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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Arthur R Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge - Updated

Screeching Owl

Things went South today. Way South. Literally...South. Views From Our Kayak did pay a visit to Arthur R Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Boynton Beach. A tougher than expected but a pretty decent paddle at the 5.5 paddling trail at the refuge. Not many pics because...well, I will tell you later.

Loxahatchee NWR Gator

The story about how in the world we ended paddling at the Arthur R Marshall Loxahatchee NWR is a long one and will spare you of the details. Just leave a comment if you want to know. Can tell you that it was a long drive from our home to the refuge. Ironic, we used to live in Jupiter, less than 1 hour from Boynton Beach, and never heard of this nice place.

Canoe Trail Entrance

Put In / Take Out: Here is a link with the information of the refuge: Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. The charge per vehicle is $5. There was no attendant when we made it to the gate at 7:35 AM. So we put the money in the provided envelope and put the receipt in our dash per their written instructions. Did put in at the boat ramps area.


As we prepared the kayak a volunteer, Scott, greeted us and gave us some guide lines about the trail. He also mentioned that two gators had to be put down last night because aggressiveness but that they were not a danger as long as we did not do something stupid, like feeding them. That brings a mini rant for today: I did read about a gator attack this week at this same place and want to say something. Gators are not vicious killers. Luckily for me did prove that today. As animals they act on instincts and habits. But then there always some idiots that think that is cool to feed them causing the animal to loose their natural fear to the humans. They relate humans with food and then we have unfortunate situations like the attack on the boy and then forcing Wildlife officials to put down gators. Fishermen toss their unwanted catch to gators, people think they are pets and feed them whatever they have on hand. That is a recipe for disaster. And I will stop right here before it is too late.


Started our paddle at 8 AM, under a beautiful blue sky and a light breeze that turned into a pain in the eye later. Just as a summary, the trail is 5.5 long with a shortcut that will put give you about 3.7 or 3.8 miles. Wifey and I did the long loop. The trail has mile markers along the rout and also information stations. There is a floating dock near to the midpoint, in case you want to take a break. The whole circuit can take anything from 3 to 4 hours. That being said let us go to the pics...

Purple Gallinule

Moorhen and chicks

Great Egret

Wood Stork

Gator goes from the sawgrass to the water, which was a repetitive scene during the trip

I am going to make a parenthesis here. This paddle was much harder than I was expecting. It was hard to move because the hydrilla and the water lilies. At times it was so thick that we had to push instead of paddling to move forward. Also, it is also very shallow in some areas, specially after the midpoint. Always call the refuge and ask about the water levels before going there.

Water Lili
Something that was impressive here was the ridiculous Black Crowned Night Herons sightings. We saw like 18 of them. Sadly they were not pic friendly today.

Black Crowned Night Heron. Have never seen so many of these.

Great Egret

Information station

Always stay in the middle of the canal. Do not go near the sawgrass or you may have a close encounter with an alligator as I had one today. It was close...too close. I was very glad the gator was only a 5 footer at the most and did not walked over me on its way to the water out of the sawgrass. It was that close.

Gator out of the sawgrass, This was not the one that we came close to.

At the mile marker #2 wifey and I had this exchange of words:

She: The camera does not work
Me: Huh? Turn it off and then turn it on again
She: I did. Does not work
Me: OK. No problem. It is the battery. Change it.
She: Where is the spare? Do you have it?
Me: No. Is in the camera bag.
She: Well. I do not have the bag. Do you?
Me: Darn, I left it in the minivan.

That being said we spent the next three miles battling a strong breeze and the thick hydrilla and water lilies cover without the satisfaction of a pic for the rest of the way. Not that there were too many pics chances anyways. Made it back to the boat ramp area 5 after 11 AM and then went for a short walk at the Marsh Trail not before stopping to shoot pics at a Pileated Woodpecker feeding their chicks inside a power pole.

Female Pileated Woodecker

Pileated Woodpecker feeds her little ones

Tri-Colored Heron

Cattle Egret

Little Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Egret

Glossy Ibis

And just when we were ready to leave a nice lady asked me if I saw the Screeching Owl. I said no and then she pointed at where it was supposed to be. First did not see it but before leaving took another look and saw it in another power pole, using an abandoned Pileated Woodpecker nest. It was the highlight of the trip...

Screeching Owl

Screeching Owl

Update: When our camera went down because the batteries my wife grabbed the back up and did shot some pics. I completely forgot she had done that but this morning went through the pics she took and there are a few ones we can share...

Scene at the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee NWR. Paddling over hydrilla and water lilies most of the time. The paddling trail has sawgrass to the left and the right 90% of the route with only a few open spots.

Floating dock close to the mid-point of the paddling trail.


Decent size gator


Gator in the sawgrass

Probably the biggest gator of the trip. 8 to 9 feet.

Sleeping little gator

And that is it for this one. Wifey and I agreed that next time we will stay overnight and will spend more time exploring the refuge area. We missed some nice sections of it. The paddling trail was not too impressive but we have to give it another try. Maybe without the issue with the thick vegetation it would become a nicer paddle. We also agreed that next time I should not forget the batteries for the camera. Thanks for reading and do not forget to check our Views From Our Kayak - Facebook page and "Like" us if you would. Thanks for reading and see you soon to share more Views From Our Kayak.

The paddling trail is well marked and there are indication all the time letting you know where to go.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Lower Wekiva River - Katie's Landings

Lower Wekiva River Otter

It was one of those days when nothing seems to be working out. You have to do your best under the circumstances. I did try. The opening pic is not the best one for this paddle but it has been a while since the last time I was able to get a decent pic of an otter. If my memory does not play me a trick, is the first one on the ground from the kayak. So that is the opening for this trip.

Carolina Wren greeted me at Katie's Landings

Put In / Take Out: My favorite Put In location; Katie's Landings. Please check previous posts about this location for details.

Gator, a little one, in front of Katie's Landings

Started my paddle at 8:30 AM. Last night the forecast had a 60% chance of rain for this morning. I decided to check again in the morning before deciding to go or not. 10% was the chance until noon, when changed to 60% again so drove to Katie's. As usual explored the lagoon in front of the put in under a cloudy sky and an annoying breeze from the North. Decided not to go too far and to take my sweet time exploring, always watching the sky and my watch.


Sandhill Crane in a nest

Sandhill Crane (closed eyes)

Red Shouldered Hawk

Red Shouldered Hawk

Great Egret

Ibis and Juvenile Little Blue Heron


Immature Little Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron's nest

Pushed my way through the West side of the island downstream from Katie's. I like that area better since there are no houses around, is wilder, and usually see more wildlife than in the East side. Seriously, I need to stop doing this. Details ahead. is what I saw in that area...

Green Heron dancing Thriller!!!!

Cause this is Thriller...Thriller at night...And no one gonna save you from the beast about to strike


Exiting the island area saw movement in another small island that splits the Wekiva River. It was an otter. Sadly for me it stayed deep in the shadows and there was no good lighting anyways. Did all I could, wait for it to move to a better spot. Nothing. It just stay put and then left to hide somewhere. Paddled around the island twice but did not see it again.

River Otter


Little Blue Heron


Little Blue Heron

Did paddle past Wekiva Haven and thought about returning because it was turning ugly by the second. But waited a bit more, until reached the first opening of the Wekiva River like half a mile (maybe less) downstream from there(Wekiva Haven). At that time the wind was not annoying but a nuisance. A big tree limb fell to the river 30 ft in front of me. It was time to go back. This time did not look for the otter but used the same route used on my way down river: West of the island. But stopped when saw a snake sunning, if you want to say that, on a tree. At the moment I am writing this do not know if it is a water moccasin or a water banded snake. I have a bad feeling about this one and came very close to it. But ignorance sometimes is a bliss. This is what I saw on that time around...

Unknown snake on a tree

Pupils seem to be oval, which is not a good sign. I came awfully close to it.


Great Blue Heron's Nest activity

Great Blue Heron's chicks

Pushed my way again out of the area. A medium sized gator gave me a huge scare, like I needed more adrenaline after coming close to the snake. It was hiding in the vegetation and did not see it. May not do that again. Kept paddling upstream from Katie's Landings. Even though it was cloudy it did not look it was going to rain anytime soon...

Great Blue Heron

Sandhill Cranes's nest. This time the with both parents

Male Anhinga

Female Anhinga

Little gator

Another little gator.



Part of the reason I kept paddling was the hope to see an Eagle or maybe Swallow-Tailed Kites in that part of the river. It is wide, open, an ideal scenario to admire an eagle flyover or perched, as I saw one on a previous trip. No eagle but did see the Swallow-Tailed Kites. There was not too much I was able to to with the boring gray sky as a background so the pics are not a reason to call home about. Will share them anyways...

Swallow-Tailed Kite

Swallow-Tailed Kite

Swallow-Tailed Kite in a dive. The next pic shows how they can twist their body 180 degrees

Swallow-Tailed Kite in a dive. Second time I see the body twisting during a dive.

This one seems to be eating while flying

Another Swallow-Tailed Kite showed up and swept the tree tops, coming back and grabbing something from one of them...

Swallow-Tailed Kite

Swallow-Tailed Kite

Then joined two other kites performing what I called, poetry in motion...

Swallow-Tailed Kites dance

After the show turned around and headed back to Katie's, shooting a few more pics on my way down...

Moorhen family

Juvenile Black Crowned Night Heron

Unknown bird

Wekiva River section between Katie's and the Hwy 46 bridge (looking South)

And this is it. A very short but entertaining paddle on a Central Florida jewel and one of my favorite places. Do not forget to check our Facebook page and Like us, if you really like the page. Thanks for reading and hope you come back for the next Views From Our Kayak.

Lower Wekiva River