On our last full day, we decided to visit Corkscrew Swamp. It is known as one of the 5 best birding spots in the U.S. at the right time of year. We were not there at the right time, but we did see a few things, and found the place very interesting. We started off down the 2.25 mile boardwalk that weaves thru the swamp and talked to a volunteer who knew a few things about what we were about to see. As we chatted him up, a Red-shouldered Hawk landed on the railing about 6 feet from us. We grabbed our cameras, took some shots and then he flew to a nice Cypress Tree to perch on. I preferred these photos much better in their natural setting, so I posted this one:
(Blogger made this photo quite blurry, so it is worth the click to enlarge for detail!)
From there we trekked the boardwalk to a rain shelter with a nice view of the swamp and looked for Alligators. We found this guy hiding in plain sight:
After that, we wound thru the swamp, stopped at a spotting scope set up by the Audobon Society to look at a Ghost Orchid, then continued our journey. I have to say, that we saw nothing more. We still had miles of boardwalk to travel, and were excited to do so, but our interest faded pretty quickly in the 100 degree heat without a new bird to impress us.
So after walking the 2.25 miles, we decided we needed a beach, so we went to Marco Island for some fun in the sun. Here is a Sandwich Tern flying under a nice canopy of clouds.
And then the Tern was interested in what a Brown Pelican just dove for and tried to weasel in on his success.
At one particular beach, we were very lucky and found a Gopher Tortoise. (Click photo to see the rows of teeth!)
A few facts about Gopher Tortoises: They can live up to 100 years! Hatchlings are 1-2 inches long and grow 3/4 inch a year. Adults can grow to as big as 16 inches and can weigh about 30 pounds. It reaches sexual maturity between 12 and 15 years of age, when their shells are about 9 inches long. The tortoise featured here was very large and I would put him at about 16 inches.
I had such a great time in Florida! When we first envisioned going to Ding Darling along with various other sights, we didn't know what to expect. After being there, I would absolutely recommend it to everyone who loves wildlife!