January 2021
Happy New Year!
A Mitred Parakeet spotted on Miami Beach during the Miami Christmas Bird Count feasts on seagrapes. Read the full Miami CBC report here. Photo by Federico Acevedo
January in the Field
Birds as Beacons of Hope — for 2020 & 2021

Birds give us comfort and joy. Indeed, reflecting on 2020 and the global pandemic, birds were literal beacons of hope for those of us who observe them. We appreciated them more than ever if that’s even possible. Birding has actually flourished under the COVID cloud. Downloads of the National Audubon Society’s bird identification app in March and April doubled over that same 2019 period, and unique visits to its website were up by half-a-million. The prestigious Cornell Lab of Ornithology saw downloads of its free bird identification app, Merlin ID, shoot up 102% over the same 2019 period, with 8,500 downloads on Easter weekend alone (read more).
For the local birding community, 2020 began with the final Christmas Bird Counts of the season, followed by a fresh slate of TAS field trips. Our sold-out Western Cuba birding tour in early February was a resounding success; we tallied 120 species during the 1-week tour, including 20 Cuban endemics and 19 Caribbean endemics. (For details, see the trip report.) Our annual TAS Bird Day on our Steinberg Nature Center campus also took place in February. We launched our Facebook Bird Board in February, too; by December, the group had attracted more than 700 members, mainly locals, but some from out of state and a few from abroad!
As COVID-19 spread around the globe, parks closed and stay-at-home orders were issued, TAS put organized birding on hold in mid-March — canceling local TAS field trips, and postponing trips to Spain, Arizona and Mexico. To provide guidance to area birders sheltering in place, we dedicated this monthly "In the Field" section to backyard and neighborhood birding, which included promoting eBird’s “Global Big Day.” Our Facebook Bird Board was soon humming with backyard bird reports from birders far and wide.
Thankfully, spring and fall migrants, and year-round residents, gave us much to celebrate despite the pandemic, with an impressive number of rare bird species sighted in South Florida during 2020, including the American Flamingo, Cuban Pewee and, most unexpected, the Piratic Flycatcher (view the full list here).
By September, I was leading virtual birding chats via webinars with the first two sessions in the casual series focusing on bird migration and South Florida’s introduced birds.
Although most area parks reopened in late spring, pandemic-related restrictions on group gatherings prevent us from scheduling any formal field trips this month or in the near future. When enough of us are vaccinated, the county will expand or lift gathering restrictions, and we will again venture forth together. Until then, enjoy our winter snowbirds safely — solo or within your pod — wear masks in public spaces and practice social distancing.
Last and of equal import, as we look toward brighter days ahead, I encourage you to support bird conservation now to help ensure that birds will always be there for us as beacons of hope. If you are not yet a TAS member, please resolve to JOIN today! Your membership dues will help support birding conservation and education in our region, and joining is an easy New Year's Resolution to keep!
Wishing our South Florida birding community a healthy, happy 2021!
Brian Rapoza
Tropical Audubon Society Field Trip Coordinator
Bird the Ruins of Mexico's Yucatán
January 20-30, 2022
The King Vulture is one of the many colorful species you may spot on this trip.
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.
Featured Event
“WINGS OF HOPE” Virtual Opening Reception
Featuring “Painted Tapestries and Photography of Florida’s Imperiled Birds”
by The Palette Knife Artists of Miami
based on the photographic artistry of Bonnie Masdeu
+ Bird Talk presented by Brian Rapoza
Sunday, January 10, 1-2pm
Attend a Virtual Reception celebrating the “Wings of Hope,” a collaborative exhibit now hanging at Biscayne National Park’s Dante Fascell Visitor Center Gallery through February 28. Subtitled “Painted Tapestries and Photography of Florida’s Imperiled Birds,” the body of work is by The Palette Knife Artists of Miami whose inspiration was found in the award-winning photography of Bonnie Masdeu.

The 1-hour program will include a brief history of The Palette Knife Artists of Miami, a virtual “Meet the Artists” chat, a palette knife painting demo, a video tour of the exhibit and a presentation by TAS board member and Field Trip Coordinator Brian Rapoza, who will speak about the twelve imperiled Florida bird species depicted by the artists.

Wings of Hope is a collaboration — one photographer and twelve artists — who collectively
hope the world will stop, look, listen, learn and act for the imperiled species who need our voice.

The event will be streamed via Facebook Live in the BiscayneNPS page Biscayne National Park.

In Memoriam
George Donald (Don) Gann Sr.
The late Don Gann pictured with his late wife Joyce Walker Gann.
George Donald (Don) Gann Sr., a longtime Tropical Audubon Society ally who, together with his wife, Joyce Walker Gann, inspired countless Miamians to put down "native roots," passed away peacefully on December 11 at the family home in Redland.

In 2018, TAS jointly awarded Don and Joyce the "Polly Redford Citizen Service Award" for “passionately sharing their love of native plants, helping organize our region's Native Plant societies" and "parlaying their wealth of knowledge to inspire area scouts, residents and politicians to embrace native flora.”

Don was the son of George Henry Gann Jr. and South Dade pioneer Hedwig Rutzke Gann. He was born on June 11, 1931 in South Dade County. He attended Edison High, and later Homestead High where he met Joyce, graduating in 1949. The two married in 1950 and raised a family in Perrine and then Redland.

With his high school diploma secured, Don soon teamed up with Joyce’s father, Herman Walker and his Big W Farms, growing tomatoes for 30 years. Don became a modifier and inventor of farm machinery, a skill in which he took great pride. Early conservationists, Don and Joyce began restoring the native forest on their property in the 1960s, attending Native Plant workshops to better understand the ecosystems around them.

When Don retired from farming he joined the family enterprise Gann’s Native Tropical Greenery, one of Florida’s first native plant businesses. In the 1980s, he helped establish the Florida Native Plant Society and its Dade Chapter, The Institute for Regional Conservation, and the Florida Association of Native Nurseries. Don was also a long-time member of the Miami-Dade County Environmentally Endangered Land Program’s Land Acquisition Selection Committee. He and Joyce jointly received numerous awards and acknowledgements from these and other organizations.

Their son George Gann serves on the TAS Advisory Board.

A Celebration of Life will be held at a future date. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to the Florida Native Plant Society’s Conservation Grants: Click HERE to donate.

Chirping About
Doc Thomas House Restoration Project gets a boost from The Villagers
Bottom photo, from left: TAS Board member and resident Historian Dan Jones; The Villagers Projects and Preservation Committee Chairperson April Matteini, Treasurer Beverly Loftus and President Marie Vacca; and TAS Executive Director Paola Ferreira.
The Villagers President Marie Vacca presented a $23,000 check to TAS Executive Director Paola Ferreira on December 21 to support the current Doc Thomas House Structural Restoration and Repair Project. Also present at the gifting ceremony were TAS Board member and resident Historian Dan Jones, The Villagers Treasurer Beverly Loftus and Projects and Preservation Committee Chairperson April Matteini.

Miami’s oldest historic preservation organization, The Villagers is an all-volunteer group with more than 200 members. The TAS board is deeply grateful to The Villagers grant committee for their generous support of the major restoration our historic 1932 Doc Thomas House headquarters is undergoing due to the multiple effects of heat, humidity, hurricanes and daily use over the decades. The Villagers have also awarded TAS a 2020 $6,000 reimbursement grant for Phase II of the restoration project.

The Doc Thomas House Structural Restoration and Repair Project progresses with repairs made to concrete foundation piers, replacement and/or reinforcement of deteriorated structural wood components and installation of new Tidewater Red Cypress siding (boards and battens) where needed. Extensive wood rot on the front porch necessitates a partial reconstruction, which is currently underway and can be observed, along with the house's re-roofing, from Sunset Drive.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, named a Florida Heritage Site and designated a Dade County Historic Site, the Doc Thomas House is a bona fide Old Florida architectural gem. Its entire restoration will take a village!

Please stay tuned for more details.
Plants for Birds
Eco-Gardening Volunteer Day
Saturday, January 16, 9am-Noon
RSVP Required
A honeybee discovers a Spanish needle blossom in our Bird-Friendly Demonstration Garden; the prolific native pollinator plant is a determined "volunteer," cropping up in lawns and sidewalk cracks across South Florida. Photo by Federico Acevedo
A small, dedicated corps of Grounds volunteers working at physical distances has made big strides in establishing our new Bird-Friendly Demonstration Garden on our Steinberg Nature Center campus, and in removing invasive plants from our Pine Rockland and Tropical Hardwood Hammock habitats. To join the gardening effort this month — and mingle with birds, butterflies and bees! — 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.

Save the Date
Save the Date
36th Annual Everglades Coalition Conference
Equitable Everglades
February 2-5
Join kindred conservationists, decision-makers from federal, state, local and tribal governments, agency representatives, stakeholders, scientists, educators, contractors, students and the general public at the 36th Annual Everglades Coalition Conference. Engage in meaningful discussions and presentations focusing on the restoration of America's Everglades.
The Everglades Coalition is an alliance of more than 60 local, state and national conservation and environmental organizations dedicated to full restoration of the Greater Everglades Ecosystem, from the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes into Lake Okeechobee and to the estuaries, through the River of Grass, out to Florida Bay and the Keys.
The Birds Thank
... our dedicated 2020 Grounds volunteers, who helped maintain our Steinberg Nature Center campus under inordinate pandemic circumstances, installing a new Bird-Friendly Demonstration Garden while wearing masks and social distancing, often braving heat, humidity and mosquitoes to dig in with us at monthly Eco-Restoration Gardening Days.
Their indispensable help with planting, weeding, mulching and tilling has enabled our Pollinator Garden to blossom, our Pine Rockland habitat to reassert itself, and our Steinberg Nature Center trails to re-emerge from the tangle of undesirable invasive species.
Among our valued Grounds volunteers are University of Miami Department of Biology students who have worked diligently to help remove invasive species in the now-restored Pine Rockland habitat. Other 2020 regulars included Sara Jane Conde, Bryce Donner, Carol Jamault, Stacey Kaufmann, Martha Kent, Joy Klein, Maurice Lindo, Joanne Marsic, Deblois Milledge, Javier Pratt, Master Gardener Steve Rawlins, Cecilia Reverte, Tom Smith and Weddy Webb, along with Board members Joe Barros, Kristen Hines, Dan Jones, Jeff Shimonski and Elizabeth Smith.
Eco-Restoration Gardening Days will continue this year on the third Saturday of every month, but attendance is limited and RSVP is required. To advance the installation of the Bird-Friendly Demonstration Garden, we will also begin the educational component of the project, installing plant identification plaques and topic markers.
Grounds volunteers are absolutely vital to our on-site conservation education efforts and the very viability of our native habitats. We greatly appreciate their energy and contributions, and we consider our volunteer team part of the TAS family.
Interested in volunteering at TAS? You’ll find a place where you can practice your skills, meet new people, share your feedback, learn and grow. We encourage you to ask questions, share your ideas, and provide constructive feedback. Resolve to become a part of the Grounds Team! For more information please contact Amy at volunteer@tropicalaudubon.org. It's an easy New Year's Resolution to keep!