Hi all,
A great day was enjoyed at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.
The pine flatwood and part of the prairie was still smoldering from a control burn conducted yesterday.
The wood was alive with little birds. We saw some big ones too! but the sheer number of vireos, warblers, goldfinches, gnatcatchers, etc was unique in my experience and I visit CSS fairly regularly. You had to watch out for them as they hawked for insects; I thought I was going to be dive bombed a couple of times!
And, so many bird voices echoing through the stately old growth forest! oh if you haven't been there you must go just for that experience.

Big highlights:

TWO barred owls. The volunteers had them on scopes at the farthest end of the long trail. They were perched on branches, 15-20 yards away, on opposite sides of the boardwalk. Trying to sleep but would sneak a peek at us every now and then.  My son and I heard them as we entered the sanctuary around 8:30 AM and had hoped for a sighting. Double rewards!! We had been worried about the owls since their nest cavity tree was lost in Wilma, now we are greatly reassured that we will continue to see them at CSS.  Speaking of double rewards:

TWO pileated woodpeckers almost near enough to touch. At Lettuce Lake boardwalk. The female was closest, she was digging grubs out of a rotted trunk and was not more than 4 or 5 feet away from us; the male was on the other side of the boardwalk working a fallen log about 8 feet away. They seemed oblivious to the rather large group of birders they attracted, continuing to work the wood for 15-20 minutes or so. 

Black crowned night heron on the nest. This bird obligingly nested in a tree at the edge of the lake, on the return route go past Lettuce Lake on the restricted trail (it's open, no woodstorks are nesting in that area this year) it is right across the lake from the bench about 15 yards. Someone will probably have it on a scope. They are incubating eggs which are expected to hatch in a week or so.

Woodstorks. Yes lots of them, flying all around, but they are nesting in the cypress on the far side of the marsh prairie so all you can see through the scope are little white spots in the trees. Go to the observation platform, look across the willows that have taken over the marsh, they are along the edges of the far wood.

American Goldfinch: They hang out at the thistle feeder. Cute but come back in a few weeks when the olive drab turns to gold. No buntings for us today.

Swallow tailed kite: other birders reported seeing two that morning but we were not so lucky.

My son Zack gets the eagle eye award for today. It was he who gave me my FOTS black and white warbler, and a nice little group of tufted titmice.

Total list for us this morning:

Barred Owls (2)
Pileated Woodpeckers (2 close in, plus 4 others flying)
Black crowned night heron (2, one on nest, other was roosting)
Woodstorks (10+ in flight)
Great crested flycatchers (2)
Red bellied woodpeckers (6+)
Blue gray gnatcatchers (10+)
White eyed vireos (6+) they seemed to be everywhere singing)
Blue headed vireos (2)
Tufted titmouse (4)
Downy woodpecker
Carolina wren (1 seen plus 3 or 4 others heard singing)
Black and white warblers (4+, after spotting the first, they seemed to be everywhere)
Palm warbler
Yellow rumped warbler
Gray catbirds (2 seen plus many heard)
White ibis (10+)
Little blue heron
Great blue heron
Snowy egret
Red shouldered hawk (2)
Northern cardinals

and the usual suspects;
Turkey vulture, grackles galore, etc

Other fun things we saw:
Red bellied turtles (4 on a log, big fat ones, near Lettuce Lake)
Alligator (Lettuce Lake)
Raccoon (sleeping, high up in a knothole, very cute)
Grey squirrels

Not bad for a four hour visit. Nothing can compare to Mother Nature for sheer entertainment value. Where else can you go for beauty, surprise, awe, comedy, drama -- guaranteed!  it leaves video games in the dust (I have this on good authority from 8 year olds).  So next time you go birding, bring a kid! and teach him/her what real fun this nature stuff is all about.

Gail Pettey
Naples, FL

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