Posts in Category: Tips

Bald Eagle Sightings in Missouri

We learned the best time to see bald eagles in Missouri is the winter time. So, we bundled up on a windy, cold day where the highs were in the 30s and headed up to West Alton Missouri. We learned about this area of Missouri because of one of the families at our children’s elementary school. He grew up in St. Louis and told me they go eagle watching every winter and they will see 20-30 a day.  He said they go to the confluence of the river. I learned that’s where the mighty Mississippi and Missouri rivers merge.

Audubon Center

We missed the Eagle Sundays and Eagle Ice Festival that the Audubon Center at Riverlands hosts but we were still able to see eagles. We had no idea what to expect and were a little skeptical that we would see an eagle. The Audubon Center had spotting scopes (with step stools for the kids) that were free to use. Audubon Center Riverlands

Those that worked in the center were so friendly and eager to show us where the eagles were. We saw about 6-8 Eagles (and Bald Eagles that day). We were thrilled. Matt and I are both confident that if we spent more time at the Audubon Center we would have seen more. We were grateful the Audubon Center is indoors and heated. Matt used his phone’s camera to take a picture of the eagles through the spotting scope. He has some skills because I tried doing that with my phone and got zero usable photos.
The employees said they see about 30-60 a day flying up and down the Mississippi River. As with most wildlife early mornings and evenings are the best time to view the most number of animals. We meandered outside a little bit to walk on the board walk to look for more Eagles. Another positive was West Alton was only 30 minutes from St. Louis.

National Great River’s Museum

After we visited the Audubon Center we went to Alton, Illinois and and visited the National Great River’s Museum. This museum is free and if you time your visit well you can take a free walking tour on top of the lock/dam system over the Mississippi River. Again the guide was so kind and enthusiastic about what he did it made the tour so enjoyable. It was neat to watch a boat go through the locks and go further north. We could see an eagle’s nest from the museum. The guide told us that every year some of the same patron’s come to visit in the winter time to view eagles flying and fishing in the River. He said one of the patrons the day before we came was able to photograph an eagle swooping into the water to catch a fish.
We went on President’s Day (it seemed like a perfect thing to do for the Holiday). The best times of the year to see them is late December to early March. All of the events put on by the Audubon Center, Alton Visitor Center and National Great Rivers Museum were in January and early February. It’s great to get outdoors even in the winter time in St Louis.
We had never seen bald eagles before in the wild and it was truly spectacular. Bald Eagle Viewing

 

Taffy making Sweet Pete’s Candy Store

We took a taffy making class at Sweet Pete’s.  We made blue strawberry taffy. It had a lot of citric acid for an amazing sour kick.  The first class we took was a blow pop class which is no longer offered. They gave us the recipe for the taffy and it’s just sugar, water, corn syrup, butter and cornstarch. It was nice the children were able to participate in pulling and wrapping their taffy.

After the class, we got a scoop of ice cream and let the kids pick a couple of pieces of candy. The store is so bright and happy to walk through. There are so many things to look at that I’m happy just meandering through the store. They decorate it so nicely for each holiday as well.

Taffy Making Sweet Pete

I think it is so cool that the stone cools the candy.

Taffy Making Sweet Pete Continue after the jump for a few more photos.

Manatees Swimming- Crystal River

We swam with manatees in Crystal River, Florida. My in-laws took us in January 2018 on a very cold day (high was 40 degrees). A cold day is the BEST day to see the manatees. I think it also helped that we did the tour on a Thursday. Manatees come from the ocean to the natural springs to warm up. The springs are a constant 72 degrees year round. We’ve had several friends look for manatees on warmer days and they didn’t see any or only saw a few. We saw hundreds (but thank goodness only swam with a few). It was a littler nerve wrecking to be so close to 600 lb animals.

 

One of my friends rented an airbnb on the Homosassa River a few years ago. The house came kayak and her family got to take the kayak out on the river everyday. She said they were right their with the manatees. She also told me they were not cold swimming in the river. They did not wear wet suits. I was curious how 72 degrees would feel considering last summer we went to the chilly Ponce De Leon Springs.

 
We used the tour company Fun2Dive. They took us right by the Three Sisters Spring. The snorkels, wet suits and following photos were included in our package. We brought our own puddle jumpers for our youngest two. We were told the wet suits were buoyant but still erred on the cautious side. The photos were taken by our guide using a Nikon Coolpix AW130.

 
I stuck my toe in the water with trepidation but was pleasantly surprised it didn’t feel like ice. Since it was so cold outside, the water actually felt good. Combined with the wet suit it was tolerable to be in the water. We were told we were not allowed to touch the manatees unless they touch you. I did not expect any of the manatees to come up to us but they did. They swam right against us. We were allowed to do an open face one handed touch.They nibbled on the zippers of our wet suits. The manatees liked swimming right under us and it was strange to have my bum be touching the manatee.

 
Some manatees were rough and others were slimy. A couple of the manatees were getting rambunctious and it reminded me of the Titanic. Once the boat went under it’s weight pulled others down. The manatees huge tails were going down and the weight pulled my toddler under. Luckily I held her the whole time. She was definitely stunned. I think that’s when she really started to get cold because now her head was wet and was above water in the cold air.

 
Of the entire party, my youngest two were cold in the water. I think because they are smaller they generate less body heat. They stayed in for an hour and then were happy to get out. Leaving the water to get back on the boat was quite cold. It was definitely nice that our boat had covered windows otherwise the wind would have been brutal. We were greeted by our captain and hot chocolate. After some snacks and dry clothes the youngsters were comfy again.

 
The water was a little murky because the manatees were so active. We took the boat to the Three Sister’s area and that water was crystal clear and blue. The manatees over there were more docile. The whole area of the Three Sisters and Crystal River are basically in backyards of peoples homes. How fun for them they they could just walk down and hop in the water with manatees if they wanted to.

 
The trip was awesome and grateful we could have the unique experience to be in the water with active manatees.

Manatees Crystal River Manatee Swim Wet Suits Manatee Magnolia Springs