Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge

Click the first Federal Duck stamp (RW1)
for a gallery of pix.

Darling’s Design for the First Federal Duck Stamp, issued in 1934, is especially significant to conservation. After he had guided the funding for the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act through Congress, Darling sketched his concept of a suitable image for the First Federal Duck Stamp. With its enthusiastic adoption, a remarkable program of stewardship was born that endures today, more than a half-century later.

In 1934, our country struggling through the great depression, times were really tough. In addition to severe economic instability, financial resources were slim to non-existent. At the same time, our abundant natural resources were rapidly disappearing. In an era when hunting still provided the meat on many tables, it seemed there were more hunters than ducks.

As chief of the U.S. Biological Survey, forerunner of today’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, J. N. “Ding” Darling devised a program wherein hunters became stewards of the wildlife they hunted. Each waterfowl hunter would have to purchase a Federal Duck Stamp to affix to his or her hunting license. The revenue would be used to purchase wetland habitat critical to the preservation and increase of the species.

The impact of the Federal Duck Stamp Program was immediate, and it has been lasting. As of today, hunter-stewards have purchased 100 million Federal Duck Stamps, which have provided over 600 million dollars for the purchase of six million acres of wetland habitat. Adjusted for inflation, the amount raised exceeds two billion dollars.

Source: J. N. “Ding” Darling Foundation

In his honor, the J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge was created and is located on Sanibel Barrier Island in the subtropical region of the Gulf of Mexico. The refuge consists of over 6,400 acres of mangrove forest, submerged seagrass beds, cordgrass marshes, and West Indian hardwood hammocks. Approximately 2,800 acres of the refuge are designated by Congress as a Wilderness Area and is part of the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the United States.

A prominent feature of the wildly popular refuge is the 4-mile, one-way road by which autos, bikes, and pedestrians travel through the refuge. We quickly tired of the constant get-in, get-out every time an interesting species was spotted, and the next time we visit will walk/bike the 2-mile Indigo trail that bypasses much of the crowded roadway and provides a more natural glimpse of the remarkable mangrove forest.

Sightings for Feb. 13
Estero Beach, Fort Meyers

N. Mockingbird, Common Grackles, <Fish Crow>, European Starlings, White-winged Doves, Common Ground Doves (3), Laughing Gulls, Ring-billed Gulls, Brown Pelicans

Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge

<Reddish Egret> (2), White Ibises, Roseated Spoonbills, Double Crested Cormorants, Kingfisher, Anhingas, <Eastern Willit> (40), <Black-bellied Plover> (2), <Greater Yellowleg> (2), Black-crowned Night Herons, Yellow-crowned Night Herons (4), Tricolored Herons, Little Blue Herons, Green Herons (2), Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, Ospreys, American White Pelicans, Brown Pelicans, Turkey Vultures, Wood Stork, <Black Rail>

First time sightings: 6