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Shell Shocked: The day wildlife took a vacation

By Staff | Mar 10, 2015

Six egrets, two alligators, two piano birds and one pair of rusty binoculars. No, this isn’t a new stanza to a famous Christmas carol. It’s all we saw at “Ding” Darling recently.

How embarrassing. I entertained a couple recently from up north who had heard wondrous things about the abundant wildlife at “Ding” Darling. They had prepared for their excursion through the wilds of the famous refuge for months. They’d hardly unpacked when they begged me to take them there immediately so that they could sample the exotic species indigenous to our eighth wonder of the world.

As a long time Sanibel resident, I graciously accepted their offer to drive them through “Ding” Darling. In turn, I, of course, rebuked them on the failure of the big city environment they were escaping from to enforce sane measures to protect the environment. With a touch of smugness and arrogance I was going to demonstrate to them how Sanibel did it.

Then we started our journey through “Ding” Darling. We drove for a mile. No wildlife.

“Where are the birds?” an anxious Vivian asked. I hemmed and hawed and said something about the need to be quiet and unobtrusive. I suggested to Vivian that her chartreuse tank top might be distracting to the wildlife.

Another mile and not even a field mouse. Paul, Vivian’s husband, is getting antsy. He started beating on his chest and shouting, “this place is for the birds.”

“Yes”, I replied, “and normally thousands.”

We drove another mile and finally saw six egrets, two alligators, two piano birds and one pair of rusty binoculars.

“Thousands of acres for just these few guys?” cried Vivian. “Who was their real estate broker?”

I tried to persuade Paul and Vivian that there were normally tens of thousands of exotic creatures habituating “Ding” Darling but they would have none of it. Just my luck. The day I try to show off “Ding” Darling is the day the wildlife goes on vacation.

Art Stevens is a long-time columnist for The Islander. His tongue-in-cheek humor is always offered with a smile.