Saturday, March 29, 2014

Nesting Season for Snowy Plovers on Sanibel: Please Watch your step!

During spring and summer on Sanibel and other Florida beaches, shorebirds build nests out of sand and shells and hatch chicks that can barely be seen. So well-camouflaged are the nests, eggs and chicks of shorebirds like the snowy plover that they can easily be stepped on or missed unless people know to watch out for them.

People at the beach, including those paddling canoes, kayaks and boards along the shore, can help beach-nesting shorebirds by following basic guidelines.  The Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) offers this advice to Sanibel visitors and residents: 

• Honor the leash law- An unleashed dog can kill an adult bird or chick or trample a nest.
• Respect marked nesting areas- Too muc
h human disturbance can cause birds to abandon their nest. It’s important to remain outside of the staked area.
• Avoid flying kites near nesting areas- Kites are viewed as predators. They can cause a bird to abandon its nest.
• Never chase birds on the beach- Shorebirds use the beach to nest, rest, and feed. Forcing them to fly interferes with all of these activities.
• Fill in holes- Holes on the beach can trap chicks that cannot fly. If trapped, chicks can die from predators or exposure.

Further suggestions were made by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)  reminding beachgoers to be on the lookout and avoid disturbing bird nurseries on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of Florida. “By taking a few simple steps, people can enjoy the beach without disturbing beach-nesting shorebirds and their chicks, which increases the birds’ chances of survival,” said Nancy Douglass, who works on shorebird conservation at the FWC.

“While the populations of beach-nesting birds are declining, people’s willingness to protect shorebirds and their chicks can make a difference.  Food scraps attract predators such as raccoons and crows.  Litter on beaches can entangle birds and and other wild life."

Sounds like there are plenty of things we can do or not do to help the Snowy Plovers!

Friday, March 21, 2014

About the Bridge: Causes for Pauses on the way to Sanibel

One may wonder, seeing the Sanibel Causeway ranked high on the attractions of Sanibel Island, how a bridge can gain such favor.

But to best understand the popularity of the Causeway, a little history is in order.

As early as 1912, automobile ferries serviced Sanibel Island from the mainland at Punta Rassa. The idea of building a bridge from the mainland to the island was highly controversial amongst the early residents of the island, as many thought a bridge would ruin the beauty and isolated feel of the island. One of the largest proponents of building a bridge, however, was island resident Hugo Lindgren who saw the island's potential and tried to convince Lee County to build a bridge. Despite the opinions of the islanders, it was clear that the ferries were insufficient by the mid 1950s as demand increased leading to long lines of vehicles waiting to cross the bay. Wildfires on the island in 1955 further convinced the county to build a bridge as it would improve access to the island for firefighters.

In early 2003, during a routine inspection, severe cracks were discovered underneath a 48-foot (15 m) deck section on Bridge B. After this discovery, all three of the bridges were very closely monitored, and the damaged section was braced with additional steel pilings. Construction of the current bridges commenced in August 2004. The three dollar toll was increased to six dollars in November 2004 in order to finance construction. Construction on the current spans lasted three years, and cost $137 million.

And while there are a few who would argue that the charm of the island was compromised by a high, set bridge, there are many good points demonstrating the contrary.  The causeway not only helps to facilitate a quick access onto the island, it provides the "best view" of the island.  Crossing over the causeway is like driving into heaven.  Water everywhere, the Sanibel lighthouse in the distance, osprey resting on the railings, pelicans perusing the bay and diving for fish are among the sights to be seen and enjoyed as you ride the new bridge.

But being on the causeway is only half the fun.  There is also the Causeway Beach, where visitors can swim, fish, gather shells, picnic and ride (cautiously) on jet skis.  And though most of these activities are available on the Island beaches, there are two rarities witnessed along the causeway....shade and close to beach parking.

We are not suggesting the causeway as a substitute for a stay on Sanibel, but as many have noted, it is a beautiful transition on to the Island with its own special set of delights!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Authors on Sanibel Attract Readers and Eaters

Sanibel Island is a tropical destination that attracts those who write, those who read and those who sell books. 

Marion “Doc” Ford, a moody marine biologist and environmental consultant with a murky past as a covert government assassin, exists only in the imagination of novelist Randy Wayne White. Yet Sanibel's Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grille is a real place, where White can be found many nights chatting with diners and readers.
His novels are based in what White calls “Doc Ford country”: Sanibel, Captiva and Pine islands in southwest Florida, picturesque blends of beachfront mansions and working-class marinas. White says, “Ever since the first tarpon, the first great game fish, was landed in Tarpon Bay in 1898, those have been the two main elements here: the ultrawealthy and working-class fisherman. Before then, it was mostly wilderness.”
His novels make use of Florida history and environmental debates. It’s fiction, but he says he works hard to get his facts right.
With “Bone Deep,” the 21st book in his Doc Ford series of thrillers, White gives new meaning to the idea of a literary franchise. Or, as he puts it, “I’m one lucky guy.”  All the Doc Ford restaurants sell signed copies of White’s books, along with Doc Ford shirts, hats and hot sauce.
Another Sanibel Island author Dan Perkins recently put the finishing touches on the third book in his "The Brotherhood of the Red Nile" trilogy, yet the real story was how he went from having no interest in writing to producing three, full-length thrillers in 18 months.
Perkins said readers have been enjoying his books and his online reviews on Amazon and Barnes & Noble have been positive. The trilogy was also optioned for adaptation into a film by Producer Chase Chenowith from Back Fence Productions in Atlanta, Ga. Although he had no training as a writer, Perkins understood the importance of conducting research to make the novel as real as possible. He said his analytical experience as a money manager prepared him for the tedious aspects of researching all the specifics about explosives and the Middle East. "I did an incredible amount of research," he said. "I found myself amazed at what information is available on the Internet."
New York Times-best selling author Tim Dorsey signed books and greeted fans at the Sanibel Island Bookshop recently. Dorsey, a former political reporter and editor for the Tampa Tribune, has published 17 novels since leaving the newspaper business to write full time. His latest novel, Tiger Shrimp Tango, went on sale Jan. 28 and features the self-appointed Sunshine Sheriff Serge Storms - a mentally ill serial killer - his sidekick Coleman, and a private eye named Mahoney -
Often compared with fellow Florida crime writers Carl Hiaasen and Dave Barry, Dorsey infuses Florida culture and history into humorously written crime novels.
So even though our little Island is a haven of peace, tranquility and nature, if you want mystery and excitement, you can find it here.  Just pick up a book and read it!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Trips off Sanibel Island: What's worth it and What's not

A few years ago,  we wrote a post about leaving Sanibel to tour Naples.

Only  a little over an hour away, we noted that Naples is a very different experience than our small Island.  It's towering Royal Palms as well as the multi-colored buildings in the architecture of old Italy are charming draws.

And the abundance of good restaurants will feed you in many ways.  Some are opulent, some are ethnic and some are simply unique,  defying description.

But this post will go beyond and before Naples to highlight some destinations and activities that are worth the drive.

Now this gets sensitive, because we realize that some of the joys of Island living have distinct nuances, difficult to find off island.  Yet, these spots have their own charms that you can not duplicate on our barrier paradise.

Sanibel offers a look backward with its "old town"  on the east end of the island near the Sanibel Lighthouse. Historically, it was the center of much of the island’s activity; today, it is a place to stroll quaint village shops, inns and restaurants. The Sanibel Historical Society has produced a walking and biking tour to “yesteryear” that is approximately 2 ½ miles long. But if you want another view of "times of old" the Edison and Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers may deliver great satisfaction. These very special estates contain a historical museum and 17 acre botanical garden on the adjacent sites of the winter homes of Thomas Alva Edison and Henry Ford beside the Caloosahatchee River in southwestern Florida.

Similarly,  while Sanibel has a lovely pier where fishermen gather; the long pier in Naples is a focal point for not only fisherman and the flocks of pelicans waiting for their dinner, but for a wide variety of residents and visitors as well.  In fact, the Naples Fishing Pier is one of the prime attractions in a town packed with attractions.   Originally built in 1888 as a freight and passenger dock, the Naples Pier stands as a community landmark. Narrow gauge train rails spanning the length of the pier transported freight and baggage in the early 1900’s. Part of the structure as well as the post office located on the Naples Pier was razed by fire in 1912. Rebuilt after damage by hurricanes in 1910, 1926 and 1960, it remains a public symbol of the area’s history.

And while there is no doubt that one can find anything they want in the shops on Sanibel, if shopping is your thing, there are a couple of spots off island that will make you happy you invested in a rental car.  The Tanger Outlet immediately off island will offer you and your family so many nice shops, all together, where bargains galore can be found.  In addition,  downtown Ft. Myers has undergone an amazing renaissance in just the last two or three years.   For a nostalgic flare, the streets have been repaved with brick. Mom-and-pop shops rule. And nightlife options are buoyed by an exploding culinary scene. There's also an Art Walk the first Friday of each month, a Music Walk the third Friday of each month and a year-round Farmers Market every Thursday. And if shopping is your middle name, head to Coconut Point in Estero where the shops are lovely and the mall is laid out like a park, tropicality blooming everywhere.

In fact, given the number of options off Island, you might want to consider a month's stay so you can see them all!