Many years ago, long before I discovered birds and photography, I spent an afternoon on the beach of Sanibel Island, Florida. I remember looking for shells but I honestly don’t remember noticing a single bird. Now, fast forward to 2015 and I can’t walk 10 feet on the beach without stopping for several minutes to photograph the shoreline bird activities. Seriously, it can take me hours to go three blocks! But what’s different? Well it’s not the birds because they have always been there. So I guess it’s the photographer.
Sanibel Island is one of the best locations in the country to see a diverse number of bird species. Of course, I always go to J. N. “Ding”Darling National Wildlife Refuge, which warrants at least one entry of its own. But one of my favorite activities while on the island is to get up before sunrise and walk the beach with my camera to see the early morning bird activity. At first light I roll out of bed, grab my camera with my zoom lens and head out to spend the morning with the “locals” on the beach (you know, gulls, terns, shorebirds, pelicans, etc.)
In addition to the year-round population, during the winter you can find several migrant species basking in the sunshine before heading north to their summer breeding homes. And you can get very close to the birds in Florida because they are so used to people. As always, it is important to remember that the beach is their home. And while I’m photographing them I also try to keep enough distance to avoid disrupting them or interfering. Fortunately, in Florida, that’s not at all difficult to do!
I don’t know how I could have missed seeing all of this beauty right in front of me all those years ago, but I’m so glad I found it now. Below are some of my favorite photos from my March 2015 trip to the Sanibel shoreline: