Cool, windy, but sunny day at Ding!

Taking photos midday is difficult due to the harsh lighting.  Today was no exception, but when there is a really low tide at Ding, we head over anyway!  I had to delete most of the photos, but here are a few to share.

This big gator had quite a crowd watching him sleep.  Sometimes, you just need to find a warm place in the sun and sink your feet in the mud, ya know?

I always love to come across a Roseate Spoonbill

I think this is the down of a thistle?!!  The bee liked whatever it is!

My hawk buddy was back in the tree across the street from our house!!

Start out the new year with birds!

With the full moon comes some nice low tides.  I love it when the low tides fall during daylight hours!

This gull and ibis were having a bit of a dust up.  I had to zoom in to see what was causing it!

I'm not sure exactly what it is, but it must have been worth the fight!

This tri-colored heron had found a quiet spot all to himself to fish!

The Anhinga is always eye-catching!

I know it was here somewhere!  We gotta find it!!!

I'm not an expert on gators, but this guy looked like he'd just had a nice big lunch.  His belly was really wide for his size.

Bird Sunday!

We saw lots of different birds today, some at Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge and some in our own backyard.  I love this time of year on the island!  The weather is great and the birds are plentiful! 

This osprey flew overhead with his lunch.

I don't get many chances to photograph a Wood Stork.  Not that they aren't around, just that I am not lucky enough to be where they are.  This one flew in circles overhead at Ding today.

This hawk appeared to be searching for food!

We saw several Blue-Winged Teals today.  They have such a distinctive face.

This Reddish Egret is one that has been tagged on his leg and also has a transmitter on his back.  The refuge is able to track it.

It's Cormorant bath time!!  He should have been clean when he was done.  This went on for quite a while!

There have been a couple of male Mallards visiting the lake behind our house.  One looks a little worse for wear!  They hang with the huge flock of mottled ducks.  To be honest, I don't think I can tell the difference between the mottled duck and the female mallard.  There can be 25 or more ducks out there every day.

The male Mallard below is a little prettier than the one above!

Sunday Birds

A quick drive through Ding Darling and a walk on the beach, gave me a few opportunities to get some pics today.  It was a beautiful day today.   We watched the white pelicans landing on the sand bar. 

LOOK OUT!  I'm coming in!!

Seeing a Great Blue Heron on the stretch of beach where we usually go is always exciting!  I mean, what isn't exciting about standing near a 4 ft. tall bird?

And back home to see this pileated woodpecker.

Majestic Eagle Overload

My blog is about the wildlife on Sanibel Island.  However, today we drove to North Fort Myers to see a famous eagle nest.  Dick Pritchett Real Estate has some pasture land near their office that happens to have a tree with an eagle nest in it.  You can watch the live web cams at  Harriet should be settling in to lay her egg(s) soon.  When we arrived, I could not see any eagles anywhere and thought the 45 minute drive was going to be for nothing.  But, thanks to the nice couple who pointed out that I needed to walk a little farther down the road for a better angle to see one of the eagles guarding the nest.  I took a few pictures, then the other eagle came flying in.  Right after that, the first eagle took off with some sort of food and flew to a nearby tree to eat.  All in all, I took around 190 photos!  Yikes!  Thank goodness for digital cameras!

This one below was sitting in the tree.  The one that flew in did not have any food.  I was busy taking photos of the one that flew in, when suddenly the one below flew out with something that was half eaten.  It looks like a fish, but the eagle was having a hard time eating it because it was so tough.  I guess it could have been a fish with a really tough skin?  However, that sort of looks like a leg hanging down?  

Landing in the tree!!

I'll just go ahead and apologize for so many photos of this eagle.  I was near enough with my longer lens that I managed some fairly closeup pics!

And then there's that moment when an eagle turns his gaze on you and you aren't sure whether to swallow hard and keep clicking away or run!!

And last, but not least, this pretty little egret walking through the grass under the tree with the nest.

White Pelicans Are Back!

We took a drive through Ding today to get our first glimpse of the White Pelicans this season.  I'm always amazed how large they are!  In the pic below, they all seem to be listening to the guy on the left.  I may have to photoshop a Santa hat on them for Christmas!

How would you caption this photo?

This gives you a measure of how big the white pelicans are!

I always get excited when I see pink feathers, since I love the Roseate Spoonbills.  This was the only one we saw today and he was quite a distance away.  Plus, the bright sun was very harsh today.

A big "thank you" to the Ding volunteer who told me about the next two birds.  I didn't realize the one below is a Greater Yellowlegs (love the name).  I thought they were just the regular shorebirds that we see everywhere.

I'd only glanced at a group of birds and assumed they were mottled ducks.  But, the volunteer pointed out that these have black beaks.  The one below is a female Blue-Winged Teal.

Back home for lunch and this little tree frog was hiding in my grill when I opened the lid to start it up.  He wasn't pleased to see me.

The beaver moon last night was so huge and bright!

Big guy!

My friend down the street called to tell me that a big Iguana was in her yard.  He wasn't too happy to see me trying to sneak up and take his picture!  These big ones are kinda scary!

I could not get a good photo of his whole body.  The one below was about the only one that turned out even half focused.  Not sure what was going on.

This photo below pretty much describes how slow I have been to get outside to take photos lately!  Slow as a snail!!

A day at Ding Darling and more Irma cleanup!

The island is beginning to get busy again as the hot weather becomes a little less hot.  The snow birds will be returning soon, both the human and the migratory ones!  The vegetation removal trucks went through our neighborhood this week picking up all the huge piles, taking us one step closer to "normal" after Irma.  There is still lots of vegetation on the island to be removed, but they are definitely making progress. 

I found the process fascinating.  You can't really see it, but there is are electrical wires that the worker was avoiding as he picked up the limbs and maneuvered them into the truck.

This huge pile of vegetation below is about 7 feet high.  This was a combination from our yard and a couple of our neighbors.  Luckily, there is an empty lot next to our house, so we didn't have to kill our grass by piling it in our yard!

We were at Ding Darling Refuge today for the annual Amateur Ding Photo Contest.  One of my photos won "Honorable Mention".  You can see it if you click the Awards tab above and scroll to the bottom of the page.  The mural below is new at the center.  It is painted as if you are under the water.  The 3D manatees were really cool.  

The following photo is of the ceiling, so you are looking up at a 3D gator.  They did a great job on these!

After the awards were given out, we took a drive through the refuge.  The tide was coming back in, so there weren't many birds close up to take photos of.  The Roseate Spoonbills and the Cormorant below seem to be playing Simon Says - stand on one foot!

We got one glimpse of a good sized gator at Ding.

And this guy was on the porch rail at home to greet us!

Strong surf day

The surf was stronger than usual today.  I'm not sure if it had to do with Hurricane Nate, but that seems like a good place to put blame!  The strong surf and wind had blown a few things onto the beach.  The trap below held a lot of interest for this bird.

This "Idle Speed" marker is no longer doing its job on the water.

This jelly fish washed up long enough to get a photo and then a wave took it back out.  It was quite big!

This small boat seemed to disappear between the waves.

This bird flew right in front of my lens.  It was so close that I couldn't get his whole body in the frame!

Sunday Beach Walk

Today was one more step in the return to normal.  It's now been 2 weeks since Irma came through this part of Southwest Florida and we were able to access our favorite section of the beach for a nice long walk.

For some reason, there appears to be the steps from someone's home laid out across the beach.

It was great to see that the sand had not disappeared, at least along this stretch of beach.

This fisherman said that the only fish he was catching today were Ladyfish.  I had to come back home and look it up.  I'd never heard of them.

We came upon this little guy below on the beach near the water.  We were fairly sure he was a snapping turtle.  We were watching him when the SCCF guy came along on his routine turtle nest check.  He stopped and told us that it is definitely a snapping turtle and are usually found near fresh water, not salt water.  He said that they will sometimes go into salt water if they have parasites on them.  He got a bucket, put some sand in it, and was going to return him to a fresh water area.

He was holding the turtle by the very back end of the shell.  He said that it can stick its neck way out and reach almost to that point to snap whatever has it.  By the way, SCCF stands for Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation.  They are dedicated to conservation of coastal habitats and aquatic resources on Sanibel and Captiva.

There were hundreds of these tiny little fish along the shoreline. 

The tiny fish were making a great breakfast for the guy below!

Although it is technically autumn, the leaves do not fall from sea grapes, strangler figs and similar trees this time of year in this area.  All these leaves that were on the ground on the beach access path, is a result of Irma coming through.

Getting back to normal . . .

Taking a drive through Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge at lunch today helped us take one more step back toward normal.  The wildlife drive opened up yesterday for the first time after Irma came through and damaged a lot of vegetation.  People have been asking how the birds fared during Irma.  It was great to see birds doing their normal thing!

After leaving Ding, we came upon one of the big grabber trucks picking up piles of vegetation.  Unfortunately, I had to take the photos through the (dirty) windshield!  But, you get the gist!  We are all very thankful to the city for sending these trucks around!

Early last Sunday morning, we headed to the beach to check out how it made it through Irma.  We came upon the workers staging at Bailey's Grocery parking lot before going out to tackle the downed power lines!  Thank you to everyone working so hard to restore our power!

The places where residents can park along West Gulf Dr. were all blocked by downed trees.  So, we went to Tarpon Beach and took a short walk.  It was early and overcast, so the photos are a bit dark.  There was a good deal of erosion.

This guy was checking a sea turtle nest to see if there were any eggs left after Irma.  He determined that they were most likely all washed away to Mexico by now!  

It was comforting to see a lot of brown pelicans!

And then back home to this tiny little frog . . .

Irma aftermath . . .

The island of Sanibel fared much better than had been expected during Hurricane Irma.  Irma was predicted to hit Sanibel head on, but turned about 50 miles south at Marco Island and went inland.  As a result, we didn't have a lot of rain and the wind mostly did damage to trees, instead of homes and businesses.  For the most part, most everyone evacuated off the island.  I wanted to share a few photos from around the neighborhood and the island.  It is amazing to see huge trees that either fell away from a home or parallel to the house, just missing it.  

We were walking out our front door when this "grabber" came by.  He was just making sure all debris was out of the roadway.  They will be back to start grabbing all of the vegetation debris and loading it up.  We waved and gave him a thumbs up!!  All the people working to clean up and fix the utilities have been working so hard!

This pile of vegetation is just from our yard and our neighbor's yard!!  You can't really see, but it starts at the right and goes around the circle to the left.

This tree fell away from our friend's pool and house!

These next few pics are at homes in our neighborhood of Gumbo Limbo.

This huge tree was destroyed at my friend's home.  Several other trees were damaged, too.

These next two pics are two trees in the same yard.  They were huge old trees.  Both managed to miss the home.

This tree was down in front of the Wells Fargo Bank.

The pic below is at the entrance to Casa Ybel Resort.  That is a HUGE tree!!

Not sure what type of lines these are, but they were almost touching the ground.  This is where the Causeway Blvd. meets Periwinkle.

The one below is across the street from the Sanibel Welcome Center.

Bailey Road took quite a beating!!  The crews are working hard!

Only a few restaurants are open, some with limited menus.  The ones that are open, like Sanibel Fresh below, have put out signs to let people know.

I hope to be able to get out and get some wildlife photos soon.  Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge had a lot of vegetation damage.  Workers are doing their best to get it cleaned up and safe for visitors as soon as possible.  I'm looking forward to being able to do something as normal as a drive through the refuge to take photos, again!

Birds, Gators, Sharks, and Crab . . . oh my!

A week of photos from my yard, Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge and the beach.  Our son is on the island for a visit and wanted to go to the beach today to see if we might find a few birds to photograph.  We couldn't have asked for more birds!

We went through Ding after low tide was over, due to a mistake in the tide chart I happened to check.  We still had lots of photo ops, though!  The Reddish Egret is always fun to watch dance around.

This tiny Fiddler Crab was fiercely guarding his muddy burrow!

I had no clue that sharks would come into the bay at Ding.  The Manatee will come into the bay, so why wouldn't a shark, right?  A park guide pointed the shark out.  I have no idea what type of shark it is, so if anyone knows what it is just from the fin, please chime in on the comments section!  The exciting part was when it got into a kerfuffle.  It was pretty far away, but I caught it with my long lens.

There was a huge splash and everything happened very fast.  I managed to get two photos.  We assumed the shark found a tarpon to eat.  But, if you look really close at the second photo below, I think it was more like he ran into a couple of gators in the shallow water.

Click on the photo below to enlarge it.  Look on the right hand side of the photo.  I'm pretty sure that is a gator's back.  You see one of the fins of the shark mid photo, but there is a lot of other movement in the water, like maybe another gator?  I was just so far away that it is hard to be sure exactly what happened.  But, it was exciting, anyway!

Then, back home to our resident 10 foot gator in the water behind our house!

The bird below was in a tree on Captiva Island.  I had no clue what type of bird it was, so I asked the bird expert in our neighborhood.  He said that it isn't anything exciting.  It's a juvenile European Starling, but it still has some pretty feathers on its chest.  

Common Gallinule (aka Moorhen) Nest!

Our neighbor pointed out a Moorhen nest in a tree just over the water in their backyard.  While my son and I were taking photos of it, the big gator was keeping an eye on us from nearby.  We are keeping fingers crossed that the eggs hatch and the young moorhens make it without being devoured by the gator.

She is sitting on 3 very pretty little eggs and proud of it!

This Little Green Heron seemed to have a big interest in the eggs as well.  Many predators are watching the progress it seems!

Yeah, you may think you are hidden, but we see you!!!

I zoomed in on the photo from above and put an arrow pointing to my reflection in the gator's eye.  You can see the outline of the roof from my neighbors house, too.  He definitely has me in his sights!