In Southwest Florida you’ll find Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel Island. Like a tropical island both locations have soft white sand to dig your toes into, expansive beaches, swaying coconut palms, and gorgeous blue water. You’ll find pelicans and herons fishing for their dinner, dolphins jumping, and sandpipers scurrying along the surf’s edge.
Sanibel Island features the renowned J.N. “Ding Darling” National Wildlife Refuge & Bird Sanctuary. It contains acres of rich bird and marine life habitat. Manatee Park in Fort Myers has a manatee viewing area (peak viewing is November through March) and Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve in Cape Coral has excellent birding.
For the past four years I have been blessed to spend time with my husband in Fort Myers Beach in January. Sanibel Island is a quick 30-minute ride over the bridge, so a trip to Ding Darling and the shelling beaches on Sanibel are always on our itinerary. Within ten minutes from a condo we rent on Fort Myers Beach, I can also be at Little Estero Lagoon, adjacent to the Holiday Inn, which is a combination of beach and mangrove.
The beach at Estero Lagoon presents opportunities for photographing pelicans, gulls, and other shorebirds and an occasional dolphin. The mangrove section has many Great Blue Herons, Great and Snowy Eqrets, Red and Tricolored Herons, Cormorants, Anhingas, and other birds within a close proximity—much closer than the lagoons at Ding Darling.
A Six Mile Cypress Slough in Fort Myers offers a mangrove with boardwalk, and a really exceptional opportunity to watch the birds fly in from all directions to roost at sunset. It is quite amazing to see Herons, Eqrets, an occasional Spoonbill, Ibis and others—all coming in to roost in the same section of trees along a small waterway. We have also spotted a water moccasin, wild pigs and small alligators at this preserve.
Florida provides plenty of sunshine, tropical plants, an amazing number of bird species, and a wonderful coastline to capture in photographs. Lovers Key State Park has one of the most beautiful and untouched beaches in Florida, and is a great place to photograph ospreys, pelicans and wading birds. Alligators are common on the golf courses in this part of Florida and they are quite easy to photograph between golf shots (if you have tolerant partners and a long lens).
I have been lucky to see Wood Storks at Little Estero Lagoon this year. These wading birds are three to four feet tall, with a bald head that falls under the “so ugly it’s cute” definition. It usually stirs up the water with one of its feet, then leans forward with its mouth open to snap up the fish. Once I witnessed Wood Storks and pink Roseate Spoonbills feeding together in the shallow water under the Bald Cypress Grove at 6 Mile Cypress Slough. The low cypress branches and post-sunset light made photography challenging, but sometimes a mental snapshot is a great reward.
By 10:00 AM the sun is usually too strong—even in January– for optimal pictures, but shooting during the “golden hours” provides lovely, warm light. In January, the sun sets early and darkness sets in quickly. The images in my portfolio were taken in January 2012 and 2013.
Photographer Dulcey Lima provided the details and images for the Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel Island, Florida destination.
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