My first trip to Ding Darling.

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A cormorant and a green heron along the water.

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A juvenile night heron filling up on fiddler crabs.

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The fiddler crabs were out by the thousands since it was a low tide.

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Pretty purple.

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Mangroves at low tide. You can really see the oysters that have built up on the roots.

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The water from the observation deck.

For years I have heard that Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge was the place to go to see birds. Half of Sanibel Island, just south of Fort Myers, is the refuge. It is on the east side of the island and runs along the water. There are lagoons and inlets all along the trail. It’s a paved driving trail over 4 miles long. We must have been there during the off season because we saw very few birds there. The winter snow birds hadn’t arrived yet, it was too early for fall migration and the summer birds had disappeared. It was still a beautiful place to visit.  I walked most of the trail and Brett would drive ahead and then wait for me to catch up. It was too perfect outside to be in the car. I need to get back there in the winter.

Kites and crabs on the beach – Skywatch Friday

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Before I left Fort Desoto Park on a recent Saturday morning, I headed over to the East Beach turnaround area which faces the Sunshine Skyway bridge. I thought I’d check out the little beach area to see if there were any interesting shorebirds there (still looking for that avocet). This is what I saw as I was driving toward the beach so I know there would be no birds here. It wasn’t super windy but just enough that these guys could kiteboard.

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They were cruising all across the water.

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I got out of my car and walked down to the water to get some closer shots as the guys were coming by. When I got down to the beach area (it was low tide) I saw the below.

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Thousands of little fiddler crabs covered the one corner of the beach.

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It’s hard to get them close up. They are very skittish and start running for the mangroves when they see people.

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As I walked out on the sand, they all started marching away.

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He was shaking his claw at me like “Stay off our beach”.

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I was thinking “If I was a bird, I’d be on this beach chowing on some crab legs.”

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They have pretty colors.

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The sand was also covered with big jellyfish globs.

You just never know what you’re going to find at Fort Desoto on a Saturday morning.

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Safety Harbor lightning – Skywatch Friday

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I stopped by the Safety Harbor fishing pier on the way home recently and was kind of bummed the weather looked so bad. This was taken with my phone. I was thinking about jumping back in the car and going home but I thought I’d walk around the area for a few minutes.

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The only bird I found there, other than a few laughing gulls flying over head.

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The exposed sand along the seawall was covered in fiddler crabs. They are very skittish and kept running back in their little sand holes. I finally was able to get a few outside.

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They are very tiny, this is extremely cropped.

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Even with the threat of rain, there were a few people on the pier. Manatees were swimming close by but the water was too dark to get any pictures.

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I realized it was raining north of the pier and lightning was popping up.

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I only had my 70mm – 200mm lens with me and these were handheld.

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There was a lady on the pier as well who was taking pictures and she had a lightning trigger on the top of her camera that automatically shot pictures when it detected lightning. I had not heard of that accessory but it might be a cool one to look into. That would mean I would have to spend more time standing around waiting for storms. On the weekends,whenever I hear thunder starting I think “I should pack up and go to the airport parking deck to try to get lightning pictures.” It’s hard to get out and do that. I’m usually getting dinner ready or doing chores. Maybe a new toy would motivate me. Anyone have any experience using one?

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