Monday, October 24, 2016

East End, West End; Hard choices on Sanibel

Albeit, Sanibel Island is an intimate space.

Only 12 miles long with two major roads , one on the north side and one on the south side, it would appear that location is not really an issue.

And though we have written about this previously, there are advantages to certain locations.

The East End puts the vacationer closer to the causeway and easier access to and from the island.

The West End puts the vacationer closer to Captiva and the charms of our little neighbor.

Mid-island has its pleasures as well.  Not the least of which is the closer encounters to a variety of restaurants and shops.

But the bird watcher and photographer may want to fine tune location based on beach highlights when it comes to the Avian species.

The West End beaches, most known for the best shelling on Sanibel would be a hands down decision based on abundance and variety of shells.

Yet birding on either beach can bring very different levels of satisfaction.

The birds are going to be the same special variety either place.

There will be Laughing Gulls, Sanderlings, Sandpipers and Ruddy Turnstone on both East and West end beaches.

Similarly, you are as likely to see Brown Pelicans on either beach.

That said, we have always automatically assumed that the West End beach would be superior for the watch and the click, given its endless nature on and around the sandy respite.

But several visits to the East End recently revealed a few feathered treasures.  There was the day we observed an Osprey not up in a tree or flying over the water, but walking along the shore, seemingly not the least disturbed by the people on the beach.  That was quite remarkable.

Similarly, the hordes of Terns, Royal, Sandwich and Caspian, that we have seen and clicked on he West End, are on the East End in equal numbers.  The advantage on the East is that , rather than being in colonies a mile from the entrance , the Terns are in smaller groups dotting the shore line up and down the beach.

And, quite astonishingly, the tide pools that catch up the bait fish on the East End attract dozens of Brown Pelicans onto the beach.  They line up along the pools, and do not seem particularly fearful about the people passing by.

So for those who have affection for our fine feathered friends and enjoy looking at nature through the lens of a camera, there are delights on either end of the island you will not want to miss.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Bumper season of Turtles on Sanibel

If you have ever visited Sanibel and neighboring Captiva, you have not doubt noticed the lights out policies on both islands.

That is probably the most visible sign of the protective measures taken to ensure that our nesting and hatchling turtles do not get distracted from the task at hand.

And getting to the sea is the task at hand.

Lights may disorient even the most dedicated beach traveler, so we have no street lights on either island and have begun a program to guarantee that lights on homes and in condo complexes comply with what is needed for a safe journey to the sea.

But lighting is only one component of sea turtle safety.

Others include protection of sea turtle nests on the beach which means warning signs and cordoning of those areas.  It also necessitates the leash law as roaming dogs might be destructive.

There is a lot of effort put into the protection of sea turtles, as we view them as our jewels.

And there is a lot of jubilation when there are good indications our protective measures worked.

Such is the case at this time.

This past August an assessment was done of sea turtle nests and the findings were cause for a super beach party.  The turtle nest count for the East  and West end of Sanibel showed that 164 and 430 Loggerhead Turtle nests were found , respectively, on the two ends of the island.  That may not sound like a huge number, but it is a very nice increase from the previous year when the tallies showed 120 and 376.

We are hopeful the number of hatchlings,  which will be evident this month , is as encouraging.

So why all the hoopla about sea turtles?

Nearly all species of sea turtle are classified as Endangered. Slaughtered for their eggs, meat, skin and shells, sea turtles suffer from poaching and over-exploitation. They also face habitat destruction and accidental capture in fishing gear. Climate change has an impact on turtle nesting sites.

And even when not directly threatened, the number of sea turtles who never make it to the sea is staggering.  Sadly, only an estimated one in 1 to 1,000 will survive to adulthood. The natural obstacles faced by young and adult sea turtles are immense, so Sanibel Island feels a mandate to do everything imaginable to help these special creatures.

When you come to our little tropical island and pay attention to the regulations, you are doing your part to ensure their survival. We thank you~

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Friendliest Birds on Sanibel Island

For those as enthusiastic about birding as they are about shelling, Sanibel Island is an unbeatable destination.

And it is not just that we are the home for 300 species of birds, the diversity is also stunning.

We have big birds, little ones, mid sized ones and everything in between.

We have birds that love the beach, birds that love the tree tops, birds that love the wetlands and birds that love the scrublands.

But one of the things that most distinguishes our birds is not so much what they eat or even what habitat they choose.  The one defining aspect of our birds from an observation standpoint is the level of acceptance they appear to give to human intrusion.  And we must be honest and say that humans arrived on Sanibel much after birds did, so the two legged visitors are clearly intruders on the birds' island.

But , clearly, the birds are going with the flow.

They are staying put , and we are very happy for their loyalty.

It allows us to take a close up and personal look at our feathered friends---when they are in agreement with such an action.

And by and large, our waders are very tolerant of human company.  One can stand just 20 feet away from a Great Egret or Little Snowy Egret , especially when they are intent on their fishing expedition.  Similarly, a few of our shore birds are downright mellow.  Black Bellied Plovers will literally stand and pose on our shell-rich shores, and are very recognizable because of their larger size and distinctive black bellies. 

And there is no more obliging a woodland bird than our special Northern Mockingbird.  Not just pretty, but superbly talented as well, those looking to take a photo of a Mockingbird will be pleased at how long they will perch charmingly and allow the camera to capture their splendor.

By and large our herons, whether they be Little Blues or Green, are exceptionally at ease with two leggers.    And they make excellent subjects for the camera lenses.

But we must warn you that not every bird on Sanibel is inclined to let you see it, let alone snap a photograph.  Each fall, winter and spring, we have dozens of species of warblers and other small birds migrate through Sanibel.  It is a wonderful but fleeting sight to watch the rosy cheeked Cape May Warbler, the striking Black and White Warbler, and the Hooded Warbler flit around Ding Darling.  But unless you are supremely lucky or remarkably patient, you will only getting a fleeting look and a blurred photograph.  And when it comes to the elusive Mangrove Cuckoo, good luck with that one.  We know people who have been looking for this bird for 3 decades and still have not sighted this shy bird.

Overall, however, the numbers ----and species----are on your side.  Sanibel has a huge number of friendly winged creatures just waiting for your arrival!