One of my favorite rituals when I’m in Florida is to visit Robinson’s Preserve, a 487 acre tract of conservation land with paths that meander through the wetlands adjacent to Palma Sola Bay.  On this trip I actually went there everyday.  In the past I had mainly rollerbladed on the paved walkways, but this time I stuck with walking, and realized that I could absorb many more details at this slower pace.

Though the wetlands were the highlight, I was surprised that other parts of the preserve were quite arid.  But like other deserts I’ve come to know, this area at closer inspection was teeming with life.   Fiddler crabs lurked in holes that were moist below the surface, and many birds populated the air.

On my day, it happened to be an unusually moody weather – gray clouds swirled in foreboding patterns above me, creating an eerie atmosphere.  You probably would never expect to find the words “gothic” and “Florida” in the same sentence, but for a few hours on this day, that’s exactly what it felt like.

Sunset at Robinson Preserve

When I returned the next day it was a different story – bright blue skies and beautiful ocean views of the bay.  I also saw gorgeous farm lands that grow varieties of sea grass, some of which are on the verge of extinction.

The preserve attracts many bird watchers too, and for good reason.  One of the more notable species is the roseate spoonbill, which looks vaguely like a small flamingo but with a longer, spoon-shaped bill.  The spoonbill’s dazzling pink plumage shimmers like a Florida sunset, reflecting hues of crimson and orange.  Thousands of breeding pairs used to nest in Florida Bay and the Everglades each winter, but plume hunting in the late 1800s and early 1900s decimated their population. Spoonbill wings were often made into fans and sold to tourists, and feathers were used to adorn ladies’ hats. By 1935, researchers counted fewer than 20 pairs in the entire state. Around 1950, their numbers began to increase with protection provided by the Audubon Society and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and with the establishment of Everglades National Park.  I was so happy to get to see some on this trip!

Spoonbill

The third night I climbed the observation deck shown below which afforded stunning views of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and the entire park.  Since it was a clear sunny day the sunset was a bright orange color.

Robinson Preserve Observation Deck

I really love this place and feel lucky to have had it so close by on my vacation.  Spending time in nature relaxes me, clears my head, and helps me forget my troubles for a little while, and this place is particularly good for all of that.   Sparsely vegetated in some areas, lush and swampy in others, Robinson Preserve is really an ecological wonder.
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