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August 26, 2014 / lennonsoehl

JN “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge Drive 8-11-14

Our days have been quite busy but there is more to share about our trip. Won’t you join me as I retell our adventures?

As if the canoe ride through the Tarpon Bay and part of the refuge was not enough, I convinced Sean that we just “HAD” to take the wildlife drive as well. Before we could do the drive we needed a quick break to revive ourselves after the scorching hot kayak ride in the Florida sunshine. 

We hit a few of the shops on Periwinkle Lane and landed a few gifts for our moms back home as well as a beautiful necklace for myself that Sean bought me. 

Since it was so hot and the sun was not setting til 8:05 we wanted to try and time going through the refuge for twilight.  Finally feeling enough time had passed, rehydrated and ready to take even more wildlife pictures, we set out back to “Ding”Darling refuge.  We were trying so desperately to see an alligator that we even walked down a path to a “swampy” area but saw only the fecal remains of several birds that like to eat crabs. http://www.fws.gov/dingdarling/

Equipped with binoculars and camera around my neck and Sean as my chauffuer, we set out on the 4 mile wildlife drive (it would quickly turn in to a nearly 3 hour tour)!

Most of our sites were of egrets- great and snowy, as well as the resident ospreys over the bay. The bugs were ridiculous and it was hard to get out of the car for long but I did my best to get some good pics. 

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Sean was amazingly patient even though he was so hungry I am sure he wanted to just drive by after seeing one too many egrets, but he held on for me. 🙂

We saw several ibis- white and glossy and we kept seeing immature yellow night crowned herons. I have to say they are one of my favorite birds because once they are in hunting mode, there is no disturbing them. They become positively still and zone in on the water from which they will grab a bite. It really blows my mind that they appear to have so much concentration on their task that they cannot be interrupted. 

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I was able to convince Sean to take a short walk on a trail that goes out to the water where Roseate spoonbills can often be found. As we walked out amongst the bugs we again were greeted by a Yellow crowned night heron– but this time an adult!!!   Took some shots of this one intent on hunting despite us being on the road. 

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Beautiful birds and I admire their determination as hunters. Nothing is going to stop them from getting their meal! After walking by the heron we did come to the wetlands and we did in fact see a roseate spoonbill with our binoculars, however it was a bit far for the camera. I have supplied the pc anyway as proof that we did see it and Sean can add it to his life list! I have created a fellow bird nerd! You can just about make out the pink coloration of the spoonbill in between the egrets. 

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Our final bird sighting but with no pics was of ….. wait for it…. a PILEATED WOODPECKER! Another favorite of mine these huge woodpeckers are the very bird Woody was based on. Sean was at first skeptical but when we heard his call and then heard him banging on some dead tree close by, we knew we were right. Went to the bird book to show Sean the flight silhouette and he was hooked! The rest of the drive was basically spent looking for our friend as we hear him again! It was fun to see Sean get excited about a bird and to want to try and track it down! Bird nerd what did I tell you?!? 

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Unfortunately it was getting dark and we were starving and our pileated woodpecker was nowhere to be found. WE did see another osprey roosting in a tree alongside what looked like a small falcon– amazing to me they would even sit next to each other- but that is in fact what we saw– which falcon I cannot be certain but it did have the typical long squared off tail of a falcon. The osprey was much larger and we ended our tour of the wildlife drive there and went back to our Tween Waters hotel to shower and quickly make it out to a Mucky Duck pub for some grub (which happened to be delicious) making it in the nick of time before they were closing down seating people. 

We missed the awesome sunset that this Captiva restaurant boasts about, but we did see beautiful moon and enjoyed a superb meal of pork chop and scallops au gratin.  http://www.muckyduck.com 

 

Retired for the evening and had breakfast and  quick shelling session in the morning before we left to head to Charleston! Sean saw two pileateds while I was trying to get more shells but was not quick enough with the camera! Our other awesome bird sighting was a swallow tail kite from our car while driving up to SC! We saw about 3 of them and it was amazing as well. It seems our new phrase for bird sightings became “good find”– so if you are around and hear Sean and I say that, now you know.  I also think I made a “good Find” in my choice of husband! Who else will walk, drive and kayak with me through swamps and bug infested trails just for a glimpse of a bird! 

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For Sean to see a swallow tail kite is a pretty amazing feat! And 3 no less! Lucky guy seeing them as a beginning birder! I’m jealous! And with that we had a highlight of our trip to Charleston which was everything we though it would be! More to come on our Charleston southern comfort! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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