Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Grassy Waters Preserve’

A Rainy Walk, a Cache of Found Feathers, and a Jealous Gator

On an especially soggy day — we underestimated the might of the day’s thunderstorms — we pushed ahead with our continued exploration of West Palm Beach’s Grassy Waters Preserve. We hadn’t explored the SWA Trails within the Preserve, and had been searching to see how they linked to the outer Owahee Trail. While we couldn’t do much on this particular day — the rains and lightning proved too much, even for us — we were able to stretch our legs a bit, and visit with hundreds of egrets, herons, and ibis.

And even better? I collected feathers; oh, I collected feathers. If there’s anyone in blog-land who’s equally enamored with the loveliness and power of Everglades’ feathers, just holler. I have plenty that I’d be willing to share — and one can make only so many smudge sticks out of found feathers….

Heading into the SWA Trails: We should be good. Sure.

Further into the trails: Whoops. Looking a bit dark; where’s our ponchos?

Sabal Palm Tree along the trail

Graceful as ever, a Great Blue Heron flies down a waterway on the Rookery Loop

Flying Ibis against invasive Australian Pines

Rookery Loop Signage: CLOSED! Nooo…! But how wonderful they’re protected.

And, of course…. An alligator encounter! This guy was a juvenile, very small. But most amusing about him (her?) was that, as I was praising his loveliness and snapping shots, he swam ever closer. Unbeknownst to me, my guy had silently crept up to take a peek, and this little gator’s calm demeanor suddenly changed — he thrashed wildly in the water, like a bezerker on acid. We both jumped like jackrabbits, and the human male skulked away, muttering something about a “big dumb lizard”…. I think he was just jealous. And as if on cue, up popped the gator, swimming back towards me for another cooing session.

Alligator Near the Rookery Loop Trail: A Lovely Friend

Alligator Near the Rookery Loop: Come Closer, Cutie

Anoles of the Rainbow — and a Newly Discovered Color Variant!

There are myriad lizards in our Florida wilds — chirping geckos, monitors, prehistoric basilisks, stealthy iguanas, invasive curlytails, skinks, lined racerunners, and colorful anoles, just to name a few. But the anoles  stand out in  ever-lovely radiance. I’ve had the luck to spot not only green, but rare yellow-phased anoles — and now, a newly discovered (and as yet, unwritten) mutation — orange!

While I haven’t seen anything scientific written on this new color variant to date, a few others have noted their existence in South Florida in the last few months. At first, it was considered an oddity — or perhaps a side-effect of the high concentration of iron in the ground water. However, I captured this guy in the wilds of the northern section of the Everglades, not in an urban neighborhood with sprinkler systems. FASCINATING! The red/orange coloration of these anoles is curious and striking, and it will be interesting to read further input of their new color-phased mutation in the upcoming months.

An Orange Anole knows he’s special in the Grassy Waters Preserve

Orange Anole shows off his equally orange dewlap in the Grassy Waters Preserve

During a walk through Fern Forest, a magnificent 247-acre conservation site and wildlife refuge characterized as “the last remaining stronghold of ferns in southeastern Florida,” we spied a rare yellow anole (aka yellow-phased green anole). Unfortunately, anoles with this unique color mutation don’t usually live long in the wild, as the green coloring offers them valuable camouflage for hunting prey and hiding from predators. Colonies of these rare color-phased anoles have been reported — and I like to think this guy was part of one….

A Yellow-phased Green Anole in Fern Forest

Far into our hike on the Hog Hammock Trail in the Grassy Waters Preserve — on a particularly hot and humid, but fortunately cloudy day — I spied a flash of green at the water’s edge. Luckily it was a *small* green flash. A green anole kindly took the time to pose for me and my camera.

A Green Anole poses along the Hog Hammock Trails in Grassy Waters

A Slightly Soggy Swamp Hike

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order. —John Burroughs

This was definitely one of those days — we needed to have our “senses put in order.” During the continued exploration of West Palm Beach’s Grassy Waters Preserve, we finally managed the entirety of the beautiful Apoxee Trail — “beyond tomorrow” in the Miccosukee language (pronounced A-po-hee). We also hiked part of the outer Owahee Trail, looping around to the Apoxee — where we spied the most amazing untouched cypress swamps and waterways. We previously weren’t (mentally) prepared for a flooded-trail hike, but on this day, we knew what to expect, so trusted our boots to do their stuff. Sadly, my sturdy pair lasted until the last half-mile…. Which, out of an entirety of 6 miles, was fairly frustrating. That’s when a startled OH! sounded from ahead on the trail, which one NEVER wants to hear while navigating waters that are the same height as the neighboring swamp / wetlands. Poisonous snakes swim down here. As do alligators. Ker-plunk goes my leg into the deepest section yet. No worries — there was so much beauty to be had, what’s a pair of soppy socks?

Not sure what the weather holds this weekend, but we’re sure to hit another of my favorite natural areas — one with a lovely, ancient history of habitation, magnificent old growth trees, and one where we spied fresh panther and bobcat prints — so needless to say, I’m excited. May your weekends hold equal anticipation and beauty!

Untouched cypress swamp, where we just missed an otter…

Everglades vista

Flooded Apoxee Trail: Take One

Pileated woodpecker

Apoxee Trail boardwalk — once or twice the swamp was covered!

Everglades vista

Flooded Apoxee Trail: Take Two… For some reason, the male didn’t appreciate the paparazzi at his back

Air plant along the trail: Common to our area, this one was enormous

Flooded Apoxee Trail: Take Three, the doozy

Waterway on the Owahee Trail

A Lush and Rocky Little Trail

All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen. —Ralph Waldo Emerson

We recently visited Grassy Waters Preserve and the short Eagle Trail, a narrow trail of sand and exposed limestone outcroppings that loops around Gator Lake, and meanders through wet prairie and cypress. It’s truly a lovely little hike, and reminiscent of some areas of Big Cypress Preserve (adjacent to Everglades National Park). Afterwards, we enjoyed a picnic in the shade, before hitting a longer trail….

Lush Trailhead of the Eagle Trail

The Mini-Mini has taken a beating on our ventures…

Slash pines and palm along the trail

Abundant berries…

Rocky limestone outcroppings

Everglades vista

Greeted by a Gator

A juvenile alligator greeted us as we entered the trails of Grassy Waters Preserve. He was no more than three feet — still very small, but no longer a baby. Being very cautious and in extreme-defense mode due to his size, he was quite flighty. But I did manage a shot or two of this adorable guy….

Juvenile Alligator: Eye on You

Juvenile Alligator: Slow Movements, Sloooowww….

%d bloggers like this: