I was heading north to Tarpon Springs for a walk and decided to stop by the water reclamation facility to see if the winter ducks were here. There were a lot of ducks but not as many as in past years. The water pond is huge and they really need to be on the far right side to get any shots of them. They were almost in the middle of the pond the morning I stopped. They were mostly redheads and a few lesser scaup mixed in.
There were a few stragglers along the fence and I realized this was a greater scaup with that round bright green head and almost white sides. This was a first for me.
Not too far away were a few lesser scaup as well.
After shooting the ducks I was on my way to Craig Park for a walk around the bayou. Last year at this time I had seen two manatees in the small bayou and was hoping to see some again this year. After a few minutes I saw 2 snouts come up for air.
There were at least 10 manatees in the water. They didn’t come close to the sea wall since the water was low but you could see their backs coming up as they dove back down in the water. Here were 4 different backs. The top one had a lot of algae on it. The 2nd one had only a few barnacles on it. The 3rd one had some algae and a lot of boat scrapes. The last one had a clean back.
There was one with a lot of barnacles on his back but for some reason I only got a picture of his tail. I went back a few weeks later and they were still there. I guess the shallow water in the bayou stays fairly warm so they spend a good part of the coldest months here.
It was late April and after walking the trails at Fort Desoto one morning looking for migrating birds with no luck, I headed to the fishing pier. It was just too nice to go home yet.
As usual pelicans were flying by.
I started looking out in the water to see if there were any dolphins swimming around the pier and found a pair of manatees instead. They were fairly far out in the shallow area so they were easy to spot. At one point it looked like they were mating. I could see one of the manatee’s flipper on top of the other manatee. After a few minutes they started swimming towards the pier.
They swam right up to the pier and luckily I had my zoom lens so these were at 80mm.
They mated several times right along the pier. At this point there was a huge crowd of people watching. Several people said they had never seen one before.
These above were taken with my phone. They eventually swam under the pier and then hung out on the other side before slowly swimming away. What a great thing to see! I had planned to do a quick walk and snap a few shots of dolphins but I stood there for an hour since they were so close to the pier and moving so slowly.
I headed back over to the Manatee Viewing Center at the electric plant when my sister was visiting in February. We got there right when it opened on a weekday and it was already crowded. Everyone was here to see the hundreds of manatees floating near the dock. I first noticed a girl out there floating with them. She worked with an enviremental agency and was counting the manatees and making notes of each one’s distinct markings. There was also one on the dock counting. Can you imagine floating around with all of those manatees? It seems like a dream job.
Standing on the dock looking down, you could see lots of them floating close together. I took this one with my phone.
It was hard to single them out and get close up shots.
When we first got there we had heard there was going to be a manatee released back into the wild. We got a good spot on the dock railing and I was able to get pictures of them bringing it down to the water.
They carried that heavy manatee down to the water and carefully placed the tarp in the water and the manatee swam away. Everyone cheered as he swam out of the blue tarp. The thing I find interesting is that it was all women who carried that manatee that could have weighed from 1500 to 3000 lbs. Many of them were volunteers.
The manatee had been rehabilitated at Zoo Tampa, probably stranded from cold stun or starving (which many of them have been lately due to changes in grass beds).The zoo has a manatee hospital on site and you can see some of the resident ones there.
A few of the birds cruising by as we were waiting for the manatee release. A bald eagle was flying over by the electric plant and a tricolored heron flew right by the dock.
One of the cute statues at the viewing center.
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.
I was walking past the sliding doors to the backyard and saw some big black blobs bobbing in the water. I grabbed my camera and ran out to the dock to catch the manatees coming up for air a few docks down in our channel.
To most people it wouldn’t look like much from a distance but you can’t miss that snout coming up for air. And I didn’t even have to get in my car and drive somewhere to see them. I haven’t kayaked in a while but I use to see them in the outer channels or out in the open bay. They rarely get this far into the channels so it was a treat to see them from my backyard. Several neighbors had also spotted them and came out to watch. There were 3 of them, a mom and 2 babies (which were almost as big as mom).
Every once a while you could see a flipper coming up. When the smaller flipper is leaning on the bigger manatee, it usually means the baby is nursing.
It’s easy to spot the big round flat tail that flaps in the water.
I watched them for a while as they just hung out in the channel. I think they must have spent some time nursing because they didn’t move for at least half an hour and they were on the surface more than usual. Eventually they started making their way back out to the bay. Manatees are like dolphins, it’s always exciting to see them out in the wild no matter how many times you see them.
P.S. Happy Birthday to my sister, Debbie!
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.
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.
There’s a duck couple that’s been spending afternoons sleeping under our tree in the backyard. Sometimes I peek out the bedroom window to check on them but they are very skittish. They can see me barely move the blinds.
A few of the birds that have been visiting the bird feeder.
I looked out the window and saw something moving in the channel. I grabbed my camera and ran out to the dock to catch 2 manatees rolling around at the end of the channel. After I snapped the above they started heading out to the bay.
Some of the critters in the yard including this juvenile black racer that was climbing up the wall next to the front door.
A faint rainbow in the backyard. It’s the beginning of rainbow season with the summer rains starting in June.
An osprey on my neighbor’s sailboat mast just after the rain.
The sun was trying to peek out.