Sanibel Island

The winter in much of the United States has been unusually harsh this year. Here in Ann Arbor, we had a record amount of snow in January and temperatures dipped below -25 °C or -10 °F on a few nights. Since the start of the year, we’ve had only six days where the temperature got above freezing. The high point so far was a mere 6 °C or 42 °F on January 13.

In the midst of all that, a weekend getaway to Sanibel Island in Florida sounded awfully pleasant, and that’s exactly what it was. For the first four days of February we enjoyed plenty of sunshine and temperatures of around 25 °C or 80 °F. This was our second time on Sanibel; the first time was back in April of 2012. We stayed at a Castaways cottage on both trips, near the northern tip of the island and within walking distance of both the ocean beach and a secluded bay.

Sanibel is a barrier island on the west side of Florida, near the city of Fort Myers and right on the Gulf of Mexico. Like most of Florida, it has plenty of wildlife. We went out birding multiple times a day, walking along the beach or the bay or driving through the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Below are some highlights; the full photo album is available at Picasa.

In four days of birding (including a visit to Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve in Fort Myers) I spotted a total of 60 different species. Sometimes it was just a single individual, sometimes hundreds at a time. Of those 60 species, there were six I had never seen before: red-shouldered hawk, red knot, lesser black-backed gull, black skimmer, fish crow, and pine warbler. It was like a birder’s paradise!

A typical sight in "Ding" Darling: a sandbar, some water, and mangrove forest.
A typical sight in “Ding” Darling: a sandbar, some water, and mangrove forest.
Our Castaways cottage was in the Sunset Bay Marina, where some of the resident birds are used to people and allow for wonderful close-up photography. This great egret (grote zilverreiger) posed extensively atop a small boat, just a few meters away from me.
Our Castaways cottage was in the Sunset Bay Marina, where some of the resident birds are used to people and allow for wonderful close-up photography. This great egret (grote zilverreiger) posed extensively atop a small boat, just a few meters away from me.
Brown pelicans (bruine pelikanen) also like to hang out in the marina. They become very attentive when someone returns from a fishing trip, hoping to catch an easy bite. When not begging for food, they spend their time lounging around the docks.
Brown pelicans (bruine pelikanen) also like to hang out in the marina. They become very attentive when someone returns from a fishing trip, hoping to catch an easy bite. When not begging for food, they spend their time lounging around the docks.
Keeey-y-yeer! (That's the sound that royal terns [koningssternen] make according to my field guide.)
Keeey-y-yeer! (That’s the sound that royal terns [koningssternen] make according to my field guide.)
February is nesting season for ospreys (visarenden) in Florida.
February is nesting season for ospreys (visarenden) in Florida.
A red-bellied woodpecker (roodbuikspecht) on a palm tree outside our cottage.
A red-bellied woodpecker (roodbuikspecht) on a palm tree outside our cottage.
On our third visit to "Ding" Darling, we spotted this cattle egret (koereiger) foraging by the side of the road. It caught an anole (small lizard) and carried it out into the road right in front of me. It was almost impossible not to get an awesome picture.
On our third visit to “Ding” Darling, we spotted this cattle egret (koereiger) foraging by the side of the road. It caught an anole (small lizard) and carried it out into the road right in front of me. It was almost impossible not to get an awesome picture.

 

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