I didn’t need to go any farther than the marina at ‘Tween Waters Inn Beach Resort & Spa to photograph some of the most charismatic in the bird kingdom. Like resort mascots, a great egret and great blue heron strutted the docks and posed waterside. Pelicans stumped pilings, dive-bombing for fish they spied from their lofty perches. Within eyeshot, a pair of ospreys tended a nest atop a piling platform. I couldn’t quite make out if there were chicks yet, but this is the time of year they hatch. Next time I’ll bring binoculars.
Nearly 450 species of birds have been identified on Captiva and Sanibel islands, including the rare flamingo, great white pelican, and white-crowned pigeon that birders spotted recently at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel. One of the nation’s hottest birding spots, especially this time of year, “Ding” is more famous for its pretty-in-pink roseate spoonbills. They and other iconic species – reddish egrets, yellow-crowned night herons, pelicans – are easy to spot from Wildlife Drive. Even better, take a sunset paddle or boat cruise at Tarpon Bay to watch birds flock in to roost.
The refuge is part of the Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail, as is Lighthouse Beach Park at Sanibel’s eastern end. Birders flock there particularly in fall and spring to witness a phenomenon known as “fall-out” – when migrating birds literally drop from the sky, exhausted from a long flight over water. Before you head out on your birding adventure, grab a laminated “Sanibel & Captiva Birds” flipchart from the T.H. Osprey Gift Shop.