Saturday, July 28, 2012

Oh Baby It's a Wild World: New Sightings on Sanibel, A bird Watcher's Paradise

Sanibel Island is one of America's most popular bird-watching sites. Hosting approximately 240 species of feathered friends, the island is an ornithological treasure. Due to Sanibel's ecology-minded population, over half the island has been preserved as wildlife habit. In addition to J.N. 'Ding' Darling National Wildlife Refuge, you'll find endless trails and birding spots. Sanibel is only 15 miles long, but boasts freshwater wetlands, mangrove stands, beaches, dune and coastal ridge woodland. Located at the lower end of the Florida peninsula, Sanibel is a natural flyway terminus, as well as a stopover or destination for migrating birds.

Favorite birdwatching sites are:

J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge including Wildlife Drive, Indigo Trail, and the Shell Mound Trail

The Bailey Tract on Rabbit Road

The many SCCF (Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation) properties

The causeway islands approaching Sanibel from the mainland

All gulf beaches on both Sanibel and nearby Captiva Island

In the mangrove islands of Pine Island Sound, consider paddling via kayak or

Offshore, white pelicans are usually found in Pine Island Sound, visible by

Tarpon Bay on Sanibel

Along the bayous and back bay waters of Sanibel

Along Roosevelt Channel on Captiva Island

The lighthouse area of Sanibel

Osprey nests up above the bike paths and Sanibel-Captiva Road

Osprey nests at the Sanibel School

All local golf courses!

Wild life sightings on Sanibel have been diverse and exciting this summer in particular, making a holiday stay extra special. Just last week, there were nearly 50 species of birds recorded in Ding Darling alone. These included Killdeer, Willets, three different kinds of doves, six types of herons, and two types of wood peckers. Fine feathered friends we have a plenty.

The sheer volume of birds on Sanibel will astound you. They are a much-noticed and highly-appreciated part of island life. As a birder, you'll really enjoy being in a place that is so bird-conscious. One of the local newspapers runs a birding column. The local Audubon club is active. Resorts make guests aware of birds nesting on the beach, in order to protect their habitat. Traffic stops frequently for herons or egrets to cross Periwinkle Way or Sanibel-Captiva Road. Most fishing guides are knowledgeable of the birds that inhabit Pine Island Sound, and the island skies. (They can take you out to see the rare white pelican if you visit in the winter.) Even island children can identify several bird types.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Latest Buzz about Sanibel: Mentions on the www

Unless you have an infinite amount of time on your hands, you may not get or read all the links to Sanibel on line.

We receive a compendium each day of internet links, and though some are more interesting than others, it does give us a good pulse reading for who is saying what about our little Island.

Topics have a wide range, but most come to the same conclusion, and one we have known and bragged about. It's great to have so much corroboration!

Like the fact that Sanibel is such a great place to have a destination wedding or a honey moon. We all know that it has the basic ingredients: lovely beaches, nice accommodations, plenty of restaurants and a good range of things to do.

Still it's nice to see that at least one internet blog ranks us in the top ten of affordable honeymoon destinations:

As for enjoying the Island for its beauty and nature, seems like there is someone providing accolades for Sanibel nearly daily. We particularly like this description: "There are no high-rises on this cusp of land that extends like a big, asymmetrical grin in the Gulf of Mexico. No big box stores, massive malls or even traffic lights. Drive over the graceful arched bridges that separate Fort Myers from Sanibel, and you leave reality behind, entering a community where biking trails are ubiquitous, conservation is key and pristine, shell-soaked beaches are a part of everyday life."

Read more:

Well, we could go on and on, but you can also go to one of the compendiums we use and check to see not only who is saying what, but exactly when and where they are saying it.

And, of course, you can always check our own blog for new posts to see if there is anything new happening on the Island. Please feel free to share our blog link with others!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Exciting Adaptive Re-Use of Ship: Another Reason to Come to Sanibel

Although the Keys are best known as a premiere dive destination, the waters off of Sanibel Island now offer a unique diving site.

The USS Mohawk, a retired Coast Guard Cutter, was sunk on July 2. The vessel is the first official memorial reef dedicated to all US veterans. The Mohawk completed significant tasks such as informing General Dwight D Eisenhower that the weather was clearing for the D-Day invasion and launched 14 attacks against submarines between 1942 and 1945. To mark the warship's conversion into a dive site, a number of artifacts from St Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum have been hidden around it for (seasoned) divers to find.

The first person to locate a selection of items including an 18th century rum bottle, a non-explosive projectile dating back to the 17th century and a hand-drawn treasure map will win free passes to the museum in St Augustine and dinner for two at the Key West restaurant.

Scuba centers in the area applauded the action of the sinking, stating that there is a dual advantage in creating a reef of this sort and allowing the history to live on.

The newest artificial reef has quite a history and now it has become part of Charley's Reef system which sits in about 90 feet of water. The ship — with cannons and propeller intact — was sunk using a series of explosives, which were handled by the Lee County Marine Services Program and a Key West company called Reefmakers. Although there are several existing wrecks — including the Bayronto and Fantastico — off the coast of Southwest Florida, this is the first decommissioned military ship used for constructing a reef.

For those who know diving and divers, there is great optimism about this historical action. According to these connoisseurs of the deep, there are a lot of divers from all over the world who will come just to dive a particular wreck to cross it off their bucket list so to speak.

With the ship reaching the sea floor, it will only be a matter of time before a variety of marine life begins to call it home, making the site more attractive to divers. Although it will begin attracting fish immediately, it will take years, or even decades for other structures such as hard corals and sea sponges to take hold.

The sea floor in the Gulf is mainly sand so it should attract fish quickly. By next year it should have a lot of life on it.

Although the ship will be a welcome addition to the undersea landscape, some in the local dive community warn that it won't be the instant boon to the industry that some expect.

Two of the biggest issues for the new site will be the distance from shore and the costs, like fuel, associated with getting there, and the depth, which at 90 feet to the bottom will preclude most recreational divers from being able to explore the structure.

It will be available to advanced divers only since most divers are only certified to go about 60 feet. There may be other issues, however, holding back mass popularity. 80 percent of charter dives are around nine miles out, 15 percent are to around 20 miles and only about 5 percent go out further.

Technical divers are going to love it. There will be plenty to explore inside the ship. And because of the profile of the ship, the smokestack will be in only about 50 feet of water so there will be something for everyone to see.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

What Debby Taught Us About the Island

We thought we knew Sanibel pretty well, but Tropical Storm Debby taught us a lesson or two about the Island.

Tropical Storm Debby brought pummeling rain, high winds and extremely rough surf the last few days of its visit. The islands of Sanibel and Captiva lost power a few times with just a few downed trees but no major problems for us…. well, except flooding in a couple of spots. For those of us who drove across the causeway on the way to or from the island, it was a rare sight to see the calm bay waters crashing so hard on the shore that they literally splashed on to the road way.

But the bigger surprise was in observing the wild life on Island. The animals on Sanibel changed their patterns to accommodate the storm. They tended to want to bring their young with them where they went, rather than leave them in the nest. And we saw them as clearly as Noah when he collected the pairs for his ark. Our colleagues saw a mama armadillo and her baby have a very hard time crossing the road and there were 5 cars and 10 bikes all waiting for them. Also later a baby alligator was trying to get across the road, and a mama raccoon and her baby were observed trying to get across by the Fire Station.

Many baby birds were blown clear out of their cozy nests. Several were discovered by rental guests who did not know what to do. They called C.R.O.W. (the Center for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife) to find out what to do, and they said because of the winds they were getting so many calls about abandoned baby birds that they couldn't keep up with it. C.R.O.W. advised that the best chance of survival was to try to build the bird another nest.

So the owners, workers and complex management across the island got out their tools and built “hurricane proof” homes for the families and their little ones, with great success in most cases. Now, it seems, the babies and their mamas and daddies are all at the nests and doing fine.

Keeping in mind this was a tropical storm and not a hurricane, we feel so blessed that hurricanes are few and far between in these parts. If a tropical storm can cause so much change and disruption, we fear what truly fierce winds would do to the patterns of our feathered and four legged neighbors!