Palm Beach County is another Florida tourism hot spot, popular cities including Boca Raton, Delray, Jupiter, and Palm Beach. While everyone else is out shopping, dining, and beaching it – you should hit the trails because this area has some of the best bird watching in Florida State. I was so impressed, I came back time and again to check out the various preserves – 6/7 are free (the NWR is free to America the Beautiful holders). Best time to see the birds is early in the morning, so be the early bird and get ready for a phenomenal show.
Wakodahatchee Wetlands, 13026 Jog Rd, Delray Beach, FL 33484
I have never walk three quarters of a mile so slowly in my life, this man-made wetlands preserve is absolutely extraordinary. On the short boardwalk you will see an absurd amount of diversity. Bird checklist: Anhingas, herons, purple gallinules, wood storks, grebes, egrets, and various ducks – some of which I have never seen before.
The gathering at the rookeries are incredible.
Iguanas get in the mix, trying to blend in.
You will also see alligators, so if you can’t get down to the Everglades and want to see them – this is another option.
Even if you are not a hiker or nature freak, this is a show that can impress anyone.
Green Cay Wetlands, 12800 Hagen Ranch Rd, Boynton Beach, FL 33437
Another man-made wetland two miles from Wakodahatchee – you can easily visit both in one day and should! This park has 1.5 miles of boardwalk trails and they are no less remarkable than its neighbor. Bird checklist: red shouldered hawks, anhingas (swimming!), grebes, egregs, herons, and glossy ibis.
Also, I was very excited to see an American bittern which was morphing into ridiculous forms
and a pair of colorful painted buntings which were hanging out at the bird feeders near the entrance.
I have never seen either of these before! Other than birds there was a little snake in the water
a big gator and babies!
If you are friendly to people on the trail and point things out, you may see they do the same, there is a very big birding community out here.
Wellington Environmental Preserve, 3491 Flying Cow Ranch Road, Wellington, FL 33470
Another fabulous preserve, this one has 3.6 miles of paved paths which makes it popular with cyclists as well as hikers and bird watchers. There is a large diversity here as well – but the expansive nature of the wetlands means the birds can be farther away, bring binoculars! I was so happy I almost cried here because I saw my first roseate spoonbill, the bird which was highest on my wish list!
Other exciting birds included limpkins and at first what i thought was a native purple gallinule on steroids, but after some research realized it was a purple swamphen – non native to this part of the world.
Along the trail there is a six story observation tower which gives you a vast view of the preserve.
Peaceful Waters Sanctuary, 11676 Pierson Rd, Wellington, FL 33414
Yet another man-made wetland, this is a popular birding preserve with nearly two miles of boardwalk and trails. It’s a bit hard to find, but keep following the signs past the soccer fields in the park and you will see a trailhead. I didn’t have too much luck here, coming away with a merganser and a bunch of wading birds along the trail. However, just by the entrance was the cutest red bellied woodpecker peaking out of a palm!
Royal Palm Beach Pines Natural Area, 110 Natures Way, Royal Palm Beach, FL 33411
More of a hike than a bird walking spot, this preserve has 3.6 miles of trails through pine forest and wetlands. I was hoping to see a sand hill crane (SPOILER wouldn’t see any until the Gulf Coast), but ended up with some more red bellied woodpeckers, interesting looking buggers, and some great exercise on the sandy trails.
Grassy Waters Preserve, 8264 Northlake Blvd, West Palm Beach, FL 33412
This mile long boardwalk over a swamp with cypress trees and air plants could trick you into believing you were down in the Everglades!
Very scenic, was hoping to see the bird of prey – snail kite, but had no luck.
Loxahatchee national wildlife refuge, 10216 Lee Rd, Boynton Beach, FL 33472
I hit this trail midday, when most of the creatures are taking a siesta. I’m sure things would have been a lot more exciting earlier on, but I still got to see gators, hawks, egrets, turtles, and a beautiful vista from the observation platform.
Was really interested in participating in their full moon paddle program, but the timing didn’t work out.