Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge is a large group of mangrove islands and narrow waterways that provide a pristine habitat for countless birds, plants, animals and fish. Located about twenty miles south of Naples just off Highway 41, the protected 35,000 acres of mangrove forest is home to many threatened and endangered species including the Florida manatee, peregrine falcon, wood stork, Atlantic loggerhead,and Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles. The National Wildlife Refuge provides excellent kayaking launch sites and a marsh trail with a tall observation tower. The marsh trail and tower provide easy access to a large marsh area where thousands of birds roost for the night. Early mornings about a half hour before sunrise you can see large groups of birds fly off together to start their day. Likewise, just before sunset the marsh observation tower is a wonderful spot to watch birds fly in for the night against the setting sun. Bug spray is a definite must if there is no wind but the observation tower provides protection from the sun and a comfortable area for photographing the birds.
On my way to the refuge I drove several backroads in order to photograph orange groves. Since coming to Florida I find I enjoy all the seasons here especially when the orange blossoms are out and their perfume fills the air with the best scent I have ever known.
Cumulus clouds and blue sky over large orange grove in Southwest Florida
Oranges on trees in Orange grove in Southwest Florida
Black-winged stilt in flight and reflection over marsh at Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge near South Naples, Florida
Three white ibis in flight above Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge near Naples, Florida
Shake it off! Royal tern coming out of the water after diving for a fish at Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge near South Naples, Florida
Common Moorehen couple with two chicks at marsh at Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge near South Naples, Florida
White Ibis in flight over large group of wading birds at Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge near South Naples, Florida
The kayak launch site at Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserves is located at the northern end of the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Kayaking through the maze of mangrove trees and islands is a very relaxing trip and provides views of mangrove trees and many birds.
Kayakers at Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserves located at the northern end of the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge on the gulf coast of Florida
I stopped off for a quick swim at Tigertail Beach on Marco Island which has a large, white, sandy beach that seems to go on forever. I love watching the shorebirds here and there is a huge osprey nest near the bay.
Tigertail Beach on Marco Island, Florida
Closeup of wave breaking on Tigertail Beach on Marco Island, Florida
You never know what you’re going to find when you head out in Southwest Florida but I always enjoy exploring and scouting for great photography locations. There are so many available and I will keep coming back!
Sunset over a marsh at the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge south of Naples, Florida