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May 25, 2023

Tarpon Tourney Results

Despite unprecedented obstacles, the 11th annual “Ding” Darling & Doc Ford’s Tarpon Tournament took place on May 19 to support water-quality research and conservation at the Refuge.


DDWS organizes the annual tournament with Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille. Typically, the Captain’s Meeting and Silver King Awards ceremony take place at the Doc Ford’s Fort Myers Beach location, but as it was destroyed by Hurricane Ian in September, the events moved to the Sanibel flagship restaurant. Doc Ford owners worked closely with DDWS staff to make sure the tournament would take place again in 2023 in spite of READ MORE

Photo caption: Winning Team TowBoat US (Watch next week’s bulletin for more tourney photos.)

Title Sponsor: Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille

Champion Sponsors: Gretchen Banks, Law Office of Christopher G. Hill, The Szymanczyk Family

Premiere Sponsor: Bass Pro ShopsThe Historic Bait Box

Presenting Sponsors: Two Lane Lager, Captiva Divas, David & Judy Baum, Bill & Laurie Harkey

Platinum Sponsors: Captain Shawn Kelly Fishing ChartersSanibel Captiva Community BankCustom Tees Now, Organized Chaos, Whitney's Bait & TackleDiversified Yacht ServicesHighTower Advisors - Fort Myers

Gold Sponsors: Anisa JewelryMabry BrothersBay MarineOn IslandCaptain Matt Mitchell's Fishing ChartersJensen's Marina & CottagesTrophy Case of Fort MyersYETIRS Walsh Landscaping & DesignFort Myers MarineMilestone AuctionsCongress Jewelers

Silver Sponsors: Peter & Barb RogersCaptiva CruisesLaw Office of Janet M. Strickland

A New Tarpon Jacket Look for 2023

In 2017, the Harrity family introduced the Pink Tarpon Jacket as an added incentive for taking first place in the "Ding" Darling & Doc Ford's Tarpon Tournament. “It’s kind of like the green Masters tournament jacket in golf,” said Doc Ford’s partner Joe Harrity. “The winning captain gets the honor of wearing the Pink Tarpon Jacket each year.”


Thanks to Hurricane Ian, this year’s jacket underwent a new, custom design. The supply of original jackets was washed away by the September storm - just one more challenge to pulling together this year’s tourney. As a result, a new jacket and design featuring the tournament’s logo were unveiled this year. All previous winners since 2017 will receive a new jacket to match.



Cartoon of the Month:

Happy Memorial Day!

In honor of Memorial Day on Monday, May 29, we feature a potent message from our namesake in the form of an editorial cartoon titled “To sacred memories and forgotten hatreds.” Pulitzer-winning Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling published the cartoon in the May 30, 1928, edition of the Des Moines Register. His cartoons have remained famous nationwide for a relevancy that carries on to this day.

Click cartoon to see it enlarged.


Refuge Closures: The Refuge Visitor & Education Center and administrative offices will close on May 29 for the federal holiday.

Wildlife Drive, Bailey Tract, and Tarpon Bay Explorers remain open throughout the holiday weekend. (Wildlife Drive and the Visitor & Education Center close every Friday.) NOTE: The Visitor & Education Center closes at 3:15 p.m. on Thursday, May 25 for a special event.

May Biology Highlights

Refuge Biological Science Technician Avery Renshaw reports on Refuge biology activities for the month. The “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society supports her position.


Bird Update

 Hold on to your (plumage-free) hats, folks, because Refuge Biological Science Technician Avery Renshaw is back with yet another bird update. Avery accompanied the Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves team, which is part of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), on its monthly nesting survey of state and federally owned colonial bird rookery islands in the upper Pine Island Sound. These surveys monitor the nesting effort of wading and water birds, such as Egrets, Herons, Brown Pelicans, Double-crested Cormorants, and Anhingas. Wading birds are useful indicator species for estuary health as their READ MORE

Photo: Bird nesting activity on Hemp Key. (Credit: Melynda Brown, Florida DEP) 


Donate to support Avery’s position and biological research at the Refuge.

Advocate for Change

Please join the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society, SCCF and many other conservation/environmental organizations in Florida to urge Governor DeSantis to VETO line item 146 of SB 2500, which allows for a complete ban on creating or modifying local fertilizer ordinances. Throughout history, each year the legislature has found ways to insert language into bills at the last minute. This is one of those examples in the final days of the READ MORE

WoW Update: The Year in Pictures

WoW (Wildlife on Wheels) Intern Diana Iglesia created this video to wrap up an incredibly successful school year that reached more than 7,600 students. The WoW team will use the video to encourage Title-1 school teachers and other educators to book WoW visits for the 2023-24 school year, which are already getting scheduled.


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, too, can experience and appreciate wildlife and its habitat.

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

Tarpon Bay Explorers Summer Discount

Tarpon Bay Explorers, the Refuge recreation concession, will be offering a 25% discount to any Lee County resident for kayak, SUP, and Hobie fishing kayak rentals June 1 through August 31. “We want people to experience the Refuge and all its beauty,” said Managing Partner Wendy Schnapp. “The bay is a new version of beautiful. Though the mangroves are not as lush, the trail is peaceful, clear, and fully accessible. We still see great wildlife on a daily basis. Manatees are regularly in our harbor. We hope locals take advantage of the discount and support us, the Refuge, and the island in general.”


Current Tarpon Bay Explorer hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday (last rentals at 3 p.m.).

Summer Wildlife Drive Admission in Effect

May through September, your admission pass to Wildlife Drive turns into a three-day ticket. Keep your pass to re-enter free for the following two consecutive days. NOTE: Wildlife Drive closes on Fridays, so your pass is good for the next Saturday if your visit falls on a weekend.

June 11: Free Summer Programs to Begin

Refuge free Summer Programs run twice a week from June 11 through August 5. They include Reading at the Refuge, Lakes Park Exploration, Wildlife Drive Caravan with a Ranger, and other activities. To learn about and register for upcoming activities, visit our Eventbrite page and check out our flyer.

7 Reasons We’re Proud of Proud Source Water

Proud Source, the newest packaged water to reach the shelves of the Refuge Nature Store, passed all our criteria for sustainability and earth-friendly.


1. The company was founded in Idaho to create jobs in a mountain town whose economy was suffering.

2. It only packages alkaline water with natural electrolytes and minerals from protected sources, including a local family-owned spring in Florida.

3. Proud Source has pledged to conserve the springs and will never take more than 5% of its output.  

4. It chose aluminum for packaging because of its earth-friendly record as highly recyclable.

5. As a member of 1% For the Planet, Proud Source donates a percentage of its profits to conservation nonprofits.

6. The company’s facilities are built sustainably and powered by solar, wind, and other energy-efficient methods. 

7. It ships to no more than 1,200 miles from the springs’ source.

Refuge Programming & Events

  • Through September, a mini-exhibition of Artist in Residence Jacqui Roch’s Refuge-inspired work runs in the Visitor & Education Center Auditorium.

  • Photo-artist Niki Butcher mounts an exhibition of her work in the Visitor & Education Center in January and February 2024, dates TBA.

Watch for details to be announced.

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.

As National Mental Health Month draws to a close, it feels appropriate to check in: How is your mental health? If you've followed along this month, we discussed the healing process of starting a "Future Self Journal,” the surprising mental health benefits of an ice-water immersion, and the importance of maintaining proper work-life balance.

Tip of the week: 120 minutes is all you need

To bring it home, we end May's tips with easily one of the most important and invaluable mental health treatments: Spend at least 120 minutes (per week) in nature/green spaces.


During his 2023 Wellness Week lecture at the Refuge earlier this month, retired surgeon and healing-in-nature enthusiast Dr. Joe Blanda shared the benefits spending a minimum of 120 minutes in nature has on our physical and mental wellbeing. Reduced inflammation, increased heart function, better sleep quality, and lessened symptoms of anxiety and depression are among a few.


Watch Dr. Joe's inspiring and insightful lecture HERE.

Dr. Joe Blanda (far right) delivered Wellness Week’s opening keynote lecture.

Wildlife Sightings & Tides

These beautiful pink birds are a popular sight to see at the refuge. Roseate Spoonbills use their bills to sweeps back and forth in shallow water to capture prey.

Click HERE to see this week's wildlife sightings.

Photo by Wendy Kindig

If you have taken any beautiful, interesting, or just plain goofy photos at the Refuge, send them to the Bill and Laurie Harkey Development and Communications Intern Ali Reece for a chance to be featured in upcoming newsletters.

Friends visiting "Ding"

Miss Mary (second from left) has been visiting "Ding" Darling since she was a little girl. Living in Leesburg, Florida, she shared her love of the refuge and her sadness to learn of the impacts of Hurricane Ian. Her family of friends (three of them photographed) came to visit the island and Refuge to support it by visiting open businesses; shopping in the Ding Nature store and planning another trip in the future. Share your photos when you come and visit the Refuge!

Email Gretchen with your photos!

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:  

  • SanCap Chamber reopens on Sanibel
  • Lester Holt speaks with Hurricane Ian survivors eight months later
  • Shipyard restaurant opens on Captiva
  • Rare junonia shell found on Sanibel Island, Florida, beach
  • Keeping an eye on Lake Okeechobee ahead of rainy season
  • The Florida Department of Health has developed a registry for persons with special needs to receive assistance during a disaster.
  • Sea turtle nesting soars on Sanibel and Captiva Islands
  • Lee County Sheriff's Office reports rise in rental scams over last six months
  • Smelly, nutrient fed algae mats return to Matlacha and Pine Island
  •  Tweet by Justin Michaels: "Of the 10,000 active mailing addresses on the island pre-Ian, only 385 are active today."
  • Sanibel Causeway/Causeway Islands Park are closed to all traffic
  • Sanibel’s only preschool is opening after extensive Hurricane Ian damage
  • Beachfront communities grapple with post-hurricane rebuilding issues
  • NOAA Boosts Coastal Hardiness
  • New law prepares Floridians for rising sea levels
  • Tourism takes hard hit in wake of storm
  • Marco United Church Supports Sanibel Church
  • Cape Coral City Council discusses Yacht Club restoration
  • Incredible shrinking lakes: Humans, climate change, diversion costs trillions of gallons annually
  • The world's largest lakes are shrinking dramatically, and scientists say they know why
  • Heavy equipment operator crushes sea turtle nests on Marco
  • Google's AI-enabled flood forecasting goes global
  • Florida, the seas are rising and time is short
  • Rising seas are causing septic systems to fail
  • Red tide? Seaweed blob? Nope, scientists are watching a different algae off Tampa Bay
  •  Living with BEARS
  • Warming climate increases mosquito risk across US, new study shows
Visit our Website

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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