Popping the Corkscrew
By Frank Graham Jr.
It is by now almost stating the obvious that the presence of rare and endangered birds in an ecosystem can lead to its preservation. Witness the Corkscrew Swamp Watershed Important Bird Area (IBA), near Naples in southern Florida. This diverse area, about 80,000 acres, encompasses most of the state's habitats. Pine flatwoods, cypress swamp, and sawgrass marsh predominate. It attracts 218 native bird species, including endangered wood storks, swallow-tailed kites, and various herons and egrets.
At the IBA's core lies National Audubon's 11,000-acre Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, which marks its 50th anniversary this year. When conservationists united in the 1950s to protect the magnificent strands of bald cypress from logging, the area's declining stork colony in Corkscrew became a focus of the fund-raising effort that culminated in the sanctuary's creation.
Today a 2.25-mile boardwalk leads into the shadows of the ancient cypress forest and out into open marsh. The loggers are gone, but other activities threaten the water levels vital to wading birds; citrus groves, gated communities, golf courses, and roads have all led to harmful drainage schemes. By monitoring water levels, biologists can battle projects that threaten the IBA's plants and animals.
The sanctuary and nature center are open every day. To learn more, go to audubon.org/bird/iba/fl.html.
© 2004 National Audubon Society