Monday, March 28, 2016

Sanibel Island's Sanctuary

Last Monday Tim and I drove over to Sanibel Island, a barrier island off the Gulf Coast from Fort Myers, FL.  I say we drove but perhaps I should say we crawled through the Spring Break traffic to get there; at one point, it took us 30 minutes to progress one mile.

But the drive was worth it, if only to visit the J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

Jay Norwood "Ding" Darling was an editorial cartoonist who used his bully pulpit to draw attention to the dwindling mangrove habitats of southwestern Florida.  

"If we only had a place to stop and catch our breath!"

He won the Pulitzer Prize twice, 

Top panel--1920; Middle panel--1930; Bottom panel--Extinct American species - Wild Duck

but even more importantly, he blocked the sale of land to developers on Sanibel Island and convinced President Harry Truman to set aside the 6,400 acres as a national wildlife preserve.

The refuge consists of mangrove forests, 


submerged sea grass beds, 

See any submerged sea grass beds, Tim?

cordgrass marshes and West Indian hardwood hammocks. 

West Indian hardwood hammocks

It's an important habitat for over 220 species of birds and unknown numbers of raccoons, gopher turtles and alligators.  Thankfully, we saw no alligators as we walked the refuge's Indigo Trail.  A volunteer at the refuge told us that the alligators would lie low in their holes during the chilly, upper-60s temperature that day.

What we did see were lots of birds.  

One bird surprised us.  From its perch in a tree, it dived underneath the water where it swam submerged for quite some time.  We'd never seen anything like it.

I wish I could list the proper names of all the birds we saw but the only ones I could confidently name were the ducks.  

We walked over 9 miles through the refuge and elsewhere on the island.  

The Hirdie-Girdie Art Gallery, a local artists' cooperative, was worth a visit as was the lighthouse at the tip of the island.

We finished our day with dinner at the marina where yachts were lined up in their slips.  

Tim pointed out the one he coveted.  He dreams of one day sailing the Inter-coastal Waterway.  As for me, I'd just as soon keep my feet on terra firma.  

That's my sanctuary!

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