At approximately the halfway point of the boardwalk it branches off to a viewing platform overlooking marsh. Volunteers were available with a spotting scope showing a rookery of WOOD STORKS. The volunteers shared their keen knowledge of WOOD STORK nesting habits. This amazing bird is another reason Corkscrew was created and considered by renowned ornithologist Thomas Gilbert Pearson to be the most important nesting area for wading birds in Florida. A volunteer informed me that WOOD STORKS had not nested at this site for 4 years due to their precise needs of very specific water levels containing food sources necessary to raise their young. Excitement was evident amongst all volunteers knowing the WOOD STORKS had returned! WOOD STORKS are currently classified as “endangered” but may well be upgraded to “threatened” status due to establishing nesting areas within Georgia and South Carolina.
I continued my trek along the boardwalk arriving at a viewing area overlooking a small pond where there were benches to sit and observe the activity before you. Present among the trees was the ubiquitous ANHINGA also known as the snake bird for its ability to swim under water and revealing only its head and neck when coming to the surface for air. I continued to observe the bushes around the pond and discovered to my surprise 3 YELLOW CROWNED NIGHT HERONS blending in perfectly to the surroundings. Another species for my life list!
A very short distance from the pond area was a marshy spot that was drawing an interest from other visitors. It took a few seconds to realize the interest was directed at a PURPLE GALLINULE foraging through the marsh for food. These usually secretive birds are difficult to view at any time but this one could be viewed and photographed with ease.
This area is known as Lettuce Lakes given the swamp lettuce growing in the waters. The final body of water along the boardwalk showed views of WHITE IBIS, ANHINGA, LITTLE BLUE HERON, BLACK CROWNED NIGHT HERON, BELTED KINGFISHER and GREAT EGRET. In addition to the birds, an AMERICAN ALLIGATOR was sunning himself conveniently draped over a small island.
I was told of a resident BARRED OWL by volunteers who suggested it was best viewed early in the morning. I returned the following day and sure enough 15 minutes into my walk I heard its call “who cooks for you”. I was in the vicinity of Lettuce Lakes when I noticed another visitor taking photographs next to the boardwalk. Upon my approach I couldn’t believe it the BARRED OWL was posing for photos and appeared comfortable to be around people. I took my photos and left the owl to continue on with its day.
One of the most interesting plants of the swamp is the GHOST ORCHID. This is an endangered and protected species native to southwest Florida and Cuba. The plant received its name because it has no leaves and when seen in full bloom appears to be hanging in midair. The GHOST ORCHID can be very difficult to see as it usually grows on the trunks of Cypress Trees located in hardwood hammocks, sloughs and cypress domes, up to 50 feet off the ground. Lastly, the GHOST ORCHID is pollinated by the giant Sphinx moth, the only insect with a proboscis long enough.
There are many interesting species of mammals, amphibians, reptiles found in the swamp including white-tailed deer, raccoon, gray squirrels, river otters, green and brown anoles, turtles such as the red-bellied, peninsula ribbon snake as well as the pig and green tree frog.
The Corkscrew Sanctuary resource management practices include prescribed fire. Prescribed fires have many benefits such as controlling disease in young pine trees, reduction of hazardous fuel and improve the habitat quality for wildlife. In addition to this Corkscrew has developed a sustainable practice of managing waste water.
Corkscrew has far too much diversity to cover in one blog posting. I witnessed visitors of all ages walking through the Sanctuary for many different reasons. The one visitor that stood out the most was one who may have had it right. He simply sat at a bench and took in the experience as a matter of his daily routine revealing the days awakening of sounds that feed the soul.
In a free publication offered in the book shop, the front cover had a quote from John Muir (Scottish- American Naturalist and Founder of the Sierra Club) “I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in”. I feel this is a very accurate statement when you visit this important sanctuary because you want to stick around awhile!