Sanibel Island

Wednesday, March 3

We got up early to a flock of white ibis hanging out next to the RV. It’s strange how these birds are so unafraid of us. Yesterday I showed one that I didn’t have any food for it by wiggling my fingers at him. He approached and nipped gently at my hand before finally deciding I wasn’t lying to him.
We headed out to the J.D. Ding Darling NWR around 7:15AM and drive the nature drive. Our first stop on the drive was to gwt put and watch an Osprey sitting her nest, waiting for her mate to bring breakfast. He showed up after about 30 minutes with a big ol’ fish. We met a nice couple from Kansas while waiting for a good shot and talked to them about our van (they are thinking about getting one), birding, and photography. We ran into them a couple more times along the way and said hello. Most of the birds that are usually here have started their migration north, so the Refuge was a bit empty (Alan was very disappointed).

After leaving the refuge we drove to Cape Coral and looked for burrowing owls. We spotted about half a dozen and photographed them from inside the van, trying not to disturb them too much.
Since we were in the city we decided to buy our lunch. We always try to eat at mom-and-pop places, and I found one. It was an honest-to-goodness BBQ shack  near downtown Cape Coral. There were no signs on the shack, just a couple of good sized smokers out front. For $25 we got enough ribs for lunch and supper for both of us. This was a pick up only joint so we packed the HOT tray into the RV and drive around looking for a park with picnic benches. Ee found a sweet little park about 2 miles away. What a tasty, messy feast!

On the way back to camp we stopped to take in some beach time alongside the 2 mile bridge to the island. We brought out the chairs and plunked ourselves down and sat out in the sun, looking across the Gulf of Mexico towards Ft. Myers. We were also entertained by watching a fellow fishing. He was amusing to watch; he caught lots of throw-back fish, but he would NOT touch them! Instead he used some sort of stick to hold them down and then use some long-nose pliers to remove the hook. His wife though would help sometimes by grabbing the fish and unhooking it. There were also some greedy pelicans harassing the guy each time he caught a fish.

It was quiet there and I thought about my mom a lot. She’d passed away on this date a year ago. The peacefulness there was good for me.

We got back to camp and downloaded pictures, took showers, had the rest of the ribs for dinner, then watched a movie before turning out the lights.

Thursday, March 4

This morning we got off to a later than usual start for us at 8:30. We drove to Ding Darling NWR and again drove the wildlife drive. This time through we saw wildlife than yesterday. On the river we saw reddish egret, willets, black bellied sandpipers, and mangrove tree crabs.

After the drive we tried to go out to  Bailey’s tract for a hike, but it was closed. Instead we hiked 2 miles on the Indigo trail. We saw moor hens with their chick’s, an alligator, a pair of black snakes in the middle of mating, and also spotted a zebra long winged butterfly.

It was past noon by the time we finished so we decided to go ahead and get some seafood, a tradition for is when we visit any coastal area, so we ate at The Crab Shack, and saw a swallow-tail kite while sitting at an outside table.

We rested back at camp for a few hours then drove to the refuge to enjoy a sunset cruise with Tarpon Bay Explorers. The naturalist, Gabby, showed us shallow tanks with various sea creatures at the nature center before herding our group out to the covered boat. It was chilly on the water but we’d gone prepared and didn’t suffer like a few others, and the captain, did. We were taken out to several mangroves growing in the middle of nowhere, to see flocks of birds perched in the red mangrove trees for the night. There were all sorts of herons, egrets, pelicans, cormorants, anhingas, gulls, terns, and fish crows.

Leaving these mangroves we sailed out toward a part of Sanibel Island that had homes on the waterfront. On the roofs of some of these homes were osprey aeries. There were also a few aeries on platforms on tall poles built just for the ospreys to nest upon. At one point we watched 6 males hunting and fighting! We also got a picture of a female with a chicken up in the nest.
We began a leisurely pace back toward the nature center, seeing even more birds on then mangroves as we sailed by. Two huge flocks of fish crows soon completed the overflow of the trees.

There were just enough clouds in the sky, making the sunset was very pretty.