Critters at Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park

Some of the critters in the water at Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park north of Tampa. I made my annual winter trip in mid-January, hoping to see manatees along the river but the weather had warmed up for a few day and the manatees had scattered around the area.

Yes, this guy was on the other side of the glass. You usually see them sleeping in the back with their eyes closed.

It seemed to be mating day that morning. Both pelicans and some wild vultures were getting frisky in the warm weather.

The calm water in the springs.

Standing in one spot taking pictures

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It’s always fun seeing a cormorant trying to gulp down a big fish.

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Wood duck reflection.

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I think this is a male american goldfinch in his winter feathers. He was high up in the trees and didn’t sit still for a minute. I rarely see these here.

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Great blue heron hopping around in the trees.

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There were a lot of great blue heron nests high up in the trees. It was hard to see up there but this nest had two babies that were almost grown.

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Green heron hanging around.

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Most of these birds were not tagged. They might just be hanging out with the permanently injured birds for the winter.

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This is a white morph great blue heron. I’ve never seen one here before and this is 2nd time I’ve ever seen one. He wasn’t tagged so I’m not sure if he is just stopping by for a quick visit.

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A great egret trying to catch some minnows and coming up with a beak full of leaves.

I made my annual trip to Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park in early March. It’s a safe haven for permanently injured birds and other Florida animals.  A lot of wild birds and ducks hang out there to get free food. Some come in to nest in the trees over the water.  There’s always a lot to take pictures of at the park. Sometimes in nice not to have to run around in the woods looking for tiny birds high up in the trees. Sometimes it’s nice to just stand in one place and take lots of pictures.

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Going to see the “Tees”

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The water was very clear.

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A mana “tee” heading for the bridge.

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This one looks like he was covered in hairs.

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Tourists swimming with the manatees.

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Lots of manatees were close to the bridge in the park.

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Coming up for air.

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Through the glass at the underwater viewing area.

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This big guy should be under water. He was warming himself up as the sun was hitting the gravel.

A few pictures from my annual winter trip to Homosassa Springs Wildlife Life Park. An hour north of Tampa, this park has a lot of fun animals including tons of manatees that head into the warm springs to stay warm for the winter.  You can take a boat out and swim with the manatees or just walk over them on a bridge. You can get up close here without getting wet. The park is full of birds, both wild and permanent residents that are injured.  More on those later.

Taking a bath

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It was amazing to stand and watch this eagle take a bath. He’s missing his right wing. He has found a home at Homosassa State Wildlife Park with two other eagles that were missing wings. They have a big exhibit with a nice pond. It was foggy and humid the morning Pam and I headed north for the park. Right before we left the sun was coming out and I guess the eagle decided it was a good time for a bath. Even with a missing wing, he’s a beautiful bird.

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Manatees at Homosassa Springs Park

My attempt at manatee art.

Manatee swimming towards me.

Upclose. You can see the scars on his back.

Mom and a baby swimming by.

One of the Manatee Watch volunteers keeping an eye on the tourists.

Not a manatee! This is Lulu, the resident hippo, getting a drink of water. She’s bigger than a manatee.
You can always see manatees at Homosassa Springs Park. But, if you go there in the winter, you can see tons of manatees. The warm water springs brings in the manatees from across the area. They were huddled together the same way they were at the electric plant in Tampa. You can also swim with the manatees just outside of the park with a tour guide but it’s just too cold to be in that water when you can see them so clear on the boardwalk. The best part is standing in a group of people who are seeing them for the first time. Their excitement and expressions are fun to watch. They are usually amazed at how big they really are. And how slow and gentle they seem. In the picture with the kayaker, all of the big dots in the upper left corner are manatees.  The team of volunteers make sure that if the manatee swims into a no-people zone that the tourists don’t follow them in there. That way the manatees can get a break if they want to be alone.
For several years now, I’ve been seeing manatees everywhere. I usually pass one or two when I’m kayaking around the channels in my neighborhood. Last summer, one went swimming right by us when we were swimming out to the sand bar at Fort Desoto. I still get so excited every time I see one.