While back in Florida last month, I visited the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island. At first glance of the welcoming sign, I noticed the script looked very “Disney-esq.” Turns out that Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling (1876-1962) was a political cartoonist with a passion for wildlife conservation and served under Roosevelt on the Committee for Wildlife Life Restoration. Also, Darling urged Truman to sign an Executive Order creating Sanibel National Wildlife Refuge in 1945. The J.N. Ding Darling refuge was set aside on Sanibel Island in his honor after his death because it was one of his favorite bird-watching spots, and after my time there, I understand why. There is a great wildlife drive here where you can stop, get out, and walk anytime you want.
In the fisheries and wildlife science degree program I am in, the Duck Stamp Act of 1934 has come up countless times. Federal Duck Stamps are conservation revenue stamps where 98% of the purchase price goes towards protecting wetland habitat and purchasing conservation easements for the National Wildlife Refuge System. Every year there is an art contest for the design. Turns out that Darling designed that first stamp back in 1934. Basically, Darling and all of Sanibel Island are a big deal. One of my treasures while on the island that I picked up is “Living Sanibel- A Nature Guide to Sanibel & Captiva Islands by Charles Sobczak.” I highly recommend picking the guide up before your trip (and bug spray for sandflies aka “no-see-ums” because you will get eaten alive).
Species observed in the refuge:
Little Blue Heron
Yellow-crowned Night Heron
Great Blue Heron
and.. of course the American Alligator