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Posts tagged ‘arthur r. marshall loxahatchee national wildlife refuge’

Inside the Cypress Swamp

On the heels of Earth Day, I wanted to share an *internal* vision of one of the few remaining cypress swamps lining the Everglades…. It’s part of the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, and I spend much time there — and you can probably see why. It’s utterly beautiful. Just magnificent. We’re tentatively leaving the dry season here in South Florida (our daily afternoon rains haven’t quite started — that will be May), but the swamp is slowly coming into its glory, thanks to some plentiful April rainfall.

Cypress Swamp, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida

Cypress Swamp, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge

Like most of Florida’s cypress, this area was thoroughly logged in the ’40s — so while the trees aren’t first-generation cypress, they’re beautiful nonetheless — and thankfully, they’re now protected by various federal and state agencies! In this swamp, among the bald and pond cypress there are also pond apple trees, as well as different species of ferns, some twice as large as I stand. It’s just magical. I always picture this land covered by such a vista…. Which, in the human timeline, wasn’t that long ago.

Cypress Swamp, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida

A dense vista

This wetland habitat supports an incredible amount of life, although much less than it did in years past. Butterflies, alligator, snakes, frogs, bobcats, otter, birds of every variety, and raptors make their homes here. Larger predators, including panther and bear, would have freely roamed. And it’s fantastic: You may HEAR the Great-horned owl, but try finding him. If you’re not quiet and gentle out there — and observant — you’ll miss everything.

Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charitonius)

Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charitonius)

Dragonfly in Cypress Swamp, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida

Glowing dragonfly

Southern Leopard Frog, Cypress Swamp, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida

A Southern leopard frog just missed his meal ticket of a dragonfly, but hasn’t given up… Using his PERFECT camouflage

Red-bellied Cooter (Turtle), Cypress Swamp, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida

A Red-bellied Cooter sunning on a fallen log in the swamp = JOY!

Black Racer Snake, Cypress Swamp, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida

A well-hidden and quite harmless Black racer tries to sleep

Cypress Swamp, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida

Looking up into the beautiful young cypress trees of the swamp

Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge: A Winter’s Walk in South Florida

A very chilly and windy day at Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge provided an absolutely LOVELY opportunity for the native Floridians who anxiously wait year-round for such times to explore, without the constant threat of Jurassic-sized mosquitoes. With the dark skies, the birds were either hunting or doing their best to stay warm — several hawks made themselves known, but the great-horned owls were impossible to spot, despite their persistent and seemingly close cries. And high in the beautifully colored cypress trees — the moss lit on fire with the sun’s long rays — a group of pileated woodpeckers rambunctiously searched for grub.

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Cypress Swamp Colors in the Winter, Arthur R. Marshall

Cypress Swamp in the Winter, Arthur R. Marshall

Cypress Swamp Colors in the Winter, Arthur R. Marshall

Blue Heron in the Trees, Arthur R. Marshall

Blue Heron in the Trees, Arthur R. Marshall

Winter Tree and Vines, Arthur R. Marshall

Red-shouldered Hawk, Arthur R. Marshall

Red-shouldered Hawk, Arthur R. Marshall

Pileated Woodpecker, Arthur R. Marshall

Chasing Florida Flutterbys

On our hikes, we often stumble upon areas of flurried butterfly activity, due to Florida’s abundant all-year blooms. The most common encounter is the zebra longwing (Heliconius charitonius), designated as the official state butterfly of Florida in 1996 (something I just learned). No wonder it’s the state butterfly; it’s found throughout Florida in hardwood hammocks, swamps, gardens, and in the Everglades.

It’s tempting to want to cheat and run to Butterfly World to nab some prime shots of our butterflies, but for now I like to rely on the natural environs. We’ve spied some lovelies — swallowtails, sulphurs, whites, milkweeds and longwings — but sometimes, they just don’t want to pose for the camera. Or if they do, and aren’t as shy as the others, they rest in unfortunate spots — I find myself plowing through beastly banana spider webs, or trampling through swamp, to chase butterflies.

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Viceroy Butterfly (Limenitis archippus), Arthur R. Marshall

Queen Butterfly (Danaus gilippus)

Ruddy Daggerwing Butterfly (Marpesia petreus)

Ruddy Daggerwing Butterfly (Marpesia petreus)

Ruddy Daggerwing Butterfly (Marpesia petreus)

Zebra Longwing Butterfly (Heliconius charitonius), Arthur R. Marshall

Zebra Longwing Butterfly (Heliconius charitonius), Riverbend Park

Poplar Sphinx Moth or Poplar Hawk Moth Larva, Big Cypress National Preserve

Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee: Breezy ‘Glades

A very windy day at Arthur R. Marshall — absolutely LOVELY! And the visiting (human) snowbirds are beginning their weekend trips to the Florida sanctuaries and parks. Hopefully the trash won’t accumulate, as it sadly can during such times of increased traffic — definitely a mixed blessing.

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Park signage

Great Blue Heron at Dusk, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge

Sea Grape, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge

Tree-hugger, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge

Everglades Landscape, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge

Alligator in the Glades, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge

Big Baby, Catching Some Sun

We tried visiting Arthur R. Marshall after the rains, this past week…. Hah! The mosquitoes swarmed the moment we stepped out of the car. In such moments, I always imagine life for those living in natural Florida,  contending with the area’s formidable adversities — pre-A/C and other modern comforts.

But in our efforts to find a spot in the Refuge with any crosswinds to blow the nasties away, we nearly stumbled upon this guy on the bank. He had just eaten, or was trying to catch the last rays of the day’s sun. I’m horrible with guesstimating measurements (15-footer?), but his head was as long as our torsos. Big baby. And a bit of a snaggle-tooth, at that — or perhaps he was simply an aged gentleman?

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An old alligator in the Everglades, catching the sun's last rays

Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge

Another favorite excursion site we are fortunate to have nearby, is the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge is the last northernmost portion of the Everglades, and contains more than 221 square miles of Everglades habitat. It provides sanctuary for the American alligator and the critically endangered Everglades snail kite, as well as migratory waterfowl, migratory passerines, wood storks, great blue herons, anhingas, white ibis, little blue herons, tricolored herons, black-crowned night herons, great egrets, cattle egrets, snowy egrets, and many other birds. Additionally, more than 250 species of birds use the Refuge’s wetland habitat. Myriad indigenous species of plant and insect life also make their homes in the Refuge. We’ve also had the great fortune of seeing great horned owls (a mating pair often visit the boardwalk and the Marsh Trail), screech owls, red-shouldered hawks, a very shy bobcat, and otters.

The swamplands within the Cypress Swamp Boardwalk represent one of the few remaining cypress habitats lining the Everglades. While the original trees were sadly lumbered in the ’20s and ’30s (like most cypress in South Florida), this second-growth remains protected and is truly a magnificent sight. Also included are 5.5 miles of canoe trails, providing an ideal vision of the Everglades.

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