Miami December 2018

Another Work trip, this time 10 days in Miami Florida, staying right on Miami Beach itself. Allowing myself to fully submerge into things that have fascinated me about America all my life. Despite obvious things to be critical of, its an amazing place and I cant believe I don’t go more often.

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We arrived late afternoon and my first sightings of Magnificent Frigatebirds, and Brown pelicans were from the airport taxi as we crossed Biscayne Bay.

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Turkey Vultures were all over the place as we approached the hotel and I immediately got onto the beach with a loaf of Hovis (smuggled from home in my suitcase) and began lobbing it for the mass of Laughing Gulls. A completely new bird for me and the first winters were incredibly elegant, think i’ve found a new favourite small gull.

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Adults were equally as lovely and defiantly the most common larid along the shores and waterways. Next up were the RingBilled Gulls, I’ve only seen adults and 2nd winter birds in the UK and Ireland and always wondered what i’d make of a first winter in the flesh. Heres a few shots showing the variability, none of them struck me as particularly similar to common gulls of the same age.

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Adult Ringbilleds always dominated the bread feeding flocks on the beaches. In term of Large Gulls I saw one adult and one 1cy American Herring Gull, all others were Graellsii Lesser Black Backs. I was surprised to see these every day, perhaps 10-20 birds throughout the trip of all ages. Most birds were mid wing moult, this of course if different to our Graellsii birds at home currently, Id be interested to know if this is a post migration wintering grounds moult rather than a delayed moult due to northerly breeding grounds, which seem to be Greenland from what I can tell.

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Fly by Ospreys were an every day occurrence and were seen all over the city including fishing a small pond on a golf course and sitting on the putting green!

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Another feature of the urban coastline were the Royal terns. This large flock were congregated on a quieter beach in Key Biscayne but smaller flocks and many flyby birds were present on south beach its self. incredible expression when you get up close.

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It took one or two mornings to figure out where the best place to look for Warblers was, these are the birds I was most excited about seeing and of which 15 species were recorded.

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I had seen Palm, Parula and Cape may Warblers around the city and had about 2 hours of light before work every morning during which I eventually found a spot in a small green space with a mix of trees to look at Warblers.  The tree below and surrounding area was where i saw most. All except Yellow Rumped, and Northern Waterthrush were ticks and totally thrilling to see.

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Parulas below…

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Prairie Warblers below…

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Black and White Warblers below…

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Below, Cape May Warblers…

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Pine Warbler

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Black throated Blue Warblers

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1st yr fem American Redstart…

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next, a real highlight – Yellow-Throated Warbler…

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Elsewhere around the city and over the bridges into Bill Baggs national park in Key Biscayne Dense mangroves and sub tropical woodland held pockets of warblers and other passerines, there were more of the same but I added a few more species of Warbler to the list. 

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Common Yellowthroats were vocal but shy except this individual…

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as were Orange Crowned, with mostly glimpses of grey headed birds.

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I also had Magnolia warbler, YellowRumped Wabler, Northern waterthrush and Ovenbird but these were un photographed

I was hoping to see Summer Tanager during the trip and when a Tanager sized silhouette moved in the canopy at my ‘pre work’ patch I focused in with baited breath and was shocked to see a familiar bird in front of me, Western Tanager!, a species I’d seen in Colorado 5 years before, I was sure this wasn’t supposed to be on the radar in the south east and was right, there are only one or two wintering records in Florida per year and it has a less than 1% frequency rating on ebird for the area, so pretty scarce I guess.

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Other Passerines were things like Common and BoatTailed Grackles, Northern Mocking birds, Gray Catbird and Loggerhead Shrike and seen everyday. I saw A single Western Kingbird and one or two Greatcrested Flycatchers, Belted Kingfishers, Northern Flickers and Yellow Bellied Sapsuckers were a daily occurrence and I saw a few Eastern Pheobes which I particularly liked. Mourning doves were spread around the city and Common ground doves were common out in Key Biscayne.

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Blueheaded and White-Eyed Vireos.

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I had a whole day and a morning off during the trip and both were spent out in Key Biscayne where I saw a lot of the previous species of warbler as well as some Wading birds. Pretty much all of the waders on the trip were very approachable and I spent a good amount of time lying down waiting for them to get close.  Sanderling were everywhere and joined in a few spots by Semi Palmated, Black Bellied and Piping Plovers

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ShortBilled Dowitchers, Least and Spotted Sandpipers and a single Kildeer

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This habitat was of course also good for Herons and Egrets, with Flocks of American White Ibis, many Cattle the occasional Great, Reddish and Snowy Egrets, Tricoloured, Great BlueGreen, and Yellow-Crowned Night Herons

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It was around these water bodies that I saw one or two American Crocodiles. There were sign posts detailing their presence and advising for visitors to be aware! I also Saw a Manatee just close offshore in the shallows.

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Introduced Mexican Iguanas were all over the place.

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In terms of Raptors I had Sharp-shinned Hawks and Kestrels in the Parks,

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as I mentioned before Ospreys and Turkey Vutures were very common and out in Key Biscayne were a number of Black Vultures, as well as RedShouldered Hawks and a single Male Northern Harrier

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Ive forgotten to mention Wildfowl etc and besides a couple of Piedbilled grebes, RedBreasted Mergansers and Common Loons that was it really. 

Im sure I’ve missed things off as I often do with these big posts but thats the general feel of the trip. I will probably be going back next year and Will do my best to get to the everglades, theres still plenty to see!

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