Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Delray Beach, Fl

January 26, 2012 at 2:36 am | Posted in The Wild Side | Leave a comment
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Yesterday I took my son for a walk at the Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Delray. (It’s a good thing I took a picture of the sign, otherwise I never would have been able to spell it! You would get a good laugh out of me trying to actually pronounce it.) This wetland area has about 2 million gallons of “fresh” water pumped into it daily, making it’s name, “Wakodahatchee” (Seminole for “created waters”) quite appropriate. The water being pumped in is reclaimed water from it’s neighboring water treatment plant. At least it’s not getting dumped into the oceans where we swim, right? Regardless of where the water comes from, the animal residents here are happy as pigs in, um, freshly recycled poopy water. (I joke, but in all seriousness for those of you just getting to know me, the animals really are very happy here in their home and the water is being pumped in is more clean than some swimming pools)

Just like at Green Cay, our welcoming committee was a soft shell turtle. No, wait, make that two. Hold on, there’s three and four… OK, let me try this again – the welcoming committee was made up of a whole bunch of soft shell turtles. As soon as we looked over the edge at them they quickly came swimming up. Even though the rules for the park clearly state “No feeding the wildlife”, these guys were clearly begging! I know begging, I have two large dogs. They had the same reaction to everyone who looked at them, hoping that someone would take pitty on the poor starving turtles.

As soon as we walked around the bend in the boardwalk to the first big opening in the water we saw this guy basking in the sun. Quite happily too, look at that gator-smile! I could over hear some people, who were clearly regulars at the park, saying things like “Look, there he is again” and “Oh he’s always at that same tree”, which leads me to believe this is his throne. From here, he gets a good view of everyone coming and going, and those of us on the boardwalk get to see a beautiful alligator.

One of the things I found really cool about this park was all of the nesting birds. They were literally EV-RE-WHERE! There are a lot of “islands” made up of old trees in the middle of the water, all covered with bifferent kinds of nesting birds. Herons, anhingas, cormorants, ibis… all peaceful neighbors on these trees that remind me of birdy apartment buildings.

Aside from the usual ibis, coots, and moorhens, the bird I seemed to notice the most today was the Great Blue Heron. Some were down in the water hunting but most were roosting away in the trees.

The Great Blue’s weren’t the only herons making big numbers. The adorable little Tri-Colored Heron seemed to be around every bend too, and typically very close to the boardwalk. I don’t think they even noticed all the people around them… or the woman walking the boardwalk who was talking on her phone so loud that I’m fairly certain my best friend in Atlanta could have faintly heard her.

While not present in the large number of it’s much larger heron cousins, this single little Green Heron was a nice find. He was creeping through the trees, looking for his next meal. I never knew the bottoms of their feet were so colorful!

There were also a few Great Egrets at all ends of the park aw well, most in the shallow water, looking for their next big catch.

There are a few other kinds of turtles present here other than the soft shells. The back side of the park seemed void of a lot of action but was full of turtles. Of course, the loud woman on the phone had walked this path just before me, so the turtles might have been the first brave beings to come out of hiding after listening to something they probably thought was the shrieking of a giant predator.

There were quite a few beautiful breeze ways throughout the park. Sometimes you’ll find marsh bunnies hopping through or grazing in them, somethimes they’re empty. I happened to be lucky enough to find these two beautiful Wood Storks strolling through this one.

This park isn’t just home to big birds. You’ll also find several types of Warblers here in all types of environments (reeds, trees) as well as the Red Winged Blackbird. Some of the Warblers had me fooled, I was looking for Cardinals with the sound they were making, instead I found an itty bitty impersonator. The Red Winged Blackbirds, by the way, are much less obnoxious than te regural Blackbirds you’ll find begging for french fries in a McDonalds parking lots and are absolutely beautiful when in flight. (If you’re on the right side of them to see their brightly colored shoulders.)

Soon after walking past the cute little Warblers, we spotted this Osprey circling in the sky. He was beautiful, he was huge, he was clearly hungry and looking for a meal… I quickly pulled forward the cover on my sons stroller and I kid you not, he flew away. Of course, there’s no way he could have ever actually grabbed my tank of a child, and I don’t honestly think it was more than a coincidence, but I still didn’t want to have to fight with a bird of prey, especially one as majestic looking as this.

Our smaller gator at the front of the park wasn’t the only one we saw. When we were looking at the smaller one at the beginning of our walk two women asked me “Did you see the big one yet?” They told me he was toward the end of the walk (or beginning if you go left at the split) and “looks like a pile of mud”. By the time we made it around, there was the big ol pile of mud, fast asleep, with birds practically about to crawl over him.

Toward the end of our walk, quite possibly as tired as my son, we saw this pair of Blue Winged Teal Ducks napping under a couple of trees. They were the first pair I had seen all day and I was happy to have stumbled upon them, I like these little guys.

As we were walking out and watching the poor starving turtle show we noticed ripples in the water moving fast. It was this little cormorant speeding after fish. At one point he bumped into a turtle, who was not entertained, and must have bit at him because it was followed by a big splash and resulted in this guy fleeing the scene faster than he had been chasing the fish.

IF YOU GO…

Bonus, this is another FREE park! Don’t be surprised if it smells a little, well, birdy. Birds are everywhere, therefor birds poop everywhere, it’s a fact of nature. This is another park where the pets need to be left home. (Do you really want Fido becoming gator bait?) There are restrooms at the enterance of the park, but that’s as extensive as the facilities go. You may consider bringing a snack, certainly water. There are stops along the walk for you to sit and rest in a covered pavillion. What this park does lack is frequent trash cans, so don’t be a slob and hold on to your garbage until the end of the walk where you can get to a trash can. Also, don’t be like that loud mouth woman who let all of the park visitors know her business, if you’re going to ignore the nature around you and blab on the phone just do it quietly, remember that other people are there to enjoy the wilflife.

Enjoy your visit!

http://www.pbcgov.com/waterutilities/wakodahatchee/

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