Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary Blog
We found eight nests along Washout Road this year. The mother at the first nest was very protective. At times she would block the road.
This is the damage she did to the front tire!
Sometimes turtles try to lay their eggs in a gator nest. If they are successful, their eggs will have the added protection of the mother alligator. Sometimes the plan does not workout.
Bears are one of the biggest threats to the gator nest. Two of the eight nests were predated before we started filming this year. This young bear searched multiple nests. Fortunately for the gators, he had not perfected his nest raiding yet.
Even black vultures can be a threat to the nest.
Hoping to get a different view, I put a camera 15 feet up the bear tree.
Fortunately the camera survived this young bear's curiosity.
The bears are not the only ones using the tree.
Even the bats are using the bear tree!
A young lady bear
The two young barred owls seem bewildered that the squirrel ran away. Being chastised by a bluejay does not help.
How many babies can an opossum carry?
There is a new Sandhill Crane family at the Fish Farm.
Fish Farm Road is the main access to the backcountry at the Sanctuary. After two days of work, we have about one mile open.
The staff and volunteers at the Sanctuary have done an amazing job of cleaning up after Irma. There is still many weeks of work to do.
Hurricane Irma did extensive damage to the Sanctuary. Here is a sample of before and after photographs.
The Gator Hole
The Bunting House
At the Plume Hunters Trail
Alligator Den Rain Shelter
Alligator Den Rain Shelter
"Calusa" Landmark Tree #5
"Guy Bradley" Landmark Tree #6
"Leonardo de Venci" Landmark Tree #9
"Leonardo de Venci" Landmark Tree #9
South Lettuce Lake Rain Shelter
North Lettuce Lake Gator Rest
On the night of August 12, 2017 a bear found nest 1, but did not disturb it. The following day she returned three times to devour all the gator eggs. She approaches the nest with caution but then brashly goes into the water where the mother gator spends most of her time. There is no video of the mother gator during this 24 hours.
This is the first panther caught on trail cameras since June 13, 2017. He is headed north on Washout Road. The orgin of this unknown male is uncertain. The cameras further south did not capture his journey. I wonder how he has remained dry and evaded the other cameras?
Do nesting gators have Boy Toys? Its the only explanation I have been able to come up with. Hopefully some of the local gator biologists will be able to weigh in on this behavior. The big gator is the one that has been guarding the nest.
The trail cameras have not photographed a panther since June 13, 2017. Bears however have been plentiful.
North American river otter (Lontra canadensis)
Communication among North American river otters is accomplished mainly by olfactory and auditory signals. Scent marking is imperative for intergroup communication. The river otter scent-marks with feces, urine, and anal sac secretions.
River otters can produce a snarling growl or hissing bark when bothered, and a shrill whistle when in pain. When at play or traveling, they sometimes give off low, purring grunts. The alarm call, given when shocked or distressed by potential danger, is an explosive snort, made by expelling air through the nostrils. River otters also may use a birdlike chirp for communication over longer distances, but the most common sound heard among a group of otters is low-frequency chuckling.
Its nesting season for alligators. There are two nests at Corkscrew that we know about.
Nest one has a very protective mother. She is unhappy with my presence any where in the area.
Nest two has a very vigilant mother. She is a bit more tolerant, as long as I stay away from her nest.
Trail cameras work best if they are about ten feet from the subject. Mom number two is ok with that. Mom number one, not so much.
Nest rebuilding after a rain.
Interlopers at the nest are not tolerated!
Since June 1st. Corkscrew has had 27 inches of rain. That is an all time new record for the whole month of June and we have two more weeks left in the month! The video below shows how the swamp can change in 48 hours.
The panther family has spent the last several weeks moving between Eagle Island, the Fish Farm and Little Corkscrew Island. All of the kittens have been photographed out on their own. The two male kittens have also been photographed with their mother.
There is an interesting video of Mom watching an opossum. This is not the first time we have gotten video of a panther passing on an opossum dinner!
The TrailCam Tuesday video below from Donna and Brian Hampton showed more of the panther family.
With the dry down this Spring the gators have been forced in tight quarters. The big male above tried to cozy up to the ladies, but they were not interested. After the rejections, he started bellowing his disappointment. His song was joined by all the other gators.
The panther family has been spending a lot of time around the Fish Farm. In the video below they are checking out a scrape left by another panther.
Five days later Mom is calling her kittens, hopefully for lunch, as they are looking hungry.
Two days later there was a new male panther searching the area.
The family makes their way from Little Corkscrew Island to the Fish Farm in the early morning rain.
"CT" Makes his way down Washout Road, slowing to stalk an alligator, before making his way through Little Corkscrew Island, the Fish Farm and on toward the Frank Property. Marking his territory along the way the trip takes less than an hour.
Out of camera view since November the panther family has recently been seen around the Fish Farm.
The kittens look like they have just had a big meal!
Here is another video by Donna and Brian Hampton.
"CT" the dominate male at Corkscrew has been patrolling his territory on a regular basis.
The dry down this fall has left a wealth of fish for the wading birds. This Great Blue Heron has made the best of the bounty.
The fish in the video below was too much for him to swallow. It was too much for the water moccasin to swallow! The vultures and raccoon did not let it go to waste.
We have a new family at Corkscrew. The kittens are 3-4 months old.
You can see more of the kittens at Donna Hampton's Trail Cam Tuesday
Over the last several summers I have tried to document the hatching of an Alligator nest. So far I have not gotten the video I'm looking for.
In June, Jonathan Nash told me about four gator nest along Washout Road in the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Getting cameras close enough to the nest has been a challenge.
All of the mothers are guarding the nests with great dedication. Every-time I check the cameras, I've been confronted by them. At times they have even challenged vehicles on the road.
This week I was surprised to find one of the nest had been dug up. At first it was not clear if the eggs had hatched or not, but the video told the story.
The nest had been raided by a young male bear. Mom must have been away from the nest. She certainly is big enough to have run the bear off.
The videos of the other nests showed that he had tried to raid another nest, but mom ran him off before he could do any damage.
(The time stamp is wrong. Momma did not let me stay there...
At the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary we use prescribed burning to maintain healthy habitats. The pine flatwoods are a fire depend community. The pines and palmettos are fire tolerant. Without fire they would be replaced by hardwoods over time. Burning every few years keeps the fuel load down so that there is less risk of a dangerous wildfire during our frequent summer lightning storms.
Conducting a safe burn requires a lot of planning and preparation, the correct weather and skilled personnel. Below is a sample of what it is like working the fire line.
The Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary has a new resident. He still needs to work on his dance moves but he is getting the hang of the bear tree!
The good news is that the baby bear is doing well. The bad news is that he is starting to play with my trail cameras!
With the rising water levels the young bear has moved to higher ground around the Fish Farm. The trail cameras are still irresistible.
Since the departure of Lefty there has not been a dominant male panther at the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Several young males have passed through but none have stayed. FP-236 only occasionally comes up to the Sanctuary. That looks like it is changing. There are now two contenders. Both have been scraping at multiple locations around the Sanctuary.
Contender number one, Crooked Tail, has an unusual shaped tail that looks like it may have been broken. He also has small notches on both ears.
Contender number 2 was following about two and a half hours behind.
He has a normal looking tail and no nicks in his ears.
The local pig population has also taken notice of the panther scrapes. They do not seem pleased.
December 19, 2015 Update
During the last week of November a third Contender moved in to the Swamp. You can tell him from Contender #2 by the kink at the tip of his tail.
During the second week of December FP-236 started hang around the Fish Farm....
Panthers are obligate carnivores, they only eat meat. About 90 % of their diet is feral hog, white-tailed deer, raccoon, and armadillo. Occasionally they consume rabbits, rats, birds, and alligators.
So why is this panther eating grass? Could he be using it as a digestive aid like domestic cats do?
The sunflowers are blooming at The Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Yesterday was one of those days when The Swamp just wanted to be photographed. After a very hot and humid summer, all of the creatures seemed to be happy with the prospect of autumn.
The good news is that there is another bear family at The Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. The bad news is that Mom is teaching her cubs to play with my trail cameras!
They are still around and playing with the trail cameras.
For several years I have tried to photograph the hatching of an alligator nest. Since predicting the hatching time is difficult and Moma gators are not fond of human company, this is best done with trail cameras. This year I have found two nests at the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. The mother gators were not particularly thrilled with my offer to do their family portrait as you can see from the videos. The baby gators should be hatching out soon. Hopefully we will get some good pictures.