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.