It was just starting to look like fall at the end of January. Some of the trees at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife park were really pretty in red and orange.
A few of the resident flamingoes. Is it me or is that 2nd one a little grumpy? I think he might have been rolling his eyes at me.
The resident whooping cranes were napping.
We don’t get caracaras in the Tampa Bay area so many people have never seen this bird before. I’ve only seen one in central Florida once on the way to Miami.
One of the otters was out playing and came close to the boardwalk.
I caught some ibis taking baths in the main pond. These guys are wild and hang out hoping for a stolen snack.
The water was so clear, you could see the fish swimming around.
I was up at Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park at the end of January and noticed the pelicans were getting frisky. It was warm the day I was there but we still had some cold weather to get through. Injured pelicans live at the park (most are missing a wing) and are free to nest and raise their babies. Then the babies are able to fly free when they grow up.
A few of the residents showing me their missing wings.
It was funny to watch all of the couples flirting and getting the nests ready.
It’s also funny to watch them stretching their pouches.
Chilling, this one looks like he’s got his breeding feathers in with that pretty yellow head.
There are also a few white pelicans that live there but I’ve never seen them nest, Maybe they nest closer to the middle of the summer.
It had been cold for a while in mid-January so I drove up to Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park to see if there were a lot of manatees close to the docks. As soon as I got out to the dock this mom (with her baby) did a twirl for me and was showing her belly.
There were hundreds of manatees out in the river, many were close to the bridge that goes over the river in the park. You could see many of the cuts and scratches on their backs from boat strikes. A lot of them had babies. The one in the above picture had algea growing on her back.
I liked this shot with the reflection of the palm tree in the water.
I took this with my phone since he was right along the dock.
At the underwater viewing area the fish were close to the glass.
One of the magical things about living in central Florida is seeing the manatees out in the wild. One of the best places to see them up close is at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park, an hour north of Tampa. The springs that run through the area stay fairly warm all year so the manatees congregate far into the springs in the winter. The wildlife park has both a bridge and a dock that goes over the springs. I headed up in late December early in the morning and got there when the park opened. Most of the manatees were around the dock. I caught two mothers with babies right when I got there. One baby was hanging on to Mom’s flipper as they came up for air right in front of me. The dock looks over the area where you can swim with the manatees. After seeing all of the crowds here in the winter, I’m not a big fan. Not when I can see them this close from the dock. I don’t really feel like people need to swim right up to them. The manatees do have roped off “no people” zones where they can hide but I’ve seen the river here almost body to body with people. I get that it’s amazing having a manatee swimming right up to you but I still feel like they should remain truly wild. I do have to say Brett and I were at the Fort Desoto beach several years ago in the summer and I had a manatee swim up to me when we were swimming out to the sand bar. He didn’t get quite close enough for me to touch him but it was still amazing. All I could think of was were was my camera?
So many coming up for air right in front of me. Most of them have distinctive marks on their backs so you could track the different ones coming up to the dock. Many have barnacles or moss growing on their backs.
I’m glad I brought my shorter lens with me but I took the two above with my phone since I couldn’t fit them all in with my camera. You can really see the boat propeller scars on the first one.
Looking out over the bridge, you could see the manatee dots in the clear water.
It’s always fun to see lots of robins in the trees. We only see them here briefly in the winter. The trees were full of them at Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park in late December.
A few of the resident birds. The caracara in the bottom picture is a not a bird you see in this area. They are mostly in south central Florida so it’s interesting to see them here. This one had some type of injury. Possibly missing wing or vision.
The otters were being so cute this morning, although seeing those teeth makes you realize they can be pretty tough. They were feeding in the pond right up against the boardwalk. I love watching them eating while swimming on their backs. That’s a real talent.
I’m sure this happens more than we see out in the wild. The alligator was not fed this bird by the staff. I missed the early action but people saw him grabbing this bird. Based on the pink legs and white wings with a little black, thinking it’s a white ibis that got too close. The alligator was all the way across the pond in the first shot but was swimming fast away from the other alligators who were chasing him trying to steal his snack. He then heading into the far corner right in front of me. Sad but circle of life.
It’s not often you can get this up close with an eagle. This one was missing part of his wing and was spending his time at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park. I caught him taking a bath.
Pelicans were hanging out in their big open space. Some were starting to nest.
Other birds were just hanging out and preening when I was there in mid-November.
I caught these two wild night herons fighting over nesting space over the roof of an exhibit.
You can also get close to the spoonbills. And since the flamingos were right behind you, you wouldn’t have to look at them and think they were flamingos.
The water at Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park was so clear you could see the fish.
We had a small cold spell in mid-November and I headed up to Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park hoping to see manatees along the boardwalk at the park. They congregate in the springs along the park in the winter where the water stays fairly warm. The morning I was there the river was void of wild manatees. The only ones I saw were the 2 living there that were rehabilitating at the park. They were right up against the boardwalk so it was great to see them up close. I think I was just too early for the wild ones to have made their way to the springs.
The otters were so cute that morning. The vultures were hanging out in their exhibit and driving them crazy.
The view from the boardwalk.
Watching the fish go by in the underwater viewing deck at Homosassa Springs Park.
Wild manatees close to the dock including the bottom one that was nursing 2 babies. The top one had algae growing all over his body so he must be pretty old.
Usually underwater, the gators were taking a nap in the sun.
Birds you can see up-close at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park include a pair of whooping cranes that are both missing wings. They winter in Florida and were injured at some point and brought here to live. I overheard someone say “They cut off one wing so these birds can’s fly away.” and that is not true. Most of these animals are here due to man made injuries (hit by a car, a parent was hit by a car and now they are orphans, fishing lines, some were shot with a bb gun or arrow). I follow several wildlife rescue groups on facebook and it’s horrifying the things that happens to these animals.
Big animals that live at the park. On a recent episode of “Secrets of the Zoo:Tampa”, a baby bear was brought in to the zoo to be checked out when his mom died getting hit by a car. The zoo was able to secure a home for the cub here.
A snake up close.
Lu was a tv star on Flipper and was given to the park to live out his retirement. Lu is very popular with the kids and he just turned 60 in January.
I really went up to the park in January to see the manatees but there are also a lot of other fun animals to see as well.