Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge

It was a gorgeous day- perfect weather to get off the boat and explore. We borrowed our friends' car (many thanks, Short Vacation!) and went out for breakfast before heading over to Sanibel Island and the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge. An aside- Jay Norwood "Ding" Darling was a Pulitzer Prize- winning cartoonist for the Des Moines Register in the early 1900's. He was an important conservationist and designed the first Federal Duck Stamp. Lake Darling State Park in Iowa is also named for him.

It took nearly an hour to drive 27 miles over to Sanibel, due to the ever-present stream of traffic. It is a beautiful island, but a very busy one. We took the Wilderness Drive route through the refuge, stopping occasionally for photos. So did thousands of other nature-lovers in trams, bikes and cars. It reminded me of a major mall in December. We saw a few birds  (pelicans, willets, and osprey) and one gator. We also walked the Calusa Shell Mound Trail and checked out the Visitors' Center.

Like us, these white pelicans spend the warm months on the Upper Mississippi and winter in Florida.

The water all around Fort Myers, Sanibel, etc. is very brown due to the heavy rains necessitating huge releases from Lake Okeechobee. Locals are up in arms- this is not good for wildlife or tourism.

I can't distinguish between male and female osprey- one caught a fish and after eating part of it, took it to the mate waiting in the nest. I would guess there were eggs in the nest, since we didn't hear any baby chirps.

After leaving Sanibel we visited Total Wine (my new favorite store), West Marine (Mark's favorite store), Harbor Freight and Publix. As they say, we "made a day of it."

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