the differences between the two species (Fish Crows have larger bodies, thicker bills and shorter tails). We also saw an Anhinga, a Double-Crested Cormorant and a Great Egret.
As we strolled through the Gardens at Crandon Park, we stopped to look at the abandoned animal enclosures left after the zoo closed in 1980. Several women on the walk who grew up in Miami reminisced about going to the zoo when they were children, noting that they were happier to be there viewing animals free and in the wild in what today has been turned into a delightful botanical garden.
The several ponds at the gardens are home to some giant Florida softshell turtles and fish. We saw four Yellow-crowned Night-Herons and followed the trill of a Red-bellied Woodpecker until we found it and watched it search for bugs in a tree for a while.
We observed a Sandhill Crane guarding a nest, however we stayed far from it because yellow police-tape had been set up to keep people from venturing too close and disturbing the bird.