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March 23, 2023

March 25: Join Us for Sounds of the Sand

Join DDWS and Two Lane Lager in supporting the Refuge at our Sounds of the Sand music festval at Bell Tower shops in Fort Myers on Saturday, March 25, from 1 to 7 p.m. Island musician Danny Morgan and other acts will perform throughout the day.  


Enjoy family activities such as face-painting, a bounce house, lawn games, and cotton candy; along with beer-drinking, archery instruction, axe-throwing, themed photo ops, artist-in-residence demonstrations, and store specials. This is a free event to attend.


Event Partners: Two Lane Lager and Bell Tower.


Sponsors: Bubbly Latitude (a Sanibel-based Bell Tower merchant), Dixie Fish Company, Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille, RS Walsh Landscaping, The Island Store and Bailey's General Store


For more information, follow the event on Facebook

View flyer.

April 4: Wildlife Drive, Visitor Center, and Bailey Tract Reopen

On April 4, “Ding” Darling will open the gate to Wildlife Drive for the first time since Hurricane Ian with a 9:30 a.m. Chamber of Commerce ribbon-cutting ceremony. The “Ding” Darling Visitor & Education Center and Bailey Tract will also reopen that day.


“The ‘Ding’ team, with help from refuge crews around the U.S., has been working nonstop to get parts of the Refuge open so the public can once again view the wildlife, which has made a remarkable comeback since Hurricane Ian, especially the birds,” said “Ding” Refuge Complex Project Leader Kevin Godsea. READ MORE

WoW Update: Post-Spring-Break Action

Following Spring Break for local schools this week, WoW (Wildlife on Wheels heads to Title-1 Sunshine Elementary in Lehigh Acres on March 27 for a four-week stay. It winds up the school year with Lehigh Senior High April 24 to 28.


The general public can experience WoW for free on April 22 to celebrate “Ding” Darling Day and Earth Day at Lakes Park in Fort Myers. Urban Education Leader Melissa Maher is currently scheduling summer camps once school is out.


Now more than ever, with post-hurricane staffing cuts, Refuge community outreach needs your help. Donate today to support the upkeep and staffing for WoW. Thank you for helping us spread the conservation message to those with limited opportunities, so they can experience and appreciate wildlife and its habitat.

Spotlight: Friends Rebuilding


As a regular feature, “Ding” on the Wing spotlights a business on the islands that has strongly supported the Refuge in the past and now needs us all to rally behind it as it navigates the road to recovery.


A high-level sponsor for the "Ding" Darling & Doc Ford's Tarpon Tournament since year 1 in 2012, Diversified Yacht Services (DYS) of Fort Myers Beach recovered relatively quickly from hurricane damage, at first to begin checking on customers’ boats, then, within six weeks, to open its yard to bring boats in.


The docks at DYS received the most damage, but its haul-out slip has passed inspection and is fully operational. It currently uses temporary floating docks with fueling capacities and expects new docks and fuel pumps by midsummer.


“We are excited to be a sponsor for the tarpon tournament again this year,” said General Manager Mary Boutelle. “The positive impact that ‘Ding' Darling has on our local waters and fisheries is something that we value and want to support. The tarpon tournament is a great way to partner with a cause that is so important to this area’s boaters and our local fishing community.”

Remember, profits from all Nature Store sales go directly to the Refuge for educational programs, wildlife research, and overall conservation efforts.

Refuge Cleanups

This week, the Refuge tackled the muck, debris, and other destruction at Bailey Tract. Thanks to the 60 volunteers - students and chaperones from Marquette High School in St. Louis, Missouri – who worked through Keep Lee County Beautiful for their service project. The ongoing cleanup at Bailey Tract involves hard work and heavy lifting - removing furniture and lots of other household wash-up from the storm’s flood. 

Hurricane (and Related Environmental) Update

We consistently update our Resource Page and include a hurricane update each week in our "Ding" on the Wing. Call us with any Refuge questions at 239-292-0566.  Here is a printable pdf of resources. We are trying to keep it updated and hoping it helps. 

Here are a few NEW links:  

Conservation scholarships help replenish our world with young wildlife ambassadors.

13 DDWS Conservation Scholarships Available

Application deadline is March 31 for 13 DDWS scholarships amounting to more than $20,000. Ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 each, the scholarships are available to high school seniors, college students, and graduate students in or from Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry, and Glades counties pursuing degrees in environmental-related studies. This year’s named scholarships include READ MORE

Refuge Programming & Events

The Visitor & Education Center and Wildlife Drive remain closed due to hurricane damage until further notice. Consequently, many programs and events have been canceled or postponed. Read DOTW for news of activities still being planned.


Feel-Good Finds

If you have a photo, poem, video, or other feel-good find and you'd like the chance to be highlighted in our "Ding" on the Wing, please email it to April Boehnen .

John & Terry Thomas shared a beautiful Captiva sunset from a trip in 2019.

Steve Allen shared this photo he took at "Ding" in 2018 of a White Ibis.

Wellness Tip


As part of our Nature Wellness Program for 2023, watch here for tips and advice on how to center your mind and improve your wellbeing both outdoors and indoors.


A Breath of Calm

You feel overwhelmed or nervous. The feeling is real, and your throat is tight. What is the first thing that you do to recenter yourself? Take a breath. Intentional breathing can help us feel calm and collected.


Why? This article from Harvard Health outlines the various reasons intentional breathing exercises work by shifting your body from the activated “fight or flight” response to the restorative “rest and digest” state.


This week’s tip: Experiment with different breathing exercises to see which you like best. Learn and practice the breathing exercise in a state of calm; once you have the hang of it, use it as needed for calming and grounding.


Some of the most popular breathing exercises include square breathing (breath in, hold, out, hold in equal time allotments) and pursed-lip breathing (slow and extend your exhale by pursing your lips, as if blowing through a straw).

Show Us Your "Ding" Merch

For a chance to be highlighted in "Ding" on the Wing, send in a photo of yourself wearing "Ding" merch to April Boehnen

Janie Hardy and Henry Wurth from Lincolnville, Maine. and Scottsdale, Arizona

These are just snapshots of some of the things taking place at your Wildlife Refuge. Please check our website to learn more!


Birgit Miller, Executive Director

"Ding" On The Wing composed by Chelle Koster Walton. Designed by Ali Reece.

Darling Dose of "Ding"

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