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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

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

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[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.

Birds of Lover's Key State Park

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Today was a windfall day for photography. Shayna and I took our bikes for the 7 mile ride to Lover's Key State Park, with a few stops along the way in each direction to take in the sightings of wildlife, mainly birds, but the Park was incredible.  Herewith, without further ado, the birds of Florida, day 3.

This is an unusual looking bird, and a relatively rare, older specimen: wood stork. 

Wood stork

At the bridge over San Carlos, we looked up and saw this Osprey staring down at us.


Sandpiper Reflection

This oyster catcher was busy in surf finding plenty of tasty treats.

American Oyster Catcher with lunch

 This heron put on quite a show, prancing around hunting for something to eat.

Reddish egret
 What a look!
Reddish egret
Pair of cormorants 

Snowy egret

 My favorite bird, the pelican. Here, in an unusual in-flight image.
Pelican 1

 A local fishing guide gave this guy quite a treat, the remains of a filleted fish.

Pelican with a treat

 Pelicans are really captivating in their behavior and demeanor. 

Pelican preening

End of a long day: Scene from the bay side at Lover's Key State Park.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Day Two: Florida

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Today it was all bike riding in the morning, lunch at Doc's Beach House (below) for a truly magnificent burger and then on to Marco Island for some late afternoon photography and beach walks.

Doc's Beach House Restaurant, Bonita Springs, Florida

Marco Island was originally named San Marco Island by Spanish explorers. Marco Island is now the largest barrier island within Southwest Florida's Ten Thousand Islands area extending southerly to Cape Sable. Beautiful homes line the streets bordered by an abundance of palm trees along the roads and the median strips.

Tigertail Beach was our destination on the island because of it's reputation for great birding and the fact that the birds there are so used to humans they seem to be fearless. Part one of today's image collection follow:

Ring-Billed Gull

Ring-Billed Gull in Flight

Ring-Billed Gull

Ring-Billed Gull

White Ibis

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron



Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican
Sunset, Marco Island

Saturday, December 22, 2012

On to Florida; Evening in Fort Myers Beach

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Sun Deck Motel
The day of travel that began at 445am in the chill of DC brought us safe and sound to the warmer breezes and palm trees of Florida via the snowy drear and freeze of Cleveland and a delayed flight. We finally arrived at our quarters at the Sun Deck, above, at 4:30pm, travelling in style in our awaiting chariot, a shining 2013 Mustang. 

After such a long day, we needed to clear our heads so we chilled out for a while in our room. Afterwards, I took a stroll to the town fishing pier while Shayna hung back to watch TV. 

Approaching the gorgeous colors of the fading sunset on the Gulf of Mexico, magic started to happen. One of my favorite subjects, the Great Blue Heron, soared in for a landing right in front of me, regal and unperturbed by the few humans hovering nearby, including myself. But instead of my more typical daytime studies of this magnificent creature,  the evening light and the proximity of this specimen allowed me to create this stunning series of images, including the photo at the top of my blog.