We managed to escape on the last flight out of Philadelphia before winter storm Jonas (OK, maybe not literally the last but it felt that way).  Even with the last minute struggle to change our flight to Friday night and to make sure there was a car and a room in Sanibel, we were still apprehensive.  Indeed, after taxiing out to the runway the pilot announced a further delay in order to DE-ICE THE WINGS.  How comforting was that??  I was convinced he would abort but we made it and slipped in to our cottage about 1:00 in the morning.  Our first view of the beach the next morning (while Jonas was howling at home) …. WHITE STUFF …  but, a very comfortable kind.

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Yet more white stuff is seen here.  Sanibel Island is known for being a shelling paradise.  For some reason the shape and position of the island in the currents of the Gulf of Mexico result in extraordinary deposits of shells with each high tide.

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It’s something to do every day.  The fanatics are on the beach before sunrise with headlamps, searching for the elusive and therefore prized Junonia.  It’s so rare, finders wind up with their pictures in the paper.  Aside from the Junonia, however, we enjoyed our beach walks and inevitably came home with shells that caught our eye.  The above sight is typical.  The image is now a part of my place mat collection.


Another exciting activity is photographing the sea birds that meet daily on the beach.  Aside from the routine gulls we also enjoyed Willets, Ruddy Turnstones, skittering Sanderlings, and clusters of Royal Terns having bad hair days.  The terns are tolerant of walking humans ( dogs, another story) and gather in groups at sometimes the same spots along the beach each morning.  I’ve enjoyed photographing them over my fourteen years of occasional visits.  I posted recently about the need to get prone to capture some scenes and the terns are certainly in that category.

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I particularly love this image below.  He seemed to be zoned out in the joy of the morning sunlight and breeze.  I heard him murmuring, “Hey, Dude, is this cool or whaaat?”  I absolutely agreed.

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The tern was chillin’ in the sunrise along with others also drawn to dawn.  Most of us react to the drama of sunrises and sunsets and though I’ve seen and photographed lots of them I’m not immune to the next one.  Here’s one morning in which the sun was filtered more than usual but there was still light for the early morning shell seekers.

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And at the other end of the day, the sun’s farewell.

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Not every day was warm or clear or sunny, but at its worst it was better than being up home in February.  Even a foggy morning calls a photographer.

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Another major attraction of Sanibel is the 5200 acre “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.  We managed to drive through on the eight mile Wildlife Trail almost every day.  It’s best to do so slightly before and after low tide as the bird life is then feasting on creatures from the exposed sand flats.  One sees a great deal of White Pelicans, Ibis, Herons, Willets, and Cormorants.  In fact they report over 200 species of birds.  Here are some selected captures.

Wilbur and Wilma Willet

Wilbur and Wilma Willet


Doc, I have this really bad neck pain.

Doc, I have this really bad neck pain.


This one made me literally laugh out loud.  They tolerate humans being close and I was about six feet away from his bath.

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Finally, an after-breakfast Cormorant Cleanup.

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This was a nice experience for us, and certainly warmer and sunnier than February at home.  We thoroughly enjoyed the relaxed and informal atmosphere at Beachview Cottages on Sanibel Island.  As always, glad to be home but also wondering why??


There is a gallery of additional images from the two weeks.  To view it please click here.




What a pleasure it was to return to the lowcountry surrounding Charleston.  It is a gentle and genteel place in this world….easy going, gracious, and beautiful.  I enjoyed three days with multiple generations of friends in settings ranging from quiet, winding tree-lined roads of  Mount Pleasant, to strawberry pickin’ at Boone Farm, to the good life of Wild Dunes on the beach, and to the plantations along the Ashley River Road.

On my first morning I drove to see old (fauna) friends at the Audubon Swamp Garden adjacent to Magnolia Gardens.  Civilization has arrived there in the form of an admission guard and a locked gate with a combination lock.  I’m not going to give away the combination but Magnolia Plantation dates from 1676.

As seen below, the Great White Herons were in their breeding plumage.  The feathery plumage is the standout feature but also characteristic is the green cast in front of their eyes, and the blackened bill top.


Elsewhere in the garden this anhinga, wings spread to dry, seemed poised for a lift-off to an earth orbit.

My other big outing day was to the Middleton Plantation.  The panorama at the top of this post is of the Azalea Hillside above the Rice Mill Pond.  I keep trying to capture this but I’ve never been there at the right light.  So, another compromise but such a beautiful scene.

Below is another view of the hillside, with one of the many sculptures on the grounds.


There was an 18th century reenactors camp there for the weekend.  Here are a couple of the kids taking time off from reenacting to just play and talk.  This shot was suggested by my friend, Bob W.,  and it was a good idea.


Here is a view at the aptly named Reflection Pool.


Finally, having had a nice lunch with a glass of Chardonnay, I could relate to this fellow’s (in)activity.


I’ve just returned from a few very pleasant days on Sanibel Island, in the high 70’s during the day and chilly at night and early morning requiring layers. I also lucked out in that there was no rain. I stayed in a beach cottage along West Gulf Drive, about midway between the east end stores and restaurants, and the Ding Darling Wild Life Refuge. A short stroll past some of the cottages took me to a beach pavilion where I could salute the sunset.

My primary objective for the trip was the J. Norwood “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge. This is an outstanding facility comprised of over 6000 acres and named for Darling.   He was a Pulitzer prize winning editorial cartoonist of national renown who was also an ardent conservationist. In 1934 he was named as the first head of the forerunner of the Fish & Wildlife Service. Subsequently he designed the blue goose logo of the federal refuge system, and initiated the federal duck stamp program and designed the first duck stamp.
There is an excellent visitor’s center which houses many well done educational exhibits. Then, there is a four mile two lane, one-way trail through the Refuge, passing the shoal ponds and small bays

and the mangrove-swamp-edged canals which allow for tidal exchanges with the interior ponds and bays.   The mangrove swamps, themselves, are a home for Refuge denizens.
The herons, egrets, spoonbills and ibis stroll across the tidal flats and shoals to feed; the pelicans, cormorants, and anhingas will surf and dive the only somewhat deeper waters of the ponds.
The drive is open daily (closed Friday) from 7:30 to sunset. Early morning and low tide is a good combination to see the birds feeding. I went through two to three times a day and almost always captured a worthwhile image.
Nineteen images from my trip are in the Places Galleries of my web site. Click here to jump to the galleries.