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Christmas Trip 2003

Part 6: Sanibel with the Siblings

All photographs © 2003 Mary Beth Stowe

Had an early breakfast with Dave, but he reneged on walking with me around Bailey Tract, however, cuz it had been raining, so I dropped him off and went on over there myself, which was just as well seeing as I had to use the bushes... I had picked up a local bird-finding guide at the S/C Nature Center, and true to what it said, I got the Swamp Sparrow to pop up in the reeds (which is accidental according to the Ding Darling checklist)! I kinda went backwards and cut back across where the bench was; found another pair of nesting Ospreys, and discovered that that eagle-like chirping was an Osprey after all (guess that’s their nest-noise)!


 Dawn at the Bailey Tract


Colorful sign outlines the loop trails

Decided to zigzag the inner trails, as they went by the ponds, and that was a good choice: a couple of Common Grackles shared a dead tree with another Osprey, but they took off when a Sharp-shinned Hawk came tearing in! Catbirds were all over, and at another boardwalk I managed to flush a Least Bittern! Common Gallinules outnumbered Coots by about ten to one (a far cry from the situation here in San Diego)!


L-R:  Marsh Hare, female Anhinga, Common Gallinule

Wheeled into the Nature Center after that to see if they had a copy of the Stokes Eastern CDs (when my sister Becky arrived the night before, that‘s what she said she wanted for Christmas), where I heard a Blue Jay, but they sent me to the refuge headquarters for that, so over I went, and they had it! Also discovered the drive would be open on Christmas, so that was great! Headed to the hotel, where Becky was just getting ready to wheel off on her bike, so we agreed to meet at the refuge at 11:30 while the rest of the gang would go shopping, then we would all meet at one for lunch. So I went to the Perry Tract of the refuge, adjacent to Gulfside City Park (all city parking is two bucks an hour; I thought San Diego was steep) which was nonetheless a great stop: Palm Warblers fed in the grass, and had more gulls, terns, plovers, Willets, and turnstones on the beach for great photo ops. On the way back to the car had a scolding Blue-headed Vireo and what may have been the best bird of the week: a female Indigo Bunting!


Palm Warblers

The beach is a great place to tern-watch!


Note the size difference between the Royal (orange bills) and Sandwich Terns


L-R:  Laughing Gull, Sandwich Tern, Forster's Tern


Left:  Ruddy Turnstone.  Center and right:  Ring-billed Gulls (adult left, 1st-year right)


Left:  Sanderling.  Center and right:  Black-bellied Plovers (and, no, that's not an egg on the left...)


Willets lounge on the beach while Fish Crows take advantage of the shade!  

Met Becky at the Ding Darling Visitor’s Center at the appointed time, and we had a ball! She rode alongside me while I drove, and we pulled over at select spots to look at specialty birds; she was particularly entranced by the pelicans, as she had never seen one before. We got a good look at Little Blues and a nice adult Yellow-crowned Nightie, and a young Bald Eagle overhead caused a lot of excitement (so I can count it for real...)! Had superb looks at spoonbills and Reddish Egrets, and the mob of egrets had moved to another pond, but they were still stuffing it! A very tame Raccoon had Becky nervous (as in New York that might mean rabies), but I assured her that here in Florida, everything’s tame! ("And now you know why I loved coming here as a kid!" I told her...)  After awhile she realized she had to be getting along if she was gonna make it back to the hotel in time, so she went on ahead, and I ended up behind the tram where they found a huge alligator!


The auto tour at Ding Darling is a popular place even among non-birders, as it’s easy biking and the birds are practically at your feet!


Becky shoots a very approachable Raccoon by the roadside!


L-R:  Reddish Egret, young White Ibis, female Red-breasted Merganser


White Pelicans (with a few token cormorants), and yet more Snowy Egrets


Roseate Spoonbills

On the way back I passed Becky, so I pulled over and offered a ride, but she declined (she accepted the offer of a cookie and some peanut butter, though!). The gang was sunbathing when I got back, so I sat out with them while purging the data chip, and when everyone finally caught up with each other, Becky, Audrey, and I went to lunch while Dave and Laura spent some quality time together (at the Dairy Queen we found out later ☺). Later we re-convened and played Cut-throat Euchre (I got hammered; somehow I just wasn’t getting the hang of it like I did before), then went to dinner at a pizza place they all wanted to try out, then we all crashed.

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