Green Cay Wetlands – Boynton Beach, Fl.

January 18, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Posted in For the Family, The Wild Side | Leave a comment
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Last week, my friend and I took our boys to Green Cay Wetlands in Boynton Beach. It was my first time there and the whole time I found myself asking “Why have I never been here before?” Green Cay is simply wonderful! The land on which the preserve sits used to be a bell pepper farm some 40 years ago. It was donated to Palm Beach County by its owners, Ted and Trudy Winsberg, and turned back into it’s natural state. Now it is home to a 1.5 mile boardwalk loop, a 9,000 square-foot nature center, and more wildlife than I ever expected to exist in Boynton Beach.

We came across two alligators this day. The first was happily sunning himself, only about 3 or 4 feet long. He was suppounded by birds, who seemed unconcerned that they could have been a potential meal.

The second alligator was saw was a bit smaller than the first, cruising around in the water toward the end of our walk. He was certainly more active than the first, and any bird in it’s part made sure to move out of the way.

This soft shelled turtle was one of the very first critters we saw. I was amazed for two reasons: 1. I couldn’t believe that all we did was walk up, look over the edge, and BAM, there he was! I hadn’t even managed to put my lense on my camera yet. Luckily he was as relaxed as everything and everyone else at the park and wasn’t in a rush to go anywhere too fast. 2. I couldn’t believe how clear the water was! I guess I’m just used to murky South Florida canal water? The water was crystal clear, you could see right to the bottom, and it was a very refreshing surprise to know that not all of South Florida is polluted beyond control.

Green Cay is home to many other turtles as well. You’ll find a variety of aquatic turtles here such as red ear sliders, yellow bellied, and painted turtles. But don’t just look in the water for them. (Even though you’ll find them there) Keep an eye on the shore line and on fallen logs, they’re almost always out sunning themselves. (Or, as we call the turtles on the log to the kids, “doind a turtle conga line”)

Green Cay is home to more birds than any other animal. They were everywhere you looked! There were flocks upon flocks of these American Coots, all making quite a chatter, eating, playing, bathing, and fighting. The only kind of bird that seemed to rival them in numbers were the White Ibis.

Some of my favorite water fowl that we saw that day were the Blue-winged Teal Ducks. They were beautifuly colored and just plain fun to watch. It may be because I’m easily entertained, but I couldn’t keep my eyes off of them! All of them that we saw were in pairs, I don’t recall seeing a single one by itself at all. We must have come at dinner time, because they were all very busy hunting, sticking their little ducky-hineys straight up in the air.

For being listed as federally endangered, the Wood Storks were sure out in powerful numbers. Which, of course, is great! We must have seen at least a dozen of them – singles, pairs, even in groups of 3. They were as far away as the distance and as close as directly beneath the boardwalk. For an animal nerd such as myself, seeing this endangered bird in such strong numbers brought a smile to my face.

Without a doubt, the Most Popular Award of the day goes to the Red-shouldered Hawk. Photographers had their tripods set up all over the board walk, snapping away shots of this beauty. He didn’t do much at all, but with looks like this, he really didn’t have to. It was a treat for us all and certainly a memorable sighting for my first visit..

A quite uncommon, but very exciting visitor this day was this Roseate Spoonbill. Perched up high on a bare tree, this beauty was just preening away. I can only imagine he didn’t have a crowd of tripods and photographers surrounding him because they all got stuck at the hawk. Their loss was our gain, we had front row seats to watch this little pink bird. Spoonbills are endangered, once hunted to very low numbers for their pink feathers.  This was the highlight of my visit.

What narute walk in South Florida would be complete without a Great Blue Heron? We almost missed this guy, we were busy looking at the second alligator toward the end of the walk and just happened to catch him on the other side of the boardwalk. I’m so glad we spotted it though, there giant birds are just beautiful.

The Great Blues weren’t the only Herons present this day. We saw quite a few little Tricolored Herons. Much smaller than the Greats, but very adorable.

Reminding us that it is in fact winter down here in tropical paradise, the Snowy Egret was also out and about today. We only saw a few, but they were quite close to the boardwalk.

Even if you’re not in to the scaley or feathery types, you can still enjoy the cute and cuddly! My friend and I thought for sure that this was an escaped pet (or, as I had joked “gator food”), but sure enough he belonged here! I didn’t realize that the Marsh Bunny even existed, this was my “something new” learned today. Also in the furry category which we did not see this day, sometimes, if you’re really lucky, you’ll spot river otter or bobcats. Guess who’s going back to Green Cay with a mission?

We saw plenty of birds, lets not forget the bees! This bee house was set fairly close to the boardwalk, but not so close that I worried for my 1 year old child. These are the good bees, honey bees, not aggressive at all. Quite honestly, if they even noticed us, I don’t think they could possibly care any less about our presence.

IF YOU GO…

Adding to the natural beauty of the park, there is no cost to enter! (If it’s free, it’s for me!) The loop of the park is open daily from sunrise to sunset. Check the Nature Center hours if you want to go inside, they have odd hours (they were already closed when we got there at 3pm.) Due to the nature of the park and it being a wildlife preserve, dogs are not permitted. It is a very lovely walk, it was easy to maneuver with our strollers, and there are restroom facilities present, as well as a water fountain and (I think, but don’t hold me to it) a soda machine. As usual, keep this park beautiful and don’t litter! There are plenty of trash cans available throughout the walk. Should you get tired walking along the boardwalk, there are also frequent observation areas with benches so you can rest.

Enjoy your visit!

http://www.pbcgov.com/waterutilities/waterfacts/green_cay.htm

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