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 Saturday, May 5, 2007: urban hike

This day had all the makings of a memorable day.  I planned to head north to the Ft Lauderdale area to see the western spindalis (Spindalis zena) - a bird from the Bahamas - at the Evergreen Cemetery.  I decided to check out several other exotic animal species that live up in the Ft Lauderdale area.  Here was the plan.  First I would go to Evergreen Cemetery, then to Dania to see vervet monkeys, then to Markham Park in Weston where purple swamphens were reported, then south to Hollywood to see red-headed agamas (Agama agama), and last to Hallandale to see the superb starlings.  I, of course, was going to finish this all by early afternoon because I had a barbecue to attend, followed by the Kentucky Derby and Spiderman III.  I was going to have a nonstop action filled day. Not even the pouring rain Saturday morning stopped me from heading to Ft Lauderdale to start my whirlwind trip tracking down exotics and vagrants.



First stop Evergreen Cemetery:

In short, I did not see the western spindalis.  Bummer.  I stayed there for 3 hours, hoping to see the feathered Caribbean wanderer. Although I did not see the spindalis, the trip was still successful because I was fortunate to see a chestnut-fronted macaw or Severe’s macaw (Ara severa) several times.  It came to a Ficus tree to eat fruits. Then I saw 2 blue-crowned parakeets or conures (Aratinga acuticaudata) in an Australian pine.  Unfortunately the long distance and bad lighting left me with poor picture opportunities.  I also saw a peacock.  One of the other 5 birders at the cemetery hopelessly looking for the western spindalis told me that many of the older neighborhoods in Ft Lauderdale have wild common peafowl (Pavo  cristatus).  In all, the cemetery was pretty, and the birding was pleasant.  I was slightly surprised to see so many other birders there looking for the rare vagrant.  I guess that it should have been expected, considering its location was posted on Tropical Audubon Society (TAS) website several weeks ago.


Blue-crowned parakeet.  The picture is not good, but distinguishing characteristics are visible.  The slender build, long tail, blue face, white eye ring, and red underneath the tail are all visible.


Chestnut-fronted macaw.  Unfortunately the lighting was bad, but still you can see the defining blue crown, chestnut patch above the beak, and the characteristic white skin patch of the genus Ara.

Second stop: Dania to see vervet monkeys!

I have wanted to see the monkeys since I found the state’s webpage on Florida’s exotic species.  Supposedly 2 troops of 120 monkeys each have been established there for 50 years. I was so excited to see the monkey sitting on fences and cars and moving between trees and houses. It would be such a cool picture of monkeys in an urban setting, especially urban USA.  But it was not to be. I did not find a single monkey.  Maybe I was in the wrong spot, so next time I'll have to get better directions.

Third stop: Markham Park


I was sure that I would see the purple swamphens because I saw a report that numerous swamphens were seen on 1 day at the park.  The park was very large and looked like a popular place to have activities because approximately 1000-1500 people were there. However, the park was almost devoid of wildlife.  The lakes were scummy with little vegetation or fish. I did see a least tern, which needless to say was neat.  I also got decent photos of a blackpoll warbler and a loggerhead shrike.  The day before I decided that needed to get a picture of a loggerhead shrike to put in my discussion of horned lizard predation, but I did not expect to obtain a photo so quickly.  I left the place disappointed at being rejected for the third time.


Top: Blackpoll warbler

 Bottom: loggerhead shrike










Top: wetlands area of Markham Park.  I thought that it was rather lifeless.  Most freshwater in Florida is choked full of cichlids, but there were very few fish there.

 Bottom: some weed species with a pretty flower

Below: black-hooded parakeets





Fourth stop: Hollywood and red-headed agamas


I read a research paper that identified a population of lizards in Hollywood (Enge et al. 2004).  A pet store located in the area released the lizards into the wild, and they established a population in the neighborhood surrounding the pet store.  I, of course, go there and am unable to find any lizards or the pet store.  Either the population disappeared or I was in the wrong location.  Either way I was 0 for 4 on the day.

 Enge et al. (2004) Distribution and ecology of the introduced African rainbow lizard, Agama agama africana (sauria: agamidae), in Florida.  Florida Scientist 67 (4): 303–310.

















Fifth stop: Superb starling

I’ll make this short.  The birds were not there.  To make it worse, I had to pay $5 to park and after 5 minutes I realized that the birds were not there.  Double bummer.  Stubbornly I decided to stay longer because I paid $5 to park.  I could not leave after 5 minutes even if the bird was not in the palm trees by the fire station that they were supposed to be.  In addition, I really wanted to see at least one of the species I set out to see. I decided to walk along the beach to a clump of Australian pines on the off chance that they were there.   All I saw was a lot of unattractive people lying on the beach.  They reminded me of the sea lions that lounge on the docks in California. They were supposed to be white, but after lying in the sun for countless hours their skin was dry, leathery, and had turned a dark shade of brown.  They would have made an old friend proud because he said the purpose of going to the beach to try to be the most worthless, lazy mass of flesh. They all laid on towels or lawn chairs in a near comatose state and slowly turned their bodies over.  Looking across the group I could see this slowly but constant rotation from laying on their back to laying on their side, followed by laying on their belly and their other side.  They reminded me of the rotisserie chickens that are for sale in the grocery store.  Maybe some alien was preparing them as a food source like in the movie V. I can just see a large alien barbecue taking place.  I bet if some humans were eaten, the rest probably would not awake from their comatose state to flee.


After a disappointing day of urban nature exploring, I headed to my friend’s house to watch the Kentucky Derby.  I missed the barbecue because I took too long looking for animals that were not where they were supposed to be.  On the way, I saw a parrot on the telephone lines.  I thought that it was a red-masked parakeet (I did not see it well).  I quickly made an illegal turn to pull over to take a picture.  I take advantage of opportunities to take pictures of parrots because they seldom sit still long enough to get a picture.  To my surprise and happiness I found that the parakeet was a black-hooded parakeet or Nanday conure (Nandayus nenday) - my third new parrot for the day (pictures to the right).  In the end the 3 new parrot species made up for the lack of other wildlife.

The Kentucky Derby

The Derby was awesome as expected.  The dramatic move from 19th in a 20 horse field to win by this stone cold closer was impressive to say the least.  Street Sense is a great horse and his late kick is impressive.  I wonder how he will do in the Preakness.  A friend and I each picked a horse to win and 2 others to round off the top 3.  I picked Street Sense to win and Cowtown Cat and Curlin to make the top 3.  None of my friend’s picks hit the board.  Of course, I chose 2 of the top 3 finishers.  For some reason I cannot pick the 2nd place finisher.  Last year I picked Barbaro and Steppenwolfer, but I did not like Bluegrass Cat (and still don't).

As for Spiderman III, I was too tired, so we saw it another night. It turn out to be a waste of time.  I got lost in its 37 subplots and clichéd ending.  I like morals in movies, but it was too poorly developed.  I have never seen an audience so disappointed in a movie.




The city, though it is not the natural paradise of pristine forests and lush meadows, still holds natural beauties that only require us to open our eyes, unplug our ears, and stop long enough to look around.



Bird list


Blue jay

Northern mockingbird

European starling

Cedar waxwing

Northern cardinal

Fish crow

Mourning dove

Common peafowl

Red-bellied woodpecker


Eurasian collard-dove

Chimney swift

Common moorhen

Chestnut-fronted macaw

White ibis

Blue-crowned parakeet








American redstart

Common yellowthroat

Red-masked parakeet

House sparrow

Rock dove

Boat-tailed grackle

Loggerhead shrike

Least tern

Turkey vulture

Blackpoll warbler



Common myna

Laughing gull


Monk parakeet

Black-hooded parakeet

Common nighthawk





Mammal list


Eastern gray squirrel



Herp list


Green iguana

Brown anole

Fish list


Mayan cichlid

Striped mullet









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