All Manner of Critters

 

WARNING: This post has a ton of photos.

It’s been a very lively and interesting time around the Suite Pea this week. It began with a phone call I received Sunday afternoon concerning my father. The  call was to inform me that pop was enroute to the hospital due to a possible heart attack. My first thought was that dad had over exerted himself while removing snow. I was eventually able to connect to dad’s nurse and learned he did not have a heart attack but tests had been ordered to find out what exactly had occurred.

It wasn’t until Monday afternoon we learned that pop had a defective heart valve and will need surgery to correct it. Dad was released to go home but he will need to follow up with a cardiologist. We are waiting to hear what the specialist has to say on the matter.

We awoke pumped up Tuesday morning, we were going to experience our first turtle release. 52 rescued turtles had been flown down from one of the New England states via a good samaritan’s private jet to the Gulf World Marine Institute in Panama City. 24 of the 52 had been either rehabilitated or nursed back to health and were ready to return to the ocean. The reason for releasing the turtles into the Gulf rather than back into the Atlantic is because the turtles have been out of the sea for some time, making their bodies slow to acclimate fast enough to the change in water temperature. It could put the turtles into distress or worse, they could drown.

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One of the turtles was a Loggerhead. The Loggerhead sea turtle gets its name from its exceptionally large head. An adult can grow to be 2.5-3.5 feet in size and typically weighs between 155 to 375 pounds. The species has been listed on the Endangered Species Act (ESA) since 1978. He was the first of the 24 to be freed. The crowd of about one hundred gathered around and cheered him onward, clapping as he rode the waves to freedom.

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The marine biologists and their volunteers then began unloading 23 containers onto the beach, each containing a Kemp’s Ridley turtle. The Kemp’s Ridley turtle is one of the rarest species of sea turtles and is the world’s most endangered sea turtle. The population of nesting females is estimated to be about 1,000. Females aren’t sexually mature until they’re about 10 to 12 years of age. Then, they nest every 1 to 3 years. It’s survival truly hangs in the balance. After learning the facts, we felt blessed to actually see these beautiful graceful creatures.

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While in attendance, Don and I were once again reminded just how small this world truly is. We struck up a conversation with the couple standing next to us at the release, only to learn that they too are full time RVers (since last August) from Indianapolis. Having found common ground the conversation moved effortlessly. Then we learned they were camped across from us at Carrabelle Beach Resort. Needless to say, we plan to get together again.

After such an exhilarating morning, we left St. George Island behind us and headed over to the main land for lunch. Of course Don insisted we eat at The Pesky Pelican Grille again. I’d heard the hamburgers were delicious and the fries homemade so, wanting to try one, I was on board. Afterwards, on a whim, Don pulled into Coastline RV Resort to visit with our “old” neighbors from Carrabelle. They are from northern Michigan, not too far from the family property. We exchanged phone numbers and promised to keep in touch.

Driving the coastal road back to the Suite Pea Don remarked ‘this is what the RV lifestyle is all about’. Indeed it is.

Wednesday we met with a dog trainer from Tallahassee. On the whole Beau is a typical active, curious puppy and he does most of his commands when asked, but he still has room for improvement. And we too have room for improvement in the area of dog training.

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The session lasted  3 hours and I believe it went well. It was a lot of information to retain so I’m sure we will make some mistakes. Thank goodness we have a booklet we can refer to and the trainer’s phone number.  By the time we were finished Beau was tired and our brains were fried.

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Come Friday our warm temps were back and the sky was a gorgeous azure blue. A perfect day for an outing. An outing I had been saving for just this kind of day. I gathered my cameras up, then Don and I drove off in the direction of Wakulla Springs State Park.

 

Wakulla Springs is the largest and deepest freshwater spring in the world. It is believed that the source of the spring comes from an underwater cave but no one can say for sure. National Geographic has conducted underwater explorations into the cave as much as 23 miles in but still the spring’s source remains a mystery. The springs discharge as much as 500 million gallons of water daily and flows into the protected waters of the Wakulla River.

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The name Wakulla is thought to be an ancient Native American word meaning either “river of the crying bird” or “strange and mysterious waters“. The first documented people to inhabit the springs date back to the Paleo period, about 20,000 years ago. Having large game animals nearby such as mastodons, mammoths, bison, giant armadillos and sloths, saber tooth tigers and a variety of birds, this area was a mecca for hunters. Humans have remained a presence ever since. The rich history of these 6,000 acres has caused the park to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is designated as a National Natural Landmark.

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                               Below: a Spider Lily & base of a Bald Cypress

Wakulla Springs main attraction is the boat tours that run several times a day, 365 days a year, depending on the weather. The 3 mile river cruise takes 45 minutes to an hour depending on your guide and the amount of wildlife for viewing. When water conditions permit, glass bottom boat tours are also available. The clarity of the water isn’t as pristine as it once was. According to our very knowledgeable guide the last time the glass bottom boats were used was on Memorial Day weekend 2016. The time before that was 3-4 years prior. The park is also a haven for swimmers who get a rush diving from the tower into the constant 69 degree water.

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The swimming area

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Cypress knees along Wakulla Springs swimming hole

Our intent was to take the river boat tour in hopes of spotting the elusive, gentle manatee. I’m afraid luck wasn’t with us as the water temperature of the Gulf has been relatively warm this winter. However, we weren’t disappointed. We saw an array of birds, gators, and even a few River Cooters soaking up the sun’s rays. Our guide also pointed out a huge 300 year old Bald Cypress. The base of the tree with its many knees was quite impressive.

         The top 2 photos are of a female Anhinga aka “snake bird”, the bottom is a male. Only the wings & tail are feathered, their bodies are fur covered. 

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Great Egret

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A common Moorhen with a male & female Hooded Merganser

Common Moorhen

A closer look at a Common Moorhen

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White Ibis

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Little Blue Heron

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Great Blue Heron

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Pied-billed Grebe

                                                Double-breasted Cormorant

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Louisiana Heron

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Yellow Crowned Night Heron

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River Cooters

 

 

Baby gators

Perhaps our favorite sighting were these baby alligators. Aren’t they cute? 

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Wakulla Lodge

                                The hand painted ceiling & the tiled entry way

 

Lodge interior

The Lobby

The caged area was once the lodge post office

Soda fountain & post office

Speaking of impressive, the lodge with its beautiful hand painted beamed ceiling was worth the trip alone. It was built in 1937 as an elegant retreat. The lodge has 27 guest rooms furnished with period furniture and private bathrooms. A dining room overlooks the spring at one end of the structure while the opposite end offers an old fashioned soda fountain with one of the world’s longest marble counter tops. The old post office cage with its wood mail slots now serves as a candy counter. Central is the lobby with its 10′ high ceiling and massive fireplace. A grand piano and marble topped checker tables are available for entertainment. And then there’s legendary “Old Joe” off to the left of the check-in desk. Old Joe is an 11’2″ stuffed alligator that once made its home near the swimming hole but met an untimely death.

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Local folks say “Old Joe” took up residence at Wakulla Springs in the horse and buggy days. They believe he lived to be over 100 years old-measuring 11’2” long & weighing 650 pounds.

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We learned a couple of other interesting facts about Wakulla Springs. The popular old television show Tarzan the Ape Man starring Johnny Weissmuller was filmed here, as was the 1954 thriller Creature from the Black Lagoon, one of my husband’s all time favorite childhood movies.

The area where Tarzan & Creature from the Black Lagoon was filmed.

This is the section of the springs where filming for Tarzan & the Creature from the Black Lagoon took place.

The area of the spring where Creature From the Black Lagoon was filmed

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We really enjoyed our visit to Wakulla and would highly recommend this park to everyone. Until next time…

here’s lookin’ at you kid.

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Lower jaw teeth from a mastodon skull. A mastodon was recovered from Wakulla Springs in 1930. Now reconstructed & on display at the museum of Florida History in Tallahassee

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Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “All Manner of Critters

  1. Thank you Gay. We are still awaiting the cardiologist’s determination on dad. There may be another turtle release scheduled before we leave here so we are keeping our fingers crossed. As for the Anhinga being dubbed a snake bird, it would be apparent to you if you ever witnessed it swimming. Only its neck & head rises above the water making it look like a snake. They are amazing to watch.

  2. Such an awesome post Gayle….except for the news about your Dad. Hope you hear good news soon!

    The turtle release is amazing..how awesome for you to witness that ! And the birds are all gorgeous! I LOVE bird pictures! I have never seen a picture of a “snake bird”…so cool! That is a beautiful park!

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