From far away it looks like big rocks out there in the water. They were really manatees.
It’s not often you can get this close to manatees. At Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park you can see them up close on a bridge that crosses over Homosassa River where the wild manatees congregate in the winter. The water is crystal clear so you can really see the details on these big sea cows.
They were staying close together keeping warm. It had been cold for a few days but the water in the springs stays much warmer.
When they come up for air you can really see their faces.
There are tour guides that take you down the river and swim in the area that the manatees are hanging out. The tours are heavily monitored by volunteers to make sure the people don’t bother the manatees if they are in the no-swim zone. I’d rather just let the manatees stay wild and admire them from the bridge. There were over 20 boats by lunch time.
“Fishies” swimming by the underwater observation window.
From my annual winter road trip in January.
Permanently injured white pelicans that live at Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park. They are beautiful birds.
Getting their morning snacks from a park ranger.
They have a white morph great blue heron missing a wing that lives there.
Wood stork also getting breakfast.
Pink fluff balls (spoonbills) all lined up.
You can get up close to all of the beautiful birds at Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park just north of Tampa. The sanctuary is home to a lot of injured birds.
It feels a little early for mating season but since we’ve had warm weather this winter the birds are getting busy. On the island in the middle of the pond at Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park, the pelicans were building nests and doing some extreme flirting. Most of these pelicans are injured. You can see in the last picture the pelican is missing one of his wings. Most of these injuries are due to getting caught in fishing wire.
I did notice a very tiny bald head under one of the pelicans. The pelican above had 3 babies that had just hatched under her wing.
A few times the parent got up to stretch and we were able to see the babies a little better. They must have been only one day old if that. They looked like little blue aliens.
It was a busy morning for them as they were trying to feed, nest and bath all together.
Looks like they were having fun splashing around.
The pelican island at the wildlife park is a safe place for these injured pelicans to live. The babies that they have can grow up and fly away whenever they are ready. We were lucky to have been there on a warm day right when the first of the babies were born. By now these guys are almost fully grown. Soon Mom will be an empty nester again.
All of the above are missing a wing. They are permanent residents at Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park.
A wild vulture stopped by for a handout.
Lots of other Florida wildlife there as well.
The flamingos were taking a bath or napping.
A few things from Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park in late December.
Incoming! or Outgoing! A parent probably heading out to get food for the nest.
My first baby great blue herons of the year. These twins were already getting big. The nest was straight up in a tree so these were taken across the pond and cropped up.
Looks like this couple were just getting started. They have a while before they have babies to feed. There were two nests in this tree. It’s going to be a busy baby season here.
The wild great blue herons were already having babies over the alligator exhibit at Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park.
At 8:30 am, the river just outside of the park was getting full with people swimming with the manatees. There are sections of the river that are off-limits so the manatees can get away from the tourists if they want to be left alone. They are curious and friendly and usually don’t shy away from people as long as they don’t get overcrowded.
All of those spots in the water are manatees huddled together for warmth. This is one of the warmest parts of the springs so they spend the winter here.
A few of them coming up for air.
There are lots of resident alligators at the wildlife park. They are fenced in so they can’t eat the tourists.
The river otters are very curious. They will come up to the rail and sniff you and then slid into the water and do tricks, rolling over and popping up in the middle of the pond as if to say “Watch me do this one!”
A few of the beautiful flamingos at the park.
The Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park has so many different critters. The wild manatees come into the springs to stay warm but the park also has many permanent residents, many of them injured. If wild manatees are sick and get stranded somewhere else, they can end up here at the manatee hospital to recoup in the warm water.
All of the pelicans at Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park were getting frisky. The pelicans are in an open pond and are free to go but they all have permanent injuries so they live here. There was lots of action going on the morning I was there in mid-January. The weather has been so warm this winter that the birds are starting families early.
I noticed the tiny pink head just to the right of the bottom of the pelican’s beak. This baby was only a day old. She kept him down low all morning.
This couple had a baby that was a couple of days old. These babies will grow up here but will be able to fly off once they are ready to leave the nest.
Most of the pelicans look like this, missing a wing. Most likely from getting tangled up in fishing line.
Taking a bath in the pond.
It’s fun to watch the pelicans go about their lives on the island at Homosassa Springs Park. Even though they can’t fly away, their babies will grow up and be able to do so .