Hurricanes are a constant concern at 430-acre Cape Florida, which lies at the southern end of Key Biscayne. Its 1825 lighthouse is the oldest standing structure in Miami-Dade County. After Andrew destroyed 99 percent of the park in 1992, the Florida Park Service launched a native-plant restoration project.
When the cape’s birds caught my attention in 1995, the re-vegetation project, still ongoing, was in its early stages, so the park wasn’t pretty in the conventional sense. But now Cape Florida is an island of greenery within the urbanized coastline of southeastern Florida. Its location and fruiting native vegetation make it an essential stop for fall and spring migrants, as well as Caribbean strays.
In 2002 a banding station was established so park biologist Elizabeth Golden could document how fall migrants use the restored vegetation during their stopovers. As a park volunteer, a bander-in-training, and the official “bird lady,” I feel like the proud parent of a gangly youth who has developed into a handsome young adult. — Robin Diaz
Robin Diaz, a part-time resident of Key Biscayne, Florida, is a volunteer and bander-in-training at Cape Florida State Park.