Hard not to be cuckoo over Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge
We are into our second week here on Sanibel Island and the weather has been great. The ocean-water temperature is resting at 80 degrees—warmer than the lake-water temperature ever gets up north.
We have been swimming every day, or should I say floating, on our noodles until a wave comes over us near the beach.
Then we retreat to the shade of our beach umbrella for an afternoon nap.
Every morning I have been looking for birds by the lighthouse, and so far I haven’t seen very many.
A Screech Owl has nested in a palm stub, and I found it hiding in a nearby bush after attacking a crow that came near its nest.
The pair of young Screech Owls in the nest are in their red-and-gray phase. One day one of them, hardly any feathers, was sticking its head out of the hole in the tree.
I wasn’t quick enough to get a camera shot of it. When they sit motionless in the bush you really have to look hard to see them. I’ve pointed out this bird to several people who have walked by without ever having seen it.
The first day out was very good for warblers and other birds, but since then the birds have been flying north nonstop except for a warbler or two.
Most every night we go into the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge to watch the Roseate Spoonbills fly in to feed.
On our first night we saw 35, but just tonight there were 116 birds feeding right in front of us.
Karen asked me how many more Spoonbill pictures did I need to take.
Tonight (April 24) I took about 70 pictures as a six-foot long Alligator was stalking them not thirty feet away. He caught a fish not five feet from them, which stirred them up.
They moved to within two feet of the Alligator and talked to each other about the critter that was not far away.
Some rain showers moved through this afternoon, so the sun was hiding behind a cloud. It made the water a golden color all around the beautiful pink birds.
There have been a few White Pelicans that haven’t headed north yet, and have been resting on the same shoal as the Spoonbills.
The White Pelicans are much larger than the Brown Pelicans. These birds normally leave the refuge by the 15th of April, but not this year. On this day there were still eleven here.
I participated in the Mangrove Cuckoo Count in Ding Darling the first Friday I was here.
We got a pair at the first stop in the Refuge and one just past the observation tower.
We also heard another one near the exit gate.
The day before the count, Karen and I rode our bikes through the Refuge. I heard a Mangrove Cuckoo calling in two places and saw one by the cross dike.
The Mangrove Cuckoo was one of the birds I went to see over in Sanibel fifteen years ago. It took me over ten years before I saw one.
Today their population seems to be growing, or the habitat following the hurricane has improved for them.
It’s still a great bird to see. Its call is very distinctive; once you hear it you won’t forget it.
We went down to Key West overnight, taking the fast boat from Fort Myers Beach there last week.
It was very hot with wall-to-wall people in an atmosphere I would describe as much like a big Craft Fair.
There were three cruise ships there and lots of people hurrying around trying to see everything.
I got up early that day and took a short bird walk.
The Wild Chickens were crowing everywhere and some of them were very pretty.
I saw Gray Kingbirds and White Crowned Pigeons. The Pigeons were a life bird for me.
I had seen White-winged Doves on Sanibel earlier in the week—also life birds for me.
I’ve heard the ice is out and the Loons have come back to some of the lakes, so I guess we will have to come home pretty soon.
Until then there is more to see here, but that’s another story. See ya.