Homosassa Springs State Park, Florida

February 22, 2014 at 7:03 am (Birds- Florida, Florida State Parks, Great Florida Birding Trail, Nature, Wildlife, Zoos) (, , , , , , )

Bald Eagle - Angry Bird?

Bald Eagle – Angry Bird?

I don’t usually like photographing captive animals, but Homosassa Springs State Park in Florida has birds in an outdoor exhibit without obstructing bars or mesh.   That gives a more intimate experience, and most of them are native species.  Some of these birds have been injured in some way, so they cannot fly.  Others, like the brown pelicans, are completely wild and have chosen to make nests and raise a family amid the non-native flamingos  and the native ibis, egrets, herons, ducks.

Patriot

Patriot

It’s hard to find a captive bald eagle exhibit that doesn’t have an American flag draped in the background.

Whooping-Crane,-Homosassa-Springs-SP-FL-(14)-copy-2

The first whooping cranes I ever saw were in the Audubon Park Zoo in New Orleans when I was about ten years old.  They were named Crip (he was crippled) and Jo (for Josephine).  I did see some wild whoopers fly over an interstate in Montana about 20 years ago.  And I saw a few banded birds on the shore of Lake Kissimmee, Florida that were part of a reintroduction project.

Whooping-Crane,-Homosassa-Springs-SP-FL-(12)-copy-2

But at Homosassa Springs, you can get the most intimate view of these very rare and endangered birds.  It becomes fairly easy to make them look like they were photographed in the wild if you blur out the background with a telephoto lens.

Whooping Crane

Whooping Crane

Of course, these whoopers are not able to come and go as they please.  However, the wood storks below do.

Wood Stork

Wood Stork

Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit

Many native birds like the marbled godwit are in the aviary (I did see a wild one at Jekyll Island, GA last week.)

Male Wood Duck

Male Wood Duck

Wood ducks in the wild are notoriously difficult to get close to.  In the Okefenokee Swamp they generally see you before you see them, and take off with their peculiar whistling calls.

Red-tailed-hawk,-Homosassa-Springs-SP-FL-(4)-copy-2

Red-tailed hawks are common…

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

But crested caracaras are more frequently seen in the south and west.

Crested Caracara

Crested Caracara

Brown pelicans are tender lovers, even though their smooching looks a little odd…

Brown-pelicans-nesting,-Homosassa-Springs-SP-FL-(12)-copy-2

Brown pelicans nesting

Brown pelicans nesting

The male pelican brings sticks to the nest, which the female arranges to her satisfaction.  More Homosassa residents:

Barred-Owls,-Homosassa-Springs-SP-Fl-(23)-copy-2

Barred-Owls,-Homosassa-Springs-SP-Fl-(10)-copy-2

Barred Owls

Barred Owls

Flamingo

Flamingo

Lu (Lucifer) the hippopotamus is leftover from the era when Homosassa was a tourist trap, and has been declared an honorary citizen of Florida.  He starred in TV programs as part of the Ivan Tors  Animal Actors. The black vultures seem to like Lu.  Or some food item he attracts.

Lu the 50-year-old hippo

Lu the 55-year-old hippo

There are also manatees, otters, and a huge fishbowl where you can see the fishes in the springs.  But be careful of the squirrels – if you sit down to enjoy a trail bar they literally climb on you to get some.  Talk about freaky!  (I don’t feed the wildlife, so this wise guy did not get a reward for his bad manners.)

Bad Squirrel

Bad Squirrel

View from the Fishbowl

View from the Fishbowl

Otter

Otter

Shadows of folks looking at the manatee

Shadows of folks looking at the manatee

Florida has some amazing state parks, and this is now among my favorites.  It is also close to Crystal River, which is famous for its wintering manatees.  While there, visit The Freezer, a local tiki bar that is literally in a fish freezer, part of the working waterfront.  They don’t advertise.  There’s no sign.  Ask a local, or use your GPS.  Siri knows!  The seafood is fresh and cheap.  However, it was too salty for my taste, and I don’t like Old Bay seasoning which is what it tasted like they used.  Plus they were out of chowder.  But it is a very popular place, and some folks just loooove Old Bay, so it’s worth a visit for lunch or dinner.

The Freezer Tiki Bar

The Freezer Tiki Bar

The Freezer menu - Cash Only!

The Freezer menu – Cash Only!

There is an anomaly in the area, though – the nuclear power plant.  And big sirens in nearby neighborhoods to warn residents in case of a nuclear accident.  Very very strange.  Other than that, it’s a great part of Florida.  What a way to spend the winter!

Crystal River Nuclear Power Plant

Crystal River Nuclear Power Plant

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre

Feel free to reblog or share

Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

Online gallery:  Smugmug

To purchase these bird prints online:  Homosassa Springs Gallery

Original hand-painted BW photographs for sale:  Etsy

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