Jay Norwood Darling, also known as Ding, was a cartoonist who won two Pulitzer Prizes for his editorial cartoons, headed what is now the US Fish and Wildlife Service for 2 years, and in 1936 created the National Wildlife Federation. In 1945 he was instrumental in blocking the sale of environmentally valuable land on Sanibel Island to developers and President Harry S. Truman signed an executive order creating the Sanibel National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge was renamed the J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge in 1962.
Today you can visit the J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge wildlife drive for a mere $5 per carload, or $1 per pedestrian or bicycle. It is open year round. The visitors center is free of charge and you can check out the details on dates and prices here
We visited early on a Sunday morning which was the perfect time to visit. There were few other visitors and no traffic.There was a family visiting like we were, many photographers and a dad and son heading out in their kayak. There are several pull-offs on wildlife drive and you can take as much time as you want to explore. But know that the speed limit is 15 and it can take some time to do the drive. Mainly we saw birds - no gators this time!
This refuge is known for it's "Big 5" birds - the American White Pelican, the Mangrove Cuckoo, the Reddish Egret, the Yellow-Crowned Night Heron and the cream of the crop, the Roseate Spoonbill. Commonly mistaken for a flamingo, roseate spoonbills are naturally pink and darken with age. We were lucky enough to spot a few of them - can you see them in any of the bird pictures above? If you can't here is what they look like.
I'm glad Mr. Darling had the foresight to save this land from developers and I'm glad I was able to spend a peaceful morning here. If you're a bird lover, give it a visit. And even if you're not, it's a short, enjoyable excursion on Sanibel.
Hint: In the top photo, there are a coupla roseate spoonbills in the left of the photo - look for the hint of pintk - and in the fourth picture, it is located third from the right..