Wednesday 22 June 2011

Crandon Park, Key Biscayne, Miami, MIA

I am feeling even more stupid than usual today. Having braved thunder, lightning, biting insects and crocodiles in Crandon Park on Key Biscayne, I proceeded to inadvertently delete all the photographs on my return home. The whole set went “ whoosh” into the deepest recesses of digital space at the click of a button. This sort of thing never used to happen with slides.
If this has ever happened to you, there is a solution (well partly at least). Programs exist to retrieve erased data from discs and cards. The one I used was from a software house called The upshot was that I was able to salvage a few of my hard won snaps. Thanks to Joshua 14321 on the Canon Forum for the advice.

I knew that I would get wet, it was merely a question of depth. Miami in June tends towards heavy rain and thunderstorms. A sharp shower hit the bus as we crossed the Rickenbacker Causeway on to Key Biscayne, but cleared up before I had to step out. It wasn’t long before the clouds built up and storms began to threaten again. The few cyclists and joggers quickly disappeared with the first roll of thunder and I headed for shelter under the cover of a concrete shade by the roller-skating rink.
The flashes and crashes came almost simultaneously as the storm raged, blew the lights and made my hair (note singular) stand on end. Numerous small flocks of White Ibis didn’t seem to mind and sucked up the drips before they fell from their beaks. Some seemed to positively revel in the rain.

Stuck under cover with nothing else to see, I watched the ibis for some time, noting a few oddities that I had not seen before. There was quite a distinct difference in size between individuals. And I later learned that the males average 15% bigger than the females. I have yet to explain the grey/brown staining on some that gave them the colour of antique underwear.

When the rain eventually stopped, I made my way into Cranford Park Garden. An exotic collection of Egyptian Goose, Common Peafowl and Guineafowl meant that any really exciting rarities would have to be taken with a pinch of salt, but the Sandhill Crane was probably close enough to the resident Florida population to count (although I am not sure of the original provenance of the birds from the Sunshine State).

The gardens feature a meandering tarmac road that takes the visitor round a palm-filled enclosure of lawns and lakes (It may once have been a small zoo(?)). Warnings of Crocodiles put me off getting too close to the water’s edge to look for damselflies, but their larger relatives were easy enough to see and could be photographed with the long lens.

Some were recognisable, but this one was new. I believe it is a 4-spotted Pennant Brachymesia gravida

Great Egret and Tricoloured Heron were seen along the banks and Anhinga fished in the deeper water or dried themselves on the bank, but the bulk of the biomass was split between large lizards and biting insects. I had been very liberal with the mosquito repellent on all exposed skin, but that didn’t stop the little biters going straight through my shirt. The lizards took many forms with at least two species having the talent to ‘walk on water.’

Crandon Park looks inviting on maps and leaflets with the whole area coloured green, but the truth of the matter is that it is mostly car parking hard surface or private club. Google Earth gives a more faithful representation at ref; 25 42’ 21”N 80 09’ 28”W. These coordinates also correspond to the pedestrian entrance of Crandon Park Gardens. Opening times are advertised as 08.00 onwards, but the pedestrian entrance did not have a gate and allows entrance at any time.
There are said to be crocodiles present and this one made me stop in my tracks as I rounded a corner. It took a couple of looks.

Crandon Park is shown as an extensive area of Key Biscayne, but only the side to the east of Route 903 is accessible as a birding option (to the west is the golf course and Tennis Center). The northern part is Bear Cut Preserve, which looks like the best choice for wildlife, but it has no shelter beyond the nature Centre, so I am saving that for another time when the weather is more amenable. The park’s most famous feature is its beach, which I did not visit. A bird list for the park shows that a good crop of waders and gulls could probably be found there. The extensive provision for parking makes me think that it must get very busy at holiday time and weekends.

Take the Metromover monorail to Brickell. Buses 102 or B cross the Rickenbacker causeway and continue onto Key Biscayne. Crandon Park is on the left as the bus travels south. Bear Cut Preserve and the Nature Center is the first stop after the second bridge. Crandon Park Gardens is at the southern end just before the town.

Species seen; 17

Brown Pelican 1, Double-crested Cormorant 3, Anhinga 2, Great Egret 1, Tricoloured Heron 1, Snowy Egret 3, White Ibis 300, Black Vulture 3, Sandhill Crane 1, Common Moorhen 2, Eurasian Collared Dove 8, Mourning Dove 4, Red-bellied Woodpecker 4, Northern Mockingbird 2, Fish Crow 6, Northern Cardinal 1, Boat-tailed Grackle 3.

Back in Miami, I took a little walk along the river and found what I suspect to be a Barracuda.

For other posts about trips to Miami follow the links below:

For other trip reports from the USA and Canada, go to the dedicated page.

Crandon Park, Key Biscayne, Miami, MIA

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