Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Corkscrew Swamp

A 2.25-mile raised boardwalk takes visitors through several distinct habitats found within the 11,000-acre Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, including the largest remaining virgin bald cypress forest in North America. They are called "bald" because they lose their needles even though they are conifers. We heard the constant gentle drop of the needles as we walked the boardwalk. The small brown crunchy things on the boardwalk were not, in fact, part of the dropping needles, but "frass", or catepillar poop, one of the volunteers told us.
The Audubon Society was formed by Boston society matrons to save the egrets which were being exterminated to provide feathers for the ladies' hats fashionable at the time. We visited the camp where wardens kept watch for the poachers after killing the birds was banned. Two of the wardens were killed during this time.
We are looking for just a few new birds to add to our life list this week, including the Swallow-tailed Kite and Painted Bunting. We asked at the entrance desk where we might be likely to find the Bunting, and he pointed to a feeder just outside the window. "I saw one there just a little while ago." Well, isn't that the story of birding! The second suggestion was another feeder down the boardwalk. We headed down the path and spent about 10 very quiet minutes at the second feeder. Patience paid, and one Painted Bunting flew into the cage around the feeder staying long enough for a few photos. The feeder was hooked to a series of pulleys, with metal tubes at the ends. We assumed this was to protect the feeders from squirrels, but a sign said it was to keep bears away!
We proceeded down the 2.5 mile boardwalk, peering up in the branches and down into the brush for birds. This is an Audubon sanctuary, fer cryin' out loud! Where are all the birds?? We walked for over 1.5 miles before seeing any more birds after the Painted Bunting. It's a nice place, lots of different habitats, but we really thought ther would be more birds. Finally, we started hearing some cheeps, and small birds hopped around in the trees, backlit by the sun, and difficult to see. Ah, now I see one - very small, gray, and a white eye ring - a Blue-headed Vireo? Now that I'm checking the field guide, I'm not so sure. Some kind of warbler? AHA! I found it - a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Just a very quiet one.
A large Pileated Woodpecker flew through the trees calling loudly. A smaller woodpecker was tapping in another tree, and we finally tracked it down - a Yellow Bellied Sapsucker.
Red Shouldered Hawks are much more populous in Florida than they are in Kentucky, and two of them called loudly to each other as they circled the sanctuary. Don't know how early they begin courtship down here.
Shhh! another visitor motioned. Look over the rail. A Little Blue Heron slowly stepped down a submerged log, looking for small invertebrates in the water. Even the school children seemed to appreciate this little bird, and watched quietly so as not to disturb it.
Large leaved Alligator Flags line the pools of water along the boardwalk. Signs advised us that the Green Anole is the native, and more rare, species, while the browns ones are exotics and more common. We heard the leaves rattling and thought a small bird might be hopping in the branches, but found this terrific Green Anole instead. He wasn't disturbed by our photography, and eventually hopped over to the next bunch of leaves.
There are probably more ferns in the swamp than there are trees. They grow on the sides of trees, on top of the cypress knees, and on the trunks of fallen trees which act as nursery trees, just like we saw in the rain forests of Washington state.
This isn't the season for new fronds to come out, but one fern didn't seem to care and sprouted new fiddleheads all over its length.
Another smooth fronded fern displayed a texture that reminded me of alligator hide, but I don't think that was its name at all. Can you guess what this is? I love taking closeups!

1 comment:

Mary Howell Cromer said...

Looks like you had a great time from your summary and photo images~