Sunday, May 10, 2009

Frogs Galore! Spring in Hillsboro Pineland

Hillsboro Pineland
Coconut Creek
ECO - Every Child Outside - Explorers
April 27 and 30, 2009
Blogging is still a relatively new sport for me, I don't understand how people have time to do it everyday, I've been about 2 weeks behind since I've started and I only write weekly posts!!

I love it, but it is time-consuming...then if you have computer problems - forget about it! So, bear with me when I go through patches of the blogging black-hole. I hope you enjoy this post - about a place we went to several weeks ago - the place is still there, go check it out, it's a gem!

Anyway,I'm not here to complain about my lack of blogging motivation, I'm writing in order to tell you about a sweet little spot called Hillsboro Pineland Natural Area, It is one of those places that not many people know even exists, even if they live right across the street. It is tucked away next to a townhouse development in Coconut Creek, Florida.

Broward County has allotted funds to allocating and preserving little fragments of nature and they have done a remarkable job. Each natural area has clean bathrooms, an interpretive area - with benches for seating, paved and unpaved trails, boardwalks, and shaded gazebos and benches. There are interpretive signs -describing the flora and fauna and history of the area, complete with pictures and wonderful detail.

I haven't been disappointed yet.

Hillsboro Pineland is a suprisingly beautiful little oasis amidst a desert of pavement.

Within the natural area is one of the last remaining Wet Prairies in Broward County. The Hillsboro River used to naturally flood the area before the river was canalized. The wetland is serene and profuse wildflowers of many colors- a forgotten sight in South Florida. There is a boardwalk with interpretive signs through the center of the wetland, so that you can get a bird's eye, or dragonfly's eye view of the plants and water.

South Florida is nearing the end of the dry season and it is obvious when you visit any wetlands - many of them are no longer wet, but just cracked mud cakes where there had once been water! Here at Hillsboro Pineland, you can see the ring left behind from where the water has evaporated, it is dry and cracked, but bursting with FROGS!! There is still water a'plenty in other parts of the pond and prairie (due to the Hillsboro Canal and pumping of water into the wetland), so the tadpoles that slithered out of their eggs had enough water to grow and metamorphosize in - to rid themselves of their gills, develop lungs, grow arms and legs; all the while swimming and eating algae.

Visiting this natural area was not in my original plan, I had another place on my calendar and when that didn't work out I searched out Broward County's Natural Areas and chose Hillsboro Pineland. When I saw it's beautiful wetland, and because it is spring, I decided to teach about frogs...I love when things work out so perfectly; not only did we learn about frogs, but we FOUND tons of them. Everywhere we walked, there they were - bouncing and hopping.

We got the nets out of the car, put on our frog-hunting hats, and had a BLAST.

The viewing bucket was filled to the brim in about 2 minutes, so I had to veto putting anymore frogs in the bucket - I instructed the kids to observe the frogs and replace them gently.

Some of them were teeny tiny, very new to the world out of the water. Others had been around the block and were ready to venture forth into the world as a full-fledged frog. I would love to go to the wetland at night, I'm sure it must be a cacophony of sound!!

On the other end of the natural area there is a paved trail through the Pineland - Slash Pine, Saw Palmetto, Cabbage Palm, and Muscadine Grape flourish throughout. It is shady in the midst of the forest, a welcome reprieve to the pounding and intense Florida sun (almost summer here!). Ant Lion holes, burrows of all shapes and sizes, and triangular Armadillo digs speckle the sandy soil. Early in the day we saw a pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers and a male Cardinal flitting through the trees.

The Pineland is a bit higher in elevation than the rest of the area and is very dry. We have learned before that these lands require fire for the pines to stay healthy and dominant. It is quite overgrown with grape and other shrubs at the moment and could probably use some burning. In this crispy drought-like weather that wouldn't be such a good idea, as it would probably get too hot and burn it down.

As we walked we read informational cards that I had placed along the walkway, each card was written up with facts and trivia about frogs and toads. This hiking activity is called: "D'Juno?", aka "Did ya know?" - the child who finds the card first has to read it out loud to the rest of the group. It's a fun and challenging way to get information across - the kids almost tackled each other trying to get to the card first as we walked.

When we got to the shady pavilion out on the wetland, we had a snack and I told the story of Tiddalik the Thirsty Frog - about a frog from Australia who drinks up all the water; and the story of the Two Frogs, about two frogs from Japan who venture forth from their homes to discover new places. While reading, everytime I said "frog", the kids had to chirp "ribbit"!! Loads of froggy fun!!! To cement our learning, we chanted a jumping frog poem and looked at pictures of the life-cyle of a frog.

After playing with the real frogs for quite a long time, we went to dry ground and played "Leap Frog" and "Frogs and Mosquitoes", an adaptation of "Sharks and Minnows".

It was a hoppin good time!!

Even Spider Man/Bad Guy showed up!

These wonderful pictures were taken by some wonderful moms! Thanks guys!


  1. I love your blog. But I don't always have time to read it! I miss your field trips so and I'm glad you're still doing them. And blog when you can! It is ambitious to get all those photos in, isn't it? Living life is more important than blogging about it! Oh and come north to camp in the fall or else I'll have to come down there and get you!

  2. Now that looks like a busy day, and a rewarding one for the kids ...

  3. It was rewarding! Never a dull moment!

    Naomi,hope to get up there soon, for sure in the fall. Glad you like the blog, it's to replace pocket Christy!


Feel free to tell me what you think of the blog, I'd love to hear from you! Christy