The Most Beautiful of All

Gregory Sweeney - Cute Baby Manatee

When I first came to Florida, everything was new and exciting fabulous. After years of being here it is all still exciting and fabulous.

There are scary things like poisonous snakes- coral snakes, rattlesnakes, and others – along with alligators and bears, but there are also sweet little critters. During one visit to a local spring and walking on a boardwalk, mom and I spotted an Armadillo rooting around in the leaves. As he made his way towards us, he looked up at everyone looking down at him, seemed to wonder what we all were looking at, then nonchalantly proceeded to continue his quest to find bugs and other meal items in the ground and surrounding foliage. I thought he was darling. He was not as enamored with us and we were with him.

Turtles are another of my favorites of the day. I have watched gopher turtles come in and out of their holes as well as rescued babies off streets. I also love painted turtles sunning themselves on logs and rocks. Once I rescued an alligator snapper from the dangers of the road. He was quite quick at snapping my shoe when it was close to his mouth. I was wise enough to keep my fingers away. While kayaking in a spring run near Gainesville, I spotted a baby turtle- he was about the size of a silver dollar. Cutest little guy. I wanted a picture, so I pulled my kayak close- he darted under water because he had no idea I am the nicest person and would never dream of hurting him. He periodically surfaced to see if I was still close. When he saw me, he immediately withdrew back under the water. Even with constant assurances from me, he refused to allow me to take a photo. Sea turtles hatching and running to the ocean are also my favorites. I guess I have many favorites.

We see eagles everywhere. One day I saw one land on Daytona Beach. Others suggested I had seen an Osprey. I was certain it was an eagle. The all white head and feathers on his legs that looked like trousers and a stance that is unique to the eagle- like he means business- are all clues I had spotted an eagle. Gorgeous is a word for these creatures. One bird rescue in a town around Orlando has eagles as well. One of their eagles was found as an orphan who was 1 day old when found out of the nest. They raised him and cannot turn him safely to the wild, so they care for him. We have the wonderful opportunity to visit this beautiful guy.

Pelicans arrive each day at the ocean to fish for breakfast. They glide in the sky and over the waves. When they spot an enticing meal, they dive directly into the water. I could watch them all day. When visiting the Florida Keys, we stay at a campground that has pelicans close. They wait for us and other campers to bring our fish for cleaning in hopes for an easy meal.

But my all time favorites are the manatees. I visited Florida for years trying to get a look at one in person. Finally, I have seen them up close and personal. In fact, one morning mom and I walked over to the  spring near our home- the fountain of youth, as Ponce DeLeon described the springs in Florida. While standing on the boat dock,  a family of manatees came close- a male, female, and baby. What a unbelievable treat. Right in front of us- a reach out and touch moment. The gentle sea cows are social and beautiful. I understand it is a federal offense to touch them, but some things can be very difficult to resist. These are memories for a lifetime.

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