Michelle Perez, creator of the Facebook page Florida Keys Birding, Reptiles, Wildlife, and Plants, with her birds Louie Loo and Baby Bird. CONTRIBUTED

Most of us, depending upon how organized we are (ahem), have a certain morning routine before work. A shower, a brushing of the teeth, perhaps coffee and breakfast (or not), then a jump into a car for the commute. Some of us accomplish this at a frenzied pace (cough), while others are more leisurely. Meditative. 

Passionate birder Michelle Perez, founder of the Facebook page Florida Keys Birding, Reptiles, Wildlife, and Plants, can possibly be counted among the latter, calmer group. After all, she takes time to walk around her yard to watch birds every morning before going to her job as a nurse for a managed care company. Then she types up a post with her findings, like so:

“Morning Birdcast November 8th … Many migrating birds seen this morning, still lots of Turkey vultures, swainsons, and short tailed hawks soaring in this windy day.”

Since starting the page three years ago, Perez has over 600 followers and counting, many posting excited comments about a bird seen that day. For many, birdwatching is an obsession. 

Perez sees her hobby as a way to start her day in a positive way and indulge her interest in all things nature.

“I like it because you’re getting outdoors, you’re walking, observing, learning, and it is relaxing for me,” she explained. 

And it all started with a Christmas present when she still lived in Kissimmee.

“I would go on walks and bike rides and look at birds, but I didn’t know much about different kinds. In 2014, I asked my husband to get me a feeder for Christmas. I wanted to see birds in my yard. The first one was a cardinal. Then I started getting weird stuff. One was a male painted bunting. I thought it was an escaped pet or a parrot, because it was so colorful. So I started Googling, and I figured out what it was.”

Birdwatcher Perez posts maps like this one from Birdcast.info on her Facebook page. On the night of Nov. 11, a low migration intensity is expected for South Florida. BIRDCAST/Contributed

When Perez moved to Key Largo in 2018, she landscaped her yard to attract more birds. For example, gumbo limbo, fig and Jamaican dogwood trees “are all huge hits with birds,” she said.

She gradually noticed over the years that certain birds would come into the Keys at the same time. She started documenting their migration, taking photos and posting on her page.

Mark Hedden is Keys Weekly’s wildlife columnist and executive director of the Florida Keys Audubon Society. He corroborated Perez’s assertion about the enormous variety of birds in the Keys during migration.

“The Keys are a great place to bird for a number of reasons,” he said. “One is that, twice a year, we have massive numbers of birds migrate through here. And there is so little land that it makes birds easier to find. Also, because we are at the north end of the Caribbean, we regularly see a number of species that you don’t see in the rest of the country.”

Perez hopes that more people will join her group and add their bird sightings, and she said that people can start bird watching just like she did: with a feeder and access to Google to ID the birds. 

Hedden added, “The great thing about birding is all you really need is a pair of binoculars and a field guide. Printed field guides are great, but you can also get them as apps on your phone.”

And whether you get up early in the morning to go birding before work or not is entirely up to you.

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Charlotte Twine fled her New York City corporate publishing life and happily moved to the Keys six years ago. She has written for Travel + Leisure, Allure, and Offshore magazines; Elle.com; and the Florida Keys Free Press. She loves her two elderly Pomeranians, writing stories that uplift and inspire, making children laugh, the color pink, tattoos, Johnny Cash, and her husband. Though not necessarily in that order.