|Wayne Hartley takes "manatee roll call" at Blue Spring State Park.
Manatee Reports From
Blue Spring State Park
by Wayne Hartley, Manatee Specialist
Save the Manatee Club
January 12, 2017
I was surprised to get the same river temp as yesterday, 60° F (15.5° C). The manatees knew it was getting warmer as I counted 276 instead of over 300. They were further up the run but still crowded as close to the river as they could manage. Very few were up the run. 165 manatees were ID’d, and I saw Lucille, Doc, Howie, Nick, Lily, Gator, Floyd, Annie, Paddy Doyle and Phyllis. I now have 14 manatees in that were not here last season but have Blue Spring numbers. Good to see old friends that have been missed! One I thought had gone has been around all the time. I was comparing pictures and discovered Biggs was really Raja. Raja had only one ID scar, and it had blended in with some new scars to fool me into considering him a new manatee.
January 11, 2017
After a little operator malfunction, I got a good river temp at the park today. It was 60° F (15.5° C). At least 150 manatees were just inside the mouth of the run, so I eased out and sat very quietly writing names as fast as I could and hoped no one would bump the canoe and get excited. Plenty of the manatees bumped me but no one got excited about it. They were doing it for fun. I counted 326 manatees and ID’d 210. I saw Lenny, Paddy Doyle, Phyllis, Howie, Annie, Nick, Lucille, Doc, Floyd, Margarito, Philip, Gator, and Aqua. Still no Robin! But many manatees are still just getting to the park.
January 10, 2017
The river temperature at the park dock was 65° F (18.5° C). The run was definitely interfering with the temperature reading. I believe the temperature at Racy Point near Palatka was closer to the truth at 56° F (13.2° C). Cora Berchem, the Club's Multimedia Specialist, and I counted 300 manatees, and I ID’d 195 of those. Big day for adoptees. We saw Lucille, Howie, Lenny, Doc, Margarito, Lily, Nick, Paddy Doyle, Gator, Whiskers, Aqua and Phyllis on the way up and Annie and Philip on the way down.
January 2-3, 2017
I had company in on the count on Monday. A film is being made on William Bartram, an early naturalist who explored Florida, and the film will go where he went and record who and what is there now. The river temp was 65° F (18.5° C). We saw 177 manatees. Lily, Paddy Doyle, Phillip and Aqua were present. Aqua is one of the manatee that likes to go way up the run. On Tuesday, temperatures were going up. Cora Berchem, Multimedia Specialist for Save the Manatee Club, counted 94 manatees and park staff counted 96. Cora saw Annie, Phyllis, and Aqua.
December 31, 2016 - January 1, 2017
The river temp was only 66° F (19° C) on the 31st at Blue Spring, and 60 some miles later at Palatka it was 62° F. So the manatees crowded into the mouth of the run though a few were scattered up to the head spring. Conditions led to a count of 171 manatees, though I believe over 200 were present. Of those, 97 manatees were ID’d, but Lily was the only adoptee present. It was cold but warming very fast.
A Happy New Year from Cora Berchem, the Club's Multimedia Specialist, who did a manatee count on January 1st. Cora reported the park staff counted 266 manatees but said there may be more. Cora counted 245 and was able to ID the following adoptees: Phyllis, Nick, Annie and calf, Philip, Lucille, Lily, Gator, Aqua, Margarito, Deep Dent, Lenny, Whiskers, and MERLIN!!!!! Cora was sure there were actually at least 300 manatees in the run today! Certainly this is the most adoptees we have seen this season! And Merlin’s first Blue Spring appearance in over a year!
December 28, 2016
The river temp is 71° F (21.5° C). Because of the warm weather, both the park staff and my counts were zero manatees. Two juveniles came in after the counts were over.
Cora Berchem, the Club’s Multimedia Specialist, recently posted a video of an alligator checking out a manatee tag on the Club's Facebook page. I was just watching the video clip again when I noticed Lenny in the lower right corner! It is his first appearance this season! What a nice present!
December 27, 2016
The river reached 70° F (21° C) today. I counted 18 manatees. As I took the river temp from the boat tour/fishing dock at the park, Lucille’s tail stuck up out of the dark tannic water about a foot and a half! Lily was also seen. I look forward to when the river is cold enough to move the manatees farther in the run. Right now, they are spread out all over the mouth.
December 23, 2016
The river temp was up to 67° F (19.5° C), but manatees are still coming in. Cora Berchem from Save the Manatee Club and I counted 158 manatees and I ID’d 126. Philip, Gator, Annie, Lily, and Aqua were all in. Philip was by the river, Aqua was in the boil, and the others were scattered in-between. Annie and her calf were in yesterday as well. I worked too fast and missed her in the list. Bad news, Rocket was not at Blue Spring as I reported yesterday. It was a manatee named Amber whose freeze brand is A9. The 9 looks like anything but 9! Good news, Monica Ross from Sea to Shore Alliance has pictures of Rocket safe in a northern spring. Click the following link for Rocket pictures taken at 1:00 p.m. on December 22nd.
December 22, 2016
The river went down to 66° F (19° C) today. I ID’d 99 manatees and saw Floyd and Aqua. The park staff assured me they saw Rocket yesterday! Our little scarred orphan’s favorite nursing target is a female manatee named Huss, and her second is Amy, but this morning with both females available, she was with a manatee we just ID’d last season as Faye. Faye has her first calf this year. We have named the orphan calf Hussie. As manatees spend more time in the spring water, they get cleaner, and the silt and algae they accumulate in the river washes or get rubbed away. I was able to see that a previously unknown manatee I had designated S44/16 is actually China. China is a first time mom. Cora Berchem from Save the Manatee Club thought she may have seen another manatee named Joti some days back. Today I know I saw Joti but did not look close until I was coming back down the run after the count.
December 21, 2016
The river temp remains at 69° F (20.5° C), but the damp chill air seems to bring the manatees in. Cora Berchem, the Club's Multimedia Specialist, and I counted 79 manatees and I ID’d 61. Thank you Floyd for representing the adoptees today!
December 19-20, 2016
With the river temp around 68° F (20° C) on Monday, Cora Berchem, Save the Manatee Club's Multimedia Specialist, counted 21 manatees while I participated in Volusia County’s Manatee Watch training program. Lily was seen but missed the roll call.
On Tuesday, the river temp was 69° F (20.5° C). The weather was so bad with cold and drizzle that 30 manatees were in, but there were no adoptees were among the 19 manatees ID'd. Large numbers of manatees that usually stay on the west side of the run are on the east side to gobble the acorns the boat-tailed grackles are knocking out of the oak trees over the run. It has truly rained acorns the last two days. It's possibly the most nutritious item they ever eat.
December 16-18, 2016
I’ve been sick all week but our Multimedia Specialist, Cora Berchem, has been out to the park and was able to do some counting and IDs. The river temps at Palatka rose to 66° F (19° C) from 61° F (16° C) but dropped back to 65° F (18.5° C). The manatee counts reflected the temps, being 101 and 142. Cora saw Lucille, Philip, Nick, Annie, Floyd, and Lily, but best of all she filmed Doc! Cora sent me a still picture pulled from the film clip thinking it might be Doc, and I confirmed it was. We also got picture proof that Flash returned to his favorite spring to our north after his fleeting appearance at the park. This was from Sea to Shore Alliance, who monitors manatees up that way. Cora also retrieved pictures of a youngster picked up at Palatka by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's (FWC) Northeast Marine Mammal Recovery Team. At first the youngster was coming straight to the park. Signs of cold stress were found by FWC, and the youngster was rescued and is recuperating at SeaWorld Orlando.
In other health news, Una's entangled flippers were cleaned up, and she and her calf are recuperating at SeaWorld Orlando. We are watching out for two more flipper-entangled manatees and hope to do something for them as well. Phyllis’ daughter Phalcon has a calf we are watching, so that a bunch of over enthusiastic juveniles don’t hog all the milk as happened to Annie's calf two seasons ago. We also have an orphaned calf recently hit by a boat (a minor strike). It has been nursing on various mothers. With the calves, it is a matter of filming them to see they are not losing weight. In a previous update, I mentioned Lola having buoyancy problems. Since she survived the summer, we are just keeping an eye on her as well. Now Nato, another manatee, has come in. We never got a good look at him last season, but he seemed to be in the same state as Lola. What we need is some cold to keep everyone around.
On Sunday, Cora was able to get a count as she was fixing a camera at the park. Cora counted 73 manatees and the park staff counted 75. Lucille was the only adoptee present, and she was in the process of leaving. I do not expect much activity until after Christmas. I am feeling better and hope to be out this week. As of December 16th, we have 405 manatees seen this season: 206 of those returned from last season, 8 from previous seasons, 46 calves, 99 seasonal, and 43 unknown.
December 11, 2016
The river at Racy Point north of Palatka was 61° F (16° C). Too far away from Blue Spring, but it gives an idea of the river temp at Blue Spring. 61° F is the lowest reading at Racy Point this season. It was too foggy for the park staff to see anything from the bank so Cody Nolan, the park’s Assistant Manager, and Cora Berchem, our Multimedia Specialist, went together in the canoe and got the same count of 295. I like how that works. Cora ID’d 55 manatees and caught sight of Deep Dent making his first appearance for the season! Annie, Lily, Phyllis, Gator, Floyd, and Nick also made an appearance.
December 8, 2016
The river remained 69° F (20.5° ) today, but the manatee count got as high as 48. Cora Berchem, Save the Manatee Club's Multimedia Specialist, and I did an Abundance Survey for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission today. The Abundance Survey is a statewide count that we participate in. This involved counting the manatees three times with breaks between. First, we got 43 manatees. The next count, we got 43, but they were not all the same manatees. Some of the manatees left and others came in. The third count was 48. Of those, I ID’d 47 manatees, including Floyd and Aqua.
December 7, 2016
The river is up to 69° F (20.5° C) and the manatees are down to 34 in number. I ID’d 29 of those. Paddy Doyle was lying so close to the river his head was in the dark water. Aqua and her yearling were halfway to the boil at the aluminum dock. Annie and her calf came in late. Manatees are still showing up that are new for the season. Cooler weather still in the forecast!
December 5, 2016
The river has quickly come back up to 68° F (20° C). There were 102 manatees in, but with the wind and the clay they were stirring up only 50 were ID’d. I saw Philip, in a hurry to leave, Lily, Paddy Doyle, also in a hurry out, and Gator. Kirsten, another Blue Spring manatee, was swimming down the run at the surface on her back -- always an interesting sight! It is supposed to be cooler again later in the week.
December 2, 2016
With the river down three degrees to 67° F (19.5° C), I was disappointed the count went down to 62 manatees. I ID’d 40 of those, but there were no adoptees present. The next day was better. Cora Berchem, Save the Manatee Club's Multimedia Specialist, counted 127 manatees and saw Lily and Nick.
December 1, 2016
The river temp remained the same, 70° F (21° C), but the manatee numbers went down to 66 because of the warmer weather. I was able to ID 41 manatees, but no adoptees were in. The November summary is 376 individual manatees seen so far. 194 manatees have returned from last season, 8 from previous seasons, and there are 39 calves, 92 seasonals, and 43 unknowns. For those just joining us, "seasonals" are animals I could only hope to keep track of for the season. Unknowns are manatees that have scars for life that I should recognize, and they get Blue Spring numbers and names.
November 30, 2016
The river is up to 70° F (21° C) now and the number of manatees is down to 108. Some of them are still coming in for the season and that is fun! None of today's visitors were adoptees however. Not even dependable Annie was in.
November 29, 2016
The river is up another degree, and I saw 120 manatees. The park staff counted earlier from the bank and counted 135 manatees. Nearly all of the manatees were milling around near the mouth of the spring run. Dependable Annie was in, and Whiskers made his second visit. I last saw him at the aluminum dock half way up the run today. It is rewarding to see manatees that missed last season, but today I was trying to photo and draw a very scarred manatee when I decided one scar on the tail looked like one of Amigo’s, so I looked him up on the scar chart. It was easy as his number was under 300, and I know those numbers pretty well. We are up to the 900s now! It was Amigo, last seen during the 2011-2012 season! For those of you who remember, we wanted to capture Lola for buoyancy problems late in the season last year, but she ran out on us. She survived the summer and is back at Blue Spring so her condition and possible intervention are being discussed by manatee veterinarians.
November 28, 2016
The river temperature went down three degrees to 66° F (19° C) due to cooler than predicted overnight temps. So we counted 135 manatees and ID’d 108 of those. Annie was the only adoptee present. We were having fun by the river after the count waiting to see if more strangers (yes) or adoptees (no) would come in, but the wind began to blow the canoe over the manatees and getting dumped became too big a concern! I did record the first boat strike for the season. It was to a very small calf but is not dangerous. I hate seeing calves getting hit most of all.
November 25, 2016
River temps going up, and the count is going down. There were 170 manatees yesterday, including Annie and Lily. Today the river was 69° F (20.5° C). The count was 110 manatees with 80 ID’d. Annie and a newly arrived Philip were the adoptees in. The unscarred young are staying around, and more manatees are coming in. The easy-to-ID old timers are going back out in the river, but more are arriving and that is good, except all those unidentifiable manatees frustrate me. We are up to 37 calves.
November 22 - 23, 2016
On Tuesday, the river was down to 64° F (17.5° C). The manatees were everywhere -- going up run, down run and in circles. What a challenge to count. I counted 188 manatees and ID’d 112. Brutus is in with the worst boat strike of his life but has survived it well. It is a large skeg cut on his right tail and four large propeller scars on his right flank. The water was filled with stirred up clay, but I tried for pictures. Howie flew by the canoe on his way back to the river. Nick was asleep not too far away. Whiskers was halfway to the aluminum dock. Aqua was nursing two juveniles near the boil, and Phyllis was there as well. Gator, Lily, Paddy Doyle, and Annie were also in. A manatee named Mel that has been around for years finally turned up last year with a line entanglement on his right flipper that allows us to ID him consistently. Yesterday he was in with one almost as bad as Una’s on his left flipper, so we will have to try and arrange a capture for Mel like we did for Una. Male entanglements are less common.
On Wednesday, the river came down another degree to 63° F (17° C). The way the count started, I thought I would see over 300 manatees, but it was only 189. Of those, I was able to ID 125. Margarito, Lucille, and Flash came in today. Also in were Howie, Phyllis, Annie, Aqua, and Gator. Aqua still has her yearling with her. We are up to at least 31 calves. The record is 56. We have a radio-tagged manatee in that was not tagged here. That is always interesting to me. I think he is one of our young males, but he was tagged elsewhere.
November 21, 2016
The river did a very quick drop to 65° F (18.5° C) and the manatees packed in. Cora Berchem, the Club's Multimedia Specialist, and I counted 108 manatees, and the park staff counted 101 -- very close. Of those, I ID’d 76 manatees. Five adoptees were in. Annie, Paddy Doyle, and Gator were seen along with first day arrivals Lily and Floyd. This is good for the first week of the season even though there are many more adoptees to appear. Lily was seen just before the season started. Floyd was just barely in the boil sleeping head downstream as is his custom. Most manatee sleep head upstream. There was no sign of a calf with Lily, and I do not believe she has one. We will keep an eye out as the calves have already reached a "herding cats" situation. The manatees seem to consider the park so safe so they let their kids run all over with little supervision. We have 23 calves now. One mother, named Mossback, had a calf last year. She may have gotten pregnant while nursing, but I think it more likely she adopted an orphan while still lactating after weaning. We have seen it before.
November 17-18, 2016
With all that was going on Cora, Save the Manatee Club's Multimedia Specialist, and I did not get water temps on Thursday, but the temp at Racy Point north of Palatka was 67° F (19.5° C). We counted 59 manatees and 56 were ID’d. That does indeed make the 15th the first day of the season. Among the manatees ID’d were Annie, Paddy Doyle, and Gator. If I had not mentioned it already, the three look very good. Paddy was near the boil admiring what must have been a very large female I could not ID. We found Una and her calf early and called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to initiate the capture. With the rest of the roll call completed, we watched Una until the capture team arrived. Then I stayed with Una, and Cora assisted the capture team. When the boat came up, I could tell them the calf had not been with Una for an hour and a half. When Una finally went in search of her calf, the time spent with them yesterday paid off. I could ID the calf and knew the one she met was hers. Later, when Una got out of the net, I confirmed the calf they had in the boat was hers. While Una searched the run for her calf, the net was straightened, and the next deployment caught her! She was so big, they got her out of the net onto a stretcher and slid her in the boat instead of carrying her up the steps of the board walk. She was taken to a boat ramp to load in the truck. I am told Una was very unsettled in the truck until they put the calf against her side. Then she settled right down. It was a long day, and thanks are due to FWC, Blue Spring State Park, Volusia County, our own Save the Manatee Club, and many citizen volunteers who helped keep an eye on Una as she moved around the run! We are up to 20 calves, but Lily and her daughter have not brought theirs in for the season yet.
On Friday, the river was 66° F (19° C). I counted 55 manatees and ID’d 46 of those. Annie and Gator, our current ever faithful, were in. What a quiet day after yesterday! A temp of 38° F (3.5° C) is predicted Sunday night. Monday may be interesting!
November 16, 2016
I counted 37 manatees so if we have more than 15 tomorrow, the 15th will be the start of the season! Of those 37, I ID’d 34 manatees. Gator and Annie were in, and Annie had her calf with her. All together, we have 14 calves so far this season. I feel a record coming on. Everyone is under notice to call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recovery team if we see Una and her calf, and I did. Hopefully we will capture Una and calf tomorrow so the entanglements can be removed from her flippers. I spent several hours observing Una. All she did was try to get her calf to leave the run and get annoyed by a juvenile male. I believe Una’s little boy is a rascal.
November 15, 2016
The past week, the river temp near Palatka went from 74° F (23° C) to 68° F (20° C). The park staff saw as many as 15 manatees, and Lily was among them. On Thursday the 10th, I was at the park and saw one manatee asleep at the boil. Next I saw two rushing past the aluminum dock. Another group going even faster reached the dock. They seemed to be intent on having a manatee flash mob at the boil! On the next day Cora Berchem, Save the Manatee Club's Multimedia Specialist, and I did a roll call. The river temp at the tour boat dock was 72.5° F (22.5° C), and we were told Lily was seen in Hontoon Dead River with a calf. I hope so! We saw five manatees, but only one was recognized. The others were young and unmarked. Over the weekend, the park staff counted 16 manatees on Saturday and 19 on Sunday. They saw none yesterday. The weather looked so bad I did not go to the park.
Today I was accompanied by a writer doing an article for Air Berlin Magazine. The river was 69° F (20.5° C) at the fishing dock. We counted 21 manatees. This could be the official start of the season! Manatees Marge and Amy were in with calves, so we have 11 calves reported before the season even gets started.
November 2, 2016
I went to the park to film and record some narration with the Cora Berchem, Save the Manatee Club’s Multimedia Specialist. When asked how many manatees we would see, I said none. I was wrong! We saw five manatees and one was Volusia with a calf. That makes eight calves before the season even begins. The river temperature was 74° F (23.2° C). Since then the river temp went up, but now it is going down again. It looks like the manatee season may begin next week.
October 26, 2016
The river is up a degree and although the park staff saw seven manatees yesterday, I saw none today. Just birds and alligators. I did get the post for transect six back in the bank of the run. Now it looks like no need to go out until mid-November. If the weather folks are right, that is!
October 24, 2016
Well the season has not started, even though the park staff have seen at many as 15 manatees occasionally. As the summer finally begins to cool down, the manatees begin to come by to check the spring. Then they go back to the river and return when it really gets cold. There are no webcams up yet, but that will come soon. We’ve had six calves in the spring run in addition to Annie’s calf born in the spring run in August. That is a lot of calves to see before the season even starts! Our record is 56 calves, which was set in 2012-2013. Unfortunately, we have also lost three calves to boat strikes this off season. Spur was a young male still considered a sub adult. Decaf was a 14-year-old male and the grandson of the departed Dana. Eon was the 10-year-old daughter of Elaine and had brought us three calves. Picking these manatees out from the pictures of the dead is one of the hard parts of this job.
I did a practice roll call today as it had been in the 40s over the weekend, and I needed to see if I am ready for the season. The river and the run are the same temperature, about 72.5° F (22.5° C). I saw three noses in the dark water by the river and two juveniles as I paddled up the run. So the count was five manatees! On the way down after the count, I saw Magus. He was identified last year, and it was good to see him clean and healthy with no new scars! As for being ready for the 2016-2017 season, I am there. All the transect marking posts that we use to locate the manatees along the run were present. Post six had been popped out of the ground when Hurricane Matthew took out a tree next to it. The post was floating face down where it should have been hammered into the bank. Transect zero was under water, but I cleverly hung the canoe on it as I searched for it. When I got the canoe off it, I could see a half inch sticking out of the water. The winter is the dry season, so the water level should come down. This should be a tremendous season!
Wayne Hartley is a Manatee Specialist for Save the Manatee Club. Before joining the Club, he was a Park Ranger and then a Park Service Specialist with the Florida Park Service. Wayne served for over three decades as Principal Investigator for manatee research conducted at Blue Spring State Park.
Read Wayne's reports from the 2015 - 2016 Manatee Season
Read Wayne's reports from the 2014 - 2015 Manatee Season
Read Wayne's reports from the 2013 - 2014 Manatee Season
Read Wayne's reports from the 2012 - 2013 Manatee Season
Read Wayne's reports from the 2011 - 2012 Manatee Season
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