I looked at the binoculars on the chair in my room and almost grabbed them. I don’t have room in my suitcase I thought. And when am I going to have time to look at birds anyway? 

I was on my way to Captiva Island in Florida for business meetings over nine very long days. I was taking my camera but not the binoculars. And not taking the binoculars goes down as one of the dumbest decisions of my life because this happened:

Little Blue Heron not shy at all

Little Blue Heron not shy at all

Great Blue Heron in the distance. Would have been nice to have binoculars, no?

Great Blue Heron in the distance. Would have been nice to have binoculars, no?

I know. What kind of birder leaves without his or her binoculars? Well, this birder does.

I know. What kind of birder leaves without his or her binoculars? Well, this one does.

I was right about not having any time to go birding except for the day I was leaving. I had a few hours in the morning to visit J. N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, which is on Sanibel Island and only a 20 minute drive from where I was staying on Captiva Island.

A White Egret slowly and elegantly walks through the water as the sun is rising.

An American Egret slowly and elegantly walks through the water as the sun is rising.

As expected, there were birders with camera lenses the size of missile launchers already queued up in front of egrets and herons that appeared unafraid of us all. This is the first time I have ever been birding without Steve, the real birder in this marriage, though I suspected it wasn’t going to be too hard. The birds were everywhere.

I walked past a man with binoculars and parroted what Steve would always say, “See anything interesting?”

“There’s a pair of Roseate Spoonbills out there,” he answered, too kind to roll his eyes at me because it really was quite obvious.

The obvious pink of two Roseate Spoonbills

Nope. You can’t miss these two Roseate Spoonbills at all. (Yeah, I know. Kind of a crappy photo)

A couple miles down the road I spotted something new. Because I’m the Accidental Birder it’s rather impossible for me to I.D. a bird that I’d never seen before, but I had just seen at the wooden observation tower a list of birds and, by golly, I think…I think it’s…yes…it’s a Reddish Egret!

Hello, new guy!

Reddish Egret. Hello, new guy!

Not only did I I.D. this guy on my own, but it’s a lifer for me!

Two hours. That’s how long I spent here. I could have spent longer if I didn’t have a plane to catch. And next time? I’ll be packing binoculars.

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Here’s a gallery of more birds from this morning at J. N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Click on any of the photos below and it will enlarge for your viewing pleasure.