Are you afraid of the dark? Does the thought of being in the heart of the western Everglades after nightfall terrify you? Face your fears in the safety of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary at its popular monthly series, Corkscrew After Hours. On Friday, November 20, from 5:30-9:30 p.m., the sanctuary will welcome visitors to explore the swampy terrain under the veil of darkness in a safe and educational setting.
The Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary Boardwalk at Night.
Photo by R.J. Wiley
The monthly event runs through March, with each evening showcasing a different theme. For November, the sanctuary will look to the sky as it examines Southwest Florida’s top avian predators, raptors. Dubbed “Sky Kings: The Realm of Raptors,” the evening will include an educational focus on birds of prey, highlighted by a classroom presentation with Michael Goldman from 5:30-6:30 p.m. in the Blair Audubon Visitor Center. As the Education Manager at the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey, a rehabilitation and educational center in Maitland, Florida, Goldman is an expert in Florida’s resident raptors. His presentation will focus on the birds of prey that frequent Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, including the Bald Eagle, red-shouldered hawks, and the American Kestrel—the smallest resident falcon species patrolling the skies.
Following the presentation, take a hike along the sanctuary’s two-mile boardwalk on a self-guided tour through 9 p.m., and see if you can spy (and hear) the king of nighttime sky, the owl. Corkscrew’s 13,000-acre sanctuary is home to 15 raptor species, including Eastern Screech, Great Horned, and Barred owl species, which, if you’re lucky might be on the hunt Friday night.
If you’d prefer some guidance along your hike, join a sanctuary naturalist from 6-7 p.m. for a guided walk along the boardwalk—the naturalists have keen ears and sharper eyes, and are experts at spotting those camouflaged birds. And expand your mind at the Interpretative Discovery Stations setup behind the Blair Center from 5:30-8:30 p.m., each offering further insight into the dynamic ecosystem of the sanctuary and the Everglades.
From 6-8 p.m., enjoy live music at the Blair Audubon Visitor Center with John Lowbridge, whose repertoire runs from rock to country. Food and refreshments will be available at the Tea Room Cafe.
Being so far removed from the beaten path, stargazing at Corkscrew is pretty great. Weather permitting, the Everglades Astronomical Society will join the After Hours programming, setting up telescopes at the Horseshoe Marsh observation post from 7-9 p.m. On a clear night, the skies truly open up, and with the guidance of the astronomical society, you can explore wonders.
- Admission costs $14, which is good for two consecutive days to the sanctuary. Kids under 18 are free. For more information, visit corkscrew.audubon.org.
- Next Corkscrew After Hours: December 11, 2015
Part of the Western Everglades and Corkscrew Watershed, all of the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary’s 13,000 acres are a vital link to Florida’s aboriginal landscape. Protected by the National Audubon Society since 1953, conservation efforts helped end and reverse the devastating effects plume hunters and loggers had on the landscape and its inhabitants for decades. A place once deemed indomitable, the great Everglades, too wild for modern civilization, is now being parceled and paved, not just tamed but subdued. While the wildlife whose ancestral roots dig much deeper than the first tentative footsteps of western intrusion, is becoming afterthought, more museum diorama than living example of nature. Organizations like Audubon help preserve these last natural respites like Corkscrew, examples of conservation in action and places of learning for future generations to not only connect with the past of their place but also learn how to coexist. Programming like After Hours helps create a greater understanding of this land while not being an overtly educational oration—this is more experience than lecture, and for children, more field trip than day in class.