Sunday, April 27, 2014

Earth Day on Sanibel: Gone but not forgotten

Of national events that tie into the core mission of Sanibel Island, probably nothing comes closer than Earth Day.

Last Saturday,  J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge  celebrated the 44th anniversary of Earth Day in partnership with “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society – Friends of the Refuge (DDWS) and Tarpon Bay Explorers. The first 200 visitors received a free up cycled tee shirt bag, courtesy of DDWS. Throughout the day, visitors met and greeted refuge educator Bagzilla, so named because Bagzilla was costumed in a year’s worth of an average person’s disposable bag consumption. There were free bike rentals and Wildlife Drive admission for bikers and hikers to encourage visitors to get outdoors and get active.

Events included ongoing earth crafts in the Education Center Classroom, a guided hike along Indigo Trail with a naturalist,  narrated refuge tram tours, reading in the Refuge with stories about Sea Turtles and Manatee and some useful information on how to turn trash into masterpieces of art.

There was a lot more going on, of course, but the question might be asked why are we focused on an event that has taken place, and one that is celebrated around the world?

Well, it's always nice to revisit pleasant times in beautiful places, but looking at the fundamental reasons for establishing an Earth Day, we have to conclude that there is a special bond between our little tropical island and the mission of Earth Day.

And the bond needs to be remembered. 

The first Earth Day family had participants and celebrants in two thousand colleges and universities, roughly ten thousand primary and secondary schools, and hundreds of communities across the United States. More importantly, it "brought 20 million Americans out into the spring sunshine for peaceful demonstrations in favor of environmental reform."It now is observed in 192 countries, and coordinated by the nonprofit Earth Day Network chaired by the first Earth Day 1970 organizer Denis Hayes, according to whom Earth Day is now "the largest secular holiday in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people every year." Environmental groups have sought to make Earth Day into a day of action which changes human behavior and provokes policy changes.

And while Sanibel is one tiny spot on Earth that has followed in this tradition, it could be considered one of the best.

We on Sanibel love and enjoy our outdoor living, whether it be on the beach, in the Preserve or just on our common streets.  We cherish the earth and protect our island from dangers in a way few communities have or are able to do.

For an island our size, we have a large variety of well established groups that educate the public about the four legged, winged and water creatures that share their home with us.

And , above all else, we recognize that we are the late comers to the Island.  The natural residents were here first, and it is those "natives" we feel have a territorial imperative , not us.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Bird Sightings on Sanibel

What's in a name?

On Sanibel Island, quite a lot.

Looking at wildlife sightings in the last couple of weeks, we are amazed and amused.

Amazed because the species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians is so diversified.

And amused because many of the names are kind of funny and perhaps iconic of their location.  Certainly, many are not ones we see in regular readings about our wild life.

Take for example the Dunlin.  If you read it with a long u (dune-lin) one may get a sense it is a creature near the shore. And in that conjecture you would be right on target. The Dunlin (or dune-lin) is a medium-sized sandpiper. It has a moderately short neck, a moderately long, drooping bill. and a moderately long, blackish legs. Slightly hunched appearance, we would have to consider it a feathered friend in great moderation. In breeding, the Dunlin  has a black belly, rufous cap, and rufous back. Nonbreeding plumage is all dull brownish gray, with whitish belly. 

The Dunlin is a familiar shorebird around the world, where its bright reddish back and black belly, and long, drooping bill distinguish it from nearly all other shorebirds. It breeds across the top of both North America and Eurasia, and winters along coasts around the northern hemisphere.

And then there is the Red-eyed Vireo, leading us to believe that this may be a party bird that does not get enough sleep.  That conjecture is actually partly true.  A tireless songster, the Red-eyed Vireo is one of the most common summer residents of Eastern forests. These neat, olive-green and white songbirds have a crisp head pattern of gray, black, and white. Their brief but incessant songs—sometimes more than 20,000 per day by a single male—contribute to the characteristic sound of an Eastern forest in summer. When fall arrives, they head for the Amazon basin, fueled by a summer of plucking caterpillars from leaves in the treetops.  While the Red-eyed Vireo may not be up all night, he certainly is an omnipresent and ever heard bird by day light.  And common or not, he is special to us.

Though there are many birds that raise our eyebrows in delight with their names, perhaps none more so than the Dowitcher, which certainly reminds us of the term thingamabob and thingamajig, both terms referring to a person whose name has been forgotten.  To complicate and accentuate, the humor, Dowitchers come in two types: a short billed Dowitcher and a long billed Dowitcher.  Both birds are common and conspicuous migrants  that use a "sewing-machine" method of foraging across the mud flats.

The birds of Sanibel can be very entertaining and they do not need to do a thing to make us smile!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Sanibel and Captiva Capture Multiple Awards

From time to time we have posted on awards won by our two tropical islands, but we just came upon a list of all the awards won in the last few years.

It is an impressive display, indeed.

Our islands have received many awards over the past several years from some of the most respected national organizations in the country. From shelling and beaches to bird watching and overall a great place for family vacations. As you will read  below Sanibel & Captiva Islands have stood the test of time as a great place to visit for many many reasons. 

The applause goes on and on, but we will just highlight a few special recognitions here:

  • 2011 – Trip Advisor Traveler’s Choice award – Best Beaches in the United States voted Sanibel (#5) and Captiva (#8) and 16th in the world by Trip Advisor’s Travelers’ Choice Award.
  • 2011 – Condé Nast Traveler Magazine – Sanibel and Captiva earned top spots in the Top-10 North America Islands list: Sanibel Island ranked fourth, while Captiva Island came in at number six
  • 2011 - Frommer’s – Arthur Frommer’s 10 Favorite Travel Destinations – Arthur Frommer named Sanibel Island one of the “Top Ten Favorite Places to Travel” in the world
  • 2012 – Dr. Beach – Most Romantic Beaches – Captiva Island has been ranked one of the country’s most romantic beaches for two consecutive years by Stephen Leatherman, Ph.D., (a.k.a. Dr. Beach) Florida International University, recognized as the nation’s foremost beach authority
  • 2012 – U.S. News & World Report - Best Florida Beaches - ranked Sanibel Island’s beach at the top of the magazine’s list of the 8 Best Florida Beaches
  • 2013 – Smarter Travel – Sanibel Island Makes Smarter Travel’s 1 of 10 Best Beach Towns in Florida
  • 2013 - Peter Greenberg – Best Bird-watching - Peter Greenberg, America’s foremost travel expert, listed the J.N. Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge among his top five recommended spots for a bird-watching spring break vacation
  • 2013 – Travel & Leisure Magazine – listed Captiva Island as one of the most Romantic Beach Getawaysin their August 2013 feature
  • 2013 – Coastal Living – 2013 annual America’s Happiest Seaside Towns – and also Sanibel was voted one of the best places to live on the coast
  • 2014 – Men’s Journal – Sanibel named ‘Best for Shell Hunting’
So for family's looking for great beach vacations, for couples seeking romantic getaways, for shell collectors of all ages seeking new specimens, and for birders sighting yet one more feathered friend to add to their list, our intimate, delightful, tropical paradises are the answer.

We realize that we only one award for 2014, but the year is not even half over.  We look forward to many more to come!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

C.R.O.W. Saving lives on Sanibel

In this day and age, success stories are always welcome.

And on Sanibel, news of animal saved from death is a joyful event.

Happily, there are many glorious stories coming from the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (C.R.O.W) and we would like to share a few with you.

C.R.O.W provides care to more than 3,000 wild animals each year. The causes vary from serious illness, accidental injury, orphaned or abduction, loss of habitat and persecution, among others, but the goal is always the same. Guided by the C.R.O.W mission, the agency veterinarian, clinicians and volunteers work to rehabilitate and successfully release their  patients back into the wild.

In 2013, there were dozens and dozens of happy tales and happy tails (not to mention feathers) coming out the Rehabilitation Clinic.
There were a total of 21 bird species helped by the Clinic in 2013.  Bobcats, Raccoon, Opossum and a Coyote pup were also assisted. As were alligators, snakes and turtles.  The Clinic is a friend and partner in healing for all God's creatures great and small. 

While we would like to share all of these stories with you, we will concentrate on just a few very special ones.

There was the Brown Pelican who was found hanging under a dock, tapped by hooks and fishing line that entangled his head and beak.  Suffering from exhaustion and dehydration, the poor Pelican began refusing food until it was left alone in a tub to adjust to its capture.  After some surgery to remove the fish hooks,  he was put in the Pelican complex where he made a complete recovery.

And there was the adorable baby Bobcat who had was emaciated and found to have 3 different kinds of worms.After two weeks of critical care by the Clinic staff, C.R.O.W arranged for the baby Bobcat to be transported to the Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, where it will learn normal behavior from an older, more experienced bobcat.

There was also the Peninsula Cooter who had a major fracture to its carapace, the hard upper shell.  A pain medication was quickly administered to make the patient more comfortable.  Ordinary zip ties were then glued around the defect and tightened regularly to correct the divisions.

 All these rescues and rehabs are just wonderful to read about, but only a certain amount of animals can be released on one property in order to avoid infestation and over-population. C.R,O.W is asking for help in that regard.  Their request is that anyone who has private property with a lot of land and would be interested in having wild mammals, birds or turtles released on it, call C.R.O.W.  The Clinic will review the set of guidelines with property owners to determine if their place is suitable.  Some of the questions include: Is the property wooded?  Is there a pond?  Is it safe from free roaming dogs?  We hope you can help!