In the morning sunshine, each damp strand of the spider’s web became a tiny prism, shimmering in the breeze. The colors of the web were vivid like those in this soap bubble. As the web dried, the colors slowly faded. I wish I could have captured the moment in a photo. Maybe one of the photographers out there has such a photo. I found only pastel-colored webs online.
I just purchased a new email with Word to use on some writing projects. I will share those projects on this post at some point in the future. For the moment, I am struggling with a learning curve and technical issues. I will try to be present on WordPress as much as possible!
The majority of the animals at Homosassa Wildlife State Park are rescued animals that are unable to survive in the wild: manatees injured by boat propellers being rehabilitated in the manatee rescue center, animals who were hit by cars, birds unable to fly because of impaired vision or injuries to their wings, endangered squirrels and other rare animals raised illegally in captivity and confiscated from their owners.
The whooping cranes were from a program to reestablish these endangered birds in Florida. The female whooping crane has impaired vision and cannot fly. The male found her at Homosassa Wildlife State Park and joined her in her enclosure. He could fly away, but he stays. Whooping cranes mate for life, and this is a very touching pair!
The tropical bird enclosure, like most of the enclosures, is open at the top. It has a stream running through it and is shaded by lovely trees. I saw egrets, once hunted almost to extinction for their mating plumage, flying into and out of the enclosure. They are free to visit, or maybe they are choosing to live there.
The marine fish seen from the underwater observatory under the main spring migrate seasonally, as do the manatees in the Homosassa River near the hot springs. Public boat travel is restricted in this area to protect these migratory animals.
American flamingos, extinct in Florida for over 100 years, were discovered about ten years ago living in the Florida Everglades. No one knows for sure how they got there, but they probably came from Central or South America. We are thrilled to have them living in the wild in Florida once again. I don’t know if the flamingos in the tropical bird enclosure are rescues or are part of an effort to reintroduce them to their former range.
Alligators, hunted almost to extinction for their hides, are now protected and are once again plentiful in Florida. Programs now collect a few young alligators from their nests, raise them to a size where they can defend themselves from predators, and release them to ensure their continued success in the wild.
The black vultures, handsome lively birds, live at the park by choice, but they are a welcome clean-up crew. We saw them stealing what appeared to be fresh-cut grain from the hippo after they ate the insects from his back. We saw them visiting the black bear and perched in the trees.
The red wolves are endangered and are part of a captive breeding program to reintroduce them into Florida.
Florida Panthers, proud symbol of Florida, are endangered and seriously inbred. Panthers from Texas were brought in a few years ago to refresh the gene pool. Along Route 75, “Alligator Alley,” that runs from east to west through the Florida Everglades, high fences have recently been erected to protect panthers from traffic.
The aging dike at Lake Okeechobe has undergone extensive renovations this year. Nutrient-rich water released from the lake has caused red tides in the Gulf of Mexico and blue-green algae overgrowth in our rivers, sickening people, killing fish, dolphins, endangered manatees and endangered sea turtles. From now on, water will be released from the lake into bodies of water in much smaller amounts. The water from Lake Okeechobe will once again flow into the Florida Everglades as it was intended to do. I think Wildlife numbers will increase there due to this restoration.
I hesitated to provide detailed background information in this post. After all, I only spent half a day walking around the park and reading signs. That is the source of most of the information given about the park. I am not a biologist or expert on the environment, just a retired elementary school teacher and amateur poet who loves animals and cares about wildlife and the environment. I have done some research on wildlife to write my enviromnent-themed book series about Florida animals, Hanging Out with Wild Animals. You can read more about the books on my website.
It is tragic that so many animals have been injured and driven to extinction by human settlement and human activities, but the animals who live at Homosassa Wildlife State Park, though disabled, help to raise public awareness of wildlife and environmental issues. As the sign says, they are “ambassadors of wildlife.”
Animals at Homosassa Springs
Wildlife State Park
Male whooping crane joined
flightless female whooping crane
in her enclosure.
He could choose to fly away,
but he loves her, so he stays.
You’ve got to be quick
to capture river otters
with your camera.
through plants on water’s surface.
Bald Eagle, National Bird
It’s been a long time
since these two injured eagles
soared Florida’s skies
American flag above ,
they watch as life passes by.
Migrating Marine Fish
In the wintertime,
marine fish, like manatees,
migrate to hot springs.
Manatees and marine fish
thrive in seas and fresh water.
Bobcats & Florida Panthers
now coexist with humans
Florida panthers, pride of
Florida, are endangered.
Flamingos in the tropical bird area. Photo by Ellen Maher.
Sparkling waters flow
through green paradise,
home of tropical birds.
Pink flamingos and spoonbills,
night herons, and sleeping swans.
Endangered red wolves
roam a spacious enclosure,
Procreation their purpose…
red wolf repopulation.
in a pond that’s metal fenced…
Visitors are safe.
fearsome reptiles captivate.
Black Vulture Family
Handsome black vultures
choose to live at the preserve…
Perching on the hippo’s back,
they eat insects, then share his food.
Pippa, the Hippopotamus,
Grandfathered from days
when exotic animals
were in residence.
Citizen of Florida,
world’s oldest captive hippo.
of Florida Wildlife
Most animals here
are unable to survive
living on their own.
Protected, they now serve
as ambassadors of wildlife.
Rare, endangered squirrel now unable to live in the wild because it was illegally raised in captivity. Photo by Ellen Maher.
West Indian Manatees are endangered marine mammals whose closest relatives are elephants. They require a minimum water temperature of sixty-eight degrees. Interestingly, they have no front teeth, only molars for chewing tough sea grass. They swim gracefully at speeds up to 20 miles per hour. At 1,000 to 1,200 pounds, they have no natural enemies, but many are injured by propellers of fast-moving boats. Boaters can protect manatees by observing posted speed limits in manatee areas.
Personnel at Kings Bay in Crystal River tag and monitor injured manatees. They are transported to a manatee rescue center in Homosassa Springs for rehabilitation if they are unable to recover on their own.
Florida has numerous hot springs where manatees spend the Fall and Winter months. Kings Bay has a constant year-round temperature of sixty-eight degrees and some manatees are year-round residents there. Other springs may be a little warmer, about seventy-two degrees.
When you swim with the manatees, you are instructed not to disturb resting manatees. As you would get to know a strange cat, you should let them approach you. Ellen had a manatee hug her arm. A manatee wanted Katey to pet it and give it a belly rub. One manatee swam up against me, and another manatee put its nose against my mask and gazed into my eyes. These are moments we will always remember!
Manatees have been called “sea cows” because they graze on sea grass and other aquatic plants. Very lonely mariners in the early days are said to have mistaken them for mermaids. There is another species of manatee in Africa.
A flock of five loudly shrieking swallow-tailed kites flew by as I was sitting on the front porch one morning last week. Kites live in wetlands and along rivers and canals in the Southeastern US and Central and South America. They feed on lizards and other small reptiles. We live between two canals and there are vacant wooded lots with many pine trees across the street. I have seen individual kites there many times, but a flock of them flying by was a very exciting experience!