April 2, 2014

A Wonderful Morning at Corkscrew Swamp

One place that we always visit when we do a Florida road trip is Corkscrew Swamp, a 14,000 acre Audubon preserve that is easily accessed from the Naples area. It has a 2.2 mile boardwalk through a variety of habitats and we always see interesting plants, birds and other animals. This red-shouldered hawk greeted us as we entered the area:

The edges of the preserve have a lot of open grassland:

The sunshine in these areas allows some lovely wildflowers to bloom like these blue-flag iris:

Most of the preserve, however, is very wet with dense vegetation. Huge baldcypress trees dominate the canopy and some have been encircled by strangler figs:

Many different types of ferns grow in the dim light:

Some scenes seem almost primeval:

Here an anhinga waits for unwary prey:

Many trees are covered with epiphytic plants such as resurrection ferns, and, rarely, orchids. Sadly, most wild orchids in Florida that were at all accessible have been illegally taken for private use or for the nursery trade. Most, if not all, soon die because their complex need for partnership with specific types of fungi cannot be met in a home garden. We were, though, able to see a couple of blooming epiphytic orchids, with the help of a preserve volunteer. They were pretty far away from the boardwalk but it was exciting to see them regardless. Here is a lovely yellow Epidendrum amphistomum; I don't think it deserves its common name of dingy-flowered star orchid!

And this is called delicate ionopsis:

It was located about 50 feet from the boardwalk and beyond the range of my camera, but we did see one later in the trip that was closer:

We spotted several terrestrial orchids called beaked orchids or scarlet ladies' tresses as we walked along the boardwalk. They are similar to our ladies' tresses orchids, although the beaked orchids are much bigger and the ladies' tresses are all white.

We couldn't miss this young alligator basking in what little sun reaches through the trees:

And way back in the forest the barred owl enthralled many visitors who had binoculars:

One of the most spectacular birds of south Florida is the painted bunting, which is a frequent visitor to feeders at the preserve:

As we left the boardwalk and the preserve, we were thrilled to see a soaring swallow-tailed kite, a raptor that, according to preserve naturalists, had returned from its winter home in South America just a few weeks before our visit. Photos can't really capture its elegance and incredible flying skill but here is an attempt:

Corkscrew Swamp is a popular and worthwhile destination for any visit to south Florida!

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