"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Friday, March 29, 2013

Florida's Nature Coast II: Homosassa Springs

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

On the second full day at Rock Crusher Canyon RV Park we ventured slightly south to the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.  Originally a privately owned exotic animal petting zoo, the park was purchased by the state in 1989, and now houses only native Floridian animals. 

Oh, except for Luc, the hippopotamus, left over from the exotic animal zoo. He was very active the day we visited, keeping up a constant circuit around his pool, lifting and shaking his enormous head, and displaying his fine teeth.

While best known for its manatees, the park has a full collection of everybody's favorite Florida mammals, birds and reptiles. We saw river otters, two bobcats, a Florida panther and two black bears, none of which we have seen in the wild around here. But no wild pigs, which we have seen on several occasions.

Of course they had many alligators. No swimming with the alligators? Really?

There was a grand aviary with several ducks we hadn't had the pleasure of seeing before, one being the beautiful fulvous whistling duck (below).

There were also black and yellow crowned night herons, some of which had loud babies stashed in the bushes whom they were feeding. Here's a yellow crowned night heron not on baby duty, taking it easy in the sun...

...and a nice shot of a green backed heron.

Zoos do give you a chance to study animals that you would never see so close in the wild. Here are a couple of crested caracaras. We have only seen them at a great distance before. 

We spent a long time watching the flamingos. It was nesting season, so there was a lot of interaction and unusual behavior.  The park has been trying for many years to get the flamingos to nest successfully.  Flamingos make mud mounds for nests, that keep the eggs and babies up above the tide line. The keepers have made some nests for them, in hopes of stimulating nesting behavior. This year they think it might be happening. We got to watch one flamingo who seemed to be trying to build her own nest. 

These four looked and sounded like they were having a loud, heated and protracted argument. 

In addition to the four resident rehabilitating manatee and countless transient ones, an elegant pair of swans in courting mode, glide around the springs.

Our last stop of the day was the "Fish Bowl," an underwater observatory right over the deepest part of the springs, where the natural fish are abundant. Yes, there were large schools of several kinds of fish, including mangrove snapper, crevalle jack and sheepshead.  The spring is much deeper than it looks from the surface, and is replenished naturally with 6 million gallons of fresh water every hour!

My next post will cover our visit to Cedar Key, a sleepy, funky town on the Gulf Coast, said to be like Key West was 30 years ago.  

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