Hiding in the swamp

Dick said he had something special to show us.  He pointed to something that appeared to be off in the distance and asked if we could see the jingle bell orchid.  We all looked.  No one could see it.

He put his hand out carefully and pointed to the entire, very small plant growing on a slender tree stem within easy reach and then lifted two tiny seedpods for us to see.

Those seedpods gave it it’s name – jingle bell orchid.  In the continental US, you’ll only find this orchid in southern Florida.

We were in Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, home to birds, panthers, and alligators – as well as one of North America’s largest tracts of bald cypress trees.

We were there to see birds, but, as we walked on the elevated 2.25 mile (3.62 km) boardwalk through the swamp, our first notable sightings were orchids.

We were intent on observing the swamp habitat. Dick, our guide, led the hike, but everyone was watching and that led to so many more wonderful sightings. Someone in the group spotted an almost 5-foot long Southern black racer snake.  We watched from the boardwalk as it slithered off behind a nearby tree.  Dick showed us the largest ghost orchid discovered in the world – though we are sad to say it wasn’t currently in bloom.  He also showed us apple snail shells and blood lichens.

We didn’t miss seeing the swamp lily surrounded by ferns.

Where were the birds?  As the sun rose higher and the air warmed, the birds started to appear.  Often they were hard to spot.

Someone called out for us to see the green heron.  Can you find it?  We looked and finally had to ask for help to find the “hidden” heron.

Here’s a closer look at the green heron, found in the center of the photo above.

We ended up seeing 4 species of birds that we’d never seen before and over 30 species total.  That was a good morning for us!  Could we have seen most of those many wonderful things on our own?  Never.

Dick told us that, in past years, so many visitors had complained as they left Corkscrew that they didn’t see anything at all so the Sanctuary greatly increased the number of guided walks.

Now more visitors can see the many riches hiding in plain sight in the swamp with guides and other fellow visitors to help.

January 2019

About simpletravelourway

Beth and Joe enjoy simple travel.
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7 Responses to Hiding in the swamp

  1. Four new birds – Hurray! Having accompanied you and Joe on our marvelous birding tour last year in Cambodia, I have a deep appreciation for what a truly knowledgeable guide can see that’s invisible to us lesser mortals. And even walking with you and Joe many times, I couldn’t see some of the more obvious birds even with good binoculars and plenty of hints. Knowing what and where to look is definitely a finely honed skill requiring years of practice! P.S. I finally found the green heron! 😁 Anita

    • When we’re in unfamiliar territory, it really helps to have a guide because they know what’s there and where to look. We so often see birds, but still have problems with identifying them. A few days ago we were in a great area for bird watching and got talking to another traveling birdwatcher. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a little flash. A bird had landed on a tree branch so close by. What was it? We three looked, took photos, and couldn’t figure out what it was. That night I looked at the photo and identified it as a northern mockingbird – a very, very common bird. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen often – but more than we like to admit. That guided birdwatching day in Cambodia was quite amazing for all that we saw! It certainly was beyond our expectations.

  2. Beth and Joe – I think it’s very smart of all those birds to have clever disguises. Unfortunate for the bird-watching crowd, true, but really really good for survival 😉 – Susan

  3. I’m glad you didn’t come across any panthers and alligators during your walk. Those orchids are so tiny, you wouldn’t know to look for them without a helper.

    • Oh, we did see an alligator in the swamp waters but it was hiding from us. Since seeing the jingle bell orchids, we looked for them in another nearby swamp but couldn’t find any. So glad he pointed the orchid out to us as that may be the only time we’ll ever see one.

  4. leggypeggy says:

    A guided walk can make all the difference in what you are able to see.

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