In the fall of 2006, I assigned myself the task of photographing all the birds in the heron family, over 60 species of birds. I look forward to the travels in the coming years to achieve my goal. I chose southern Florida as my first stop since it is home to about a dozen species of herons, and they're pretty accessible. Plus, southern Florida boasts two morphs of the Great Blue Heron known as the Great White Heron and Wurdemann's Heron.
(...continued from Part Three.)
Sunday was the last full day in the Fort Myers area for Carol and I. We'd spent time at both Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Both places provided a wonderul selection of birds, and after some thought we decided to return to Corkscrew because of the excellent photo opportunities it had provided on the previous visit.
We arrived at Corkscrew around 8am. It was around 70 degrees, the sky was clear, and there was a slight breeze. Out the window of the Blair Audubon Center, which serves as the entrance to the sanctuary, I noticed movement at one of the bird feeders. It didn't take much effort to identify the bird...it was a male Painted Bunting. The colors in this bird are so vibrant and beautiful, and it looks...well...like it was painted. Go figure. Even though I wasn't able to get any shots, I felt especially fortunate to see it up close and be able add it to my life list. Other birds seen near the sanctuary entrance were Red-shouldered Hawk, Northern Cardinal, Common Grackle, Mourning Dove, and Red-bellied Woodpecker.On our way to the lettuce lakes, we made a stop at the feeder where we waited for the Painted Bunting the first day. We were able to see a few warblers: Northern Parula, Black-and-white Warbler, and the "Butter Butt" Yellow-rumped Warbler. Carol again took the longer path around the sanctuary, while I headed straight for the lettuce lakes. As I arrived at the lakes, I immediately noticed that there weren't the amount many birds as I'd seen on Friday, though there were still a good variety, including Anhinga, Wood Stork, White Ibis, Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, and Tricolored Heron. There were also less people. It was a few hours earlier in the day than when we were there the first time, and with the tall trees around, the sunlight also hadn't yet hit the water. Nevertheless, there was still plenty to watch. Two American Alligators trolled the bottom of the larger pond for some grub, and after a while, one of them decided to mosey on over to the smaller pond. There were more birds feeding and as the alligator made its introduction, I figured there'd be some rustling. Instead, as the gator approached, they simply parted and watched as it passed. As soon as they were about even with its belly, they went back to feeding.
I spent a few hours here watching the birds and talking to the volunteers. Most of them are "snowbirds", just visiting Florida for the winter, and volunteering at Corkscrew a few times a week. What a wonderful way to spend the winter!After a while, I headed for the northen lake where I'd seen the Belted Kingfisher the time before. (See Part Two.) There wasn't a whole lot of action, but then I heard some drumming. It was much deeper of a sound than I'd heard before. I rounded the corner and saw some movement up in the trees. A Pileated Woodpecker was working his way around a tree. It decided to stop on the side of the tree I was on and start up its power chisel. It was fascinating to watch as this woodpecker tapped a few times to start a hole. Once there was a dent, it worked the right side, then the left. It didn't take long until there was hole an inch or two deep. It was hard to tell if the bird got a meal for its efforts, but it decided there wasn't any more the hole could offer and took off out of sight. What an awesome bird!
I headed back to the other lakes and continued to watch the feeding birds. A flock of Cedar Waxwings flew over. It was a little after noon, and Carol and I were getting hungry, so we headed to the Blair Audubon Center to get some food.
After filling the tanks with some more fuel, we headed back out on the boardwalk. This time I finally decided to walk the full trail and hit the observation deck. What an amazing view!There was about a 240-degree panorama overlooking the trees that populated the undisturbed back side of the sanctuary, where there are no trails and the wildlife are left pretty much left to themselves. We didn't really see much though, just a perched Black Vulture and quick fly-by of a Turkey Vulture. We hung around for about 45 minutes, talking to the dozen or so people that stopped by. Most of them were fairly local residents, and recommended that we stop at Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park on our way to the Everglades. We continued on, back toward the lettuce lakes. On the way, however, one of the volunteers pointed out a Barred Owl that was snoozing on a branch high in the trees. It was facing away, but I pointed the scope at it anyway and a few other passers-by got to get a good look. I hooked up my camera to it and managed to get some QuickTime video of it preening itself. To watch it, you must have QuickTime installed.
We stopped at the lettuce lakes for a little while before starting back toward the visitor's center. Another volunteer had spotted another Barred Owl. It was facing us this time, but it was still obscured a little by some leaves. Still, it was good to see it. On the way back to the visitor's center, we managed to add Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Gray Catbird, Blue-headed Vireo, and White-eyed Vireo.
A little part of me was sad to leave Corkscrew, but I knew I would definitely be back some day. If you're ever in the Naples area, I highly recommend stopping by Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary to visit the birds.
(Continue to Part Five)
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