Friday, November 12, 2010

Ghost Orchid - a Visit to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

Thursday, November 11th

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is a jewel, owned and operated by the Audubon Society in eastern Collier County. The lands were acquired at the time to save the last stand of ancient bald cypress as well as preserve an important nesting rookery for the endangered wood stork.
Currently the storks are away, but nesting should began, as long as conditions are favorable, around January. But another treasure is to be found here in one of the rarest orchids to be found in Florida.  The Ghost Orchid.
On my visit the orchid was in bloom. A single blossom. When the plant was first discovered, here at Corkscrew a few years ago, people were coming here from all over the US and abroad to see this rare plant. This rare species was also the subject of a non-fiction book called 'The Orchid Thief' by Susan Orlean.  The book was later is adopted in Meryl Streep's film Adaptation (2002).
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
 My visit was not to see the orchid but to see what birds could be found.  Warblers, vireos and buntings were my targets on the day. Also Yellow-billed Cuckoos were being reported.  The water level was to high for there to be a lot of wading birds.  But I was more interesed in the little birds.
Red-Shouldered Hawks are common here
 Started out about 8:30 in the morning and spent some time waiting on any hummingbirds at the gardens at the front of Blair House. But none appeared as I watched.  So onto the boardwalk. First checked the feeders at the back porch for painted buntings. No buntings at this time. Then checking for brown-headed nuthatches in the pines at the start of the boardwalk.  But not on this day. Did find several Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers though.  The days most common bird. Several Gray Catbirds were also heard.  The first of several Red-Shouldered Hawks was seen.
The beginning of the walk was frustrating as so many birds could be heard, but not seen. Especially Common Yellowthroats. But at about half way things improved when Yellow-billed Cuckoo flew into a small tree within a few feet of the boardwalk. Following this, were a couple of mixed feeding flocks featuring more gnatcatchers and Tufted Titmice.  A pair of Great Crested Flycatchers were active and was able to add five more warblers imcluding Palm, Prairie, Black-and-White, Northern Parula and Pine Warblers. Also found White-Eyed and Blue-Headed Vireos.
A huge Alligator basking in the morning sun
At the Lettuce Lakes was found a pair of Anhingas resting in the trees, plus a sleeping Black-Crowned Nightheron. Also here was a huge alligator basking in the sun on a island on the lake. It was disappointing to miss the buntings and hummingbirds, but the cuckoo made up for it.  A family of three Sandhill Cranes was also seen along Immokolee Road just prior to the turn onto to Sanctuary Road on the way into Corkscrew Swamp.
My List - (28)
Anhinga, Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Turkey Vulture, Red-shouldered Hawk, Sandhill Crane, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Great Crested Flycatcher, White-eyed Vireo, Blue-headed Vireo, Tree Swallow, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Gray Catbird, Northern Parula, Pine Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Palm Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Cardinal, Boat-tailed Grackle


  1. How exciting that you saw this ghost orchid bloom in November! That wonderful marvel started blooming at the end of March and another bloom in November is positively amazing! I need to add that another novel was inspired specifically by the ghost orchid of Corkscrew Swamp, Ghost Orchid by D. K. Christi and a trailer is found at produced by Darryl Saffer, award-winning Environmental filmmaker with his original Corkscrew Swamp video and original music: Ghost Orchid by D. K. Christ. Ghost Orchid is found at all online print and ebook sellers, B&N stores and the gift shop at Corkscrew Swamp. It's a great gift for all occasions, a story of family, roots and praised by NPR Reviews for the beauty of the Everglades that shines through on every page.

  2. Sounds like you had a great trip to a wonderful place... I cannot even imagine birding somewhere where I have to keep my eyes peeled for gators!

  3. Since you're on an elevated boardwalk the entire time at Corkscrew, the only alligators will be off the boardwalk.

    Here is a great resource for seeing what the ghost orchid looks like in flower:

    Ghost Orchid Information Page


  4. Received my 2011 Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary annual update newsletter this week.

    R.J Wiley's photo of a Sandhill Crane chasing a deer is amazing.

    Judy Johansen was noted as volunteer of the year at the sanctuary with an image taken of her (and her popular hat) in December 2007 seen here . . .

    Prem's comment about the gators off the boardwalk can't be applied to Black Bear.

    Nice find of the YBC, Tom.