Loxahatchee Walk-about

Great White Egret perched in Bald Cypress, photo by Eliza Ayres

Loxahatchee National Wildlife Preserve Walk-about, 30 Nov 2021

It was another relatively chilly start to a late autumn day in SE Florida, with brilliant sunshine in the forecast. I gathered my camera and pack and headed out the door, climbing into the Kia for a drive through the heavy commute traffic… always a delight, not. Still, being well-versed on how to get to my destination, I had no trouble negotiating the mass of cars on the busy roads.

Loxahatchee in the morning light, photo by Eliza Ayres

I was headed to Loxahatchee National Wildlife Preserve, located off of Florida SR 441, a four-lane highway running parallel to the rest of civilization on the border of the farmlands and what’s left of the Everglades in this northern section. My first visit to Loxahatchee was in Spring 2017. I was surprised and somewhat disappointed to discover the advertised wetlands were both diked and subdivided into large rectangular plots, instead of being more natural in appearance. The landscaping has altered somewhat since I have lived in SE Florida and certainly since my last visit. It would seem the caretakers of the wetlands are attempting to make it a more natural setting for the wildlife — primarily birds, turtles, and alligators, but it still lacks the wild appeal of the nearby Everglades.

Heron sampling some of the local fish, photo by Eliza Ayres

On this particular day, I probably walked over three miles, all of it on the roads that follow the dikes and canals. There were plenty of birds present, just not a huge variety… at least what I could spot in my spontaneous bird-watching. I did see several herons and Great White Egrets busy among the reeds hunting for a meal. One of the Great Blue Herons caught a fish while I was on the scene. Then, there were the Common Mud Hens, some Tri-colored herons, some Limpkins, a woodpecker, and some smaller unidentifiable birds in flight. I also noticed several small flocks of bright green parakeets, an alien species who have made a home in SE Florida much like other sub-tropics like the python. Florida’s subtropic climate makes it appealing for many species which really don’t belong…

Monk Parakeet – an invasive species, cheerful & colorful
Alert Egret Hunting, photo by Eliza Ayres

The temperatures started out in the upper 50’s and then into the upper 60’s by the time I left the preserve. The sunshine actually made the temperatures feel warmer as the subtropical sunlight is quite intense. I had on a long-sleeved shirt and jeans so didn’t get sunburnt with all of the exposure. Winter… and it is now ‘officially’ as of today or tomorrow… the dry season in Florida. Season starts soon and with it the flow of snowbirds and vacationers flocking to the beaches and further clogging up the highways… Still, today, until I returned to my car, I only saw one other person and he was one of the workers at the preserve.

Pileated Woodpecker in a Palmetto, photo by Eliza Ayres

Loxahatchee also has a boardwalk hike through a small chunk of cypress swamp, but I did not visit it today. There is also access to a long bicycle/walking path and boat access to a nearby chunk of Everglades — which I do not think is contiguous with the Everglades to the southwest of Miami.

Great White Egret, photo by Eliza Ayres

Since it was a somewhat chilly day for reptiles, no turtles or alligators were sighted. I have seen both there in the past… There was also more water noted in the marsh sections than on previous visits.

I also stopped at a nearby fruit/vegetable stand which sells local produce, some grown right next door to the Preserve.

It was an excellent outing altogether. I plan to go on some more soon now that the weather has moderated.

Wading Great Blue Heron, photo by Eliza Ayres

Eliza Ayres

All Rights Reserved. Eliza Ayres, https://sunnysjournal.com

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