Wednesday, January 28, 2015

1/28 Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

I worked most of yesterday, so decided that today would be a fun day at the Audabon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, which is about 50 miles from here.  It has been one of my favorite places in Florida since I discovered it way back in 1980.  I visit it at least once or twice whenever I am in southern Florida.  There is always something worthwhile to see, although today was a little disappointing because I did not see many birds.  One cause was probably the number of people visiting and another was the cool temperature.  The volunteers said the birds were more active earlier in the morning, and I did not get there until about 10:30 a.m.  

If you ever get a chance to come here, early morning is best.  The 2.25 mile boardwalk takes a leisurely couple of hours.  Please wear rubber-soled shoes so you can walk quietly.  Whispering will mean you will see more birds, also. 

The first time I visited here, there were hundreds of wood storks nesting.  Unfortunately, this species is endangered and seldom nests any more and when it does, it does so in smaller numbers.  Apparently, for whatever reasons, the species is moving into Georgia and South Carolina, where it is doing slightly better.

There is a very nice visitor center with a small cafĂ© and nice gift shop.  You can even rent binoculars if you forget to bring any.

The boardwalk as it enters the bald cypress area of the marsh.

Neat to look up at these impressive bald cypress.  They are bald because they lose their leaves in winter.  Some of these trees live hundreds of years, and mature cypress tress are the only places wood storks will nest.

A fern growing on a cypress knee.

There are many ferns, air plants, and even orchids in the swamp.  However, I have no idea what this flower is.  I cannot find it anywhere.

These next two purple flowers are alligator flags.

And this is a lance-leaved arrowhead.

And a very pretty swamp lily.

This is a cardinal air plant. 
This is a great egret.  You can tell it from a great white heron because it has black legs and, during breeding season, beautiful lacy feathers down its back.

This is a cottonmouth curled up on a cypress knee just below the boardwalk.

I believe this turtle is a common cooter because of the height of his back.

And although it is hard to tell from this photo, this is one VERY big alligator!  His back was at least 15-18' high, and he was no doubt at least 10-12' long.  The most impressive thing about him, however, was how well-fed he looked.  He must have weight a few hundred pounds.

He is very hard to see because he blends in so well with the trees, but this is a male barred owl.  His head is behind the small branch, but you can see the striped pattern of his feathers.  The rangers said his mate is in a nearby tree cavity, hopefully incubating eggs.  They said he does a lot of calling in early morning and dusk, when she answers him back. 

This heavy-duty fence with the barbed wire might look as if it is guarding a prison or a military installation, but in reality, it is intended to prevent Florida panthers from crossing a busy highway.  It is on both sides of the road, and there are large culverts that go underneath the road so the animals have a safe place to cross.  There are several stretches of this fencing along the Big Cypress National Preserve and in the Everglades. 

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