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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

At the J.N. "Ding" Darling Wildlife Refuge

[First, a correction: In my last post, I incorrectly labelled the "tri-colored heron." That was in fact a reddish egret.]

Today we stayed close to home again (our quarters at the Sun Deck) and headed for the  J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge on nearby Sanibel Island, one of two islands (Captiva is the other) west of Fort Myers Beach. Spanning the San Carlos Bay, the route includes a drive on a 3 mile causeway, where we made a short stop in the middle of the causeway at one of Sanibel's great shell beaches at Causeway Island. Took this shot of Shayna on the beach, followed by that threatening gull flying at me.
Shayna on Causeway Island beach
Herring gull
Upon entry to the refuge, we saw a small gathering and stopped to see a bird I'd never seen before. It turned out to be a yellow crowned night heron.

Now, for something different. What we think of as a pest in our neighborhoods, sometimes carrying rabies, is perfectly suited to the wilderness of the refuge. Here's a series I made of a juvenile racoon seen along the wildlife trail.

Once across the causeway, we headed north on Sanibel Island to the "Ding" Darling refuge.  Known for its abundant bird life, we made many stops along the four mile nature drive through the refuge. We were very fortunate today to have come across many previously unseen birds as well as an unexpected small mammal family. Hope you like these.

 Here's a creature I've never even known about: a mangrove tree crab. These little crabs are found up in the mangrove trees. 

Here's a variation of a heron new to me, the little blue heron.

And finally, here's a new one for me again: the anhinga. What a ham: these birds were perfectly content to preen, pose, and show their open wings to all who came to watch.

 On the return drive, we again stopped at the Causeway Island Beach for some end of the day shots, and once again, the osprey took over my attention. Here are several views of this magnificent bird. He had just finishing diving, and was drying off in the strong beach breeze perched on top of a utility pole.

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