Stop 1 was for Spot-breasted oriole in Ft. Lauderdale. I met local birder and wildlife aficionado Ann Wiley at her house around 7:30 this morning to search for the oriole. She has seen them fairly regularly in both her neighborhood and yard, but, despite 2.5 hours of searching by both foot and bike, we were unable to hear or see any of the birds. We did meet one of her neighbors who said an oriole recently flew into his window and died. He even had a picture of the dead Spot-breasted on his phone. Such a bummer. Let this serve as a reminder to readers to bird-proof their windows with highly visible objects so as to minimize bird strikes. As Ann put it, "Evolution hasn't caught up with windows yet". Whatever help we can provide will certainly help the birds moving forward! Despite the absent orioles, Ann and I had a great morning bike-birding.
Stop 2 was at Key Biscayne to look for Magnificent frigatebird. There have been some recent eBird reports of these birds from this spot, so I made the 16 mile detour to do a bit of seawatching during the middle part of the day. From the Lighthouse at Bill Baggs Park at the Southern end of the peninsula, I was able to observe gulls, terns, and cormorants, but no frigatebirds. It was a hot ride out and back, but I am glad I did it since I have no idea when I will be biking through Miami again. This trip did afford me the chance to take a selfie with Miami in the background so all was not lost on the detour.
Stop 3 was for the continuing La Sagra's flycatcher in Matheson Hammock Park. This Caribbean bird is generally restricted to the Bahamas and Cuba, but every once in a while one wanders over to Florida where it is always a welcome find. This particular bird has been in this same area for several months. The bird was seen today around noon, but I was unable to locate it from 4:30-6 this evening. I will certainly try for this bird again tomorrow morning as it is only about a 7-mile ride from where I am staying tonight. This will be my ONLY shot at this bonus bird. As far as birders know, its the only one in the country at the moment! I have a very good plan of attack coming together for tomorrow, so I am hoping that there will be good news on the bird front at tomorrow's end.
I am now going to take a sure-to-be controversial sidestep and highlight what I see as the single most important conservation issue facing the planet today: overpopulation. As I entered Miami today, I saw dozens of new buildings being constructed. Whenever I see development on this scale, I cannot help but wonder about the future of the human race and the planet it inhabits. It seems that everywhere I look I see more homes, more cars, and more people. Right now we have 7 billion people on the planet, and while estimates of Earth's carrying capacity vary, it very often feels as though the planet is getting full. We are using up natural resources at alarming rates, and we are polluting the planet at unprecedented levels. Americans use more resources per capita than anyone, but as hugely populous countries like China, India, and Brazil continue to industrialize, we are going to face even greater challenges associated with increased numbers of people and the resources they require to survive.
The point is that overpopulation is going to cause massive problems of multiple sorts moving forward unless people start thinking about this NOW. Humans are generally terrible at long-term planning, and I am not optimistic that we are going to be able to change our behavior fast enough to do any lasting good. And here's the part that will upset people. We need to slow down the rate at which we are breeding. Procreating is a right surely everyone has, but maybe not everyone should exercise. We need people to elect not to procreate. Let me be clear, I am not trying to single out any group of people, but I am instead referring to ALL people irrespective of nationality, race, religion, or other delineation. I am sure that I will be offered any number of explanations refuting my admittedly pessimistic predictions (dropping birth rates in the developing world, for example). However, as this year is largely about conservation, I cannot ignore this issue entirely. To do so would be a grave mistake not only for the birds, but also for humans.