Sadly, we learned that the Sandhill Cranes had left 2-3 weeks ago so no huge photo ops for us today. That's okay. He told us about the observatory through a grove of trees to the right, and about the cypress swamp boardwalk that's a short distance off to the left. We chose the observatory first and discovered a delightful one-way-glass two story building outfitted with high-powered binoculars for bird viewing. The building was situated where, in prime birding conditions, observers would be right smack dab in the middle of the hoard. Next year, we vow.
Cypress swamps are found in the South and are named such because of the Bald Cypress trees that prevail there. Bald Cypress can be found everywhere here, and I've even seen them used in landscaping, but primarily you find them in soggy places like swamps and lowlands.
Bald Cypress have "knees" that grow up through the water, coming from their root system. This helps the trees breathe since their root structure is submerged.
The bark of a Bald Cypress is rough and scaly for the most part. Lichens and mosses grow of them naturally, and the underlying color is a glorious rusty brown. Walking through this silent swamp we heard an unusual nose. Is that a bird of some sort, or a mammal? It was almost like a song, but a groaning song. The source came from two cypress trees that were rubbing together high up in the canopy. The wind, though gentle, was enough to cause the rubbing which created the song. I've heard trees rubbing together before and this was nothing like it. Instead, it was melodic and haunting and sounded almost like a upright bass or cello combination. This type of wood must be the reason, but that's just a guess. Whatever the reason, it was striking enough to still our footsteps and enjoy it for several minutes in silence. The Song of the Cypress followed us through our journey and remains with us.
I've got it. The singing cypress trees reminded me of Coyote Oldman and Burning Sky, two Native American musician CDs I have. Wooden flutes, gentle rhythms of earth and sky. Undoubtedly, listening to these sort of sounds long ago influenced cultures to create music using wood, such as the hand-tooled wooden flutes used in their music. I'm no music major - this just occurred to me after I'd written this post and thought I'd share.The guide had told us of a recent event within the swamp, and pointed it out to us before our journey down the boardwalk. Recently, a bolt of lightning struck one of the tallest Bald Cypress trees, which reach 100-150 ft. tall - and the tree exploded. Shards and planks and limbs from this explosion spread out over the swamp over 100 yards. We passed remnants of this tree in the parking lot before reaching the swamp. A jagged bit of stump was the only piece that remained in the swamp itself. Thankfully, this happened in the dead of night and not while folks were working in the main building.
So that was yesterday's road trip. Since the Sandhill Cranes had already left we decided to cease the search and seek sustenance instead. A girl's lunch ensued and we returned home satisfied with our adventure.