Friday, October 16, 2009

Field Trip to Corkscrew Swamp - Well at Least Corkscrew Swamp Isn't Scr...In Danger of Being Destroyed!

Before venturing onto the boardwalk that takes one through the preserve, our student guide for the trip explained that the ratio of wildlife to people in Florida has progressively grown heavily in favor of people. But thanks to efforts like the Corkscrew Swamp, Florida is not entirely danger of being destroyed! In fact, Corkscrew Swamp is alive and well and beautiful, thanks to its founding organization, the Audubon Society.

I am glad and feel fortunate to have seen such a place. I enjoy bizarre, out of the ordinary occurrences in nature, and the Corkscrew Swamp falls near that category. It is a very mystical, lively place. The interiors of the swamp remind one of Yoda's planet of Dagobah in Star Wars. Perhaps not everyone will understand that reference, but suffice it to say that the canopy of prehistoric-looking trees, mosses, and unique creatures, gives one the feeling that "the force" is with them. However, that's a very pop-culture comparison. I could also compare it to the deep, dark regions that one would expect to find a Native American medicine man in the Amazon or the bayou of the southern United States. I would have expected to see such a place in the so-called "swamp" of Gainesville, Florida, but I had no idea that such places existed so close to where I live.

Speaking of Gainesville, here is a baby alligator that somebody walking the trail had found. It was explained that baby alligators carry the yellow bands, which are lost when they grow older.

Shortly down the trail to the boardwalk, my classmates and I came across this wildlife crossing sign, pictured right. It may seem insignificant, but it is actually a means by which animals can be saved.

A short distance from the sign was this large patch of sunflowers, an unexpected sight to see. The field of sunflowers was teeming with butterflies and locusts.

After passing through the Wizard of Oz, Poppy Field-esque land of was time to get on the boardwalk. Pictured right was an initial scene that I came across. A good example of that mystical, "force" feeling. In this photo there are sturdy cypress with lichens growing on them - a sign of clean air. And there are many large air plants and flag grass plants. It is obvious that this is a slough area, with the tree-marked swamp.

Here at the left is a good example of a resurrection fern, which has become quite large on its host tree. Also it is a more-close up example of an air plant.

I don't know how anybody was able to spot this creature, but here is a snake nesting in a tree. You can tell that the "force" is strong with this one. I don't remember ever seeing a snake living in a tree before, very interesting. - by looking here, it seems possible that it's a type of brown snake, but it's hard to say. Seems to have a thick body.

Here is another interesting animal living arrangement, a globe of spiderweb that was hanging out into the boardwalk.

Ah, here above is a section of the Corkscrew Swamp with a flag grass marsh. I think I remember seeing flag grass some time ago when I went to the Six Mile Cypress Slough. It is apparently common to sloughs. It is a large, leafy plant. It seemed like birds liked this marsh area.

Coming close to the end of our journey, I was able to capture this expansive view of the Swamp.

On the right is just a fraction of the mass of a gargantuan pre-historic looking tree. Trees such as these were not too uncommon on the walk. It is clearly very old and other trees are growing on it. I recall either the professor or guide saying that there used to be trees as large as sequoias in this region. I think this one ranks pretty closely to that size.

Half of the class had been separated from my group during the trip, and we were tipped off that were was another alligator down the part of the trail we had not traversed. Here he is, sleeping on a log, not yet an adult.
It was also around the time of seeing the second alligator that my group and I heard the loud whoop of a Bard Owl, a very bizarre sound.

The Corkscrew Swamp was almost like a trip back in time a few thousand years ago. Again a very mysterious and powerful place. I think it was my favorite field trip yet. Seeing two alligators in one day was definitely cool. The only thing I wish I could have done there was to have tried a swamp apple, which was a fruit that I saw growing near the boardwalk. But all of them were out of reach. Supposedly it tastes somewhat of mango, and/or apple. A mystery yet to be solved.

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