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Thirty birders assembled for the Tropical Audubon Society's annual "Exotics" fieldtrip on Saturday, December 13, 2008. We met at 1:00 p.m. in the emergency overflow parking lot of Baptist Hospital on Kendall Drive. As we congregated, a dark-morph Short-tailed Hawk was spotted in a kettle of  Turkey and Black Vultures, an adult Cooper’s Hawk perched close by in an Almond Tree and an Osprey fished over a nearby pond with Muscovy ducks and House Sparrows feeding along the waters edge. This would be the beginning of what would be an excellent day of hawk-watching. 
 
We proceeded to walk to the neighborhood directly across the street from Baptist Hospital (Brian Rapoza's; Birding Florida-pg. 104) on Kendall Drive (S.W. 88 St.) and S.W. 87 Ave. and once we safely crossed one of the busiest streets in the great state of Florida, a pair of White-crowned Pigeons flew overhead. We walked around several blocks and soon Loggerhead Shrikes and Northern Mockingbirds popped up but exotics were in short supply. Eurasian Collared Doves, Rock Pigeons, European Starlings, a flyover of Mitred Parakeets, along with Monk Parakeets sitting sentry around their stick-nest built around an FP&L transformer would be some of the exotics ticked off of our wish list, but the highlight was a male House Finch perched on a power-line, a species introduced in 1940 to the eastern United States and very rare in South Florida. It appears this species is slowly increasing in South Florida from its traditional North Florida/panhandle range. 
 
The temperature was a comfortable 71 degrees, but steady 20 knot winds from a paasing cool front seemed to keep the Red-whiskered Bulbuls and Spot-breasted Orioles hunkered down. My good friend, Bob Landry, and I did spot a pair of Spot-breasted Orioles on some power-lines in the area while doing some earlier scouting. 
 
Our caravan then headed to Miami Springs to the Fair Havens Nursing Home (Rapoza pg. 99), where three Yellow-chevroned Parakeets flew in and perched in an Australian Pine. A flyover by a beautiful Broad-winged Hawk added to the excitement, while White-winged Doves perched nearby. A brief bathroom break allowed us to take a tour of the nursing home and its lobby, built in the Adobe style, which was built as the Pueblo Hotel by noted aviator, Glen Hammond Curtiss, in 1926 and later purchased by Dr. Harvey Kellogg, who converted it to a sanitarium for northerners to convalesce in South Florida and reap the sun’s healing powers, probably over a bowl of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. We stopped at the burned out shell of the Curtiss Mansion on Deer Run, where a Solitary Sandpiper was feeding in the mud along the soon to be dried up pond.  An Eastern Phoebe was hawking for insects along the ponds edge when a Red-tailed Hawk was spotted in the top of a Casuarina on the adjacent golf course.
 
While driving the residential neighborhood on Truxton Dr., between Hunting Lodge Dr. and Hammond Dr. where we found the mother-lode - a flock of Aratingas - festooned like Christmas ornaments while dotting a Brazilian Pepper in full fruit, Royal Palms and a Black Olive. We began scoping the parakeets, concealed in the greenery of the trees canopies, when a Peregrine Falcon swooped in, and we were treated to the cacophony of the shrieking flock, which numbered around thirty birds. If you closed your eyes, you could picture yourself as being in the jungles of Central or South America. They soon re-settled in the trees and we were able to identify Green, Crimson-fronted, Red-fronted and Mitred Parakeets. Brian Rapoza's; Birding Florida has an excellent chart on pages 21 and 22 titled "Parrots of Miami", which list Species, Field Marks, Abundance in Miami, Locations, including Miami Springs, Miami Shores/Biscayne Gardens, South Miami/Kendall and Other Locations in Miami-Dade. 
 
 
Our last stop was the neighborhood around the intersection of Apache and Wren near Prince Field and the Miami Springs pool on Westward Drive, but - much to our chagrin - no Amazon parrots were located. I have not seen the flock lately and fear that they may have fallen prey to trappers, who have already decimated the South Miami roost. 
 
After five-hours of birding, our group exchanged pleasantries in the pool parking and went their merry ways. Our exotics total finished up at 13 species. Life is good............... urban birding with good friends. Yes.....a few Flying Dog Ales were hoisted at Woody’s in Miami Springs as my celebratory libation.
 
P.S. While birding Lucky Hammock with Bob Landry, early a.m., we located one male and two female Shiny Blackbirds mixed in with a flock of Brown-headed Cowbirds and European Starlings. Look for a more pointed bill, longer tail and the lack of a brown head in the male and a lack of white throats in the females to separate them from the Brown-headeds. The dark eye - as opposed to a red eye - separates them from the Bronzed Cowbird.  We also saw dark and light morphs of Short-tailed Hawks, Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk, all three falcons and the highlight – a close flyover of a dark-morph juvenile Swainson’s Hawk.
 
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