Saturday, February 7, 2009

Saturday at Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge

After the cooler weather we had for a few days; today was wonderful! It got up to 70, with a cool breeze. The sun was playing hide and seek behind some fluffy, white clouds. This was a perfect time for a bike ride through the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, a 6,400 acre nature preserve that is home to over 200 species of birds, alligators, mangrove forests, and more. It is located just off Sanibel-Captiva Road on Wildlife Drive.

The refuge was named after a political cartoonist, Jay Norwood "Ding" Darling that was instrumental in the effort to block the sale of this environmentally valuable land to developers on Sanibel Island. After being pressured by Darling, President Harry S. Truman signed an order to create the Sanibel National Wildlife Refuge in 1945. The refuge was renamed in 1967 to honor the early conservationist. Approximately 2,800 acres of the refuge are designated by Congress as a Wilderness Area.

The Education Center has exhibits about the animals living in this ecosystem, a gift shop, and guides to answer questions. There are also restrooms and water at this center. Hours for the Education Center, November – April are 9AM – 5PM, May – October 9AM – 4 PM. Wildlife Drive is open from sunrise to sunset every day except Friday. A visit to the Education Center is free, but for wildlife Drive there is a $5charge per car, and $1 for bike or pedestrian, persons under 16 and over 62 are free. For information, call 239-472-1100. A guided tour, aboard a tram, is available and leaves from Tarpon Bay Center at the end of Tarpon Bay Rd. The driver narrates the two hour drive. Canoe tours are also offered, or you can rent either a canoe or electric boat to explore the mangrove swamps on your own. For information about the tours, call Tarpon Bay Center 239-472-8900.

There is a single 4.25 paved road that loops through the preserve, with some additional side trails to explore. Don’t forget your binoculars and cameras, and plan to spend at least an hour or two on the Wildlife Drive. For people who want to see wildlife on foot, the refuge has 2-mile Indigo Trail, starting at the Visitor Center, and half-mile Shell Mound Trail, starting near the end of Wildlife Drive.

We saw many different kinds of birds today. My favorites were the Roseate Spoonbills, a Great White Egret and the large White Pelicans. There were many birds on the mudflats. We had fun watching the Anhinga splashing around, they’re really comical. We saw some almost 2 ft Mullet leaping high out of the water too. The tide was out pretty far when we went through, but the best time is at low tide.

I can tell you from my experience today, that it is a LONG 4.25 miles and then we rode back via the bike trail along San/Cap Rd. At this moment, I’m not sure my posterior will ever be the same.

A little way up, you can see the variety of camera equipment being used by photographers.

Lookout Tower

A group of Roseate Spoonbills.

Someone was passing by in a kayak.

We saw people fishing in a couple of areas.

A little of the bike path along Sanibel Captiva Road.

Made a stop here to rest and get a drink of water.

Watch out for the low hanging limb. :-)

If you enjoy looking at wildlife, this is something you won't want to miss. I've heard that the refuge looks different every time you go through.


Gayle said...

What a lovely bike ride. I haven't ridden a bike in years....I'm heavier and older and just don't have much balance. Man, I would have loved that ride. Hey, you have to add photos of the people (you & friends, too)! You can really see what is going on when you make the photos bigger. Thanks for sharing your Saturday ride!

Little Black Scrap Cat said...

We will definitely do Ding Darling in October!!

Snowbird said...

I've always wanted to bike through there but I KNOW that my legs and posterior would never make it. The 4 1/2 miles are enough but the ride back is even longer! Maybe the right thing would be to have someone follow you in a car so they could pick you and the bike up when you got tired. Hmmmm, may have to try that!

George said...

This looks like a very interesting place to visit, although I'm not sure I'm up to the bike ride through it!

Barb said...

Hi Tootie,
Loved going on the "bike ride" with you. Wish I could have done it in person... maybe some day!

That was a wonderful thing you did for Gayle. It was just what she needed.



The Bumbles said...

On our visit we drove through and stopped to walk in sections along the way. We infiltrated one of the tour bus groups here and there to hear what the guide was saying. We got trapped in a rain storm on one of our mini-hikes but it was worth it to see all the night herons. Thanks for the ride down memory lane.