The Beebe Florida Birding Trail ~ Before and After Opening Night!

Since my exhibit at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Florida ran for ten days, we had to figure out what to do while the exhibit was running.  We decided to be productive and turn the rest of the trip into a bird watching trip to stock up on resource material for the upcoming year.  I came home with over 5,000 photographs of a wonderful variety of birds!  

Many birders follow the State and Federal designated birding trails all around the country for their bird outings.  Websites, maps, and instructions on where to go and what to see, are all very helpful guides to birders.  The Beebes created their own birding trail on this trip, starting in Sanibel, Florida, then over to Key Largo, then down to Marathon in the Keys, and then back on up to the northeast corner of Florida at Amelia Island.  

J. N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in Sanibel was our first birding destination, and the primary reason we wanted to start our expedition in Sanibel.  It didn’t disappoint!  It was actually better than we had imagined.  We drove fifteen trips around the four-mile Wildlife Drive over our 8-day stay.  We saw a great variety of birds including Snowy Egrets, White Pelicans, Roseate Spoonbills, Wood Storks, Green Herons, Blue Herons, Brown Pelicans……  We even saw a rather large alligator.  

J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge Entrance

J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge Entrance

Alligator at the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge

Alligator at the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge

One has to be a little careful to check out the edge of the water before running up to photograph a bird!  Here are just a few of my photographs from J. N. Ding Darling.

White Pelicans at Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge

White Pelicans at Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge

"Gather 'round" at Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge ~ White Pelicans and Roseate Spoonbills

"Gather 'round" at Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge ~ White Pelicans and Roseate Spoonbills

Roseate Spoonbills in Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge

Roseate Spoonbills in Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge

Snowy Egret in Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge

Snowy Egret in Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge

Tricolored Heron in Ding Darling National Wildlife

Tricolored Heron in Ding Darling National Wildlife

White Ibis in Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge

White Ibis in Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge

Yellow-crowned Night Heron in Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge

Yellow-crowned Night Heron in Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge

White Pelicans Taking Off in Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge

White Pelicans Taking Off in Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge

Sanibel Blue Heron

Sanibel Blue Heron

While in Sanibel, I also spotted these two eagles on a bare tree along the side of the road.  It was quite a sight at 7 in the morning with the warm sun hitting them.  

Sanibel Eagles

Sanibel Eagles

We found a wonderful place to observe the Brown Pelican in action.  Almost anywhere along the Sanibel Causeway (bridge to the island of Sanibel) you can see them, but on the Sanibel side along the shoreline I was able to photograph them dive-bombing for fish, swimming close-by and on pilings.  It was a field day!

Sanibel Brown Pelicans

Sanibel Brown Pelicans

Sanibel Brown Pelican

Sanibel Brown Pelican

On our way out of town to Key Largo, while I was filling up the gas tank, Jen pointed out three Pileated Woodpeckers on a Palm tree!  It was killing me.  I couldn’t get to my camera in time. We hated to leave the birding was so good. 

On to Key Largo for my exhibit we went.  The Ocean Reef Club provided me with some very good birding.  The Brown Pelicans were all hanging out on the pilings in the marina.  The Yachts were incredible, but so was the Pelican watching.  I also spotted a number of Red-bellied Woodpeckers working on a couple of Palm trees.  Lastly, there were two Belted Kingfishers flitting all around a marsh pond on the resort grounds.  I spent several hours trying to catch them on camera, without a whole lot of success.

Brown Pelican at the Ocean Reef Marina in Key Largo FL

Brown Pelican at the Ocean Reef Marina in Key Largo FL

Red-bellied Woodpecker in Key Largo

Red-bellied Woodpecker in Key Largo

We headed down the Keys to a small villa in Marathon, on a canal.  Marathon is known for it’s fishing.  Fishermen come from all around to fish the Caribbean like waters.  With fish come Pelicans!  Everyday all we had to do to watch Pelicans was step out back of our villa, and we were treated to squadrons of Pelicans following the fishing boats out in the morning and back in the late afternoon.  

Brown Pelican Gargling in Marathon FL

Brown Pelican Gargling in Marathon FL

Water sports in Marathon on the canal!

Water sports in Marathon on the canal!

Each villa had it’s own fish station where fisherman would clean their fish.  Remains were tossed into the water creating Pelican feeding frenzies.  We were closer than we had ever been to the Brown Pelican.  Both of us were fascinated by the experience.  We studied them landing, taking off, swimming, feeding, and flying.  Marathon turned out to be the perfect Pelican watching location!  Here are a few photos from Marathon, in the Keys.  

Taking a break from the afternoon bird activity! ;-)

Taking a break from the afternoon bird activity! ;-)

Feeding time in Marathon FL

Feeding time in Marathon FL

Following the fishing boats in Marathon FL

Following the fishing boats in Marathon FL

Our last stop on the Beebe Birding Trail was at Amelia Island.  An extra wide beautiful beach was right out our backdoor.  Seagulls and Sanderlings were around, but not in large numbers.  Some Brown Pelicans were cruising the surf.  But the most interesting spot we discovered was a small pond near a golf course.  It turned out that every afternoon, a variety of shorebirds would gather along the shore of the pond.   

It was like an early gathering before the Tiki Bar opens on a Friday night, or waiting for the Early Bird Special!  Everyone just standing around waiting.  There were usually a large number of white Wood Storks, Roseate Spoonbills, White Ibis, a Great Blue Heron, a couple of Anhinga, and some Merganser ducks in the water!  

Why did they always hang out there and why were there so many different kinds of birds all getting along so well???  I found it fascinating and couldn’t wait to get back there, both morning and afternoons.  

Here are a few shots I took while in Amelia Island.  We loved all of our birding locations.  I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and hearing about some of the trip.  

Waiting for the Tiki Bar to open ~ Spoonbills and Wood Storks  and more.....

Waiting for the Tiki Bar to open ~ Spoonbills and Wood Storks  and more.....

Amelia Island Beach at Sunrise

Amelia Island Beach at Sunrise

I could write another blog about where to eat while on this Birding Trail.  The Paella at the Island Cow was a standout in Sanibel as were the seafood fajitas!  But I digress…  ☺

Paintings are soon to follow.  I’m going to be busy all winter and spring painting for a two-man show at the Greenleaf Gallery in Duck, North Carolina.  The beautiful gallery will be featuring 15 of my bird paintings during the month of June!  It’ll be my first time showing there and we’re both very excited about the opportunity.

Thanks as always for taking the time to read my blog, and follow my journey.  I appreciate it very much!!!


One of the joys of being an artist is having the freedom to follow my passion...
— William R. Beebe
What's next? Drawing by William R. Beebe

What's next?

Drawing by William R. Beebe