|On Sanibel Island
||[Jan. 28th, 2010|10:12 pm]
Our destination on Sanibel Island was a small private campground: Periwinkle Park. It’s located at one end of the island, and it is mostly manufactured homes and permanent residents/snowbirds. But unlike some of the other long-term resident campgrounds we’ve stayed at, Periwinkle Park makes short-timers feel welcome. The staff was very helpful and friendly and the short term stay area was lovely. Our site backed onto a small canal, and it was easy to get into.
We walked out to the local beach in the afternoon and enjoyed the cool but pleasant breezes; it was warm enough to dispense with the coats at last. On our way, we were pleased to find a lovely aviary in the park, and another larger bird facility nearby. There were all sorts of tropical birds, two beautiful parrots, cockatiels and parakeets in large cages, and waterfowl (including black and white swans) in an enclosed pond. It turns out that the park is home to a woman who breeds and trains birds for a professional show, and this is where they live in winter. It was really neat, and we put a few dollars in the “donate for food” box in thanks.
Sanibel is famous for shelling, so I was determined to go out and see what I could find on the local beaches. The Internet and my uncle agreed that the best shelling was at the northern end of the island, where the channel between Sanibel and Captiva Islands makes for strong currents and lots of shells on the beaches. The best time is supposed to be at low tide, which fell just before dawn (the sun was up at 7-ish) both days that I was able to go out shelling. The first day I woke very early and got the cats fed and the coffee on before heading to the beach. We’d been warned that the beach parking filled quickly, so I was pleased to find only a single car in the parking lot. I wandered the beach in the early morning, finding some beautiful shells; nothing rare to people who frequent these beaches, but novel to me at least. There were any number of pink speckled scallop shells, a few small conch shells, one or two whelks; I even found a joined cockleshell, and a single small, perfect sand dollar. You could have picked shells up by the double-handsful, but I was determined to be selective, and limited myself to only some of the pretties I saw.
On Friday before we left the island I went shelling again, and it was much more crowded. The parking lot was only half full, but many people wandered the beach. As I walked down from the parking lot I passed a man carrying a net bag bulging full of large whelk shells. I think I spotted one of his discards, too. In the shallow water near the bridge was a dark, perfect whelk shell. It was heavier than normal and upon being turned over proved to be full of a purplish mollusk, looking rather like a hermit crab. I’d read that live shells have this dark leathery covering, so the mollusk wasn’t really a surprise. As an obedient sheller, I gave it a good heave into deeper water. Ref the Florida regs, posted at every beach, any shell with an actual inhabitant, living or dead, is assumed to be alive when you collected it and is not to be taken. Makes sense to me.
Lots of people were wading, knee deep or sometimes with a sudden yelp deeper. It seems to be the favored way to collect shells, armed with net bags and long handled scoops or nets. I will wait for another visit and warmer weather to try that; it was a bit chilly to be out in the water.
My aunt and uncle came out to the island to visit us, and took us to the Ding Darling National Wildlife Sanctuary. We’d been there with them in the summer a few years ago, when it was largely empty of birds. Not so this time, all the birds were at home to callers. We saw some beautiful roseate spoonbills (first I’d ever seen), feeding near the sandbars, and once, wheeling overhead as a flock went right over us. Uncle D got some gorgeous photos, which he was kind enough to share. We saw herons and egrets and storks, oh my. It had warmed up considerably and the storks were much less ruffled and grumpy, though they still look a little cross in their hunched stances.
We went in to the mainland to visit with my aunt and uncle, and spent a couple of evenings at the local bocce courts. Uncle D is in the league, and they have a very nice lighted setup with multiple courts. It was very familiar to me from similar courts in Philadelphia, the intense older men, the occasional spirited arguments in Italian over which ball is closer to the palina (and out come the measuring tapes), the cigar smoke from the spectators. The only thing missing was the small glasses of wine at everyone’s elbow. There were two courts free one night so J and I got a chance to play; he also played a round with Uncle D and his league friends. It was fun. We used to have a bocce set; I need to find it. Considering the shape of the traditional bocce court, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that bocce was first played on Roman roads. Campground sites and roads are often unpaved; they’d be perfect for impromptu games of bocce.