The floating Florida potato

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.

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It was too early for manatees.

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.

The backyard in June

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.

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Our World Tuesday Graphic

 

A quiet Saturday morning.

I stopped by the Safety Harbor fishing pier at the end of March and got lucky seeing manatees. I usually see them most of the time but occasionally they are a no show. This time there were several together close to the pier. They were rolling around as they cruised by.

A few of the birds flying by the pier and a pelican sitting in the mangroves.

This family was already starting the social distancing thing. Kayaking out to a spit.

There was hardly anyone on the pier and I sat for a while taking in the quiet staring at Tampa far off in the distance.

The yacht basin next to the pier.

SkyWatch Friday

Seeing the tees up close.

Zooming in on the manatees at the Tampa Electric Plant. I caught several of them turning over and floating on their back.

Coming up for air close to the viewing deck.

Many of them had boat scars, algae or barnacles on their backs.

All of those bumps in the water are manatees, staying warm where the warm water comes out of the electric plant. Taken with my phone, you can really see just how many of them are out there.

Quick walk at the zoo

I rarely see these guys moving around.

The koala bears are so cute but the glare on window makes it impossible to get a decent picture of them.

The elephants were eating.

It’s rare to see the otters close to the glass but this one was right in front.

The rhino pausing at the pool.

More up close with the manatees. I always take a ton of pictures when I’m there.

I recently hurt my shoulder (tendonitis) and was hurting one weekend but I still wanted to get out for a walk so I went over to the zoo with only my phone. I had a fun morning running around without all of my camera stuff.

Manatee mosh pit

Tons of manatees all huddled together to keep warm at the electric plant. It was a challenge to get good clear shots of them because the warm water coming out of the plant was creating foam that was floating around and the reflection of the plant on the water. The water was clear but the lagoon sits right under the plant so the big stacks on the plant were causing some reflection.

Many of them had barnacles on their back which I’ve read is harmless for them.

Some of them had very distinct boat strike markings. Manatees are very slow moving animals and if boaters are going too fast in the “no wake” or slow wake” zones, they can hit the manatees.

Manatee tail flopping.

Taken with my phone, you can see the shadows of the people on the deck.

The water in the open bay was close to 60 degrees while the water in the lagoon was 72 degrees.

Annual trip to the electric plant

After a really cold week, I headed over to the TECO (Tampa Electric Co) plant to see the manatees that hang out there in the winter. The warm water coming off the electric plant in the lagoon keeps the manatees warm during the coldest weeks. Years ago, the plant built a manatee viewing center with a big deck that wraps around part of the lagoon. All of those dots in the water are manatees. There were hundreds of them the morning I was there in late January.

The plant says that the smoke coming out of the stack is actually clean steam.  It doesn’t feel smoky when you are there and the sky was clear blue.

Part of the deck overlooking the lagoon. This was still early in the day before the big crowds get here. I got here well before they opened at 10am and waiting in line to park and was out before lunch. They can get crazy crowded and parking is a challenge when the manatees are here in large numbers. The news channels report on them when there’s been a prolonged cold spell so everyone heads over including me.

Some of the birds around the plant.  White pelicans were flying high, a young night heron flew by the deck and a vulture was sitting on a platform built for an osprey nest.

Down at the very end of the lagoon, it’s roped off so boaters or kayakers cannot follow the manatees into the area. There is no swimming with the manatees here.

There’s usually some stingrays splashing around.

I took a ton of manatee pictures so more to come on those.

SkyWatch Friday

 

A girl and her manatee

Just outside of the Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park, you can go on a tour to swim with in the river where the manatees hang out. There are many roped off areas that you cannot enter so the manatees can get away from the humans if they want to. There’s a dock inside the park that looks over this area and this is where I spent part of a recent Saturday morning watching the manatees swim by.  A young girl was hanging out close to the dock and a manatee swam right up to her.

She wasn’t moving and the manatee came right up to her and bumped her in the face. He definitely wanted a scratch. She would scratch him for a few minutes and he would swim away but then come back again several times. It was pretty amazing to watch and I know she had to be so excited for this encounter.

At one point another manatee started swimming back and forth against her flipper like he was using it as a scratching post.

What a great memory for her.

There are manatee patrols out keeping an eye on things to make sure no one is chasing the manatees or the area doesn’t get too crowded. They are all volunteers and I would think “What a great job” but they probably have to deal with some unsavory people at time. Probably not everyone is as respectful as the girl was with the manatees. I’m not a big fan of people being allowed to swim in the same area with them but it was great even being out on the dock watching the girl and her manatee.

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