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.
Not everyone gets to see a barred owl up close. At the zoo you can although I zoomed in on his face to get closer. Mr. Sleepy is permanently injured and lives at the zoo.
Above are some of the parrots that get to fly around the zoo in the mornings.
Pretty lorikeet in the aviary.
“Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” goes the old saying. She was feeding him something. Still, I’d be a little nervous doing that.
Another Mr. Sleepy, it’s rare to see a koala bear moving around during the day. I caught this one stretching.
Creepy critters behind glass.
Injured manatees recuperating at the hospital at the zoo.
Fun at the zoo in late July.
The trees are full of wild ibis all over the zoo.
The wild blue herons and tricolored herons were just starting to build their nests over the alligator exhibit.
A zoo resident stork was sitting on a nest. By nature, she’s covered in flies. When she moved, they would buzz around.
A resident flamingo splashing around.
Two “head banger” birds in the aviary.
Up close with manatees at the manatee hospital pool there. These are all injured manatees that are in rehab at the zoo. Most of them get released when they recover. (taken through the glass with my phone).
Fun at the Lowry Park Zoo in late March.
One of the fun outdoor things to do when my sisters are here for Christmas is to drive over to the Tampa Electric Company to see the manatees. The electric plant pulls in cold water to cool the plant and flushes out the warm water so the manatees spend the winter in the channel next to the plant where the water is warmer.
It’s always fun seeing the manatees floating around in the channel. Several of them were floating on their backs. Some of them only stick their noses out to get air.
They have a new stingray pool where you can pet them. You can also see them out in the channel swimming by.
The mangroves along the channel are covered in these black mangrove crabs.
White pelicans were flying high over our heads.
Pretty flower in the butterfly garden.
It was a beautiful day right before Christmas but too warm. 82 degrees is too hot for the end of December. It would have been nice to have long sleeves on when we were out running around. The tourist from up north didn’t seem to mind. I’m sure they were all happy to be out of the snow. The Manatee Viewing Center at TECO is only opened from November through April. Even though the weather was warm, there were still plenty of manatees to see.
Looking out the glass sliding door late on a recent Saturday afternoon, I saw this down the channel. I grabbed by camera and went running out the door to the dock.
A manatee was rolling over, floating on his back.
Wait! There’s two manatees in the channel.
What’s going on down there?
Coming up for air. What a face!
The tail flap. All of the above were taken with my 300mm lens and cropped up.
I thought they were heading back out to the bay so I went inside. I looked outside again later and they were right at our dock. I grabbed my phone and took these since they were so close. Standing on our dock looking straight down at the manatee.
At one point, there were 3 of them floating around our dock.
You can see the scars on his back from boats getting too close.
We don’t get manatees into our channel and close to our dock very often. We are at the very dead end of the channel so they rarely come all the way to our dock. Only a few times since we’ve lived there for 12 years. I see them out in the bay when I go kayaking but this day the tide was high and they were cruising around. All of the neighbors were coming out on to their docks to see them. They spent about an hour in our channel. What a perfect afternoon to be home.
Why would anyone go hang out next to a power plant? Because they use the water in the bay to cool the towers. The warm water comes out in the channel and keeps the manatees warm during the winter. Hundreds of manatees spend their winters in this channel. The power plant built a dock for people to stand on and watch the manatees come up for air.
One of the manatees near the dock.
For extra enjoyment, they hire sharks to jump out of the water and entertain us. (Just kidding, this was the first time we had seen this here before).
Little fiddler crabs and willets hang out on the shoreline under the dock.
Overhead, an osprey was gathering sticks for a nest.
We made our annual winter trip to the Tampa Electric Plant to see the manatees in late February. Even thought it’s been a warm winter, the water in the bay has been cold enough for the manatees to congregate in the warmer waters next to the plant. There were tons of manatees in the water but I think this time there were more people than manatees.
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.