Monday, January 19, 2015

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and Blair Audubon Center

To understand the history of this preserve, and how it came to be saved as a park, perhaps it is necessary to go back to 1886.  An ornithologist, F.Chapman, counted 40 different native birds, or bird parts, decorating three-fourths of 700 women's hats in New York city.  Outrage over the slaughter of those birds led to the founding of Audubon Societies in many states of our nation.  Until that point in time plume hunters were quite active in Corkscrew Swamp.  In the 1950s this swamp in the Everglades was also threatened by logging companies who wanted the old-growth cypress strand located here.  Citizens formed the Corkscrew Cypress Rookery Association and, working with the Audubon Society, purchased what forest was left here.  We received a lot of this information at the visitor's center, our first stop before hiking the 2.5 mile boardwalk through the swamp.  Outside of the center we saw a red bellied woodpecker at a feeding station.
This is a wonderful place for bird watching.  We were told it would take us 21/2 hours to get through the swamp, but it was more like three hours for us because of the time we took to look for birds.  More often than not it was the bird's calls or songs which helped us find them.  We heard a lot of mewing from the cat bird, and several hawks flying overhead created a raucous din.  I was also surprised to hear an owl.  It is most likely only the barred owl which can be heard in the daytime, and toward the end of our walk we found him.  A park ranger pointed him out to us, as well as the nest which the owl was protecting.
 We could not see the nest as it was hidden within a tree hollow, but we could hear the cries of the young ones.  They seemed to realize that papa was near them and would perhaps have food for them. 
We saw numerous egrets, ibis, and an occasional heron.  As you can see in the picture above, they are difficult to find amongst the dense vegetation of the swamp.  The little blue heron pictured above we happened to find only because we were looking at a alligator hanging out on a log near him.  
We were told by the naturalist at Wild Turkey that where ever there is a path or road, animals will use it to cross from one place to another- maybe that is why there are panther crossing signs on the roads here in Florida!  In the picture above we chanced to see a racoon on the boardwalk in front of us.  Upon seeing us he quickly dove into the swamp and swam away.  I will save my discussion of the plants and trees found in the swamp for my next posting.

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