Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sanibel’s “Ding Darling”… a birder’s paradise

Living on Sanibel is a unique treat. Unlike most coastal Florida areas, residents have been able to retain a yesteryear flavor. Beaches are not dressed, making them a haven for shellers. There are no traffic lights. There are no street lights. There are no high rises. All development is limited to 42 feet above street level. Only a third of the island’s land is developed, a third is owned by conservation foundations or the city government and not open to development and a third is our crown jewel, the Ding Darling National Wildlife Preserve. Sanibel is SW Florida’s southernmost barrier island with standing fresh water year round. It is a stop off point for birds migrating to South America in the fall and back in the spring. The best time to visit Ding Darling is December through mid April. Pushed by cold fronts in December, the flocks arrive. Most spectacular are the white pelicans, flying long lines of 150 to 300. Unlike the more common brown pelicans, they feed in flocks standing on mudflats, ferreting out shellfish. They are gone now, to their breeding grounds in Saskatchewan. But other species remain. Most spectacular are the rare roseate spoonbills. Their pink plumage becomes more vibrant during their stay here. The iodine in their diet here enhances their color. Here are some shots of the spoonbills and a little blue heron taken yesterday.

1 comment:

Joan said...

Great photos. We just returned from a brief visit to Florida where we spent 1/2 day at Ding Darling and 1/2 day at Corkscrew Swamp. We heard conflicting stories about the presence of the Spoonbills. We saw a few at Ding Darling and many at Corkscrew. Some people said they are present year-round but several claimed that they leave (about now) to head to North Carolina. I always thought they were year-round residents. Can you verify? Thanks. Joan Campbell, Downers Grove, IL