May 20, 2021
In This Issue
We support the Sanibel & Captiva Island Chamber of Commerce and other partners in their call to action to demand that the Army Corps of Engineers include a more equitable distribution of balance in its new Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM). Take action today in support of cleaner waters for the Refuge and Southwest Florida. We are all in this together!

The DDWS staff has been busy bringing the healing sunshine and beauty of the Refuge to the public through 30-second social media videos. Follow on Facebook to see our #DailyDoseofDing, brief virtual visits to the Refuge for those who can't make it. 
Whether you live on Sanibel Island or in a completely different environment in faraway places like Rhode Island or Oregon, we want to see what you're seeing in your habitat.
Thank you to Linda Deitzel from New Cumberland, Pennsylvania

Please  email your nature photos so we can share them with others. Include details about the photographer and where the photo was taken.
Thank you to Diane Biehler for this photo taken at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

Tarpon Bay Remains OPEN during Parking Lot Improvements 
Construction has begun to upgrade the parking lot at the Refuge's Tarpon Bay Recreation Area. Improvements will make the lot more easily navigable and launching vessels more accessible. Tarpon Bay Explorers, the Refuge recreation concession, will remain open during reconstruction. The ramp will close to motorized launches during a time frame to be determined. Stay tuned to "Ding" on the Wing for updates.
2021 Tarpon Tourney Awards 

Team Doc Ford's with its catch of the day. 
The ninth annual "Ding" Darling & Doc Ford's Tarpon Tournament on May 14 awarded $56,500 in prizes to five winning teams out of 55 registered teams. Anglers photo-recorded 15 tarpon catches this year.
DDWS organizes the annual tournament with Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille of Sanibel Island, Fort Myers Beach, Captiva Island, and St. Petersburg as the title sponsor. The Silver King Awards ceremony took place at the Fort Myers Beach location. 
When the 2020 tournament was postponed until this year, teams were given first opportunity for a guaranteed coveted spot in the 2021 tournament by allowing their entry fee to roll over to this year and then paying the 2021 fee, essentially doubling the purse, for the largest payout ever in the history of the tournament. 

The first-place prize of $25,425 went to Team Tarpon Time, including captain Tanner Miller and team members Stephanie Miller, Eric Davis, and Ryan Clase. The team caught and released a total of four fish.  
Kudos to "Team Worker Bees," who ran the tournament under the able lead of Development Officer April Boehnen (front right)
Second-place Team Fort Myers Marine, led by captain Bryan Waid, caught two fish and won $14,125. In third place, captain Whitney Jones' Team Whitney's Bait & Tackle caught the first fish of the day and took home $8,475. Fourth-place winners Team Jason & the Tarpon Knots, with captain Jason Smith, won $5,650; fifth-place winners Team Chasin Poon, with captain Matt Mitchell, took home $2,825. 
The tournament also handed out awards for female angler to Stephanie Miller from Team Tarpon Time, senior angler to Gary Biltgen from Team Chasin Poon, and amateur team to Team Jason & the Tarpon Knots.
"Because all boat registration fees go into the awards purse, sponsorship partners are extremely important to this tournament," said Birgie Miller, Executive Director of DDWS. "They make it possible to raise vital financial support for the conservation mission of DDWS and the Refuge." Stay tuned to learn fundraising results from the tourney and dates for next year's event.

Remember, profits from all Nature Store sales go directly to the Refuge for 
educational programs, wildlife research, and overall conservation efforts.
Summer Fees for Wildlife Drive
Your fee-booth vehicle admission buys three days of visiting this summer.

Did you know your entrance fee to the Wildlife Drive and Indigo Trail
($10 vehicle and $1 hiker/biker) is now good for admission on three consecutive open days through September 30? Keep your stamped receipt to show the fee booth for reentry.
Remember: Wildlife Drive is closed Fridays. If one of your free reentry days falls on a Friday, your receipt is good until the date with which it is stamped. 

Latest Safety Guidelines
Last week's announcement by the CDC is entirely about masks, and so that it is the only change the federal government to date has allowed in the protocols currently in place at the Refuge.
Refuge staff continues to urge visitors, staff, and volunteers to stay distanced, as this Roseate Spoonbill decal demonstrates.
     Tours remain limited and distanced. The number of guests allowed in the Visitor & Education Center is still limited to 25, and exhibits will continue to be covered until further notice.
     Regarding masks: In accordance with CDC guidelines, the Refuge still encourages visitors, staff, and volunteers to wear masks, especially indoors and where distancing is not possible. Persons who are not fully vaccinated are required to wear masks. "Fully vaccinated" occurs two weeks following a final dose of COVID-19 vaccination.

Welcome New Visitor Services Intern
Sam Warren brings his photography and videography skills to the
Refuge team.
     Visitor Services Photography and Videography Intern Sam Warren arrived recently to help the Refuge with staffing shortages and special projects this summer, thanks to funding from the "Ding" Darling Wildlife Society. Sam, who will graduate from Ohio University, Cleveland, in May 2023, studies photojournalism in the School of Visual Communication and has done extensive work as a freelance photojournalist covering a variety of topics and issues.
     "I'm looking forward to helping 'Ding' revamp informational videos about the Refuge and put out important info for volunteers and guests, as well as photographing wildlife and events to help share with the public the importance of what we're doing here," said Sam, a Cleveland, Ohio, native who has been vacationing on Sanibel Island and visiting "Ding" Darling for many years.
     "With his past experience on the island and his great skills in capturing visual moments, Sam will fill a crucial need, in this day and age, for social media content and instructional videography," said Toni Westland, Supervisory Refuge Ranger. "We welcome Sam and his talent to our dynamic team of nature-lovers and doers. We are so thankful to our friends group for making our internship program possible."  DDWS provides living stipends and other benefits for more than a dozen interns each year. The Refuge supports interns with free housing. To learn about supporting the Refuge intern program, contact Lynnae Messina at 239-472-1100 ext. 233 or make a GIFT now!  
Intern Thank-You

Visitor Services Intern Jessica Barry is transitioning to a position as an WoW Education Intern. She wrote this letter thanking DDWS for its support of her original internship.
"Growing up, 'Ding' and Sanibel Island were second homes for me. I vividly remember the endless sea of white pelicans and racing my sister up the observation tower to get a better look. Now, over a decade later, I had the opportunity to come back to the Refuge as an intern. In the past six months I have learned so much about myself and READ MORE 
Learn about Refuge internship programs. DDWS supports more than a dozen interns each year. Your donations help with this important program.

Tarpon Tournament 2021

Special thanks to Raiser's Edge and Make it Happen who raise a combined total of $50,000 every year, to help support conservation efforts at the J.N. "Ding" Darling National 
Wildlife Refuge.
The "Ding" Darling & Doc Ford's Tarpon Tournament has raised more than half a million dollars to support conservation at the Refuge in its nine years of existence. Education, wildlife and water research, and overall conservation efforts at the Refuge have benefited from the money raised from this tournament. 

Support comes from our generous sponsors. Sponsorships and donations are the ONLY way the tournament raises philanthropic support. Please say thank you to these businesses and individuals for their support of conservation. 
Title Sponsor

Starting Position

Champion Sponsors


Presenting Sponsors

Platinum Sponsors
Captain Shawn Kelly Charters

Gold Sponsors

Silver Sponsors

Support the Tarpon Tournament with a gift today and impact the conservation work at the Refuge.  
FREE Artist-in-Residence Summer Programs

Create a Father's Day card and other projects with Rachel this summer.
On Friday, June 18, at 10 and 11 a.m., Artist-in-Residence Rachel Pierce will help sons and daughters (and grandsons and granddaughters and anyone with a father figure in their life) create an artistic Father's Day card for free, outdoors at the Wildlife Education Boardwalk. Participation is limited to 10 pre-registered  guests for each session.
Watch the Artist-in-Residence web page for news of other upcoming activities with Rachel, including painting patriotic seashells and back-to-school tote bags.
Donate to support free educational programs such as this at the Refuge.

Drive Green blue-cars-icon.gif

As many plan on road trips this summer, it's a good time to review tips for car travel that's easy on the environment.
·         Drive a fuel-efficient, low-emissions vehicle.
·         Drive slower and smarter.
·         Keep up with regular maintenance. 
·         Give renewable fuels a try.
·         Check your tires regularly.
·         Use the right kind of oil.

Bog Turtle
'America's Best-Kept Secret'
In each issue of "Ding" on the Wing, we showcase one of the more than 
560 refuges across the U.S.A. that is open to the public. 
Images courtesy of
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Location: 2,185 acres; Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania
Totemic fauna: Bog Turtle, Black Bear, Woodchuck

Black Bear
Visitor tip: Three trails take hikers into a variety of habitats and also provide cross-country skiing in winter.   

Click HERE to see this week's wildlife sightings.

Photo by Jim Bennight

We love this shot of a Black-necked Stilt chick and its parent taken at the Bailey Tract. Thanks to Jim Bennight for the amazing photo!

To see more wildlife photos, click on our social media links:

Like us on Facebook View on Instagram View our videos on YouTube
If you have taken any beautiful, interesting, or just plain goofy photos at the Refuge, send them to Development Officer Sierra Hoisington for a chance to be featured in upcoming newsletters.
Monitor our COVID-19 page for news of event cancellations or reschedules.

Free Summer Programs - June 20-August 7, 2021

Great American Outdoors Day - August 4, 2021

Artist-in-Residence Exhibition - October 1 - November 10, 2021

"Ding" Darling Day - October 10, 2021

Niki Butcher Photographic Exhibition - November 15 - December 31, 2021. Sponsored by Wayne & Linda Boyd.
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 Sierra Hoisington & April Boehnen. 

Like us on FacebookView on InstagramView our videos on YouTube