Sunday, November 30, 2008

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

Corkscrew Swamp is located about 15 miles of I75 east of Naples. It is owned by the Audubon Society. It was the first major action from the newly started organization. In the late 1800's womens fashion turned towards big hats with pretty feathers. In 1886 egret feathers were worth $32 an ounce, twice the price of gold at the time. So all types of people came to Florida to slaughter the birds for their feathers. They purchased a plot of land that was a primary breeding area and seasonal home to these birds to help provide some protection. Then the logging industry started wiping out the cypress forest. The wood of a cypress tree doesn't have knots and it doesn't dry rot, so it is an excellent building material. So the society bought more land. Some of the bald cypress trees at the Sanctuary are 500-600 years old. They are beautiful.

Instead of a hiking trail they have a boardwalk that is just short of 2.5 miles if you walk all the extentions. At first I was disappointed that it was a boardwalk, kind of a wussy way to hike, but after I hit the "swamp" section of the park, I was very greatful for the boardwalk. Some of the wildlife that I ran across were: 2 white tail deer, a red shoulder hawk, multiple racoons including a mama with 3 juveniles. I saw a number of monarch butterflies and a zebra swallowtail. There were birds galore: warblers, woodpeckers, woodcranes and tons of stuff that flittered by to fast to get a good look at.

The trees are huge. They have flatwood pines, bald cypress and red maples. I'm a huge fan of the strangler fig which generally doesn't kill the host tree in Florida. They crawl up and down a host tree and create interesting patterns and textures.

I got some really great pictures of this park. I've probably included too many of them here, but for those that are interested, feel free to click on the pictures for a better view of the park.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thankgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving all! I spent my Turkey Day in the company of great friends and good company. We had turkey, stuffing with walnuts, mashpotatoes, cranberry salad and my favorite Dilly Bread! Rob and Nancy put together a beautiful dinner. We shared stories and laughed and had a really satisfying holiday. Desert consisted of pumpkin pie and pear pie. I didn't eat any pie (not a pie person) but everyone said it was really good.
Hope everyone else has as good a time as I did!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Myakka River State Park

Oddly enough, I have very little to say about this park. It's huge and has tons to do: camping, hiking, fishing, kayaking. It would take a week to explore this park well, and unfortunately, I didn't have that much time. I did learn how to tell the difference between a seedling Sabel Palm and a Palmetto, which is pretty cool, and they have a nice example of a suspension bridge (weak compared to those in Latin America though) and an observation tower that will take you above the treetops. I will have to give this park a serious look sometime in the near future. They even have cabin rentals which always touches a soft spot in my heart.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bobcock/Webb Wildlife Mgmt Area & Lovers Key

Today, I started out at the Bobcock/Web Wildlife Management Area. It sounded like a great place to hike and I've passed it a hundred times on I-75. Well, I soon found out that "Wildlife Managment" actually means public hunting grounds. And today was the first day of small game season. Hiking was allowed, but getting shot was at the risk of the hiker. Since it was small game and the size of my butt alone would disqualify me, I decided to give it a shot anyway. Turns out, even though they list hiking as an activity for this area - they don't actually have trail heads. Just a whole lot of "natural Florida" and a bunch of guys in pick up trucks with bright orange vests and gun racks. I drove around a bit, but decided it would be best if I didn't actually leave the car. You could hear guns going off everywhere. I didn't see any wildlife (although, can you really blame them). But I did learn that today you can legally hunt skunks (who would want to do that?!?!). So after driving around for about 40 minutes, I left for better hiking areas.

I ended up at the Lovers Key State Park. This is a great little place. It's actually a bunch of small islands all strung together with a couple of bridges. There is a bunch of places to fish or launch a boat. There are places to rent canoes or kayaks. They had butterfly gardens and picnic areas. Plenty of park benches along the canal. And on one of the islands "Black Island" they have a 2.3 mile trail that you can hike or bike. Lovers Key got its name because it used to be only accessible by boat, and it was said that only lovers made the effort to get to this cute little romantic spot. Black Island got its name because it is rumored that the pirate Angus Black fled here after escaping authorities and lived here for the remainder of his life.

I didn't see tons of wildlife here either, but some. Lots of butterflys, a couple of gray squirrels, and the fish were jumping out of the water. Apparently there are green iguanas here also, although I didn't know those were indiginous to Florida, and I didn't actually see any. I got some great pictures of flowers and folage. They had a lot of a blue flower that looked like a morning glory, but its called the Passionflower vine. They had a lot of sea grapes - and this is the first time I've ever seen them seed. Now I know why they are called sea grapes - I used to think it was because of the shape of the leaf, but they really do produce bundles of what looks like grapes. This park gets two thumbs up for me. It's pretty and natural and has plenty to do.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Shell Factory & Nature Center

Today I wen to the Shell Factory & Nature Center. I discovered it was neither a Shell Factory nor a Nature Center. It was an old school Florida attraction. The kind of cheesy attraction that was probably hugely successful 30 years ago. The "Shell Factory" portion was just a huge store, broken up into dozens of little section. There was the sea shell section, the jewelry section, the christmas section, the collectable art section, the stuff your own teddy bear section, the kids section, the t-shirt section and the dead baby alligator head section. In the center of the huge building was a huge collection of taxidermied animals. The majority of which were not indiginous to Florida, and a number of the on the endangered animals list. They were really old though, so they were probably killed way before sanctions. If they didn't have the year and country they were hunted in, I'd have assumed that they were just previous exibits of the "Nature Center" section, lol. Although, I really wouldn't surprise me if that wasn't there final resting place.

On top of all the corny souivners and the really tacky taxidermy displays, they also had some old school activites, like camel ride (plastic camel) for 50 cents! And photo booths!

The Nature Center was more like a roadside zoo. There were lots of animals and lots of chicken wire. Not exactly what comes to mind when you think "Nature Center".

The ground hogs were so cute! The encloser made it really hard to get good pictures, but I got a couple.

Loved the waterfall / cliff facade. The ponds below didn't contain any critters, but I think its still under construction. I hope they do a little something to hid the back, it kind of ruins the illusion when you walk around the corner.

The Education Center / Eco Center was basically a bunch of animals that were too small to fit into the big cases. They had lizards, snakes, bunnies, and lots of taxidermy! Of course, there was nothing Educational about it. Not even signs on the cages so you knew what you were looking at, lol! Yes, the big snake crawling up the glass was HUGE! I think he'd eaten one of the rabbits earlier in the day. There was a big lump in his belly.

What would any Florida attraction be without alligators! They actually had some nice ones. They were all out and about posing pretty for pictures.

The petting farm was a little weak. But they had a llama, some goats, a zebra, donky, some sort of exotic bovine and mama pig with 3 little babies. Baby pigs are so cute!

What would a Nature Center be without a Day of the Dinosaur exibit?

They had a bunch of random statues all over the park too. Here is a one of my favorites.
Throughout the property, they also had Water Wars, bumper cars, mini golf, a tiki bar for the grown ups, a real fire engine & a couple of race cars (what kid wouldn't want to sit in the front seat of a fire engine). You could feed ducks, feed the fish, feed the ostrich, and feed the gators. You could tell this was a place that families could spend the day. It's no Disney World, but I bet its still a huge it with the under 10 crowd!