Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sanibel Island

Sanibel Island is an island located on the Gulf coast of Florida, just offshore of Fort Myers. Sanibel is a barrier island – a collection of sand on the leeward side of the Gulf Stream from the more solid coral-rock of Pine Island.
The city of Sanibel incorporates the entire island, with most of the city proper at the east end of the island. After the Sanibel causeway was built to replace the ferry in May, 1963, the residents fought back against overdevelopment by establishing the Sanibel Comprehensive Land Use Plan in 1974 helping to maintain a balance between development and preservation of the island's ecology. Sanibel is rapidly becoming a popular tourist destination known for its beaches, shelling, and wildlife refuges. More than half of the island is made up of wildlife refuges; the largest one is the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. It was to that refuge that we headed on our first full day in Florida

The day began somewhat inauspiciously, for there was a heavy drizzle as we left Fort Myers for the island. Upon arriving in the refuge my three eager companions jumped out of the car, cameras and binoculars in hand. More cautious, I took a few pictures after rolling down the car window. I noted a white ibis, but the bird on the left eluded my ability to identify it. If the sun didn't come out, this was going to be a long day.

The silhouette was my only clue as a little grebe paddled by...

We progressed down the refuge road a bit, with the rain gradually letting up a little. With the help of another birder along the road, we were able to identify a willet. Another one of the many "lifers" I was to see over the next few days. We saw many snowy egrets all along the road that day.
As few minutes later, as the sun finally came out, Mrs. T spotted a Great White Egret hidding in heavy cover along the ditch. Hurrying over to investigage, I realized there were hundreds of Egrets and Herons well hidden in the same ditch. An amazing sight!

A flight of white pelicans lands on a sandbar, while several roseate spoonbills soared overhead. There were hundreds of small shorebirds on every sandspit, but distance and inexperience on my part made identification impossible.

Naturally the big birds, like this brown pelican were a lot easier.

My 1965 Peterson field guide showed this bird as a likely Louisiana Heron. It was way out of range, however, and it wasn't till I got home and looked at my big Sibley that I realized the range had expanded to Florida and the name had been changed to Tri-Colored Heron.
New birds were appearing everywhere. Some really hard to identifiy. The curved beaked White Ibis was a favorite.
One bird was running crazily thru the water stirring things up. It wasn't till I read that the Reddish Egret often moves "drunkenly" across the water that I pinned it down.
A Little Blue Heron stood stock still in the marsh

A Black Crowned Night Heron hiding very cleverly in a thick shrub along the road.

A Great White Egret standing proudly along the shore.
It took us all of the morning and part of the afternoon with countless stops to cover the refuge road. Exhilerated but also exhausted we stopped at the famous Island Cow restaurant on Sanibel for a late lunch. What a day it had been!


  1. Those white egrets are very elegant.

    Look at the size of the leaves on the plant behind the little blue heron. I wonder what that is.

  2. Beautiful place to visit. I would love to see all those birds in person.

  3. That looks like a wonderful time to me! All those beautiful birds within camera range. What a great post, and thanks for sharing.

  4. Great pictures. If you want to read a great book about Florida I recommend River of the Golden Ibis by Gloria Jahoda. Wonderful natural history as well as human history. published by the University Press of Florida.


    Is this your first trip to Sanibel? It's one of my very favorite spots on earth - looks like you had a fabulous time. Your alligator picture is great!

    I look forward to more trip report installments :-)

  6. Glad the sun finally came out. Nothing worse than being on vaction in the rain!!

    What great shots TB. I would say it was an excellent day!!

  7. I'm really happy that you saw the white pelicans..just beautiful..and your photo of the tri-colored heron is excellent given that you were taking it in low light! I'm hoping that is sunshine beaming down behind you as you sat at the Island Cow! I can't wait to see what other "lifers" you got while on your trip! I got a lifer, if u will, at the Island Cow..J. Buffet and crew were sitting to your right around the corner when we were having dinner one night! Just happen to hear the server mention it quietly to another server as they passed our table..upon leaving we took a quick peek..typical flip flops/island wear..enjoying a meal with the fam. I guess.

  8. Looks like you had a wonderful day! I'd love to visit there next year...The tri-colored heron is just awesome - I saw very few of them in SC when we were there in Feb. Only when they came to roost at night. Can't wait to see more of your posts from the trip!

  9. Did you go in the center at Ding? The duck stamps are amazing and there is a helpful room on what birds you might see. If your luck is like ours, last time we were there it was the one day they are closed! Here's a link to a birding blog you might enjoy - some posts from Sanibel as well
    Enjoy! (I'm so jealous!)

  10. What fun to see so many different birds.

  11. I need to really brush up on my shore birds... we see so few here in landlocked NW GA! I've always heard that Sanibel is a beautiful place, and now I know for sure.

  12. Oh I really enjoyed your got some great photos! Thanks for taking us along..I am waiting patiently for the Bluebirds:)