Saturday, April 9, 2022

Sunshine, sand, and a sunglasses-clad Sheltie on Sanibel Island

I see that some snow is still falling on you folks up north, but it is in the eighties down here on Sanibel Island and the water is also very nice. Just before leaving there was a world of birds still using the feeders and several birds feeding on the carcasses on the dam. The last evening, I had a mature Bald Eagle and immature Bald Eagle feeding right up until dark. The bunch of Slate-colored Juncos that had come out of the woods or moved north were under the feeders right until dark as well.

I banded several new Juncos the day before we left and many American Goldfinch and Purple Finch. Once I had four Goldfinch in one compartment in the potter trap and one in each of the other compartments (that is seven that are now wearing bands.) We traveled south through some of the severe weather that was coming across the country in between the hot and cold air masses. We had rain and wind much of the way and it always was the worst when Karen was driving.

We had a combination of rain and fog (actually I think it was a cloud) that we were going through on top of the mountain on I-77 in North Carolina. The last time we hit that same situation was years ago and cars didn’t slow down. They were driving 55 – 60 MPH and disappearing into the fog instantly. It was one of the scariest times when I was driving. Thankfully, on this trip everyone slowed down and they were using their four-way flashers. We made it over the mountain to where we could see the big open valley below us which was a welcome sight.

The rain continued but it was light, and we got the car washed. We saw no accidents, not even fender benders. Karen was in a couple slow downs on I-75 and people were in and out of their lanes trying to get ahead. Luckily, they all made it through without hitting someone else. In one place just south of Ocala, the northbound lane was at a stand-still for over twelve miles, so I’m glad we weren’t in that. It was nice to get back on Sanibel Island again. The traffic here is not bad and the biking is great.

We haven’t gotten into the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge yet and there aren’t many new birds moving in across the gulf. I did get a Yellow Billed Cuckoo by the lighthouse this morning (April 4) which is always a good bird. I haven’t seen the Bald Eagle chick in the nest behind the Dairy Queen. However, when I was there this morning, they were leaf blowing the parking lot, which may have kept the chick in hiding.

On the way down we stopped at Myakka River State Park by Sarasota and took a walk out on the boardwalk. There was a couple showing others the birds from the boardwalk. They have been there every year we have stopped. They spend their summers in Maine, but each winter they volunteer at the park spotting good birds for others to see. We had a nice chat again this year. Once they found out where we grew up, they told us a story about the Saratoga Horse Racing Track. They happened to pass through there during racing season and went to the track. They bet on a horse in one race just because they were there. The horse came in next to last, so they didn’t bet anymore but they enjoyed watching the other people and the races.

There were lots of good birds around the lake there and if you want to see alligators, there are plenty of them to be seen right from the road. There were two Sandhill Cranes walking right down the park road and several more out in the marsh around the lake (some had young ones.)

We are playing our car license plate game again this year and not doing bad, only seven to go, as we picked up one. While walking through the beach parking lot yesterday birding and checking plates, this couple came along with a small Sheltie (Shetland Sheepdog) that had sunglasses on its head. I said, “Do they work?” and the couple said they did, and put the glasses over the dog’s eyes. I took its picture, and it made my day for sure. People passing by got a kick out of it just as much as I did.

I keep hearing that housing starts are up and it’s no wonder, as so many have been lost in the fires out west. Many others have been lost in the hurricanes that came ashore and the tornadoes that have come through the south every month. New building will cost much more than when these places were built, as prices for building materials are sky high.

More things to be seen here on and off the island, but that’s another story. See ya.

Photo at top: Spiffy Sheltie with sunglasses. Photo by Gary Lee. 

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Gary Lee

Gary lives with his wife, Karen, at Eight Acre Wood in Inlet where he was the Forest Ranger for 35 years, working in the Moose River Wild Forest Recreation Area and West Canada Lakes Wilderness Area. Now retired, Gary works summers for the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation, observing, catching and banding loons. The author of a column Daybreak to Twilight in local papers from 1986 to 2019, he now writes his Outdoor Adventures a weekly blog. In 2008, Gary coauthored a book with John M.C. “Mike” Peterson, "Adirondack Birding- 60 Great Places to Find Birds."




15 Responses

  1. Joan Grabe says:

    Ospreys all over the island, pelicans on the causeway, ibises, egrets, ducks in my pool – Sanibel is truly a sanctuary island. As nice a place to while away the winter as Saranac Lake is in the summer.

    • John Marona says:

      Just got in to Bonita Springs yesterday, going up to Sanibel tomorrow, never been to this area before saw our first ibis at sunset this evening. Got the fly rod so will be doing a little casting off the beach like to land a Snook while here

  2. Zephyr says:

    Nice story, and I love the area around Sanibel, but what does this have to do with the Adirondacks?

    • Joan Grabe says:

      Zephyr, People do not have to LIVE in the Adirondacks 365 days a year ! They can appreciate a tale from another town and maybe a respite from mud season.

  3. Luke says:

    I enjoyed your article. Thank you.
    I’m an upstate NY guy as well but down here briefly and just visited Ding Darling. It was fabulous!
    Bring your binoculars and good camera 😊

  4. Linda says:

    I grew up in New Hartford and always considered the Adirondacks to be my big backyard. I have lived in Cape Coral, FL for the last 18yrs and miss the mountains immensely! We frequent the Appalachians now, they remind us of home.
    I always enjoy your articles and glad that you make it to SWFL. I remember well the upstate winters.
    Safe travels!

  5. Karen Bruett says:

    We just returned from Sanibel and live in VT. Enjoyed
    your first report!

  6. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “I’m an upstate NY guy as well but down here briefly and just visited Ding Darling. It was fabulous! Bring your binoculars and good camera….”

    …..and don’t forget to take plenty of photos of all the roadkill on those scorching Florida speedways. Florida may have it’s sunshine, and its extreme, humid heat, and whatever else people seem to be drawn to down there (which this here cowboy is so pleased to be away from), but what we don’t hear much about from those who have found their supposed sacred haven, is just this…. the slaughter of wildlife by automobiles! I’ve never seen so much roadkill in my life… turtles, ducks, armadillo’s, turtles, cats, dogs, turtles, black bears, a panther (in one case)……you name it! Did I mention turtles? Any life form other than human (sometimes them too) could be found dead or impaired, in great numbers, on Florida’s roads. It was so depressing I could hardly wait to get the hay out, and when I finally did make the move, O’ what a relief it was. For the longest stretch I had nightmares after removing myself from that cement and shopping-mall haven! Still a sort of depression comes over me when thinking about all of the death I witnessed on Florida’s roads. And the animals that survived! They were better off dead many of them. Not many Floridians seemed to care, or to be affected by this, such as I was…. as if a numbness of sorts had taken hold of them.

    I read a report in the Wall Street Journal a while back reporting: “as many people are leaving Florida as are moving to it.” The main reasons for leaving were the heat, hurricanes & some other. I’d wager a good chunk of those leaving were of the same mind as me….sensitive to all of those hapless dead animals on those roads!

  7. Charlie Stehlin says:

    I’ve seen Florida drivers actually steer their vehicles towards a turtle just off the road, or other animal, and torture them with their tires Zephyr…..intentionally! This has got to say something about where we are spiritually as a nation. Not that everyone would do such, but that even anybody would do such. Recall the golfer on Donald Trump’s golf course in Florida some years back who felt that a sandhill crane (?) was being a nuisance while he was trying to golf so he killed it with a club. The horror stories are ample! And all of this hullabaloo about being proud to be an American! I don’t get it!

    • JohnL says:

      Donald Trump!! What a horrible man. I bet he built that golf course to lure them there (the cranes that is) so his golfers could murder them. Signed: A Proud AMERICAN

  8. Joan Grabe says:

    Charlie, The Ding Darling National Sanctuary takes up 1/2 the island of Florida, the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation has substantial conserved pockets in the rest. We have the only National Shell Museum and unbelievable shell strewn beaches. Our speed limit is 35 mph. The Florida Nature Conservancy has turned the inner core of ranching into a wildlife corridor for the panther between the Everglades and Kissimee ( Orlando) by Conservation easements, Alligator Alley (I-75) has the most innovative wildlife transit culverts under the road and is fully fenced. I have personally seen people stop their cars, pick up an errant turtle and safely deposit on the other side.And tons of happy families in T shirts and flip flops all over the state. And our birds !!! This is not the dystopia you imagine, Charlie.

    • Joan Grabe says:

      And I am sitting on my porch and with my naked eye I can see a bald eagle sitting on top of a palm right by the beach !

  9. Charlie Stehlin says:

    JohnL…….. There was no contempt against Trump regards what I say above; his private club just happened to be the place where this horrible event took place, but now that you bring it up….it only makes sense that such a horrible deed would be done at his club as like minds do attract not coincidently! You can go on and on about how proud you are which is fine by me….glad for you!

  10. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Joan…………. I have a very fruitful imagination which I am grateful for, but my imagination has nothing to do with what I say above. I am very much aware of the good that is being done in Florida towards helping and preserving the wild-kind, and I was even involved in support of some of the organizations, and I most certainly always did my part in helping out wherever and whenever I could…..the nature in me! Dystopian! Me? Nope! Just not one who sees the good only and ignores all else, including reality. I see more than black and white Joan! Sometimes I wish I was numb, or blind to all of the misery that us humans create…..but then I’d be average, and there would go the end of individual me. I don’t see that happening anytime soon, though sometimes I do wish I could just tune out! I have not been successful at this as yet!

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