Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces naturalist Rangel Diaz will drive, boat, walk, stalk, chase and sit in search of 300-plus species of birds in Miami-Dade County in one year.
South Florida offers one of the most diverse birding locations east of the Mississippi and consequently makes Florida a national and international bird watching hotspot and with a list of 409 countable species Miami-Dade County is one of the best locations in all of Florida.
“What is a big year?” A big year is an informal competition among birders to determine who can see or hear the largest number of species of birds within a single calendar year and in a specific geographical area.
“It’s a great way to study the migration patterns of birds while learning more about the parks and the environments they protect,” Rangel said.
Starting bright and early on Jan. 1 and going strong until Dec. 31, each and every one of his days will revolve around South Florida’s avifauna. The last Miami-Dade County Big Year is said to have occurred in 2008. Then, Roberto “Toe” Torres tracked 298 species. Rangel will try to top that local record.
Some of the species Rangel is most looking forward to spotting this January include: Western Spindalis, MacGillivray’s Warbler, Smooth-billed Ani, Razorbill and Redheaded Woodpecker.
Follow Rangel’s blog, “EPIC Big Year 2013” at www.epicbigyear2013.blogspot.com as he posts his adventures and up-to-date tallies on his efforts. The blog and updated information also will be available on the Deering Estate at Cutler’s website. The Deering Estate at Cutler is part of the Biscayne Bay IBA — Important Bird Area — recognized as being a globally important habitat for the conservation of bird populations.
Interested in being a part of Rangel’s “Big Year?” He will lead a Bird Walk at the Deering Estate at Cutler on Saturday, Jan. 12, from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. The cost is $12 for adults and $7 for children (ages 4-14). Participants might come across a Thick-billed Vireo, a Mangrove Cuckoo or a White-crowned Pigeon — three of over 170 species that can be found on the Deering Estate at Cutler’s 444-acre property. Bird Walks are offered on the second Saturday of the month from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. and are free with estate admission.
Diaz is a native Floridian with a passion for wildlife — especially birds. He was born and raised in South Florida and has been working for the Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department as a naturalist for the past five years. He started his career with Miami-Dade Parks at A. D. “Doug” Barnes Park, assisting with environmental education programs, outreach, working with the collection of reptiles. All it took was one adult male Hooded Warbler to spark his passion for bird watching. Today, Rangel monitors Crandon Park’s shorebird populations, specifically the Piping Plovers and Least Terns, while also developing ways to conserve the coastal environment they use.
During fall migrations he volunteers at the South Florida Bird Observatory, removing birds from mist nets to be banded and tracked during their migration. He leads birding trips for Tropical Audubon Society, Deering Estate at Cutler, and Eco-Adventures, is a frequent speaker on birding and advocates daily for the conservation of our winged friends. Rangel also is helping with a communitywide effort to establish several parks as Important Bird Areas while continuing to educate the public about the importance of conserving all of Florida’s environments.
The Deering Estate at Cutler, a Miami- Dade County Park, is located at 16701 SW 72 Ave. This 444-acre natural and archeological preserve and historic site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and serves as a center for education, culture and recreation. Historic house tours are offered daily at 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. and Natural Areas Tours are offered daily at 12:30 p.m
For more information on the Deering Estate’s educational and cultural programs, visit online at www.deeringestate.org