American Alligators, the Florida State Reptile, are common in South Florida — and can even be spotted in some PBC Parks. In this episode of Animal Encounters, Daggerwing Nature Center Manager, Sean Mallee, shares some interesting facts about the American Alligator, including a number of useful adaptations the reptiles have! This episode features Nibbles, an Animal Ambassador at Daggerwing Nature Center.
County officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, November 4 to celebrate the opening of Riverbend Park’s recent improvements. The ceremony was part of the free annual Pioneer Farmstead Day event held from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
“Located along the Loxahatchee River, Florida’s first nationally designated Wild and Scenic River, Riverbend Park is an oasis of beauty connecting residents and visitors with our natural and historic treasures,” said District 1 Commissioner Hal R. Valeche.
Park improvements include the construction of a 4,500 square foot building that accommodate public restrooms and staff offices, reconfiguration of the entrance to include paved parking spaces and construction of a plaza/overlook for the adjacent Loxahatchee Battlefield Park. New underground utilities have also been installed to connect the planned improvements to the Town of Jupiter’s water and sewer system.
“Promoting the stewardship of natural, archaeological and cultural sites is a core service of the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department,” said Director Eric Call. “Park visitors are invited to explore the extensive system of self-guided trails and to experience the park’s diverse natural resources through hiking, bicycling, horseback riding, canoeing and kayaking.”
Riverbend Park is located at 9060 Indiantown Road in Jupiter and is operated by the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department. The park is open every day from sunrise to sunset.
Animals abound in #pbcParks! As stewards of natural habitats, Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation strives to maintain the habitats of a variety of animals that live in and frequent our parks and nature centers. Conserving these habitats makes visitors more aware of the ecosystem in Palm Beach County, and visiting children and families get a fun, educational experience that generates interest in contributing to conservation efforts. Find out where you can see all sorts of animals in our parks & facilities.
Interact with animals in our Nature Centers
- Okeeheelee Nature Center: OKNC is situated inside Okeeheelee Park in West Palm Beach. Parents and kids have a number of opportunities to see and interact with animals inside the facility, and spot plenty of animals around the park and nature center. The nature center offers programs like deer and raptor walks where parents and kids can get a behind-the-scenes look at the center’s deer and raptor compounds, and free guided nature walks through the Pine Flatwoods Forest to learn about the plants and animals living there. Reptiles, raptors and deer are just a few of the animals kids and parents can learn about while visiting OKNC exhibits, as well as while talking to our passionate naturalists.
- Daggerwing Nature Center: Venture out to Daggerwing Nature Center in Burt Aaronson South County Regional Park, west of Boca Raton, and explore the grounds to spot the famous Daggerwing Butterfly, turtles, birds, snakes and more, in and around the facility. Inside, visit the exhibit hall, where you can see live reptiles and more, a bee theater, leaf rubbings and a nature video. Outdoors, gaze at the Florida Federation of Gardens Certified Butterfly Garden, where you’ll find a variety of the beautiful winged creatures. There is also a 40-acre nature preserve outside the facility, as well as a 0.6-mile boardwalk and observation tower, which is a great opportunity to spot wild birds, turtles, insects and others in their natural habitats.
- Green Cay Nature Center: Located in Boynton Beach, Green Cay Nature Center is similar to Daggerwing and Okeeheelee Nature Centers. In addition to the animals you can see and interact with at the facility’s exhibits and during special programs, the mile-long Chickee Hut Trail and 1/2 mile-long Tropical Hammock Trail allows visitors to spot all sorts of wildlife livingin marsh, open water pond areas, forested wetlands, and tree islands. Waterfowl, diving birds, moorhens, sparrows and more thrive in these environments, and bobcats have been found hiding within the shrubbery. Visit Green Cay Nature Center’s Bird Checklist on pbcparks.com, and you’ll find there are dozens of birds to be discovered in and around the facility.
Live animals in popular #pbcParks
- Riverbend Park: A massive 665-acre park located in Jupiter, a trip to Riverbend Park will always be accompanied by a plethora of different animal species. Walk, bike or jog through the many trails where you and your family can spot deer, rabbits, turkeys, as well as other wild birds, insects and reptiles. Adjacent to Riverbend Park is Loxahatchee River Battlefield Park, where you’ll be able to see much of the same wildlife. Choose to go kayaking at Riverbend Park, and you’ll most likely spot some interesting fish, turtles, and other water wildlife.
- Regional Parks: regional parks such as John Prince Park in Lake Worth, Okeeheelee Park in West Palm Beach, and Burt Aaronson South County Regional Park in Boca Raton provide the perfect opportunities to spot squirrels, lizards and wild birds, which can all be spotted from safe distances. Walk through paved trails at each of these parks and find all sorts of beautiful and interesting creatures!
For more about spotting and interacting with animals in our parks and nature centers, visit pbcParks.com.
It’s not often we get a chance to turn down the lights and take in the beauty that the night sky has to offer. On Saturday, February 27, over 2,000 Palm Beach County residents, tourists, adults, kids, and nature lovers alike did just that – for free – at the fourth annual Dark Sky Festival.
People of all ages visited Palm Beach County’s Okeeheelee Nature Center from 6-10 p.m. to escape the glowing lights we are so often bombarded by, to gaze at the stars, learn about animals, and enjoy the peacefulness of the dark while having fun with their friends, family, and loved ones.
Campfire, animals, movies & more!
The night was filled with opportunities for visitors to roam the grounds, enjoying the
darkness. Indoors, owls, snakes, lizards and turtles gave animal lovers a chance to learn about the animals that depend on the dark for survival. Curious kids took turns dissecting owl pellets, and visitors of all ages learned about owls and bats through presentations from passionate experts.
Outdoors, active guests enjoyed guided nature hikes through the dark, while others gazed at stars and planets through telescopes. An outdoor classroom allowed guests to soak in the beauty of the night sky, while listening to campfire stories and eating s’mores.
Benji Studt, the Environmental Program Supervisor with Palm Beach County’s Environmental Resources Management, taught a workshop that introduced participants to Palm Beach County’s natural areas and the photographic and recreational opportunities that lay right outside our front doors. “I introduced participants to some tools to improve their composition skills,” said Studt.
Studt then handed the workshop over to local artist and FAU student Max Jackson, who taught the class about techniques to photograph the night sky. After the presentation, the class enjoyed Jackson’s new short film, “Pitch Black Light, A Journey Through America’s Darkest Skies”, which shows time-lapse footage of the stars passing by iconic landscapes from across the country. The film is a compilation of footage over the last two years, when Jackson spent his summers chasing the darkest skies in the country. Watch “Pitch Black Light, A Journey Through America’s Darkest Skies” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQdijzuCe3A
What is light pollution?
The goal of the event was to teach visitors about the negative affects of light pollution and to encourage better practices with lighting. Guided night hikes, a campfire and s’mores, outdoor movies, photography workshops, bat and owl presentations, live wildlife exhibits, among other activities, helped guests appreciate the darkness.
Light pollution is the “introduction of artificial light into the environment”. The event focused on the impacts of light pollution, and the benefits of having natural night skies. Excessive light pollution threatens humans and many animals, including sea turtles, owls, bats, and others that depend on the dark sky for survival. Excessive light pollution may also waste electricity and destroy the beauty of the night sky.
Why should we “turn down the lights”?
Various experts, photographers, and astronomers were on hand Saturday to explain the dangers of light pollution.
“Turning down the lights helps us all,” said Studt. According to Studt, light pollution impacts a variety of animals. “The natural light provided by the night sky gives sea turtle hatchlings the ability to find the ocean when they hatch.”
Furthermore, Studt explained that migratory birds use the night sky as a roadmap to their seasonal destinations, and humans feel effects to their circadian rhythm as a result of light pollution.
“We are literally losing our stars because of light pollution,” said Callie Sharkey, manager at Okeeheelee Nature Center, who also cited research that links artificial light to breast cancer, while Studt explained, “artificial light pollution is now being linked to human disorders such as obesity and depression.”
What can you do to help?
In addition to educating the public on the effect of light pollution, the event aimed to increase awareness on what steps can be taken to help fix the problem. You can start helping today:
- Check your home lights – is glare hiding potential intruders? Do your lights shine down, or out and up where energy is wasted?
- Turn off unnecessary lights – and use motion sensor switches for effective deterrence.
- Shield and lower lights, and use dark-sky friendly fixtures.
- Spread the word – tell businesses when you see that their lights are bad. Bad lights aren’t just unpleasant, they’re harmful, especially in coastal areas where turtles nest.
An annual event
Each year, thousands of enthused visitors make their way to Okeeheelee Nature Center to gaze at the stars and learn about what they can do to make the night sky more visible for humans and animals the depend on it. “We had people from all ages and demographics, and the response is overwhelmingly positive…people were impressed with how unique the event was,” said Sharkey.
This annual event is one of the largest dark sky events in the country; it was made possible through a partnership between the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department, Environmental Resources Management Department, International Dark-Sky Association, among others.
For more information on how you can help fix the problem of light pollution, please visit the International Dark-Sky Association, www.darksky.org.