CLICK ON THE ABOVE IMAGE TO SEE A LARGER VERSION OF THIS FOUR-IMAGE PANORAMA
In mid-February we returned for my seventh visit to a land I love – Sanibel Island – an hour’s drive from the Fort Myers Airport but a step back into old Florida. There are no traffic lights (but, yeah, traffic), and no buildings taller than a palm tree. Inhabitants: Lots of sea birds, bicyclists, wading birds, families, white heads (that’s me, too). Also, various rodents, rabbits, raccoons, and a few gators (saw one.) Add nature walks and a grand wildlife refuge, the Ding Darling, beach life, shell collecting, fishing, Sunday afternoon alfresco jazz concerts, kayaking, or napping and life’s pretty good.
The banner image above was made late in the day – about 5:00 PM – along the wildlife loop through the refuge. We called it their cocktail hour, and it preceded ours. The gatherings vary day to day and can frequently be disappointing. This day was rewarding. I was pleased with the variety of birds, and I was struck by their clannishness … very interesting that they gather with their fellows but also share the sand spit with other two-legged, winged citizens. It’s a major draw for bird watchers and for photographers. Some of the stove-pipe telephoto lenses look as though they could also be launching tubes for small rockets.
THE BEACHES AND THAT BALM, THE SUN
Until the causeway was opened in 1964 there was only ferry access to the island . Nevertheless, there were backup delays for the ferries as people sought the island beaches, particularly for shelling. Today, they’re still out early most mornings searching for the find that washed up during the night.
These two willets were also out early among the shells but looking, rather, for previous tenants of the shells.
Parts of the beach are populated by flocks of Royal Terns, Herring and Laughing Gulls, Willets, and Sanderlings. They will part for the beach walkers and dogs will cause a liftoff but they quickly return to the beach after the hazard has passed. I think they’re all fun except the gulls which Barbara has always called “rats with wings.” I admire the rest of them because they forage for themselves; gulls less so as they’re quick to take another’s catch.
As one who began to lose his hair in my teens I’m envious of the Royal Terns, even on bad hair days. However, they also suffer from receding hairlines.
SCENES FROM THE DING DARLING WILDLIFE REFUGE
We drove through the refuge almost every day except Friday when it’s closed. For those who enjoy the sea birds and wading birds in their habitat it’s generally always interesting. One can become jaded, however. After seeing ibis all over the refuge and then in people’s yards and in the drainage ditches I began to refer to them as being as common as chickens. Then, as though to taunt me, a pair showed up on our beach.
My search for several years has been for the flashy roseate spoonbills. We saw several this year but I still haven’t captured the group image I’d like so … have to go back again next year. You’ll see a half dozen or so in the banner panorama, and here’s a nice single.
The color, of course, is striking; otherwise, they’re ugly, with heads like wood storks and that long canoe paddle bill which, blessedly, is submerged above.
At a feeding pond one day I captured this tri-colored heron. They skip across the water’s surface with much splashing to stir up any fish, and then they spear them for dinner.
The other end of the day found us on the beach pavilion at our “old Florida” preferred place of stay, Beachview Cottages. Here we enjoyed the chit-chat with other guests, and mellowing while awaiting the elusive green flash.
On this night I felt privileged to have been there to capture this twilight with Wilma and Wilbur Willet. I look forward to seeing them again next year.
A GALLERY OF THESE AND MORE IMAGES FROM THE WEEK CAN BE SEEN BY CLICKING HERE.
PREVIOUS POSTS ABOUT SANIBEL ISLAND
Florida, Sanibel, Winter White Stuff – February 2016
Sanibel Island and also Florida’s east coast – February 2013
Sanibel Island & Ding Darling Preserve – February 2009