Blue Spring — the Critters


20160129104845194Friday was a fantastic day to be at Blue Spring State Park!  The temps were perfect, there weren’t too many people and the critters were all cooperative.

Watching a 1500 -2500 lb submerged blob might not seem like all that much fun but for people of the right sensitivity it can be lovely.  Manatees are mammals,  they are warm blooded mammals — and in cold water they develop hypothermia just like humans.   Their pursuit of warm water is the reason they find themselves here at Blue Spring (and it really is a single spring of artesian water) even though they live much of their life in the ocean and have been seen (though not in significant numbers) as far north as North Carolina and beyond.  How they find their way to these pools — and many of them return year by year — is a great mystery to me. We humans have a hard enough time finding our way from city to city on highways with markings — they do it from underwater with no maps!  They have been monitored at this park for over 30 years where individuals and families have returned and there are in some cases three generations of manatee histories on record.

It’s not just manatees that you can see in the spring.  There are alligators there, as well as nearly a dozen species of fish — from Gar, to Tilapia I’m told — though I could not tell which was which except for the long nosed Gar.

I like this park a lot.  It’s clearly designed for people to come, see the manatees and leave.  There aren’t a lot of trails, there aren’t a lot of campsites.  There IS a large shelter with tables for picnickers but there aren’t oodles of charcoal pits or fire rings.  It’s designed to move people.

 

But it does that with an easy grace that struck me as being particularly welcoming. Can’t say exactly why I say that, just that it felt comfortable being there.  The boardwalks that take you from viewing point to viewing point are in good shape, you feel comfortable on them and yet they don’t seem to take over the feeling of forest — as if you were in an amusement park or something.

With the park situated at the junction of Blue Spring to the St. John’s River there are wonderful opportunities for exploring by boat. You can rent boats there, or bring your own.  The bayous and tributaries provide opportunity for paddling for an hour, a couple/few hours, or longer — depending on your arms!  (or motor).  Just don’t get lost — the pull out service is not cheap if you rent a kayak and miss the return time and have to be searched out and dragged back to the park!

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A pair of sandhill cranes building their nest
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A pair of sandhill cranes building their nest

We don’t often do the formal tours, but I wanted to do this 2 hour tour and it was a doosey.  We were gone more like 2 1/2 hours and the naturalist was well worth the price of the tour.  Not only did she see a wonderful assortment of critters — but if people did not see what she was excited about she’d back the boat up or go back and forth until you DID see what she was talking about.  It was almost as though she was determined you’d enjoy yourself even if you didn’t want to — though there was no one like that on board.

We saw birds on the ground

and birds in the air.

Many more of both than I took photos of, and some that we only heard — over the reasonably quiet sound of the motor.

We’d return in a heartbeat — who knows, maybe yet this year.

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll chat with you again tomorrow.

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7 Comments

    1. We so agree about the benefits of a naturalist! We don’t much care for routine tours, but we love nature tours.

      We had hoped that volunteering at Bosque would help us be better birders… being around all those folks who actually KNEW something about birds. But alas…. ’twas not to be. Perhaps some other time and place.

      (I know how you feel about “things I would have missed.”)

      >

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I was surprised to learn Tilapia is not a specific fish. It is a group. Kind of like bear could be grizzly, panda, or polar. So, when you see fish labeled Tilapia it could be any one of several fish. No wonder it is hard to identify a Tilapia.

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  2. I am probably learning more about Florida since your visit to this state than from all of my years being a resident. You are inspiring me to get out more and look at things! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL — and here I am thinking to myself that compared with previous years we are doing very little this year. I’m not as energetic as I used to be, and I’m enjoying my time reading, and cooking, just being in a place. And also regretting a little that we aren’t further south were we would have easier access to a few things I would have liked to see (but then we still have 2 months to explore and maybe we’ll get there yet!)

      Liked by 1 person

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