Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

We couldn't have had a better day yesterday, and I came away with the manatee shots I've been hoping for. Thank you so much, Karin and Dick, for taking us to this delightful place. There was so much to see and do here. If you get a chance to visit Florida, make Homosassa Springs a can't-miss destination on your itinerary because this place was definitely worth a stop.

Before heading to the park, we stopped off on a small bridge in a residential neighborhood. There were a few manatees there, but mainly, it gave us an opportunity to get a shot of this mailbox. We've seen these in a couple of places. Floridians...at least some of them...love their manatees.

Karin promised us a good view of the manatees, and she made good on her promise at the next stop.

We had our choice of a tram ride, walking, or a pontoon boat out to where the real action was. We chose the pontoon boat. It came with the price of admission to the park.

There, we saw the anhinga. I'd never heard of the anhinga before y'all clued me in on this trip. Ever since, I've been wanting to get a better shot of one. They are the most fascinating birds. If you don't already know about the anhinga, I encourage you to click right here. If you learn nothing new for the rest of the week, it will have been worth it.

They like to swim underwater with just their heads above the water line. They use their sharp beaks to stab fish. It's easy to see why the anhinga is also known as the "snake bird." Indeed, the first one we saw was at Magnolia Springs, and it had speared a fish. That was the day my camera ran out of batteries and so I couldn't get a shot of it with my iPhone. Even then, we wondered what we were seeing because it was so unusual.

Also on the boat ride, we saw this Little Blue Heron. They are about half the size of their cousins, the Great Blue Heron.

Homosassa Springs is a large wildlife park. We hightailed it to the manatee feeding. There is a manatee rehabilitation program here, and four resident manatees that, for various reasons, cannot be released back to the wild. On our way, we crossed over a bridge and we could see a virtual herd off in the distance. We'd come back to that, but we wanted to catch the program and the feeding.

After the program, we came back and the manatees, as if on cue, came right up to the bridge where we could see them easily in the crystal clear water.

These are wild manatees, and so we were dependent on their generosity for these images.

This little one rolled on its side to give us a better view of its belly and flippers.

I took dozens of pictures here, and it was exciting to finally get a really good look. I'm going to put one of these images in my Sketchbook, but I haven't decided which one yet. My one word for these lovable creatures: "Captivating."

As we stood there, Karin noticed an osprey off in the distance.

Also, we saw the resident hippo, Lu. Here is some information about how Lu ended up in a Florida State Park.

This is Lu. He seemed a little under the weather as we stood there, and we're informed a veterinarian will take a look at him next week. He's getting ready to celebrate his 58th birthday this month. A sign associated with the exhibit informed us that hippos generally live to about age 60. Who knows what ails Lu, but it's good to know they're taking good care of him.

We watched his feeding as well and the ranger informed us to be on the look out for a circling tail because, um....yeah...not a pretty picture, I'm sure.

Across from Lu was an alligator exhibit. These guys look so utterly menacing.

My, what big teeth you have!

Of course, I needed this picture of the bobcat. This one is a little different from the bobcat that inhabits the Three Cats Ranch back home. His ears are pointy, while our bobcat has rounded ears. I believe this guy is also known as a lynx.

We thoroughly enjoyed seeing the birds. I think this guy is a pelican, but it might be a wood stork. Honestly, it's all a blur.

Here's another image of the green heron like the one we saw in the Okefenokee Swamp.

This is the Great Blue Heron...or maybe he's the wood stork...I don't know. The sun was shining through his beak.

These guys are red-shouldered hawks like the one we saw on our hike at Little Manatee River State Park.

This is a brown pelican. You might recall the heart-breaking images of brown pelicans covered in oil after the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Here's how they look when they're not covered in oil. Such beautiful birds.

This is a whooping crane.

The flamingos were more orange than the ones we'd seen in the wild in Bonaire. Their color has everything to do with what they're fed. The ones in Bonaire live exclusively on shrimp they find in the salt water there. As for these, I'm not sure what accounts for their color, but maybe it's just a different kind of shrimp.

These appear to be laughing at something hilarious one of them has said.

Here's a golden eagle.

This is a barred owl. I was shooting through a fence for some of these.

Here, I got a little closer to his face.

This is a crested caracara.

These are white pelicans.

Everyone's a comedian. They must have been listening in at the flamingo exhibit.

By this time, our eyes were full and we were heading back to catch the next tram/pontoon boat. Along the way, we spied this turtle sunning himself on a rock.

We took the tram back to the main entrance and paid a visit to the gift shop. There, I picked up the requisite shot glass and refrigerator magnet. Also, I picked up a manatee sweatshirt. During a visit to a national park back in South Dakota many years ago, I neglected to pick up some prairie dog socks in the gift shop. As we drove away from the park, I regretted not getting the socks, and I was never able to find them again. Mike even did a search online one Christmas and couldn't find them there either. Ever since, there's been a gaping hole in my life that only prairie dog socks could fill. I vowed not to let that happen yet again with the manatee sweatshirt. One can only survive so many gaping holes in one's life, and I'm taking no chances. There's too much sight-seeing on the horizon, and who knows? I might find another sweatshirt...or some prairie dog socks.

We headed back to Dick and Karin's house and spent the remainder of the afternoon resting for a bit. We decided to head out for some seafood for dinner. The food was great, and I had my first taste of fried okra. It was quite good. Okra isn't something we find in grocery stores (or even farmer's markets) on the west coast, and so it seemed like a good time to be adventurous. As we were paying the bill at the end of the evening, I noticed this calendar picture hanging next to the cash register.

If you're feeling adventurous, here's the recipe for this dish.

Oh, and if alligator isn't available at your local grocery store, I imagine you can substitute chicken. I'm guessing alligator tastes like chicken anyway.

With all the talk of shot glasses and tequila, we decided to try out our newest shot glasses when we got back to the house. Is there a better way to end an evening than with a shot of tequila?

And here is a picture of our wonderful hosts at this stop, Karin and Dick. They have been so much fun, and it has been a pleasure getting to know them in person. We're only hoping they'll pay us a visit in Oregon in the future. Thank you, Karin and Dick.

This morning we'll be heading off to our next stop. Karin has implored me to make a stop at a quilt shop along the way, and how can I resist? Obviously, I cannot. And so that'll be our first stop of the day. After that, we're headed off to Stephan Foster Cultural Center State Park. You might recognize Stephan Foster as the composer of some southern folk songs, including Old Folks at Home. If you're unfamiliar with the song, you can see it performed in this YouTube video. If you can't see the video, then click right here.

So with that in mind, it's time to get moving.

18 comments from clever and witty friends:

Debbie said...

Great post. I love that you got your wish to visit/view/ enjoy the Manatees and then to try fried Okra! Wow, big day :) Thanks for the great photos and wildlife views. It was a return to many memories.

Betty said...

Glad you got to see the manatees in such a great setting. I was worried that they all would be hiding because of the unusually cold temps.
I suppose you will soon be crossing my home state. Would be nice to meet up, but you will be too far south. I live in the north east corner of Alabama, not far from the Tennessee state line. I'll be waving as you pass through! The beaches at Gulf shores/Orange Beach are beautiful. I don't get to see them often enough. Just before you get to Alabama there is a "must see" quilt shop (haven't been there, heard this from friends that have) in Pensacola. A&E Fabrics was located in a pharmacy but it has closed and the quilt shop remains.

Lana Ku said...

I love all the wildlife pics. And so glad you got to see some manatees! First time for fried okra? It's the best! Hope you get to eat more as you travel in the south.

DeeDee said...

Your pictures are outstanding. What a great post!

QuiltShopGal said...

Oh my, what another wonderful place to visit (or live). So many fun things to do and see and what great pictures you captures. Best ever of the Manatees. I had not heard of a anhinga, so thanks for the insights too!


Marlene said...

What an amazing day you had. Thanks for sharing the wonderful photos.

Jan said...

Great photos! I'm really enjoying your trip. Thanks for taking us along.

I got to swim/snorkel with the Manatees a few year ago. If I could have smuggled one home to live in my bath tub, I would. If you happen to find a stow-away in your camper...send it here!

CJ Smith said...

Regarding "gaping holes".... it's one piece of advice from my father that I NEVER forget. He always said "If you see something you want, get it. Because later on you'll be kicking yourself in the a$$ that you didn't!". This from a man who grew up during the depression and would wear his shirts until they were threadbare.

WoolenSails said...

That is a park that is definitely worth visiting, love seeing all the photos of the wildlife and the manatees, wonderful place to see them. I was just reading that the cooler temps are bringing them into shallower waters to keep warm.


crazy quilter said...

What a great place! I say you did have a wonderful day. I cannot imagine never having fried okra before, as it is a staple in my house and always has been. Glad you liked it next you will have to try some cheese grits... I adore them as much as I love fried okra... Keep on having fun!!! Safe travels

piecefulwendy said...

What a fun day you've had! I'm going to send the link of this post to my daughter, I think it would be a fun place for her to visit. You have some great pictures of the birds, and she'll really enjoy that. So glad the manatees were cooperative and willing to be photographed. As a SDak girl (transplanted to MN) I now feel the need to go back to SDak and find those prairie dog socks! Hahaha. Yes, if you like it, buy it. Especially on trips! Ok, I'll admit, I've never had a shot of tequila, but I'll take your word for it. Thanks for a great post!

Beth said...

Thanks for the photos of the manatees. I think I'm finally starting to understand it. My niece moved to Tallahassee a few years ago and on her Christmas wish list last year was a necklace with a sterling silver manatee charm. Being a doting aunt, I gave it to her, but I did wonder...now I get it. Next will probably be an adorable mailbox.

Stitches said...

I enjoyed this post so much as I have been to that wildlife state park..Your pictures are great and it brought back some good memories for me..you are having a wonderful trip and I have loved "riding along" with you..safe travels to you and your hubby!!

quiltzyx said...

Woohoo! Manatees!!! Glad you got the sweatshirt - we would not want you to gain another gaping hole in your life. That would be BAD.

Loved all the photos - especially the laughing Flamingos. I can see a quilt there.

I vaguely remember having fried okra once. I think I was in Berkeley with my sister & BIL, way back when. Since I don't remember NOT liking it, I'm guessing that I did like it! LOL

kc said...

So glad the manatees didn't make a monkey out of me...ya just never know what they're going to do or when/where they're going to show up! The park is just about our very most favorite place in the state (our pool on a hot summer day also ranks pretty high, I must admit), and we're glad you got to share it with us. You got some great shots, but, noooo, that's a pelican. The wood storks have white, more upright bodies, and woody-bark-looking heads with long grey beaks. They're called wood storks because of the resemblance of their head & necks to woody tree bark.


I mentioned a trip to Trenton to Driver, and he didn't seem against it...guess it will have to wait a day or so though, as we are dancing tomorrow. I'm pretty sure that road trip will be sooner than later! Hope so, anyway.

Travel safe!

Cheryl's Teapots2Quilting said...

We love fried okra, but, you can't find it around here (Chicago) either. We did get some in Texas, over Christmas. Great pictures.

Brown Family said...

I was raised on fried Okra! We have rolled it in corn meal or flower or in cornbread batter. It tastes a little different each way. We have seen the white Pelicans hereon our beaches and every now and then after a big storm we see them in central Texas.

Lyndsey said...

I love all the bird pictures and John is positively drooling over them. The manatees are amazing looking creatures. Love the little one showing his tummy. I like fried okra and we are lucky as it's easy to get hold of in London.