Other Critters at Blue Spring

It’s been warm here in central Florida during the day, and the manatees haven’t been in the spring hardly at all.

The sign at the entrance to the park read, ”101 manatees” the first day we entered, but today it said, ”3.” There’s nothing for them to eat in the spring; they swim up it only to shelter in the constant 72-degree water bubbling from the source. So when the river is just as warm, they stay feeding there.

I don’t, though. I keep getting out of bed at the first sign of dawn through the skylights. It’s been in the 50s here at night, so I put on clothes quickly, with socks! and tell Banjo I’ll be back soon. I wipe the condensation off the seat of my bike and head through the campground to the little walking path toward the spring, always on the lookout for pedestrians since I’m not supposed to be on my bike there. But if anyone’s around, they’re usually walking quietly along the boardwalk by the spring already, enjoying the peace of a closed park.

Yesterday morning must’ve been the secret meeting morning for all the birds around. I saw this barred owl so close-up that I had to shuffle against the boardwalk to get him to turn his head my way for a picture.

This pileated woodpecker was smacking the palm trunk so loudly that it didn’t care I was standing a few feet away. It’s mate would call from across the spring occasionally, and of course it would answer with its loud laugh.

Only one sandhill crane? They’re always in flocks. I even heard the morning shift park ranger call out to the groundskeeper, “What, one sand hill crane?” She had a clipboard in her hands and must’ve been taking a tally.

And then these two turkeys. Seriously? I guess turkeys show up anywhere.

I counted seven gopher tortoises on my bike ride later that afternoon. Or nine, depending on which I saw twice. It’s hard to tell them apart.

Next up: Sebastian Inlet State Park, over on the Atlantic Ocean. After watching the manatees here in the water, I’m ready to become aquatic again, myself.

You guys take care, especially you, my friend, Marie.