This month, Sunflower celebrates Earth Day all month long, with a series of nature-related events. You may not realize how many natural areas there are in Palm Beach County, and how many wonderful things there are to see in each. Here are some of my favorites.

Judging by the number of bird-watchers, photographers and walkers we see when we visit, I’d say two of the most popular natural areas in the county are Wakodahatchee Wetlands and Green Cay Nature Center. And for good reason! Both sites have boardwalk trails that meander over ponds and through woodlands. Every time my sons and I visit, we see dozens and dozens of birds: herons, egrets, anhingas, limpkins, ducks, warblers, even the occasional roseate spoonbill. But we don’t only see birds. We’ve also spotted rabbits, raccoons, fish, turtles, snakes, butterflies… and of course, alligators!

This big guy was right next to the boardwalk.

The other day, I suggested to my older son that we visit a different natural area, Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. At first, he hesitated, saying we wouldn’t see animals there. Compared to the two sites above, it is a bit more of a challenge to spot wildlife at this quieter spot. But, in walking through the cypress swamp and then by the canals, we saw turtles, lizards, moorhens, a tricolor heron, tons of huge jumping grasshoppers, butterflies, and yes, a big gator swimming along right beside us. Keep your eyes open, and you can see a lot!

Walking through the cypress swamp

Another spot we visit often is Gumbo Limbo Nature Center. I love the forest’s swampy, skunky smell. We climb the tower to look out over the preserve, nestled between the ocean and the intracoastal, and then walk through the mangroves, looking for snails. Finally, we visit the fish, sea turtles, sharks and rays in their tanks.

For an entirely different experience, we sometimes walk over to the Hypoluxo Scrub Natural Area, a beautiful desert just a mile from the ocean. Visiting the scrub is a striking experience, when we’re used to being around so much lush greenery. Once again, we must stay alert to see what may be hiding in the bushes. Sometimes we catch a glimpse of a gopher tortoise!

These are just a few of the many, many natural areas in our county. More are listed here, and I’m sure you have favorites, too. Leave a comment and tell us where you like to visit, and what you find there.

See you on the trails!

Victoria is the Social Media and PR Manager at Sunflower Creative Arts.

© Victoria Green and Sunflower Creative Arts, 2011