On Monday, Skip and I went up to the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.
Manatees like to frequent this area because the springs that feed the rivers keep the inlets between 72F and 74F - their preferred water temperature.
We got there just as they were feeding them. We went down into the big tank where we could see from under the water. Apparently their favourite food is romaine lettuce.Small fish like to follow the manatees and feed from the algae that grow on them.To teach the baby manatees how to feed from the bottom, a couple of dozen romaine lettuce heads are slid into a 6" PVC pipe with a big slot. Then the pipe is put on the bottom of the manatee nursery pen. Then the babies can experience the sensation of feeding vegetation from the bottom.
Then we took the Wildlife Trail and saw lots and lots of birds and other animals both in captivity and some that come and go.
There were several alligators enjoying the sun.The most surprising birds we saw were the whooping cranes. In the centre and right photos they're snoozing.Two of them can't fly and are residents of the park but a third one flew in a while back and just never left.
Clockwise from the top left are: flamingos, a bald eagle with the requisite American flag, a crested caracara, a black vulture, a wood stork with one wing extended, two owls and another shot of the wood stork.These white pelicans grow vertical plates on their bills during breeding season. The plates fall off once breeding season is over.
Any birds in captivity can't be counted on my life's list but I liked seeing the yellow-crowned night heron just the same.This cute baby sandhill crane was still fuzzy and stood about a foot high.Before it became a state park, many exotic animals were on exhibit here. When the state took over, homes were found for all the exotic animals and only those native to the area were kept there. All except Lu, the 6000 lb. hippo. She would have cost too much to transport to another zoo and she seemed happy there so she got to stay. When hippos poop, they just let it rip and their tail sort of distributes it all over. We found a couple of warning signs in the gift shop.
These are gopher tortoises.
This mama wood duck kept her brood together.
These wood duck nesting boxes are in several places along the river. The baffle underneath the box is to prevent predators from killing the babies or eating the eggs.
Most animals seemed pretty content there. There were only a couple that paced back and forth as if they were a bit stressed. One was the bobcat and the other was the red fox.There were several roseate spoonbills but it was hard to get a picture of them through the chicken wire.It was a hot, sunny day but there was shade everywhere and cool breezes. Both palmettos (left) and sabal palms (right) were all through the park. We learned a couple of weeks ago that the two palms are distinguishable by how the stem connects to the fronds. In the palmetto, it stops straight at the base of the frond. In the sabal palm, the stem extends up into the frond into a point. The information centre had a striking display of a taxidermied gator and a huge stained glass piece depicting manatees.
Here's a closeup of the stained glass.I liked this framed nautical chart that had a manatee painted on it.Of course, we had to take cheesy pictures.
Skip posed with the manatee statue in the information centre.
The azaleas are in full bloom.
It was a lovely place to visit. If you're ever in the area, I highly recommend a visit to the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. It's about an hour north of Tampa on Route 19.