Wednesday, May 28, 2014

An enchanted day at the Audubon Corkscrew Sanctuary

I always enjoy my time in western Florida, particularly while exploring the areas surrounding Naples. My time at Audubon's Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary was no exception. 

My day started off with my "trusty" GPS taking me to the wrong end of the preserve, but hey -- it's an adventure, right? Once I shut off the GPS, I was able to navigate out of the maze of potholed back roads and locate the entrance of the Sanctuary.

The weather was humid and just cool enough to inhibit the activity of any pesky mosquitoes or flies, but not too cold for the lovely Eastern Lubber Grasshopper in the above photo. I spent a few minutes with that 'biggun,' who was larger than my thumb. I was lucky enough to get a photo of her (it was almost assuredly a female, given her size and the fact that most grasshopper females are larger than their male counterparts) with the morning dew still clinging to her face and eyes.

It was at this Sanctuary that I started to fall in love with Alligator Flag, the green, leafy plant you see in the preceding photo. They waved slowly in the wind, and whenever a water droplet fell from the branches above them, it would slap the broad leaves with a resounding, hollow *SPLAT* that echoed across the swamp.

 There were little informative signs placed on the boardwalk throughout the swamp. This one was situated on the railing right over all that lovely lichen you see in the above photo.

The most magical moment of the day occurred after I made the decision to move slowly and very quietly down a side branch of the boardwalk. I turned the corner....

...and I spotted not one, but TWO otters! They were chortling and gamboling about as only otters do. One of them climbed up onto the boardwalk to groom himself while his partner wandered forward underneath. I was overwhelmed by how amazing these creatures were, and I am unashamed to admit that this dual sighting brought me to tears. I was staring at them for so long that I almost forgot to take a photo!

After the two otters wandered off into the depths of the swamp, I explored onward. The swamp's famous Ghost Orchid was not in bloom, but I was able to see the plant itself with the help of a diagram on the boardwalk. You can read more about the Ghost Orchid, its prime blooming period, and other plants inhabiting the swamp right here.

I had so much fun here; the Sanctuary is lovingly well-maintained by the staff and volunteers, and the plants and animals are all so beautiful and plentiful. I even managed to spot a pair of (my personal favorite) Sandhill Cranes on my drive out of the Sanctuary.

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