Marsh Trail at Loxahatchee National Wildlife refuge

The chorus of Florida cricket frogs–which sounds just like two marbles rubbing together–grew louder as I walked further along the Marsh Trail at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.

Tri-colored Heron

The sun beat down. The frogs kept it up. From the trail that runs along a dike between a canal and marsh, I saw a Tri-Colored Heron in the marsh below. The heron was stalking small fish in the water. I snapped a few photos and continued on my way when the heron noticed my presence. Earlier, hiking through another part of the park, I spotted a Red-bellied Woodpecker munching on cypress seeds. So far today’s trek was off to an exciting start.

Further along the Marsh Trail I was startled when I looked over and saw an Anhinga, or Snake Bird, less than ten yards away, grooming his feathers. This made me think of a passage I had read a few months ago in William Bartram’s “Travels in Florida.” Bartram is intrigued by this “mysterious and handsome” bird that he saw during his 1765 botanical trip up the St. John’s River, and he vividly describes some of the bird’s graceful beauty that a modern Florida outdoorsperson can sometimes take for granted:

Anhinga

“There is in this river and in the waters all over all over Florida, a very curious and handsome bird, the people call them Snake Birds… covered with feathers so firm and elastic, that they in some degree resemble fish-scales, the breast and upper part of the belly are covered with feathers of a cream colour, the tail is very long, of a deep black, and tipped with a silvery whit, and when spread, resemble an unfurled fan.” Bartram goes on to write how this Snake Bird would have been poetic inspiration for Ovid: “It would have furnished him with a subject, for some beautiful and entertaining metamorphoses.”

Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge has more than 221 square miles of everglades habitat, from swamp to hardwood hammock. There is a lot more exploring I have to do here. The list of potential future treks will definitely include the 12-mile bike ride along the levees in Loxahatchee. This might have to wait until cooler weather since the majority of the trail is not protected by shade.

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