‘Ding’ unveils new Recent Sightings Board
Thanks to a $5,000 grant from the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s Arts & Attractions Board and funding from “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge, the “Ding” Darling Education Center has a new and vastly improved Recent Sightings Board.
“The new Recent Sightings Board is a huge success,” said Ranger Jeff Combs, who is in charge of public use at the refuge. “Lots of people are taking photos of it, and I hear a lot of ‘Oh, that’s what we saw out there’ comments on it. It’s really doing the job of educating I hoped it would.”
For the new plexiglass-covered board, the project committee replaced the interchangeable flimsy name tags of refuge species visitors, volunteers, and staff report seeing with sturdy, high-pressure laminate tiles containing color pictures of 280 species.
Besides birds, mammals, and reptiles, the new tiles add butterflies to the board.
“In some cases, such as the red knot that changes plumage seasonally, we had a winter and summer tile made,” said Combs. “We spent a lot of hours getting the images right, and there isn’t a birder in the world who can question the expertise that went into this project.”
Proficient birding volunteers update the board twice a week, listing species by strict biological order.
More than 200,00 visitors enter the refuge education center every year, and the Recent Sightings Board at the entrance is one of its most looked-at features, according to refuge staff.
Special UV-resistant plexiglass and lock-and-key security protect the magnetized tiles, part of an $8,000-plus project that has taken more than a year to complete.
“The tricky part was getting all the right images for each species,” said project committee chair Doris Hardy. “But we’re mighty proud of the end result. It’s a wonderful addition to the refuge that was sorely needed.”
DDWS is a non-profit, friends-of-the-refuge organization that supports the Education Center, “Ding” Darling Days, and other educational and research programs at the refuge.
To join DDWS and become a friend to the refuge, stop in at the Refuge Education Center or visit www.dingdarlingsociety.org.