Monday, February 25, 2013

Great Sightings on Sanibel this Winter

Whether it is a cause or just a correlation, all of us have been blessed this winter with extraordinarily beautiful weather as well as some rather unusual sights.

We mentioned in an earlier post that Razorbills ( a penguin like bird) were spotted on the Island for the first time ever.  The storms up north diverted these lovely creatures and they came further south than normal.  We can not claim that was necessarily a good thing as the food supply in Sanibel is not really the chosen menu for the Razorbills.  But most fared OK and we hope that they find their way home with no further problems.

There was also a bumper crop of white Pelicans on the Island this year.  The white Pelican is larger and more striking than the more commonly seen gray or brown Pelican, and clusters of the white Pelican could be found in Ding Darling all winter long.  A drive through the preserve at dusk would be rewarded with a viewing of many white Pelicans gathered on the sand bars.

The sighting was made the more spectacular, not just by the sunny, breezy, low humidity and bright skies weather, but by the Roseate Spoonbills who appeared to enjoy the company of the white Pelicans.  The big pink birds were actually dwarfed when next to the white Pelicans, but the contrast in colors, the orange skies at sunset made for some dramatic and beautiful picture taking.

But the novel sightings were not just our fine feathered friends.

Among other unusual views were the long lost Rice Rat, the Indigo Snake, the Bob Cat, the Red Fox and  the River Otter.

That is not to say the River Otter,  Red Fox and Bob Cat are so unusual a sight, but the latter two are generally shy and evasive.  So the reports of Fox roaming in full view,  and Bob Cats sitting, unconcerned and unmolested right on the San-Cap bike path were joyfully received messages.

It also brought some measure of jubilation to the Island to have the reports on the Rice Rat and the Indigo Snake, as they have not been seen in years and were thought lost forever.  That would have been a sad note in he annals of Sanibel animal history as the Rice Rat is only found on the Island, no where else.

Also sighted, and with some alarm for those not accustomed to seeing them, were the thorn bugs.  The thorn bugs are so named as they look so much like thorns on branches that those who see these "thorns" moving about are quite surprised.  The thorn bugs, also called tree huggers, are amazing not only for their unusual appearance but for their history.  They belong to a lineage that is at least 40 million years old.  

So from the tiny to the large, Sanibel sightings in winter 2013 will leave some strong impressions on those fortunate enough to be at the right place and at the right time!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Teaching your children the Sanibel way

There are many ways to teach and many ways to learn.

Formal classroom instruction and books are clearly the most traditional.

But discovery, exploration and learning from example may be the most meaningful.

That discovery and exploration can be structured, and organizations like C.R.O.W., Ding Darling, Bailey's Shell Museum, Sanibel Sea School and the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) are wonderful and well ordered jumping off points to learn about the nature on Sanibel.

In discussing the value of a Sanibel Island vacation with rental guests,however, it is obvious to us that one of the greatest advantages for a family is the ability to do low key teaching and learning.   

Pointing out the animals and birds that inhabit Sanibel to your child is a starting point, but only a starting point.  Knowing the names of the animals and birds helps to distinguish one from another.  Knowing the special features of same, creates a greater hook to learning AND remembering.

The parent who knows more, is able to share more and create a greater value for the child.  The egret with the "spiked" head feathers is not just showing off, he is creating his most attractive visage for the egret he is courting.  Another, not quite so visible sign of courtsmanship,  is that the yellow markings on the beak of the egret are red during breeding season.

Each bird, reptile and mammal on Sanibel has unique characteristics, and the more you know, the more you share, and the better the child remembers.

But the greatest learning lesson to be found on the Island, is not necessarily the specifics of any particular non human resident, it is the Island philosophy.  Simply summed up, the take away is that animals are to be treated with compassion and respect.  All the signs on the Island point to this lesson.

We ask that cars slow down, that live shells be left on the beaches, that animals and birds not be fed and we have mandated a no-street light restriction so that baby turtles can find their way to the water and not get distracted.

Our signs are in several languages so that everyone , no matter where they are from, gets the same message. And the message is slow down, take care, love our wildlife but leave it alone.

If adults and children understand that the beauty of nature is a treasure we should all cherish, our lesson is one well delivered and well received.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

It's Ponce DeLeon's 500th anniversary: How Sanibel Might Celebrate

On Sanibel one can feel not only away from Florida but away from the world. But we do want to acknowledge our geo-placement within the state. 2013 marks the 500th anniversary of the European discovery of Florida by the Spanish explorer and conquistador Juan Ponce de Leon, and here's our idea of a perfect "birthday" cake to mark the occasion:

First, mix the flour with water, inspiration and love for island living.

Next, create a design that will truly reflect the joys of Florida and specifically the many facets of Sanibel.

We envision the icing in a shade of blue green to match the colors of the Gulf.

The decorations will capture the sands, the shore and the Gulf residents.

Sprinkles in earth tones will adorn the sides of the cake, sugar sweets shaped like sea shells will cling to every surface and dolphins will be crafted to top off the creation.

The design will be pure Sanibel, enticing, special and inviting as a work of bake art should be.

But what of the candles?

Well 500 candles would be a bit much to adorn the average size confection, so we will only use 5, each one representing 100 years of celebration.

And, of course, what is more fitting to serve as a candle than a palm tree?

But we would be remiss if we did not, in the creation of this birthday cake, complete the celebration with some additional nods to de Leon.  So we will have some music playing in the background as we served out the pieces. And our first choice would be the exquisite guitar playing of Andres Segovia, a Spanish composer.  Lastly, we will offer as beverage some sparkling water from a fountain and call it the fountain of youth.  Brilliant orange slices, right from our Sanibel trees will be available with each glass served.

That about does it.

Would you like to come to our party?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Why Sanibel Ranked in the Top Ten of Coastal Living Happiest of Sea Side Towns

Sanibel has lots of top honors.

It is considered in the top three of world wide shelling destinations.

Its school is top notch, as is its library.

It has received a high ranking by bicycle clubs, is paramount on the list of best bird sightings and even travel pro Arthur Frommer gave the Island his personal "favorite destination" award.

Now, it is in a keen competition for yet another acknowledgement.

Already named in the top ten of Coastal Living Magazine's "Happiest Sea Side Towns in America", it is struggling to maintain a position in the top 3 of those places named.  With competition from Sea Side towns up and down the east and west coast, the Island is in postion 4 of the ten, with voting going strong daily until February 28.

It made it into the prestigious list of contenders (ranging from Pa'ia in Maui to Kennebunkport in Maine) based on the following criteria, according to the magazine editors:

"We began with every place we've lauded as a Dream Town over the past 15 years, and took your nominations on Facebook. We polled our editors on each finalist to define that special "coastal vibe" and mixed it into the formula to create an all-star list from every coast."

We are happy with the choices and satisfied that each of these destinations have a special vibe, but we need to level the playing field.

With every competition, there are clearly advantages to certain contestants.

In this case, the advantage is geo proximity.

Those people living closest to the area are likely to weight the vote in the favor of the towns that have densely populated cities nearby.  Hence, some of the towns have high density populations nearby and that is clearly helpful to their standing.  So we are going to link you to the contest in the hopes you will vote for Sanibel Island and help push us closer to the top.

To vote, you need only go to this page, and you can vote once an hour every hour from now til the end of the month.  We hope you will take a second to click and vote and thank you for your consideration: