Photographing Ding Darling


Florida is not just popular for “snow birds”, it is popular for all kinds of birds.  One of the hottest attractions for bird photographers is J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island near Ft. Meyers.  The refuge is part of the United States Wildlife Refuge System. It is famous for its migratory bird population.  Most photographers will find plenty to shot along the four miles of Wildlife Drive that takes you through mangrove tree forests and tidal flats.  What makes a photographer’s life even more interesting is that Sanibel Island is a tourist attraction by itself, with nice beaches and good restaurants, although most choose to go straight to the beaches.  It is a relaxing place to be while I don’t take pictures, and certainly makes it easy to convince my family to come along.

The hours of operation is my principle complaint.  The refuge opens at 7 a.m. and closes at sunset.  It also closes every Friday.  I anxiously waited outside of the gate every morning, watched the sun rising behind me, missed the best light of day, and the best bird action of the morning when most of birds take off together from the tidal flats they spent the night at.  Well, U.S. government is not known to be photographer friendly.

Nevertheless, Ding Darling is a bird photographer’s paradise.  What is remaining after 7:00am is still enough to give any wildlife photographer a real treat.  There are plenty wake up calls after 7:00am.

Wake up Call

And plenty of action even the light is not the best.

Just Caught a Crab

The most intriguing bird at Ding Darling is probably the Spoonbill.  God must have thought the feathers are too pretty.  He gave her an ugly head to be fair to the entire bird species.  Nevertheless, I love her just for her feather.

Pink Panther

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2 thoughts on “Photographing Ding Darling

  1. Mary Snyder

    Hi-
    Just got back from a walk in the Bailey Tract on Sanibel and sat down to look at my email. I always enjoy checking out the photo of the day and yours is amazing. I seldom check out the photographers but I did today and am so glad that I did. I live on Sanibel and was delight to find your photos taken in the “Ding”. I know what you mean about the limited hours. But did you go to the other smaller areas on the island like the Bailey tract and Sanibel Gardens? They are open 24/7

    Reply
    1. John Fan Photography Post author

      Thanks for your comments, Mary. I envy anyone who lives on Sanibel. I have not figured out other area other than Ding Darling to photograph. I will certainly venture out to other areas you mentioned. Cheer!

      Reply

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