In the Mangrove Swamp

By Vladimir Brezina

A few days ago, Johna and I spent a couple of hours in the “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island on the Gulf coast of Florida.

We were hoping to see alligators, but no luck. The closest we came, perhaps, was this tableau that we came across on the trail:

Alligator 1, Human 0 ?

But the mangrove swamps on either side of the trail were teeming with life.

Mangroves send their pneumatophores up through the reddish silt

… and their prop roots down to weave elaborate root webs

Schools of fish feed voraciously, agitating the water in spreading rings

Fertile decay fluxes through the ecosystem

Mangrove seedlings set sail to new lands

Spiders lie in wait for their prey

Horseshoe crabs mate

And in the thickets around, secret birds watch

(More photos from the swamp and from the rest of our Florida trip are here.)

5 responses to “In the Mangrove Swamp

  1. We’ve beento Ding Darling 3 or 4 times — about 12 years ago was our last visit. The birds seemed to diminish in number each trip. But we saw lots of alligators. My favorite bird sighting was two Pileated Woodpeckers on the same tree! They are shy and hard to come across. For some reason I didn’t get any photos. As bad as some Ivory Bill sightings I’ve read about!


    • Apart from the yellow-crowned night heron, we saw white ibises

      and an anhinga, pelicans and egrets of course…

      But the mangrove forest was pretty quiet—you had to look carefully to see the birds and animals…


  2. Have canoed and kayaked Ding Darling several times IN THE SUMMER. You picked a good time. Few or no mosquitoes and less heat. I found that the alligators are active late evening and early morning. Your tongue in cheek photo of “Alligator 1, Human 0” is a reminder that on land they may seem sluggish, but when one wants to, an alligator can out run a human. Another one of your photos…the one of Johna (?) standing next to the water…reminds me of a photo shoot I did over at nearby “Bailey Tract”. I was next to the brackish stained water and wanted to move my tripod with one leg in the water for a better angle. Right as the leg entered the water I realized it was about set down on the head of an alligator lying in the silt barely visible in the dark water. It is amazing how adrenaline can make you move so fast.


    • Great story!

      We were actually there in the late afternoon, leaving just before dark. So probably the best time to see alligators, if they were around…

      And mosquitoes too, unfortunately. I am sure it’s much worse in the summer, but Johna did complain quite a bit about being bitten—and she still has some nasty-looking bites days later. I on the other hand, walking right alongside her, didn’t feel a single mosquito bite the whole time. Presumably it’s like that old story about running away from the bear: you don’t have to run faster than the bear, you just have to run faster than your companion…

      The next day we went kayaking round the outside of Ding Darling. Here we are having lunch in the mangroves at the back entrance to Tarpon Bay:


  3. Pingback: Reflections | Wind Against Current

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