Ding Darling NWR

When I left off ‘live’ blogging, in oh April, we had just spent the day at Merritt Island NWR near Daytona Beach, Florida.  After a great day and Epcot, Danika and I (along with the kids) made the looooooong drive (or it seemed that way) from Orlando to Ft. Myers.  Our main goal was Roseate Spoonbill, which had surprisingly already had picked up at Merritt Island.

After getting settled into the hotel, the next day we took it easy at the hotel.  It has been hot and the kids tired of 4 days of running.  We napped, we watched TV, we hung out in AC.  About half way through the day, I looked up Ding Darling NWR on the Internet for we were planning on spending our Friday there.  It was then I discovered that Ding Darling is CLOSEDon Fridays!  We quickly dressed the kids and headed out to Sanibel Island.

We entered the park, which closes early as well, paid our car fee and began searching the mangroves and bayous for interesting bird life.  I had hoped for a Magnificent Frigatebird which nests in the park, but luck was not with me.

We saw a huge variety of wading and shorebirds.  Wilson’s Plovers, Semi-palmated Plovers, Killdeer, both Yellowlegs, peeps (mainly Least and Semi-palmated Sandpipers), several birds which looked like Pharalopes (light was terrible but they were ‘swimming’ sandpipers).  Wading birds included Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, Black-Crowned Nightheron, Yellow-Crowned Nightheron, Great, Snowy, Cattle and Reddish Egrets.  But as I stated, the light was terrible, meaning most of photos came out as black blobs on an orange background.

At another bridge we had some better luck.  On the left looking towards the setting sun we found a good sized flock of American White Pelicans.  On our right, two Juvinile Brown Pelicans were keeping watch.

American White Pelicans

Brown Pelican

Although we kept our eyes (and ears) out for Mangrove Cuckoo and heck just about any type of song bird, we were to find none.  We did however have a very cooperative female Anhinga, not one of our better pictures, but she sure was pretty.

Female Anhinga, Ding Darling NWR

On the way out there is an area, where park officials have banned parking and have fenced off half the road.  That is because a large American Crocodile had taken up residence there.  Crocs are salt water, Alligators are fresh water, but to the novice there are very difficult to tell apart.  American Crocs are endangered and much more aggressive.  Since she had a nest nearby, she was even more dangerous, especially to tourists and really for their kids. 

Since we only got to spend a couple of hours on the Island and in the preserve, I felt I really didn’t get the whole experience I wanted.  No Gray Kingbirds, Black-wiskered Vireos, Mangrove Cuckoosor any really ‘cool’ birds.  Sanibel Island is a neat place, renowened for its beaches, shells and very expensive hotels ($400 a night on the island, $150 by the bridge on the mainland, guess where we stayed!)

Interestingly on the way back across the bridge to Ft. Myers Beach, a Peregrine Falcon landed on a construction crane and an Osprey sat on the roadside as cars zoomed by at 60mp only inches away.

However when life give you lemons, make lemonade.  We now had a free day to do something different and I think we were all looking for a little adventure.  Not too far down the highway was Naples, Florida and to the east the Florida Everglades beckoned to us….





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