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Florida Wildlife at the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
Located in the Western Everglades about 20 miles east of Bonita Springs, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and the Blair Audubon Center provides an amazing and informative experience of native Florida wildlife.
The 13,000 acre wildlife sanctuary takes its name from the Corkscrew River (now known as the Imperial River) which meanders with deep twists and turns through the region. The area has been protected as a bird sanctuary by the National Audubon Society since 1912, and owned by them since 1954.
First stop should be the theater for an informative sound and light presentation about the residents of the sanctuary which include alligators, black bears, raccoons, snakes and over 200 species of birds. The boardwalk is made of sustainable pau-lope hardwood which is now part of the scenery as it is covered in patches of lichen. Although the full length of the boardwalk circuit is 2.25 miles, there is a shortcut to return along a shorter loop if required.
It was fascinating to stroll along within touching distance of ancient bald cypress, palms, ferns, flowering shrubs, and marsh plants. If you stopped to look carefully, the marsh plants were covered in tiny white, yellow, red, and blue flowers which can easily be missed, so do take your time!
With the help of our Companion Field Guide to the reserve, we identified pickerelweed, broad leaved arrowheads, buttonbush, water dropwort, and even the solitary red bloom of an enormous swamp hibiscus. Air plants (epiphytes) were perched in tree crevices and in one area, strangler figs could be seen creating a sturdy support network on their chosen host tree.
Bird song, insect noises, twitters, chirps and shrieks add natural background noise to your peaceful walk. Sound easily carries over the still wetland, so do be aware that your voice can be heard far away too! We heard a woodpecker hammering into the top of a huge cypress tree, the lion-like roar of an alligator, and the squawks and grunts of vultures squabbling over a tasty kill. Bright orange Ruddy Daggerwing Butterflies flitted around, clearly in butterfly paradise, and there were hairy caterpillars, wading birds and many spiders on their perfectly formed webs.
If I sound incredibly knowledgeable, then Iíll let you into a secret. The boardwalk is patrolled by rangers who are happy to stop, answer questions, and identify flowers and creatures. They also walk the boardwalk adding temporary signs to the balustrades pointing out the web of a spotted orb weaver, or a black and yellow argiope spider with its long black and yellow banded legs. These useful signs helped us to spot nesting sites, a yellow rat snake sleeping in the hole of a tree, and a rare ghost orchid high in a tree. There are also a series of interpretive boards giving bite-sized chunks of information as you walk.
Corkscrew After Hours
You may want to return to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and join one of their monthly evening projects which have themes such as bats, bird migration, stargazing and other topics. Specialists are brought in to enhance the educational experience, with equipment such as telescopes and bat detectors to listen to the bats foraging and feeding. Hear hooting owls and croaking frogs; identify planets and stars, and spot the glowing amber eyes of alligators under a bright moon as you walk the boardwalk at night.
Hereís a great book for those visiting Fort Myers, Sanibel or Naples in southwest Florida
Itís also available as a downloadable ebook from Amazon:
Days Out Around Fort Myers (Days Out in Florida)
Content copyright © 2013 by Gillian Birch. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Gillian Birch. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Gillian Birch for details.
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