I admit, my view of southern Florida was narrow. As some might expect New Yorkers to be rude and unfriendly (a common misconception), I was expecting southern Florida to be filled with golf courses, strip malls, and seniors high-tailing it to the oft mentioned early-bird dinners starting at 3pm.
Sure there are some rude New Yorkers (usually not the natives!). And yes, there are certainly seniors, golf courses and of course, malls in southern Florida -- yet these days such a description is interchangeable with many locations. Yet we recently discovered that southern Florida is a landscape rich with nature and diversity.
First stop, the wildly-named Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Delray Beach, part of Palm Beach County Water Utilities Department's Southern Region Reclamation Facility (a mouthful to say in itself!), offering wildlife and human visitors open ponds and boggy wetlands with a 3/4 mile boardwalk.
Our trip was short -- we could have spent many more hours exploring -- but the wildlife list was not. Birds galore including our first sightings of Purple Gallinules and one diminutive Sora pecking through the aquatic plants, plus interesting views of broody Great Blue Herons and Anhinga, as well as a view of the latter species tenderizing a fish for lunch next to a very unimpressed turtle. And of course, a young alligator made the requisite appearance nestled in a flower patch for an afternoon nap.
Another fruitful stop was Green Cay Nature Center and Wetlands in Boynton Beach. Run by the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department, 100 lush acres feature a 1.5 mile boardwalk and a nature center at the entrance (unfortunately closed the day of our arrival).
We made a far-too-short trip to the John D. MacArthur Beach State Park in North Palm Beach which appeared to have wonderful potential if only we had just a little more time to enjoy the park's 438 acres that include beach, maritime hammocks and a spectacular boardwalk causeway.
A sunset jaunt to the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Boynton Beach was equally short thanks to signs warning of a dusk closure and imposing road gates (wimp that I am, I was not keen on a forced swamp camping trip!). Nevertheless, in the last rays of daytime we sauntered along the Cypress Swamp boardwalk serenaded by birdsong. But it was along the dark waters near the canoe launch that offered one of our most imposing sightings -- a huge alligator submerged alongside the wood lookout point with only a hint of its massive head exposed in the water.
Final visit of our weekend trip was a pre-flight rest along the Lake Worth Municipal Beach Pier. The birds were outnumbered by fishermen and surfers but still quite plentiful especially with the arrival of a flock of Ruddy Turnstones.
Our time was far too limited -- so many critters and plants, and nice people enjoying nature. Now when someone tells me "I'm really not much for Florida," I can tell them that they're really missing something special, other than that early-bird one.