My blog has been quiet this past week because I was on a mostly-internet free trip to Southwest Florida, visiting some of my favorite people in the world and some of my favorite places, too. There were warm afternoons reading by the pool and long walks on the beach. There were boat rides and dolphins and far too many ice cream cones. And there were two lovely sunrise walks at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.
If you want to see what Florida was like before the condominiums rose and the roads were all paved, and you want to see all that without having close encounters with venomous snakes (that was a different hike last week…and a blog post for another day), then Corkscrew Swamp is just about perfect. The boardwalk here loops around for just over two miles, through prairie and cypress woods and swamp. You never know what you’ll see along the way.
The feeders just outside the visitor center were crowded with birds when we arrived. That’s an indigo bunting on the left, a female painted bunting on the right. And here’s a male painted bunting…
This barred owl few right in front of us, then perched on a tree to be admired. This was the first time I’ve seen a barred owl at Corkscew, though we’ve heard them before. Their call is deep and throaty… Whooo…Whooo…Who-cooks-for-yooouu?
I’m always amazed by how close the wading birds pass to the alligators in these small lakes. One of the volunteers said he saw an alligator eat a wood stork the other day, but this heron just walked quietly past, unharmed.
We watched this egret hunt for about fifteen minutes. He seemed to be annoyed with the wood stork nearby that kept catching fish and seemingly playing with them before he finally swallowed them.
Dude…are you going to eat that or what?
The trees at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary are full of beautiful bromeliads.
The swamp is also home to a famous flower — a ghost orchid high on a cypress tree that flower lovers call the “super-ghost” because it has so many blooms some seasons. It wasn’t flowering when we were there, but when it does, in the summer, it’s front page news. This great video from the Audobon Society shows how the rare flower is pollinated.
If you have the opportunity to hike at Corkscrew, don’t miss it. You’ll want to arrive when they first open, at 7am. If you go much later this time of year, the deer flies will be biting. Bring binoculars. And a camera. And a quiet sense of wonder. You won’t be disappointed.