Tuesday, January 29, 2013

How to Shell Conscientiously on Sanibel

Shell collecting is, as we all know, a significant reason that people come to Sanibel.   As one of the three top shell collecting destinations in the world, it is inevitable that those interested in collecting shells,  know of and want to travel to, our little island.

And there is such a bounty of shells that no one is disappointed with the treasures they find.

Many visitors, however, collect more shells than they can possibly use and admire in their own houses, and shells are often just tossed out rather than left in their environment.

Most know not to collect live shells and to leave them behind in the shallow waters where they are found. Indeed, the State of Florida has outlawed the collecting of live shells on the island. "Live shell" is defined as any specimen containing an inhabitant, whether or not the mollusk seems alive. The law also protects sand dollars, starfish and sea urchins. All shelling is prohibited in J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

Beyond that, there should be some general guidelines that visitors keep in the forefront of their collecting activities.  These are the rules that serious shell collectors have compiled, and they can serve as a set of principles for even the casual "sheller":

1. Collect for the sake of knowledge, facilitating science-oriented knowledge, sharing knowledge and sharing what is collected.

2. Collect for representation of a species and not simply for the biggest, best, most.

3.Never collect species from areas where they are scarce.

4 Never collect shells to trade or give away unless for a source you know will use them in accordance with principle 1.

5.  Don’t collect or buy a shell  to simply complete checklists and/or it will only end up stored until someday trashed or disposed of by unknowledgeable relatives.

6 If you do collect, be sure the collection is documented, inventoried and provision has been made for it to pass on to another responsible collector or a museum.

7. Don’t collect for the purpose of joining a social club or to win ribbons and trophies at shell shows. If this is your main interest, choose a collecting hobby that doesn't destroy habitat and kill wildlife.

8. Do not buy shells from anyone except dealers who deal in specimen shells and preferable are collectors themselves.

Make your holiday special by being conscientious in your shell collecting and assuring that your children and friends are familiar with these suggestions!

Monday, January 21, 2013

That's no Snake on Sanibel: It's a Skink!

Sanibel is home to many unusual creatures, some found only on our little island.

But even those that may habitat a wide range of locations, often have characteristics that confuse the observer.

Take for example the Skink, whose head and body are a flow of form.  Often, because of its continuous head to body flow, the Skink is mistaken for a snake...but one with legs....perplexing the casual observer as the legs are quite short and therefore not always quickly noticeable.

But the Skink is a lizard, with other special features in addition to its head to body proportions.ale
The Five-lined Skink is our most common lizard. They grow up to eight inches long, with males growing slightly larger than females.

They are usually black or dark brown, with five light stripes down their backs. Stripes fade as the skink gets older, so adults may look all brown.

Male adult Five-lined Skinks often have bright orange jaws during the breeding season.  This is an attraction for the females who are drawn to the brilliant colors.

Young skinks have very clear stripes and a bright blue tail. Females may keep a very full bluish-gray tail as they age, but males' tails will turn brown. Like most lizards, the tail is not an absolute necessity and the Skink will shed it if captured by the tail as a way to evade a predator.

Five-lined Skinks mate in the Spring and females will dig a nest under a log, stump, or rock. She will lay up to a dozen eggs, which will hatch between June and August, depending on when they were laid. Females will stay with their eggs until they hatch. She will also eat any unhatched eggs.

Young Five-lined Skinks are about two inches long when born.

These lizards are found in moist woods where there are a lot of logs, stumps, and rockpiles to go along with leaf litter.  Home is where the camoflage is!

And if ever there were a species that could illustrate a functional food chain on a tropical island like Sanibel, it is the Skink.  While considered a tasty morsel by a wide variety of island residents, it is also a predator to a wide variety of residents.   So, like with many of our Sanibel dwellers, it all boils down to eat or be eaten.

tail. Females may keep a very full bluish-gray tail as they age, but males' tails will turn brown.
very clear stripes and a bright blue tail. Females may keep a very full bluish-gray tail as they age, but males' tails will turn brown.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Bird Buddies: More Than Ever, Ding Darling and C.R.O.W. Prove Essential

The J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge is located on the subtropical barrier island of Sanibel in the Gulf of Mexico. The refuge is part of the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the United States. It is world famous for its spectacular migratory bird populations.

J. N. "Ding" Darling is one of over 550 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System administered by the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

There are over 20 dedicated full-time and part-time staff members who are charged with carrying out the mission of the J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, largely supporting environmental education.

Sanibel's Ding Darling Refuge provides a necessary stop over for migratory birds, some of whom travel as much as 600 miles a day in their migration route.

The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of  Wildlife, C.R.O.W operates a veterinary hospital, educational program and public visitor education center on a 12.5-acre campus on Sanibel Island, Florida. The organization's primary mission is the rescue, care, rehabilitation and eventual release back to the wild of sick, injured and orphaned wildlife. Inherent in this mission is the education of adults and children, encouraging them to live a peaceful coexistence with their wild neighbors.

These two organizations have won accolades for the work that they do, much of it life saving for the birds we all love so much.

But recent findings have brought the two organizations working together on a most unusual "problem".  Hurricane Sandy, which wrecked havoc on so many areas further north totally disrupted the flight patterns of many migratory birds.  Some of those, such as the penguin-like Razorbill, lost their radar and ended up in Ding Darling, a very southern landing for the birds who do not fly this far.

Wildlife specialists have never seen a Razorbill here on Sanibel, but 19 recently have been brought to wildlife rescues such as C.R.O.W. The black and white waterbirds resembling penguins usually don't travel any farther south than Virginia. Hurricane Sandy disrupted their migration.

While the Razorbills are having their challenges in finding adequate food sources in this tropical wonderland; the special cooperation and diligent attention on the part of Ding Darling and C.R.O.W. is giving them a fighting chance to survive.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Rich and Famous on Sanibel Island

Our little Island has had quite a few celebrities either visit, vacation or , in some instances, invest in our barrier paradise of tropical nature.

But, by and large, the Island keeps this , not necessarily hush-hush, yet rather subdued.

We do not run up to the celebrity, rather we studiously ignore them unless they reach out to us.  That's the Island way, and we are protective of all our guests.  One of the reasons all of us choose Sanibel is for the peace and relaxation we find here, and we are neither gawkers nor tattle tailers.

Among the frequent visitors is , of course, Arthur Frommer who actually made the announcement himself that Sanibel is his favored vacation destination.  That announcement was a nice nod to the Island's enticements, as what better endorsement than that of a man who has traveled to and written about destinations throughout the world?

Other frequent visitors are equally well known.  Christie Brinkley and Cindy Crawford are frequent visitors. Denzel Washington and Hank Williams Jr. have been known to vacation here as well.  Most recently, Dan Brown, author of the Da Vinci Code, has been added to the long and special list of well known frequent visitors.

And speaking of authors, Randy Wayne White who has helped Sanibel to grow famous in his novels based on the Island, lives year round on Sanibel as does---or at least did- Ted Kopple.   

In fact, all residents here know they’re lucky that nature lets them live here. On this 17½-square-mile barrier island near Fort Myers, people (all 5,700 of them) are out- numbered by wildlife, including poodle-size raccoons that hide in tangles of dense brush and blue herons that forage for dinner in the mangrove fringes along Tarpon Bay. It’s this unique environment — Gulf of Mexico beaches and untamed Florida wilderness — coupled with the small-town ambiance that lure homeowners like Today Show weatherman Willard Scott.

Well, we know we are being a bit obnoxious with all this name dropping (but we still kept many under our hats) so all we can say is that when the rich and famous go traveling, our sweet Sanibel is often the choice of their global destinations!