Birding on Sanibel Island and the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge

By Heather / January 16, 2020
Birding on Sanibel Island and the J.N.

Our destination today to go birding on Sanibel Island and the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

Originally we were going to go back to Wakulla Springs which has wonderful birds but is about 10 hours away so in doing some reading the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge seemed to have everything I wanted to see and was closer.

So, I planned a route that would take us through a group of keys to see more of the scenery.

Upon leaving Naples we saw the most lavish building and offices that you can imagine.

There was actually one bank that looked like a mansion with balconies on all the floors.

But… one thing we did notice walking around, at the hotel, and on the streets that it was very hard to get people to smile.

Palm Warbler under a chair at the hotel

Palm Warbler under a chair at the hotel

Everyone was walking around with a frown and weren’t friendly in the least.

Even if you said good morning to them you would get a grunt or a stare. Very different than what we have experienced in other places in Florida.

And the traffic lights. I’ve never seen so many lights at an intersection.

The highway out of Naples into Bonita Springs was three lanes on both sides and at an intersection, I counted 17 traffic lights. You didn’t know where to look!

After passing through Bonita Springs we took Bonita Beach Rd SW to Hwy 865 and up through a group of Keys.

That met up with 867 out to Sanibel Island.

On the map, it looked like a lovely drive but in essence, it took hours.

Mainly because they are tourist towns and everyone walks everywhere.

Also, there was construction work happening and we were at a crawl in most places.

One of the interesting things was the mailboxes.

They were in all shapes and sizes and it seemed that people were trying to outdo their neighbours.

Not only the mailboxes but the stand that hold up the boxes as well.

There were manatees, flamingos, lighthouses, frogs, pelicans and everything in between.

And I never got a picture.

We stopped to get out and walk around at a flea market were I got a new hair clip and some wonderful spray for sore aching muscles.

My knee had been bothering me from walking in the Dallas airport and this was like a miracle drug. Good stuff.

We finally made it onto Sanibel Island, paid our toll of $6 and were on our way to the refuge.

Which in fact was alive with birds.

There were birds everywhere.

Big ones, little ones and most of them were in the water.

Not only birds but Rob spotted two different crabs that kept trying to grab each other.

One was a horseshoe crab and the other was a blue crab.

horseshoe crab vs blue crab

Horseshoe crab vs blue crab

You drove along a route through the refuge and I don’t know how many times I hopped in and out of the car.

Rob was wonderful and stopped every 5 feet for me to have a look at something or to take a picture.

And take pictures I did.

There were egrets, herons, ibis and a spoonbill.

I specifically wanted to see a Roseate Spoonbill and I finally was able to get a good picture of him.

Below are some of the birds that we saw and let me say that it made my day and holiday.

 

Reddish egret

Reddish egret

Little blue here, snowy egret, white ibis

Little blue here, snowy egret, white ibis

Snowy egret in the Wildlife Refuge

Snowy egret in the Wildlife Refuge

White Ibis

White Ibis

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron

Yellow-crowned night heron with a crab

Yellow-crowned night heron with a crab

Little blue heron

Little blue heron

Willet

Willet

While we were heading off the island we saw some pelicans diving into the water catching fish.

What I didn’t realize was that they went in upside down. Amazing!

Brown pelican diving

Brown pelican diving

Brown pelican entering the water upside down

Brown pelican entering the water upside down

Then there was the long trip back to where we originally started… Florida City.

We actually phoned ahead and booked a room at the same hotel we were at a couple of nights ago and asked for and got the same rates.

The rates when we first booked were $87 but today they were up to $159. That’s how much they go up for the weekend.

What should have taken about 3 hours to drive back took 5 hours due to road construction and a lot of stopping and starting of which we have no idea what was going on.

Arrived, around 7 pm and found they had put us in the room next to the ice machines. Very noisy.

So now, we are upstairs overlooking the pool, kicking off our shoes and getting horizontal after a long drive.

I think there will be some sleeping in tomorrow.

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