Saturday, July 28, 2018

Sanibel Island, and Southern Florida USA

Early March 2018

Spent a few wonderful days in SW Florida at our uncle's place on Sanibel Island. Just so I don't forget any of this, I am posting here. 

Of course, Florida is a mecca for naturalists and any trip there is educational, inspirational. Since I was raised in Canada, for me a trip to North America is somewhat of a pilgrimage also. For us Mediterraneans there is a lot to be jealous of : its a place with functioning "protected areas" that are basically bustling with compassionate visitors- an ecotourism wonderland, and a real natural history awareness in the air. 

Natural history is practiced in all kind of ways in this State: lots of outsy-doorsy types all around: catch-and-release fishing, family reserve-visiting vacations, shelling (shell hunting), beach combing, sea-watching, hunting, birding - all together! 

Osprey on Sanibel Island (looking on to the coastline of mainland Florida in the distance). I read there are more then 100 nests of Osprey on Sanibel. They were everywhere!
Sanderlings were chasing these tiny mole-crabs (I think). Always shorebird company on the beach! 

The Ruddy Turnstone is said to have one of the most varied diets of any shorebird species. Besides the 'normal' foods taken on beaches, a considerable variety of 'unusual' foods has also been published in the scientific literature. Items eaten include: soap, gull excrement, dog food, potato peels, cheese, and the flesh of dead animals, including birds, a sheep, a wolf, a cat, and a human corpse (read  Mercer 1966, about the corpse!). However on Sanibel, I discovered they have an interest in coconuts and pizza too. (I recalled Mercer from my days at University).
They eat Pizza too.
American White Pelicans Ding Darling NWR

Willet, White Ibis with unidentified fish in lagoon at Ding Darling NWR.

Fishing permitted: Snowy Egret and Dimitri spinning for Snook at Ding Darling NWR. 

Ding Darling NWR

This is a large anole, I think it is the Cuban one that has been introduced.
One of at least 3 turtle species at Ding Darling NWR, this one at Baily Tract. (We also spotted a soft-shelled turtle Trionyx on the mainland).

Willet at roost on high tide, Ding Darling NWR.

Green Heron, Ding Darling NWR.
Tri-coloured Heron in the Mangrove feeding on mollies at Ding Darling NWR..
Water snake in the Mangroves at Ding Darling NWR (they are common and easy to see at one location with a board-walk).
An evening-time Green Heron, looking more greenish, Ding Darling NWR..
I did not catch this wonderful Red Drum. At the lagoon in Ding Darling NWR.
Dimitri with Snook at the Blind Pass. One of many caught with Rich's expert guidance and patience....
My first ever Sheepshead, Blind Pass.
A common sparid, Blind Pass.
Whiteling, Blind Pass.

Catfish, Blind Pass.

Mangrove Snapper, Lagoon, Ding Darling NWR.

Rich, our expert guide and best friend with GBH.
This is another of those subtropical sea-basses, the Spotted Sea Trout.

Mating Horseshow Crabs, Lagoon, Ding Darling NWR. We saw them only twice - a lifer... and major "EVENT" for me...
A young Racer. On Sanibel I spotted them on two occasions; this one at Ding Darling NWR where Vasso got bitten by the nasty fire ants.... 
Cayo Costa Island. Our cousin Michael and friend landing us on beach.

Natural vegetation at Cayo Costa. 

Wonderful pine and palmetto savanna and woods at Babcock-Webb (1.5 hrs from Sanibel). 
We had singing Loggerhead Shrikes at  Babcock-Webb, this one is from a stop near Fort Meyers Airport. 
Boat-tailed Grackles are common throughout the region, here on a pine in the Savannas of  Babcock-Webb.
Although we were looking for Red-cockated, these wonderful male Downy Woodpeckers were a treat for me at  Babcock-Webb.

We could here Sandhill Cranes singing and Eastern Meadowlarks,  Babcock-Webb.
Mockingbird,  Babcock-Webb.

White-tailed deer at Babcock-Webb.
Young alligators, very common in all waters at Babcock-Webb.

Black-and-white warbler, Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center.

The majestic Cyprus forests of Corkscrew Audubon Reserve (1.5 hrs from Sanibel).

Corkscrew Audubon Reserve: these are volunteer wardens, with Jim and Dimitri.
Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus) one of the best birds Jim showed us on the walk at Corkscrew.

Northern Parula, Corkscrew Audubon Reserve.
Red-shouldered Hawk, Corkscrew.

Huge cichlid-like fishes at Corkscrew.

The notorious Water Moccasin (!!!) at Corkscrew.

Best bird of the day: Painted Bunting (Corkscrew feeder).
Another great bird of the day: Indigo Bunting (Corkscrew feeder).
Palm warbler, very common at Corkscrew.

Common Grackle. At stop near Fort Meyers Airport.

Blue-winged Teal at Bailey Tract, Sanibel.

Roseate Spoonbill, there are not common, we had scattered sightings like this near the visitors center, Ding Darling NWR.

Anhingas are common. Bailey Tract, Sanibel. 

Pileated Woodpecker is a fairly common suburban bird on Sanibel Island. 

With the kindest uncle around, Deane Manolis.
Dimitri, Rich, Jim. 

Amy and Vasso, cousins and good friends. 

Manatee enjoying some freshwater from a garden hose.

Give water to a Manatee. 
This little easy holder-folder on the display panels gives the day's or week's birds at the reserve (Bailey Tract, Sanibel).
Simple photographic account, but effective.

My first Forester's Tern among Laughing Gulls. Sanibel Beach.

One of the beaches on Sanibel. 

This is a nice map of the islands focusing on the natural wonders. 
And this map shows how much a major barrier island this is - the inner "sound" is really a massive open coastal lagoon system - the largest I have ever seen.
Don't miss the sunset at Ding Darling...
Miami Beach at the end of our tour; we were so happy!!  The times with the Manolis family, a true family trip, the greatest family vacation we have ever had!