‍02.09.20: Hawk looking back

Corkscrew is an important breeding area for endangered wood storks and other wetland birds. It is also a wintering area for other birds, like the painted bunting. 

Swamp sanctuary 

a wildlife haven

‍I have a number of favorite places for wildlife photography. The site topping the list often depends on the region of the country I’m in at that time.

‍But Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, a National Audubon Society sanctuary in southwest Florida, is always on the list.

‍I photographed this Red-shouldered Hawk perched on a limb in Corkscrew in 2018. The bird was one of a number of hawks I saw on that visit. 

‍But Corkscrew is more than hawks. The sanctuary is filled with the full range of southwest Florida wildlife: alligators, pileated woodpeckers, snakes, herons, egrets, limpkins, owls, raccoons and many other animals.

‍Corkscrew is an important breeding area for endangered wood storks and other wetland birds. It is also a wintering area for other birds, like the painted bunting.

‍It’s not a zoo. It’s a natural area. So there’s no guarantee a visitor will see anything. And it’s not the biggest park I visit for photography. The public boardwalk is less than two miles long, accessing only a small portion of the 17-square-mile wetland. But I almost always see something interesting on a visit.

‍The sanctuary was established in 1954 to protect on of the nation’s largest remaining stands of cypress trees — both the pond cypresses and bald cypresses — from logging. By protecting the cypress trees, the Audubon Society also protected a swampy wetlands that served as an important area for wildlife.

‍All this factors into Corkscrew’s place on my favorites list, but the primary reason involves memories.

‍My wife and I first visited Corkscrew in 1976, while honeymooning in Naples to the southeast of the sanctuary. We wanted to see Florida wildlife so we drove to Corkscrew, which at that time was in the middle of nowhere. We saw nesting wood storks and were amazed by their lack of gracefulness as they landed in or near their treetop nests. It wasn’t exactly a landing. It was more like a controlled crash. And we saw many alligators and snakes near the boardwalk. We made annual visits to the sanctuary for the next few years. It was something we looked forward to.

‍Corkscrew is still full of wildlife but it’s no longer in the middle of nowhere. The ongoing development in southwest Florida has new communities nearing the sanctuary area. It probably won’t be long until Corkscrew is an island of nature surrounded by buildings and people, kind of like a southwest Florida version of New York City’s Central Park.

‍I’m not sure how the wildlife will react to that.

A Red-shouldered Hawk perches in Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Naples, Fla.

A Red-shouldered Hawk  perches in Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Naples, Fla.

‍Tech specs

  • Date/time: Jan. 25, 2018, 11:09 a.m.
  • Location: 26°22'27.755" N 81°36'32.046" W (Show in Google Maps)
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  • Lens: Canon EF 600mm f/4L, Canon 1.4x teleconverter (840mm) 
  • Aperture: f/5.6
  • Shutter: 1/1000th second
  • ISO: 1600

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