Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Unique and Unusual Among Sanibel Bird Habits

Birders flock to Sanibel for the diverse array of birds that can be seen on our Island.

Sanibel Island is home to a significant variety of birds, including the Roseate Spoonbill and several nesting pairs of Bald Eagles. Birds can be seen on the beaches, the causeway islands, and the reserves, including J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Common sights include pelicans, herons,egrets, , and Anhingas,  as well as the more common birds like terns,sandpipers, and seagulls.

And though seasoned bird watchers are most certainly aware of the nuances of our bird life, many of us who just enjoy looking at them do not know the endearing and unique aspects of their behavior.

For example, the heron who is flapping his wings about in the water and extending them at his side is not just showing off his plumage.  He has a much more special use for those wings, and a very necessary one.  The wings cast a shadow on the water where he is grazing and enable him to see his prey beneath the water's surface.  Just watch how carefully he steps through the water taking care not to chase the fish away before he can sight them and catch them!

And those Great Egrets who make such a display of their feathers during their courting are not looking for a one night stand.  Far from it.  That elaborate ritual (and stunning as well) means a great deal in the future of all egret off spring.  Like many birds,  Great Egrets mate for life.  When searching for a mate, males will try to impress females with long plumes held up over their back. Once mating has occurred, females will lay anywhere from 1 to 6 eggs. Both parents will take turns incubating the eggs until they hatch. Baby Great Egrets will leave the nests 2 or 3 weeks after they hatch if they can survive that long. Young egrets are very aggressive to one another and it is not uncommon for stronger siblings to kill the weaker ones. The young ones that do make it though usually live around 15 years in the wild (the record is 27 years).

And speaking of longevity, when you see a Royal Tern, you should consider that the Royal Tern could well be your age or older.  OK, maybe not quite as long lived as Parrot species, but studies on Royal Terns have demonstrated that they can live at least 29 years!  Not yet impressed?  Well consider this:  Royal Terns not only do not show their age, they do not have diminished capacity either.  Imagine yourself living to 90 and not looking a day over 20 with all the stamina and flexibility of a post teen!

It is well worth reading up on our birds before you get here.

Not only will you be able to recognize them, but you will better understand and appreciate their behavior and capabilities!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Quotes to remember and repeat on Sanibel Island

Sanibel Island is a nature island, a green island, a tropical island.

It is the kind of place where dreams are realized and memories made.

Though not necessarily named, poets, philosophers, writers, artists and photographers have taken inspiration from destinations like Sanibel century after century and from around the world.

There are many beautiful words written about lands like Sanibel, and we would like to share a few with you.  And if you are so inspired, we would love to hear from you about quotes you have found that remind you of our beckoning barrier island. 

One of our favorite quotations is from Douglas Adams in his humorous treatise, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  We love the way he sees things, just as we, too, see them so specially on Sanibel.  For example, he fully realizes that while man mistakenly thinks of himself as the superior species, it is clearly the dolphins who live the better life:

"For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much-the wheel, New York, wars and so on-whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man-for precisely the same reasons."
Of course, you have to see it to believe it, but any one who has watched the dolphin ballet on Sanibel knows full well that the dolphins are having the time of their lives!
And there are endless verses singing the praises of seashells, a product of Sanibel that every vacationer finds in abundance.  We particularly like this emotive stanza from one of Amy Lowell's poems:
"Sea Shell, Sea Shell,
Sing me a song, O Please!
A song of ships, and sailor men
And parrots, and tropical trees."
And this quote by the recognized genius of our times, Albert Einstein, puts into perspective the love and caring we have for the creatures who inhabit Sanibel Island: "Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty."
And Sanibel embraces all of nature, and all of those who see the true value of living in nature ... or just vacationing in nature.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Whys and Wherefores of Dark Skies on Sanibel

There are so many small nuances to what makes a place special.

The sounds, the sights, the smells all contribute to the unique character of amazing places across the globe.

And the skies.

Yes, the skies, on Sanibel are so dark, so velvety, so unreflective of light below that every star shines brightly as the moon looks almost within grasp.  This not only a great attraction for hobbyists in astronomy, but for we folks who find the darkness romantic.

Now, of course we realize that these same skies lit by stars and moon light are the very same ones all of us look up to.

So why does this celestial carpet have such a glowing appearance?

It's all about the dark skies law on the Island which is going on its 15 year anniversary. The reasons that the Committee of the Islands supported the ordinance were the  obvious benefits to the environment and wildlife, not just nesting turtles but so many creatures that crawl, walk and fly throughout the Island.

By January 1, 2015, all outdoor lighting on Sanibel must comply with the Dark Skies rule.

What does this mean?   Most importantly, it means that uplighting is prohibited. All outdoor lighting, including display, sign, building, parking lot, and aesthetic lighting, must use fixtures which shine light downward.  This will be the rule for all of the Island.

The code also prohibits mercury vapor lighting, but encourages high-pressure sodium lighting for parking lots.

Furthermore, the code states, "Street lighting is, in general, inconsistent with Sanibel's rural character. No street lights shall be installed or maintained on private streets, roads, and rights-of-way."

For residential areas, the code encourages motion-detecting security lighting to "maximize safety, minimize overall illumination, and conserve energy."

The few exemptions to the dark skies law are for items such as emergency lighting needed by the police and fire department, and for the Sanibel Lighthouse, of course.

During the past 13 years, as development permits were issued, lighting on the affected properties had to be changed. Also, as existing lights were replaced, they should have been replaced with compliant fixtures. Many environmentally aware property owners voluntarily complied with the new rule since 2000.

While this may all seem like a technicality to our rental guests, it really is a critical component of what Sanibel is.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Let There Be Light: Luminaria on Sanibel and Captiva

Sanibel is a magical place all year long.
But the most magical time of the year is no doubt the Luminary Festival.
Candles line the streets, shops are open, food is free and good will prevails.
This coming week-end will be the most delightful time on both Sanibel and Captiva.
It will be the  28th annual Luminary Festival on Sanibel and Captiva Islands Friday, December 7th on Sanibel and Saturday, December 8th on Captiva. Luminary Festival is a community-wide holiday event that brings together residents, visitors, businesses and organizations, promoting goodwill and community spirit. Some of our visitors make early vacation rental  reservations especially for the event.
As you "travel the trail", look for the many fun places to stop and enjoy.
There will be a complimentary trolley service, Santa visits, photos with Santa, a live nativity scene, music and activities for the entire family. The  goal is to offer recognition to Island businesses and encourage local shopping while providing a fun-filled evening for family and friends.
Despite this being the 28th year for this sparkling and convivial event, there is always a way to make it new.
In addition to the lights and the food, there are bright moments to be found every where. 
One of our favorites is the sunset arias.  Yes, opera on the beach of Captiva.  These will take place at the beach of Tween Waters Inn on Captiva on December 8 from 4 to 7 p.m.    Just imagine: the setting sun, the sparkling gulf and beautiful music blending in operatic arias.
Can life get better than this?
We think not.
So come on down for this memorable experience on our two barrier islands!