April 2021
Neotropical gems, such as the Golden-winged Warbler, a trans-Gulf migrant, can occasionally be "pushed" to the Atlantic coast by westerly winds. Photo by Arni Sinnesson
April in the Field
April is arguably the most anticipated month across South Florida’s birding-year calendar. By month’s end, virtually all our summer breeders will have arrived from their tropical wintering grounds. Those making their first appearance in our area this month include Least Tern, Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Common Nighthawk, joining earlier-arriving summer breeder species such as Swallow-tailed Kite, Chuck-will’s-widow, Chimney Swift, Gray and Eastern Kingbird, Red-eyed and Black-whiskered Vireo and Purple Martin.

April is also the month when millions of neotropical migrants pass over South Florida on their way north to their breeding grounds. If these birds encounter stormy weather or considerable headwinds while flying through our area, they’ll stop over to take shelter wherever they can find it. Local parks, or even your backyard, provide these migrating songbirds with a place to rest and refuel until calmer weather allows them to continue their journey.

Follow the lead of savvy birders, who keep a close eye on the weather. They know that an overnight storm can produce “fallout” conditions the next morning, meaning neotropical songbirds in stunning breeding plumage will be just about everywhere you look.

Most songbirds who pass through our area during spring migration will be species already familiar to many of us because most also winter in South Florida or the nearby Caribbean. These include Yellow-throated Vireo, Summer Tanager, Baltimore Oriole, Rose-breasted and Blue Grosbeak, Indigo and Painted Bunting, Northern and Louisiana Waterthrush, Ovenbird, Northern Parula, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart and Worm-eating, Cape-May, Magnolia, Black-and-white, Black-throated Blue, Prairie, Palm, Yellow-throated and Black-throated Green Warbler. Other species, such as Blackpoll and Prothonotary Warbler, winter in South America, but migrate through the Caribbean before reaching our shores.

Many of the songbirds who winter in Central America, however, are “trans-Gulf” migrants who, rather than island-hop through the Caribbean, fly directly over the Gulf of Mexico to reach North America. These migrants include Philadelphia Vireo, Veery, Gray-cheeked, Swainson’s and Wood Thrush, Golden-winged, Blue-winged, Swainson’s, Tennessee, Nashville, Kentucky, Hooded, Cerulean, Bay-breasted, Blackburnian, Chestnut-sided and Canada Warbler, Scarlet Tanager and Orchard Oriole. Trans-Gulf migrants making landfall along Florida’s Gulf Coast can potentially be “pushed” onto our Atlantic Coast if their arrival coincides with persistent westerly winds. Otherwise, visit Gulf Coast hotspots, such as Sanibel Island near Ft. Myers or Ft. DeSoto near St. Petersburg, to have a chance of enjoying these neotropical gems.

April’s take-home message: Keep a weather eye out this month!

As always, you can track the latest sightings, post your own and share your bird photos on our TAS Bird Board, located on Facebook and our website.

Scheduling Update: Birding field trips remain on hold because activities in most Miami-Dade and Broward county parks continue to be limited to individuals and families. All Miami-Dade County park activities involving groups of 10 or more are prohibited. Our Doc Thomas House headquarters remains closed to the public. Please stay tuned for our timely updates.
Brian Rapoza
Tropical Audubon Society Field Trip Coordinator
Featured Event
Light Pollution & Wildlife — A Miami Dark Sky Week 2021 Virtual Event
Wednesday, April 7, 6:30-7:30pm
Artificial light disrupts nature’s ecosystems. Join us for a free live webinar about the impacts of light pollution on bats, birds, fireflies and other insects, and turtles, as well as efforts to address this critical issue. Register today!

Light pollution may not always be obvious, yet it has detrimental impacts on humans and all life forms. Animals, especially the planet’s night creatures, depend on the natural cycles of light and dark to guide reproduction, sleep and protection from predators.

Panel Moderator: Audubon Florida Everglades Restoration Program Science Coordinator Paul Gray.
Panelists: Zoo Miami Conservation and Research Department Head Frank Ridgley will discuss programs designed to protect wildlife from light pollution; Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Research Associate Dr. Oliver Keller will focus on light pollution’s impacts on fireflies and other insects; Tropical Audubon Society Board Vice President and Field Trip Coordinator Brian Rapoza will discuss its impacts on birds; Bat Conservation International Endangered Species Interventions Research Fellow Melquisedec Gamba-Rios, Ph.D, will discuss its impacts on bats; Miami-Dade County Sea Turtle Conservation Program Interpretive Programs Leader Leanne Hauptman will share the dire impacts light pollution has on sea turtles. All of the panelists will share measures that can be implemented to minimize the negative impact of light pollution on wildlife.

In tandem with International Dark Sky Week (April 5-12), Miami-Dade County and other Florida locales will join our global neighbors to #DiscoverTheNight. The Light Pollution & Wildlife webinar is part of a month-long series of South Florida events that will focus on Miami Dark Sky Week.

Participants of Miami Dark Sky Week will discover the wonder and value of the natural nocturnal environment; explore the night sky to better understand the impacts of artificial light at night on humans, wildlife, ecology and the climate; and learn how we can protect and restore the health and wonder of the nighttime world in Miami-Dade County and beyond. A planet with less light pollution will enhance quality of life for all of earth’s inhabitants. Read Miami-Dade County’s Dark Sky Week resolution.

Participate in fun and educational activities at home or close to home, as well as in virtual events on the web. Click HERE to view a calendar of events, activities, stories and resources.

Photos: Florida Bonneted Bat by Joel Sartore ; Eastern Screech-Owl by Jen St. Louis; Firefly (Aspisoma ignita) by Dr. Oliver Keller; Hawksbill Turtle.
In the News
TAS urges Miami-Dade County to:
Safeguard Biscayne Bay, Florida Bay & Everglades
Reject non-military aviation at Homestead Air Base
Miami-Dade County’s efforts to secure the use of federal lands at HARB for non-military aviation poses a significant threat to Everglades Restoration. Photo: Green Heron in the Everglades by Federico Acevedo.
It has been two decades since Tropical Audubon Society played a key role in successfully opposing an effort to convert Homestead Air Reserve Base (HARB) into a private commercial airport. Today a similar proposal to bring non-military aviation to the base is under consideration by Miami-Dade County, and again we stand firm in honoring our advocacy legacy by opposing the idea for the same compelling reason: HARB is sited right between environmentally sensitive Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park.
In 2001, after extensive studies, the US Air Force determined that private commercial use of HARB would pose unacceptable adverse consequences. Those adverse consequences are a greater threat today than 20 years ago when the Air Force Record of Decision (ROD) rejected a commercial airport at HARB.

In February, a coalition of environmental groups that includes TAS asked the U.S. Air Force to reject Miami-Dade County’s overtures to enter into a Joint Use Agreement allowing the county to conduct aviation operations at HARB. Furthermore, we recently asked Miami-Dade County to reject non-military use of HARB and safeguard both of our national parks, and the broader Biscayne Bay, Florida Bay and Everglades ecosystems for the benefit of our economy, our residents and future generations, and our wildlife. 

The risk of irreparable damage to these precious natural resources presented by opening the door to “limited general aviation” at HARB — a precedent that could then lead to commercial aviation and cargo operations — is simply not worth the added risks to the area’s fragile ecosystems and the negative impacts on our economy. 
Chirping About
Cape Florida Banding Station opens for Spring Migration!
Worm-eating warbler. Photo by Miriam Avello
Under the TAS Programs umbrella, the Cape Florida Banding Station (CFBS) is operating on a regular Spring Migration banding schedule for the first time in its 20-year history. The first bird banded this season was a Hermit Thrush, an uncommon wintering species in the Miami area. A Worm-eating Warbler (pictured above) was the first migrating warbler banded.

CFBS is located in Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park at the southern tip of Key Biscayne, a developed barrier island lying just off Miami’s coast. Every spring and fall, millions of songbirds stop at Bill Baggs to refuel as they fly north or south along the Atlantic Flyway, heading for North American summering habitats or southern wintering destinations in the Caribbean and South America. Volunteer Community Scientists at the Banding Station have been banding these neotropical migrants during their Fall Migration since 2002, from mid-August through the first week of November.

Michelle Davis, who co-founded and operates the Station, posts weekly reports on migration activity.
"Birding in the Green Gables"
By Tropical Audubon Society President José Francisco Barros
Coral Gables Magazine, March 2021 Issue
Our Board President José Francisco Barros writes about the joys of bird watching in his leafy neighborhood and across The City Beautiful in Coral Gables Magazine's March 2021 edition.
Photo by Federico Acevedo
View Biscayne Bay on the Brink — How to Save it!
View our recent webinar Biscayne Bay on the the Brink — How to Save it! that convenes local Biscayne Bay experts to discuss critical issues facing Biscayne Bay, solutions to address major challenges, and how we can move forward. The panel, moderated by TAS Executive director Paola Ferreira, features Chief Bay Officer Irela Bagué, Miami Waterkeeper Dr. Rachel Silverstein and NPCA Regional Director Sun Coast Region Melissa Abdo. This special event was the capstone webinar in our 2020-2021 Tropical Audubon Ambassador Program.

To learn more about our Tropical Audubon Ambassador Program, email Alison Enchelmaier at ambassador@tropicalaudubon.org
In Memoriam
Paul Bithorn
1953 - 2021
Paul Bithorn, who served on our Tropical Audubon Society Board of Directors and as field trip leader for many years, died on March 26. He was 68.

The Miami native and former mayor of the Village of Virginia Gardens led birding field trips for TAS and many other environmental and civic groups for more than 20 years. He was also a board member of Curtiss Mansion, Inc., an organization dedicated to the restoration and operation of the Miami Springs home of aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss.

“Paul was a birder since he was a Cub Scout, which, as he was fond of saying, was ‘many, many mango seasons ago,’” recalls Brian Rapoza, TAS Board Vice President and Field Trip Coordinator. Paul was Brian’s most reliable and indispensable leader; he also served as co-leader for virtually all of our organization’s multi-day birding tours to North Florida, the Keys and Dry Tortugas, and Ft. DeSoto, as well as for our Miami Exotics tours (“He knew the parrots better than anyone,” Brian notes), our annual tours of the Everglades Agricultural Area and many out-of-state tours.

Brian further recounts that Paul was known for his many sayings, but his favorite was “Life is good,” and, indeed, it was all the better in his company. “Paul lived a good life, filled with contagious joy, and life was always good when you were with him. Life simply won’t be as good without him, and I'm already missing him dearly.”

In 2013, Paul was honored with our President's Board Appreciation Award.
A service will be held May 8, at 10am at Blessed Trinity Church. A "Celebration of Life" will follow.

James Michael Porter
1956 – 2021
James Michael Porter, a great friend to Tropical Audubon Society, died at home on February 19 following a courageous 20-month battle with brain cancer. He was 64.

As an integral member of a dedicated team of environmental attorneys, Jim helped represent TAS and our partner organizations in defending Biscayne Bay in a Clean Water Act lawsuit against the county centering around sewage spills, Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant cooling canals, and protecting corals from dredging at the Port of Miami and Port Everglades. More recently, in the midst of his cancer battle, he remained involved in fighting the proposed 836 expansion that can adversely affect Everglades restoration. 

As a friend and advisor to TAS, Jim was, by extension, a protector of all of South Florida. "He passionately loved the Bay and the Everglades, and poured his heart into protecting both," recalls TAS Board President José Francisco Barros. "In our many conversations and meetings over the years, Jim's was the calm, cool voice in the room. He remained steadfast in his determination to protect our unique ecosystems for as long as he drew breath, and will be sorely missed by the South Florida environmental community."  
Plants for Birds
Bird-friendly Gardening Day
Saturday, April 17, 9am-Noon
RSVP Required
Volunteers put down the roots at our recent Bird-friendly Gardening Day.
Photo by Federico Acevedo.
Do you have a green thumb, or wish to learn more about native plants for birds? You are invited take part in maintaining our Bird-Friendly Demonstration Garden at our Steinberg Nature Center campus! Get hands-on experience creating wildlife habitat. The knowledge and skills you gain will enable you to establish a bird-friendly garden in your own yard or patio — interested participants MUST RSVP to Amy at volunteer@tropicalaudubon.org

Please note that only a limited number of volunteers can be accommodated, and that volunteers will be required to wear a mask and adhere to our gathering guidelines.

Green Things to Do
“As I See it ... ”
A Juried Photography Competition
Sponsored by the Coral Gables Gardening Club
Open for Submissions April 15 to May 31
Great Blue Herons. Photo by Fabiola Forns
The Coral Gables Garden Club is sponsoring a juried photography competition for shutterbugs 18 years of age or older. All cameras are welcome, including Smartphones.

Suggested subjects include Florida’s natural environment and wildlife, plants and insects, and historic sites, especially within Coral Gables. From Sunshine State coastlines and natural vistas, to lush foliage and flowers, the competition is intended to display the talent of the photographer and inspire visitors to visit and explore Florida and the City Beautiful.

The Grand Prize is $1,000 plus $2,800 in category prizes. Submit your images April 15 through May 31. Click HERE for details
iNaturalist City Nature Challenge 
Saturday, Friday, April 30 – Monday, May 3
City Nature Challenge is an opportunity to showcase Miami-Dade County’s amazing biodiversity, while competing against cities around the world for the most observations, species and participants. Add observations to iNaturalist on your own from anywhere in Miami-Dade County. 
Go Solar!
Join a Solar Co-op Information Session Near You
Wednesday, April 7, 6pm
We’re teaming up with nonprofit group Solar United Neighbors (SUN) to bring you the Miami-Dade County Solar Co-op — a free group to help you go solar. The co-op makes it easier to save money on the purchase of solar panels, while building a community of local solar supporters. Attend an information session on Wednesday, April 7, 6pm, to learn more about how the Miami-Dade Solar Co-op is streamlining the going solar process, and is earning a discount through bulk purchase power. Join the Miami-Dade County Solar Co-op for free.
Bird the Ruins of Mexico's Yucatán
January 20-30, 2022
The Mexican Sheartail is one of the many colorful species you may spot on this trip. Photo by Alexander Dzib
Pack your binoculars and embark on an intense, 11-day, 10-night birding adventure to the environmentally diverse Yucatán Peninsula. Led by TAS Field Trip Coordinator Brian Rapoza, and a local guide, you’ll witness native birds soar above the breathtaking Hochob, Becán, Chacchoben and Uxmal ruins, as well as other archaeological sites of interest on this extraordinary journey through the Mayan world. Note: The new date is January 20-30, 2022. To view a detailed itinerary, click here. Email Brian Rapoza, TAS Field Trip Coordinator for additional information.
The Birds Thank
Members of the Dade Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society toured our near-native Steinberg Nature Center campus last month, guided by TAS Master Gardener Amy Creekmur (kneeling, center), who walked them through our bird-friendly pollinator gardens, and Tropical Hardwood and Pine Rockland habitats, sharing plant information and fielding questions.
... The Dade Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society (Dade FNPS) for cross-pollinating with Tropical Audubon Society at every opportunity. Its leaders go out of their way — you know who you are! — to ensure that: TAS Conservation messaging is shared and our on-campus signature Native Plant Sales are promoted in their monthly newsletters; our birding experts are tapped as presenters at Dade FNPS meetings/outings; our Pine Rockland Restoration efforts are considered; and, perhaps most meaningful, that Dade FNPS members regularly volunteer to dig in at our monthly Bird-friendly Gardening Days, helping us create a better place for birds and people, too.

Click here to learn more about Dade FNPS or to become a member.