I brought my trusty iPhone along to the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary today and took a few photos. But what I'll remember most is the one that got away—not just the photo, but the chance to see something special.
Let me start at the beginning. Visitors to Corkscrew Swamp can walk through the Audubon bird sanctuary on a 2.25 mile raised boardwalk, which wends its way through four distinct environments—a pine upland, a wet prairie, a cypress forest, and a marsh. The boardwalk creates a marvelous path through landscapes that would otherwise be inaccessible, while protecting the plants, birds, and other wildlife that inhabit the area.
Shortly after we began our walk, we detoured onto one of the occasional spurs off the main boardwalk that lead to points of interest. We arrived at an area where a bird feeder had been set up (this was the only spot during the entire walk where we saw a man-made apparatus). There, we encountered a photographer with an impressive-looking camera. She told us she'd been watching for two-and-a-half hours and had just seen and photographed a painted bunting. She showed us the picture in the window of her digital camera. Her patience had been rewarded with a gorgeous shot of a spectacular bird. Having missed my own opportunity to photograph the bunting, I've reprinted a picture from WikiMedia Commons.
Though sorry I'd missed the bunting, I was impressed by the photographer's perseverance. Her mission accomplished, she accompanied us back to the main trail. She mentioned that she lived nearby and came frequently to walk and take photographs. I commented how fortunate she was to be able to visit often.
"The reason I have the free time," she replied, "is that I lost my job five months ago. I'd worked for the company for ten years."
Before she left to explore another spur, she pointed out a fox squirrel, newly reintroduced to the sanctuary. As we continued our walk, I saw a mother raccoon with two adorable wide-eyed babies and several birds that I'd never seen before, including a red-shouldered hawk and a black-crowned night heron.
At Corkscrew Swamp, I witnessed what we can do to preserve and protect an environment. I only wish we could do as well at preserving and protecting the jobs of our people.