A little more than an hour’s drive from our south Florida home, Corkscrew Swamp is located within the largest remaining virgin Bald Cypress forest in North America. A boardwalk provides access to six distinct habitats: pine flatwood, wet prairie, pond cypress, marsh, lettuce lakes, and bald cypress forest. Enjoy a virtual tour of the 2 1/4 mile boardwalk at this link.
The boardwalk loop begins and ends in the flatwoods, where Slash Pine, Cabbage Palms and palmetto predominate in the dry sandy soil. Several woodpecker species may be expected here. We saw three or four Pileated Woodpeckers, but none of them posed for my camera.
We heard the songs of many White-eyed Vireos, but only this one, in a willow at the edge of the wet prairie, provided a photo opportunity:
Numerous Common Grackles were busy carrying nest materials. Other small birds abounded. Among them were Northern Cardinals, Northern Parulas, Palm and Pine Warblers, Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, House and Carolina Wrens, Eastern Phoebes, and Blue-headed Vireos.
Although the parula warblers foraged high in the canopy, several Black and White Warblers gleaned the cypress trunks:
Nearby, a volunteer naturalist pointed out a Red-shoulder’s nest containing two downy chicks:
The egret flew up to preen in a small tree, showing off its breeding-season plumes:
Not far away, a Striped Mud Turtle basked in the sunlight:
Swallow-tailed Kites spend the nights in large roosts near the sanctuary. Many wheeled overhead, but I found it impossible to capture them through the leaves of the cypress trees.
Sadly, no Wood Storks were present. This should be the height of their breeding season, but they have failed to breed at Corkscrew for the second season in a row. The reasons for this failure are not entirely understood. This winter’s drought, the worst in 80 years, and near-freezing temperatures in mid-winter very likely contributed to this year’s failure. The winter of 2008-2009 was a banner year for the storks at Corkscrew. Visit this link for historic records and more information about the exacting conditions required for successful reproduction of the storks: Wood Stork Nesting Data for Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Also see Struggling Storks, which discusses their unique habitat requirements.
Over a year ago, a large number of immature Wood Storks, products of the successful 2008-2009 season, spilled over into our neighborhood, decorating this dead tree near our home:
I shared the joy of the sightings with John and Barry on this delightful morning: