Up There, in The Tree!

April is the Perfect Month for Birding in Coral Gables

By Mike Clary // Photography by Lizzie Wilcox

April 2019

For those who pay attention to every treetop flicker and even the faintest warble or trill, South Florida is a mecca, a birder’s paradise from the Florida Keys and Everglades National Park to the shores and wetlands of Palm Beach County.

But Coral Gables residents don’t have to venture beyond the borders of the city to see many of the hundreds of colorful birds which live here year-round or pass through the area on annual north-south migrations. “I can walk outside my house and see lots of good birds,” says endodontist Joe Barros, who lives on Country Club Prado. “Flocks of warblers – black-throated green, prairie, parula – resident Cooper’s hawks, great-crested ycatchers, parrots!”

Barros is no ordinary birder. President of the Tropical Audubon Society since 2002, he has traveled the world in search of exotic avians, including trips to Gambia, Peru and Spain. But he knows there is plenty to see right inside the city limits, especially at this time of year. “Whether it’s a full morning, or 15 minutes of walking around the house, just detaching from the pace of life and enjoying these beautiful bits of nature is calming,” he says.

Joe Barros

April is prime time for bird spotting. Species that breed here are decked out in their most colorful finery. They are pairing off and making nests, and singing their hearts out. It would be difficult to walk around any tree-lined block of the city without hearing a mockingbird’s eclectic song or the cheer, cheer, cheer of a cardinal.

Beyond your neighborhood, city hotspots for a variety of birds include Matheson Hammock, the edges of the Riviera and Biltmore golf courses, the University of Miami campus (including the Gifford Arboretum), along the Gables waterways and any of the city’s small parks.

Enjoying these beautiful bits of nature is calming…

Joe Barros, Tropical Audobon Society president

Birds are particularly abundant in Matheson Hammock at this time of year, since the 630-acre park is what veteran birding guide Brian Rapoza calls “a migrant trap, a stop-over habitat for songbirds heading north, a place to rest and refuel, especially when the weather is bad or there are headwinds.”

Once you start noticing our winged neighbors, you’ll find feathered fascination everywhere, from the white ibis pecking for insects in your lawn, to the mob of blue jays screaming in alarm to protect a nestling from a predatory hawk, to the grackle that is eyeing the avocado toast on your table at an outdoor cafe.

The Great Egret, found in South Florida’s waters, is easy to spot with its distinctive yellow beak and black legs. Photo by Mike Clary

“I’ve always liked the outdoors, but it was not until I became a birder that I started to pay attention to the diversity out there, in small parks, even in your own backyard,” says Rapoza, a retired teacher and Tropical Audubon’s Field trips coordinator. “Once you start realizing how many different creatures we share a home with, it’s a natural progression to become a conservationist.”

Birding requires curiosity, but very little equipment. Rapoza recommends binoculars, ranging in power from 7×35, to 10×42, and a field guide that will help identify the birds you see. Tropical Audubon has several guided field trips coming up, including one at Matheson Hammock on April 27.

Go to http://www.tropicalaudubon.org/events for details.