Birds in Paradise

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Summer fun at the Alamitos Bay Peninsula, in Long Beach, where I grew up, always included watching the pelicans fly overhead and dive bomb into the surf, in search of lunch.  I used to love watching “pelis”, my favorite bird. 

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Here in Sanibel, pelicans are everywhere!  And, we saw plenty of them today, along with great egrets, snowy egrets, reddish egrets, and cormorants; all hoping for castoffs from the fisherman along the beach and Lighthouse pier.

Before we found ourselves surrounded by birds, the day began with my swim workout, while Bruce took a long walk on the beach near our cottage.  (For my Sun City friends who have been to Sanibel, Seahorse Cottages are located directly behind the Lighthouse Café; a great location!)

At the recommendation of those same Sun City friends, we enjoyed brunch at Grama Dot’s, thoroughly enjoying peel-and-eat shrimp (me) and fried shrimp (Bruce), after working up quite an appetite.  It was a gorgeous day, so the view of the boats at Sanibel Marina was the perfect way to enjoy those shrimp.  I had hoped to also see manatees or dolphins, but the water was too cold for the manatees and the dolphins were elsewhere…

Bruce had opted not to fish today, so it was back to the beach for some shelling and photography.

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Our last stop was back at Lighthouse Beach, where we had seen dolphins and pelicans the first time.  We thought we would try our luck again.  So, that’s where the dolphins were hanging out today!  Overheard on the pier, spoken by a sunburned fisherman who had been there…awhile:  “Those dolphins have been here all damn day!”  Of course, we were ecstatic, however, he wasn’t too thrilled about the dolphins eating up his potential catch.

We didn’t see just one or two dolphins; we saw several pods, all out cruising for their lunch.  A couple of times, we watched as one would chase a fish all the way up to the shallow edge, just feet from the shore, then dart back out again.  It all happened so quick, I never had my camera ready.  But, I did manage to get my favorite bird and (part of a) water mammal together in the same frame.

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Meanwhile, back to the birds, as soon as a fisherman threw some bits of fish to a pelican on the beach, birds came out of nowhere and everywhere.  It was a free for all and quite a hoot to watch.  I never had this much fun watching birds in Long Beach!

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How Many Laps (In This Pool) Is A Mile?

When we made reservations with Seahorse Cottages, on Sanibel Island, I wasn’t concerned whether it had a pool or not, since I had done my research and knew the Sanibel Recreation Center pool was suitable for training.  So, I really didn’t give any thought to what I would find, once I arrived to our cottage.  Imagine the look on my face, however, when I saw this:

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Needless to say, I never laughed so hard at the sight of a “pool” in all my life!  It is, I’m sure, smaller than Sun City Peachtree’s spa!  I thought about getting my suit on and having Bruce photograph me “swimming” backstroke, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet; I’ve been too busy swimming in this pool, instead:

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So, what do you think?  How many laps do you think it would take to “swim” a mile in our cottage pool?  I should measure the pool and figure it out…

Meanwhile, Sanibel Recreation Center’s pool is quite nice.  The facility is only five years old, so everything is in excellent condition and quite clean.  And, I don’t get kicked out of the pool between 9am – 10am, like I do at Sun City Peachtree, when the four or five noodlers get the entire pool all to themselves for their “water aerobics” class!  Here, they keep two lanes open at all times during every water aerobics class!  And, it really is water aerobics (no cd’s) with a teacher who encourages those ladies (and gentlemen) to move.  She is an excellent instructor; so good, even I might even become a noodler, if I lived here on the island.  These noodlers have it good!

Some Sanibel Scoop

We didn’t know Sanibel Island even existed until our friends, Becky and Paul told us about their vacations to Captiva Island, Florida, located just past Sanibel Island.  They couldn’t say enough great things about it though, which explains their once or twice per year annual visits.  So, we were convinced we just had to see it for ourselves.

Sanibel Island measures roughly 12 miles long and five miles across at its widest point.  Captiva Island is smaller at less than 5 miles long and a 1/2-mile wide.  Both are accessible from Fort Myers by the Sanibel Causeway Bridge.  At a bridge toll of $6 and steep beach parking fees, they are not frequented by Floridians as often as other destinations- just the way the locals like it.  So, it is not as touristy here like, say, Daytona Beach or Orlando.  Rather, the vibe is low key and relaxing.  This is where we are staying:  www.seahorsecottages.com ; a very low key place in a great location near the beach.

There are so many reasons to visit Sanibel Island; especially if you are a beachcomber.  Sanibel Island ranks number one on the continent for shelling and we could see why!  We literally saw piles of shells as we walked along the beach at sunset, on the evening of our arrival.  Due to its east-west torque of Sanibel’s south end, it acts as a ladle, scooping up all the shells that the Gulf imports from the Caribbean and other southern seas.  The abundance and variety of shells draws serious shellers from all over the world.

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 Birders are also drawn to Sanibel, because of the abundance and variety of gorgeous birds that wade in marshes and cruise the shorelines.  In our first day alone, we saw everything from two varieties of each of pelicans, herons, and egrets, to ospreys and the bright pink Roseate Spoonbill.  And, on the beach, there were dozens of willets, plovers and sandpipers.

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Even if you ignore the shells and birds, the beaches here are gorgeous!  And, that’s before I even get into what is beyond the shore.  Last evening, we saw our first bottlenosed dolphins frolicking about just 50 yards out.  From what we hear, there will be plenty more of them to see.  But, we really hope to see manatees, too, known to frequent this area.

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There is also the 6,400 acres of J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, the natural showpiece of Sanibel Island.  After my swim at the Sanibel Recreation Center (a wonderful facility!), we visited the refuge today.  We took a guided tram ride and thoroughly enjoyed the beauty of the area and the wildlife we saw, including a variety of birds and even an alligator catching some rays in the shallow water right near the road.

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Tomorrow, we will get our kayaks out on the water, so Bruce can fish for Redfish, Speckled Trout, Tripletail, Snapper, Cobia, and/or Snook.  He plans to mostly catch and release, but I’ll try to snap a photo or two first.

Our first impression of Sanibel?  We’re hooked (no pun intended)!