We arrived back in Florida on Thursday, and on Saturday we drove out to stay on Marco Island for a couple of nights and meet up with some friends who are visiting family in Naples. We had planned time for birding while there, and on the way back and forth. On the first day our route took us out I-75 ("Alligator Alley") through the heart of the Everglades and Corkscrew Swamp.
We always look forward to our visits to the National Audubon Society Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, about 100 miles west of our South Florida home. During winter, it is a reliable place to see Painted Buntings and Pileated Woodpeckers, two very photogenic birds, not to mention the Red-shouldered Hawks, Barred Owls and all the herons that may be observed conveniently from the boardwalk.
Although other visitors said they had seen Painted Buntings at the feeders just outside the back door of the Center, we saw none and decided to look again on our way back. A pair of Common Ground-Doves fed on seed that had scattered under the feeders.
A female Northern Cardinal visited the feeder and got up close and personal.
A Red-bellied Woodpecker joined the feast.
Yes indeed, its belly is (a tiny bit) red!
An interpretive sign provided a map of the varied habitats as the boardwalk courses from the higher dry ground to the central marsh (click on images for enlarged views).
The well-maintained boardwalk loops 2.25 miles through these habitats. beginning with a dry Slash Pine woodland, a wet prairie, and this stand of Pond Cypress.
Near the start, a four foot long Yellow Rat Snake slithered slowly under the boardwalk,
A Southern Blue Flag Iris bloomed in the wet prairie.
A Barred Owl dozed not far from the edge of the boardwalk in an area of mature Bald Cypress and hardwoods.
At the Lettuce Lakes we saw long-legged waders, including this White Ibis.
A Little Blue Heron hunted in the pond...
...while a preening Great Blue Heron's contortions were amusing.
A roosting Great Egret scratched its chin.
Baby American Alligators were being watched over by a parent.
We did not get good looks at many warblers. Most were high in the canopy, but a Pine Warbler put in a brief appearance.
Northern Parulas were singing all around, but few provided open shots. This as about the best I could do.
Several Great Crested Flycatchers attracted attention by calling out "Weep!"
We got only fleeting glances at Pileated Woodpeckers and Red-shouldered Hawks, but were rewarded at the sight of two male Painted Buntings after we exited the boardwalk. If Mary Lou had not insisted on waiting at the back window for their return I would have missed the best photo opportunity I've ever had with this stunningly beautiful species. I took over 50 images and cannot decide on my favorite.
For old times' sake, here is a Red-shouldered Hawk I photographed at Corkscrew earlier this year. It is wearing "jewelry."