Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Resolute Sanibel: Personal Determinations for the New Year

Oh, it's coming on that time of year again, only a week from the dawning of a New Year. Looking back on the past one, I know that there are some things I hope will go differently and so I believe that I need to start putting my thoughts out there. Thinking is the first step in making wishes come true!

My first resolution is to emphasize the positive. 2009 was a challenging year on the Island for anyone involved in vacations, and that means just about everyone on Sanibel. But we made it and it's a good thing to remember that nothing so terrible transpired and a whole lot of good things did happen. I will make a list of all the nice things that took place on the Island in this last year and keep that list handy.

Second on my list of New Year's resolutions is to keep in mind that no man is an island. While spending so much time on an Island can make a person feel insular and keep one from being in touch, I am determined to have more contact with family and friends in 2010. Whether it be personal visits, more phone calls or more frequent notes, I need to remember that there is a whole world out there beyond the causeway.

Third, I promise myself that I will cook more, focusing on healthy meals and less of them. With so many great places to eat on Sanibel, it is just so easy to leave the kitchen in museum quality condition and find my food outside the house. But shopping for my own food at Island grocery stores could not be easier and eating food that I made with my own hands has its own degree of satisfaction.

Fourth, I need to remind myself that although the sun shines almost every day of the year on this lovely little island, it should not be taken for granted. Taking walks more often or jumping on my bike will help me enjoy the beauties of the days much more than just driving my car from point to point.

Fifth, it's time to stop putting off updating my wardrobe. There are several great shops on Sanibel for women's attire, and it's such an easy thing to stop there and try on some great looking stuff. It's a really hard choice to part with things we love and that have served us well, but I think the merchandise in the stores is calling my name and I should heed the welcome.

Sixth, and I think I'd better stop here as six resolutions are pretty formidable, my walls need updating as much as my wardrobe does. I think I have outgrown the art work I've had for longer than I would like to admit. I want to support the Island art galleries and there are so many lovely pieces of work that would really brighten my place and my day. So why not?

OK, I feel better already and prepared to take on a new year, Sanibel style!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Kestrels and Killdeer and Moorhens , Oh My! The cult of the Christmas Bird Count on Sanibel

There is an annual event each year at this time that insiders of The Audubon Society know of, and bird lovers everywhere would like to be part of. It's called the Christmas Bird Count.

The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) began in 1900 when the founder of Bird-Lore (the progenitor of Audubon magazine), Frank Chapman, suggested an alternative to the "side hunt," in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most game, including birds. Chapman proposed that people "hunt" birds only to identify, count, and record them. The Christmas Bird Count season is December 14 through January 5 each year. Your local count will occur on one day between those inclusive dates, and on Sanibel that day is December 19. These Binocular Brigades often brave winter's chill, ice and snow to record changes in resident populations and ranges, before spring migrants return.

Luckily, those who participate in this nationalized project in the Florida area are spared the frigid temperatures. Yet the allure of sightings is none the less sufficient inducement to participate.

CBC data not only helps identify birds in most urgent need of conservation action; it reveals success stories. The Christmas Bird Count helped document the comeback of the previously endangered Bald Eagle and Brown Pelican, and significant increases in waterfowl populations, both the result of conservation efforts.

Though most folks who come to this glorious island know of the Sanibel Captiva Consevation Foundation (SCCF) as well as the Center for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW), both local organizations, the fact that the islands host a local chapter of Audubon is not necessarily recognized. We would urge anyone interested in the Christmas Bird Count on Sanibel to contact the local co-ordinator at:

The Sanibel/Captiva Audubon chapter is also the coordinating point for a series of birdwalks on and near the Islands. Here is the schedule posted on their site:

Bird Walk Schedule

Dec 5 Bailey Tract
Dec 12 Ding Darling Refuge
Dec 19 Christmas Bird Count
Jan 2 Bunche Beach
Jan 9 Pond Apple Trail
Jan 16 Ft. Myers Beach Lagoon
Jan 23 Bunche Beach
Jan 30 Ding Darling Refuge
Feb 6 Bailey Tract
Feb 13 Ding Darling Refuge
Feb 20 Bailey Tract
Feb 27 Bunche Beach
Mar 6 Bowman's Beach
Mar 13 Ding Darling Refuge
Mar 20 Bailey Tract
Mar 27 Ding Darling Refuge
Apr 3 Sanibel Lighthouse

For more information on these walks, please click here:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Night life on Sanibel Island (Yes, there is!)

Bloggers often read as many blog posts as they write, and I'm no different.

I like to take the pulse of what people are thinking and doing, especially when it comes to vacations and favorite places to live. Sometimes I agree, sometimes not, but it's fun to compare opinions, even if only on line opinions.

Today I read a post entitled "Death's Sunny Waiting Room" which was poking fun at Florida as being the last stop before you know where.

Now, the post was generic about the state in a general way, yet there are people who think that Sanibel is already kind of dead when it comes to things to do at night. And though it is no South Beach or Fort Lauderdale at Spring Break, there's actually a fair amount of activity if you still have energy and interest after your day of swimming/boating/biking/golfing.

Aside from the cultural venues like Big Arts and the Old School House Theater and Sanibel Cinema, there are a dozen outlets where you can enjoy yourself when the Island turns dark and the moon beams over the palms.

There's the relatively new kid on the block, Biddles. At Biddles, you can hear live music seven nights a week, from 6:30 pm until... You'll find four different acts all of them unique. There's piano, singing and dancing, and if you want to start your evening on the early side, there's a Happy Hour from 4 to 7.

Or you can step back to a time when Jazz was King, and a night out was something really special! Ellington's Jazz Club and Restaurant features live, world-class jazz nightly, along with a dining experience and great food. Dinner is served nightly 5-11pm with live jazz nightly from 7-11pm. There's also a Happy Hour daily 5-6:30pm.

On neighboring Captiva, RC Otter’s offers live entertainment, lunch and dinner seven days a week, 12:30-10pm. Voted 1st Place “Best Family Dining” and Taste of the Islands “Best Seafood.”

The Patio Lounge at the Jacaranda is considered by many to be the best nightlife on the island. There are live bands nightly. Enjoy their seafood bar with a cocktail on the patio under the stars, or enjoy garden dining in their award-winning restaurant. Happy Hour daily from 4-7pm. Live entertainment seven nights a week, 52 weeks a year.

The Keylime Bistro on Captiva offers live entertainment seven days a week. Let’s not forget happy hour drinks! Weekends offer daily island sounds and evening guitar.

If this all sounds a bit too mellow and tame for you, you might want to shout the night out at one of the Sanibel Sports bars like Doc Fords or the Great White Grill.

So who says there's nothing to do at night on Sanibel? Not us!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

No Such Thing as the Terrible Two's on Sanibel Island

We were recently asked by a prospective vacation rental guest if there would be things to do for their toddler. Of course, when you think of Sanibel, you think of kids and the great discoveries to be made on the Island. You think of swimming and kayaking and biking and maybe even parasailing. But those things are really more enjoyed by children a little older. So, keeping in mind that that the "toddler rebellion" can actually begin at the age of one and that it is marked by temper tantrums and the acute reaction to say no to everything, we came up with some suggestions.

We think that these activities will keep your toddler sufficiently entertained and safe and keep you from living in the future and thinking about when you will be blowing out that third candle on the birthday cake.

Since toddlers and young children are often afraid to go into the water but are enthralled by the sight of it, beach activities are always a great diversion. Sea shell gathering, even at such a tender age, is a lot of fun. Your little one can find so many different kind of shells on Sanibel beaches that this can become a family effort for a whole morning. Just remember that it is not just your toddler's age that is tender, but that tiny feet should be protected in sturdy beach shoes or sneakers. Those shells that adults can avoid while walking the beach need to be child proofed on your babies feet. And that tender skin needs plenty of sunscreen as well.

There is probably not a more exciting adventure for a 2 year old than building their first sand castle. (Remember yours?) With mom and dad's help, your toddler can become chief architect and contractor of their own little piece of property. And if they tire of the project and stomp it into oblivion, no harm done. You can all build a new one the next day.

Your little one won't be able to tour the island by bike using pedal power, but there are bike trailers that you can attach to your own bike to pull him or her along. You can rent your own bike and the tot trailers from Billy's Rentals or, for a family vehicle, you might want to consider a 4 person surrey rental, also available at Billy's Rentals.

If the natural bird sightings are not sufficiently interesting, your toddler might enjoy a closer look at some very special birds. There are wonderful parrots and macaws to be seen at Jerry's supermarket and a whole collection of tropical and unusual birds at the Periwinkle Park mini zoo. Just remember that these birds, while beautiful and tame, are not domestic pets. Always keep an eye that little fingers don't get too close to those big powerful beaks!

And, of course, for the ultimate nature experience, boat rides to any of the smaller islands surrounding Sanibel are not just get fun, but an excellent way to introduce your little one to our water world. Almost guaranteed, on any of these journeys you will have dolphin swimming beside your boat, jumping and frolicking purely to entertain you. Indeed, their antics are so entertaining we are betting that your little one will not want to return to shore. And we totally understand that.

Life is good on Sanibel, by land or by sea. Come and experience the magic with your family!