Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge

Sanibel's Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge is a short $6 ride over the Sanibel Causeway from Fort Myers. Ding Darling features a Wildlife Drive through the 6,400-acre refuge. It is open to visitors everyday BUT Friday. Guess what day we picked to go. Another $6 - and we were back on Monday. Since I have a National Parks Lifetime Senior Pass, the $5 per car admission was waved.

This Red-bellied Woodpecker is enjoying the berries on a bush by the side of the road. He is named for the tinge of red on his belly - which I have yet to see. He is often misidentified as a Red-headed Woodpecker which has an all red head and solid black back.

Ding Darling is home to a large flock of White Pelicans. Their cousins, the Brown Pelicans, perform the wild aerobatics - diving head-first into the water - that visitors find so entertaining here in Florida. White Pelicans just kind of stand around in big groups looking pretty.

Loggerhead Shrikes are common around here. I like this picture because you can clearly see the hawk-like bill.

Another common Florida bird is the Osprey. They are large eagle-like birds and the only raptor that plunges feet-first into the water to snag fish. I usually see them flying overhead or sitting in a tree - so it was a treat to see this one standing in shallow water.

I love the profile of the Belted Kingfisher - his head looks too big for his body. He is sitting in a tree over-looking a large tidal pool deciding which fish he wants for lunch.

Little Blue Herons are fairly common near both fresh and salt water.

I think this is the rarer, slightly larger Reddish Egret, also part of the heron family.

Isn't this grumpy old man just wonderful? He is actually an immature Yellow-crowned Night Heron.

There was a large group of Pied-billed Grebes on the water but they did not want to be photographed and quickly swam away as I got closer.

I know these are just common Mourning Doves - but it is so rare to get a picture of them in a tree instead of on their usual perch - overhead wires. The nest-like mass on the limb is an air plant.

These two doves were singing love songs back and forth and did not seem to notice me.

I saw several Roseate Spoonbills and an outstanding male Magnificent Frigatebird flying overhead - but did not get decent pictures of either. Maybe next time.

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