Friday, March 13, 2015

A New Ding Darling Worth The Wildlife Drive: Pt. I

The five month scheduled closure of Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge coinciding mainly with the Summer of 2013 would have an interesting delay in its re-opening later that year.


The White Ibis above (image 1) was photographed at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 2015.

The purpose of the Wildlife Drive closure was to primarily replace water control structure 5, repave the drive, and add a smaller water control structure called a box culvert near the Calusa Shell Mound Trail with the latter expected to improve water quality within the refuge over a longer period of time.


The Little Blue Heron above (image 2) was photographed at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 2015.


The Brown Pelican above (image 3) was photographed at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 2015.


The Yellow-crowned Night-Heron above (image 4) was photographed at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 2015.


The scene above (image 5) was photographed at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 2015.


The White Ibis above (image 6) was photographed at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 2015.


The White Ibis above (image 7) was photographed at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 2015.

I prefer to visit Ding Darling NWR at a very low tide that occurs at or before sunrise with photography in mind. This preferred tide allows observation of more wading and shore birds (among others) feeding in what appears to me to be a very well managed ecosystem.


The Pied-billed Grebe above (image 8) was photographed at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 2015.


The Little Blue Heron above (image 9) was photographed at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 2015.


The Little Blue Heron above (image 10) was photographed at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 2015.


The Little Blue Heron above (image 11) was photographed at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 2015.


The Willet above (image 12) was photographed at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 2015.


The Little Blue Heron above (image 13) was photographed at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 2015.

Part I of this article includes selected images from two visits to the Refuge which occurred on 4 February and 7 February 2015. Much of the lure for me to revisit Ding Darling was a reported Eastern Screech-Owl which had for years been elusive to me.


The Little Blue Heron with prey above (image 14) was photographed at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 2015.


The Pied-billed Grebe above (image 15) was photographed at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 2015.


The White Ibis above (image 16) was photographed at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 2015.


The Pied-billed Grebe above (image 17) was photographed at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 2015.


The Brown Pelican above (image 18) was photographed at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 2015.


The Eastern Screech-Owl above (image 19) was photographed at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 2015.

It was my second visit to Ding Darling with an effort to see the owl when it made its appearance. I was unprepared to see the bird so close to the boardwalk which made photo documentation of the predator very challenging with the long lens.


The Eastern Screech-Owl above (image 20) was photographed at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 2015.


The Tricolored Heron above (image 21) was photographed at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 2015.


The Yellow-crowned Night-Heron above (image 22) was photographed at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 2015.


The Pied-billed Grebe above (image 23) was photographed at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 2015.


The Osprey above (image 24) was photographed at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 2015.


The Osprey above (image 25) was photographed at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 2015.

While it was a thrill to have a gander at the owl that appeared to be the rarer Florida type, it was an even greater thrill to revisit Wildlife Drive that has undergone a major transformation. When planning a visit to Ding Darling NWR one must remember that Wildlife Drive is closed on Friday.


The Osprey above (image 26) was photographed at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 2015.


The Osprey above (image 27) was photographed at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 2015.


The Laughing Gull harassing Great Egret with White Ibis above (image 28) was photographed at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 2015.


The Laughing Gull harassing Willet above (image 29) was photographed at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 2015.


The Willet above (image 30) was photographed at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 2015.


The Double-crested Cormorant above (image 31) was photographed at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 2015.

In further research about the refuge I learned that it has been increased salinity levels in the water that has led to the reduced sightings of alligators. It is recommended to those that are looking for the beast to visit Ding Darling NWR's Bailey Tract.


The Little Blue Heron above (image 32) was photographed at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 2015.


The Ring-billed Gull harassing Willet above (image 33) was photographed at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 2015.

There have been past reports of crocodiles at Ding Darling which favor salt water. It has been many years since I have read of them. Perhaps there will be further observations of that uncommon beast in the future.


The Ring-billed Gull harassing Willet above (image 34) was photographed at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 2015.

Next week's article will offer additional images and further commentary about this remarkable place in southwest Florida involving my 7 February visit (one of my favorites) to Ding Darling NWR.


The Willet above (image 35) was photographed at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 2015.

Please also see A New Ding Darling Worth The Wildlife Drive: Pt. II
Please also see A New Ding Darling Worth The Wildlife Drive: Pt. III

12 comments:

  1. For many years there was a very large American Crocodile that resided at Ding Darling. This individual lived a very long way from there range in the mangroves of Dade and Monroe counties. More than once she was removed to the Keys as she was needed to breed. She was the only crocodile living on the Gulf Coast and would never breed. The hopes that by relocating her, she would be a valuable asset in the effort to restort this endangered species. But she wouldn't cooperate. Each time she was removed from Ding Darling, she would return to her home. I was lucky to see her once as she was basking along Wildlife Drive. She passed away during a very hard freeze we had about five years ago. It had gotten so cold that the local snook population were decimated. Sharks, sea turtles and manatees took a hard hit. Green iguanas even fell out of trees as the cold shut them down.

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  2. Stunning picture of the Screech Owl, Bob. Nice to see the red morph of this raptor; being accustomed to seeing the grey version up North.

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    1. Thank you, Hemant. You would have been especially entertained by the effort to get the shots. Frank Constantin has informed me that the screech-owl has a mate or companion in the immediate area.

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  3. A few more tidbits of info - when "Wilma" the croc passed away they celebrated her life and toasted with gatorade....I'm not kidding. On a more serious note - the visitor center has her skeleton on display as well as interesting information - worth a visit.

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    1. Thank you for the additional information, France. The DDNWR visitor's center definitely requires another visit. Those visiting the refuge for the first time should make the tour of the drive first and then stop at the visitor's center afterward so as not to miss the wildlife when it is more active. As a reminder, plan on a sunrise low tide tour for best observations overall.

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  4. Awesome screech-owl shots Bob, some of the best I've seen. I particularly like the unique angle of the first photo.

    The Osprey with outstretched talons is, for lack of a better word, epic.

    I've only been to Ding Darling once, it was ok, guess I need to go at low tide next time.

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    1. Thank you, Steve. Ding Darling NWR is best visited at a low tide from sunrise to as late as noontime depending on the conditions. Multiple trips around the drive are recommended during the morning although I only made one on my visit on 7 February (which I found exceptionally rewarding). Unfortunately, the tides favor only a handful of recommended visits through the remainder of the year under the conditions I've noted. They are as follows: 17-19 March 2015, 26-29 October 2015, 10 and 12-14 November 2015, 24 and 26-28 November 2015, 8-10 and 12-13 December 2015, and 22-24 and 26-28 December 2015. Be sure to let me know if you plan a return trip.

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  5. beautiful photos :)

    http://aca-photography.blogspot.de/

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  6. Amazing blog! beautiful pictures!

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