Saturday, December 26, 2015

Sanibel Island, Florida December 2015

Well, it's the holidays again and that means Florida to me.  Took a whopping nine days off of work and hopped on a plane to Tampa to go stay with my mom and grandma.  My mom had the brilliant idea of getting us a place on Sanibel Island for a few nights so we could all have a bit of a vacation. My grandma used to come here almost annually to stay with friends at the beach when my grandpa was alive, so she has fond memories of the place.  It's just south of Fort Myers on the gulf coast and is a pretty chill place, not a crazy beach boardwalk with highrises on the shore. 

I pretty much left everything in my suitcase as we were driving down the day after I flew in to Tampa. We packed up the car with everything we thought we might need and hopped on 75 south for about a two and half hour trip. The weather was partly cloudy but dry and warmer than usual, about 83 degrees.  Always surreal to leave 40 degrees behind and step off the plane into 80.  Traffic on the island was being directed at the main entrance and a few other key intersections by a traffic cop waving cars onward.  I don't think there are any stoplights on the island, and I guess to avoid installing any, they bring in traffic cops during the high winter season. Can you imagine if there were no stoplights anywhere and only people directed traffic? Hmm.. So we got to our place, checked in and unloaded all the luggage.  It was the basic resort room; a bedroom for grandma, and mom and I on the sleeper pullout in the living room.  A little kitchenette with a sink and fridge and microwave, and the basics: a toaster, a coffee maker and a blender for all those imminent daiquiris. A screened-in patio looked out west over the sea grass and scrub to the ocean.  It was cute and comfortable. There was a pool and a poolside bar, a place to rent tandem ocean kayaks and bicycles, and paths out to the beach with the deckchairs and umbrellas.  There was also a sandcastle built just as you came onto the beach, replete with Disney-esque characters, which was kind of amazing. Have no idea if the hotel built it or just a random beachgoer, but it ended up being a helpful visual tool for me to pick our hotel out of the miles of similar resorts up and down the Sanibel coast line.  

We spent the next three days eating out and generally just loafing around.  My mom and I rented a sea kayak and didn't see any dolphins or birds on the water, but got in a good hour of paddling.  It was great exercise and just nice to be on the water.  Then we rented bikes and rode to the lighthouse on the east tip of the island through the back neighborhoods. Lots of the resorts on Sanibel offer bicycles and many residents ride bikes of their own, so the bike paths are great and run along most roads on the island. We drove up to the northwest side of the island, through the beautiful landscaped homes with ridiculous nautical names.  We ate at the Bubble Room in that neck of the woods, a kooky ramshackle place that is filled with 1930's through 1950's Hollywood paraphernalia, with Christmas music playing 365 days a year.  The waitstaff are dressed up like girl/boyscout meets elf working at TGIF. So, all in all, pretty surreal. I was so dazed, I managed to pour my own iced tea all over our table...

Of course the majority of my pictures are of birds, because I can't stop, and I won't stop.. (Imagine me doing some variation on the MC Hammer/running-man dance right there..)  And of course, one morning my mom and grandma were kind enough to indulge me with a drive through "Ding" Darling NWR which is right there on Sanibel. We saw two alligators right by the side of the road, and a couple of other life birds for me, the Little Blue heron and the Anhinga. The rest of the pictures are culled from walks up and down the beachfront near our hotel.  Almost exclusively Black-Bellied plover in winter plumage (aka, a white belly- so confusing), Willets, a pair of Sanderlings, three Ruddy Turnstones, and a few Snowy egrets.  Brown pelicans, Osprey, Fish crows, Laughing gull, Ring-billed gull, and an exciting Lesser Black-backed gull.  I might not have ID'd that last except my friend Jill saw the same bird on her trip down to Sanibel a month prior and we had a look at her pictures to verify.  And my favorite, absolute favorite:  the Royal and Sandwich terns. Hilarious birds, so much personality. But I'm a tern lover, they never cease to amaze me. Alas, no Skimmers, or other kinds of Plovers, no Woodstorks except on the roadside while whizzing down Highway 75 at 60 miles an hour..  And no Roseate Spoonbills, waaaah!!!  I did see a handful of Magnificent Frigatebirds flying while on our bike ride, and few other assorted species.  

Well, here are some pics to illustrate the joy of 80 degrees, sunshine, and shorebirds.  Oh, and did I mention the dizzying number of bites I received from "no see-ums"?  Insane, almost 150 on my right leg alone. I looked like I had a horrible chickenpox outbreak. I've never had that happen before on Sanibel, but it apparently can be an issue there. I didn't take any pictures of it because it was just too repulsive. But anywho, back to the birds..

 this must have taken some time..

 royal and sandwich terns and laughing gulls 

 terns and gulls (ring-billed, laughing and lesser black-backed)

 royal and sandwich tern and laughing gull

 great peach jelly brain with shell..kind of gross


 double-breasted cormorant and meal

 ring-billed gull

 ruddy turnstone

 black-bellied plover, possibly a bright juvenile

a different black-bellied plover, this one more white and gray, probably an adult

 immature laughing gull

 royal tern

 royal tern fledgling asking for food

 royal tern fledgling being ignored by adult

osprey in palm

 beach was littered with fish skeletons

 island morning glory

 snowy egret and laughing gull

 immature lesser black-backed gull

black-bellied plover, terns

 adult lesser black-backed gull

 ring-billed gull

 royal and sandwich terns

 little blue heron


 mourning dove

 white ibis

willets, american white pelican, two possible female blue-winged teals


 another alligator!!

 immature little blue heron

 not a cool monkey, no, a raccoon up a palm

 Mom and Grandma at the north beach on Sanibel island

 fish crow flock

 fish crow

 magnificent frigatebird

 lighthouse and osprey 


 snowy egret

 pileated woodpecker

 snowy egret

 brown pelican


 willet at sunset

 Sanibel sunset

 miami vice style skyscape behind the hotel

amazing and cool crab spider in the corner of the the pool back at home

So that's about it for the Florida shenanigans.  I love birdwatching there, it's beyond gratifying.  My friend Jill and I laugh about how roadside and drainage ditch birding in Florida can turn up more seemingly exotic bird life than I will see in a year in Oregon.. It's pretty fun, and I was happy to have gotten a chance to go through Ding Darling on this trip. Well, the new year is almost upon us, and I have travel plans to spend it and my birthday on Oregon's central coast so perhaps I'll see something fun to share.
I wish you all a peaceful and happy holiday and New Year, and until next time, happy trails!


  1. Again.... thanks for taking me along! I really do enjoy your writing style... as well as your stellar photography.
    I hope to read more in the new year... speaking of which... Happy New Year!

  2. Thanks Terry,

    They're both evolving(hopefully), so I appreciate your feedback.
    Have a happy New Year, and hope we can all get outdoors often!