Havens on earth

The  J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge

The J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge

The wind was high on Florida’s Captiva Island this morning, whipping up whitecaps on the usually placid Gulf of Mexico and forcing the row of staid palms along the beach to bend southward in rigorous, calisthenic formation.  But less than a mile down the island, a winding road led us back into a wide expanse of mangrove estuaries. They lay still and almost silent under the noonday sun. This area of protected interior wetlands is home to thousands of egrets, herons, and other wading birds, and a welcome resting place for white pelicans and other migrating creatures, such as ourselves.

A willet on one leg

A willet on one leg

The J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is named for the Pulitzer-Prize winning editorial cartoonist and passionate conservationist who saved the more than 5,000 acres of wetlands (about 60 percent of Captiva and Sanibel) from development in the 1940s.  The day of our visit, dozens of snowy egrets, pelicans, and the occasional osprey, dozed 6221030-turtles-sunbathing-on-log-ding-darling-sanibel-floridatogether on a sandy islet while an anhinga, its wings spread like a fringed gypsy shawl, hunted in the shallow copper-colored water. We saw two tortoises, perhaps a mother and child, sunning themselves on a hammock of mangrove roots.  A pair of grebes floated on the bay while a trio of willets kept watch from the shallows.  A friendly birder told me an easy way to identify a willet, which often stands on one leg: “Will-it or will-it not fall over?”

I’ve found that people who love birds tend to IMG_0768have patient, generous natures, willing to watch and wait for life’s small joys. “There!” a man near me whispered, pointing to the rocks below.  We’d been gazing through our binoculars at the rows of pelicans and egrets who were roosting in the mangrove trees.  “There!” Not six feet away stood this snowy egret.




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10 Responses to Havens on earth

  1. Ellen says:

    Thanks for a wonderful birding report, complete with pictures. It’s especially welcome here in the frozen North. And you’re right about birders being patient generous spirits. I’m married to one.

  2. Annette Shear says:

    thank you
    I am forwarding this post to a birding friend of mine who knows the area very well..
    I’m sure she will enjoy your words too and hopefully it will bring back pleasant
    memories for her.

  3. Beata M. Newman Scarpulla says:

    From Beata

    Am lusting looking at this fantastic bird wildlife, sand and blue water, sigh…
    What a pleasure.

    • Liza says:

      Thank you, Beata. You would love the whole refuge, including a visitors’ center which has a beautiful collection of duck decoys.

  4. judy buck says:

    Lovely! Makes me feel as I am there waiting and watching and maybe a little bit calm. Love your blogs, MB!

  5. Amy White says:

    And you were kind enough not to mention the temperature!

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