Manatee Reports from Blue Spring State Park
by Wayne Hartley, Manatee Specialist, and Cora Berchem, Director of Multimedia & Manatee Research Associate
May 4, 2022
This past weekend a group of manatees was seen in the Wekiva River. Eight were ID’d from pictures and a film clip that was sent to the Club. Save the Manatee Club adoptee Gator was one and the non-adoptees were John, Farman, Skipper with calf, Pire, Lance, and Swale. It seems Gator never travels far from home!
March 31, 2022
Last day of official manatee season. The river temperature was up to 71.6° F (22° C), so pretty much the same as the spring run. Only Pippen and Plantaina, the most recent releases, were in the spring today. Most manatees will be out in the river now foraging and going about their spring/summer activities.
We are oftentimes asked where the manatees go when they leave Blue Spring. While we don’t know for sure for every individual, some will go south and spend the summer in Lake Monroe, Lake Jessup, and surrounding waterways, while others travel north and spend the summer in the lakes and tributaries of the St. Johns River like Lake Dexter, Lake Woodruff, or Lake George. Some will go into the Ocklawaha or Silver River. And even others will go all the way to Jacksonville and into the Atlantic where they turn either south or north.
Some manatees make brief summer visits to Blue Spring, so along with our manatee observer volunteers, we will definitely keep an eye out for them. Our webcams will now be playing highlights from past seasons until manatee season starts again in November!
March 30, 2022
Happy Manatee Appreciation Day! It really warmed up and the air temperature went up to 87° F, so the river went up to 70.7° F (21.5° C). I counted two manatees — the most recently released ones, Pippen and Plantaina. Pippen was just coming in from the river as I started counting and was already leaving again when I finished the count 20 minutes later. Plantaina was at the spring head. After the count we did an on-land cleanup for Manatee Appreciation Day in honor of manatee Tama, who passed away two weeks ago after ingesting fishing line. We want to thank everyone who came out this morning to support the cleanup! Tomorrow is the last day of manatee season before the park re-opens for summer activities.
March 29, 2022
It felt cooler today, but the low was about the same as yesterday. The dampness in the air made it seem cooler. Add the 80-degree high for yesterday, and we had a rise in the river temp of almost two degrees. The river temp today was 69.8° F (21° C). We counted five manatees on the way up the run and saw the same five on the way back down the run. None were Save the Manatee Club adoptees. With the warmer temperatures, manatees are on the move as are the boaters. We were seeing many more fresh boat scars lately. If you are a boater, take care and pass the word to watch out for manatees.
March 28, 2022
Another beautiful day! The cool spell is shaping up to be shorter than predicted and not as cool as predicted. However, the river temp was 68° F (20° C), and we counted 10 manatees. With the count over, five more came in, so we saw a total of 15. The temp that gets the manatees into the run in the fall is 68° F, but it is not so effective in the spring season. I am still hopeful for tomorrow in spite of the air temp highs in the 80s. Tonight is supposed to be in the mid-50s. The park is usually colder than the forecast, so we shall see. No Save the Manatee Club adoptees in today.
March 27, 2022
It got a little cooler overnight and the river temp this morning was 69.8° F (21° C). I counted six manatees. Three were near the river (a mom and calf and a pregnant manatee), the two manatees released last season (Amelia and Irma) were in the middle of the run, and Plantaina, the most recent release, was sleeping at the boil. Looks like two more days of cooler temps before it warms up again.
March 25, 2022
What a beautiful day. The trees are covered in new green leaves and even some of the ground between the trees is covered in green. The run was smooth as glass. I counted two manatees and as I sat on the overturned canoe (the canoe is turned over when not in use) admiring the day, one of those swam out into the river. The one at the boil came down behind me and kept on into the river. He even bypassed the female, Plantaina (not an adoptee), at the mouth of the run. No Save the Manatee Club adoptees again today. The small cold front that we were looking for seems to be a day late, but that should keep it here a day longer until Monday night.
March 24, 2022:
The river temperature was 22.5° C (72.5° F), and it was a pretty gloomy morning, but at least the rain held up until after the count was over. Only two manatees were present — the most recently-released ones at the springhead. We’re keeping an eye out for adoptee Phyllis to see if she may indeed be pregnant and coming back. She’s known to have her calves at the springhead. A little cooler overnight temps are predicted for the weekend, but with daytime highs in the upper 70s we’ll have to see if that will bring any more manatees in before season is officially over.
March 23, 2022:
It was a warm 69° F when I started the roll call. It was also windy, but the wind was almost all above the trees. I only had one manatee to count so it hardly mattered. The river temp was 73.6° F (23° C). Yesterday after I left, Phyllis was spotted in the boil and after hanging around for five hours left, giving us a good film clip on the underwater webcam. So far in the last two days Phyllis is the only Save the Manatee Club adoptee seen. I think she is pregnant and possibly checking out the boil as a place to give birth as she has done before!
March 22, 2022:
The river temp was 71.8° F (22° C). Two manatees were in the boil or head spring. Neither were Save the Manatee Club adoptees. It is forecast to cool Thursday night through Sunday night. Perhaps we will get a few manatees in by Monday.
March 21, 2022:
It got a little bit cooler overnight, but the river temperature was at 69.8° F (21° C), and I only counted one manatee — recently released Plantaina at the spring head. She seems to like hanging out there in the morning to get some rest before venturing out later in the day.
Yesterday, we assisted our MRP partners from Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute, and Volusia County with the rescue of manatee Matthew close to Blue Spring. Matthew had been released at Blue Spring in February, but he hadn’t been himself for the past couple of days, which raised concern. He was transported to SeaWorld.
We also found out the unfortunate news that manatee Tama, who we helped rescue last Thursday died from ingestion of monofilament fishing line. This is very upsetting as it’s so preventable. Unfortunately, once a manatee has ingested pieces of trash, it is often too late to reverse the situation. We want to remind everyone to clean up after themselves and discard monofilament fishing line and other debris in appropriate bins. We are also going to be hosting a Cleanup event for Manatee Appreciation Day next week (March 30th) at Blue Spring in honor of manatee Tama in collaboration with the park service.
March 18, 2022:
The river temp has risen to 69.8° F (21° C) as the manatee count shows. The park staff counted five manatees, and we counted four. One of those was in the river. Three more came in after the count. The one in the river floats a lot. He was floating some yesterday. He floats at the surface and lets the current carry him out into the river. If paddlers or boats come by, even on the other side of the river, he moves toward the spring mouth. If anything approaches near him, he moves into the run. When we beached the canoe, he was sound asleep on the bottom of the run.
March 17, 2022:
The river had warmed up slightly to 68° F (20° C), which at the beginning of season we consider the “magic number” to bring manatees in. At the end of the season, manatees are eager to get out. The park staff counted 13 manatees today, and I counted 11. The only SMC adoptee present was Doc. Most manatees at this time of year are very close to the river, eager to go out and feed. As I was paddling up the spring run, I noticed a group of manatees past the diver entry towards the boil, which is rather unusual. Getting closer, I noticed one manatee in the very shallow water up against the bank — not a good sign. It turned out to be “Tama,” a young female manatee we first saw in 2019. Tama was not reacting to the approaching research canoe, and her respirations were more frequent than would be expected from a healthy manatee. Based on those observations, it was decided to intervene, and a rescue crew consisting of FWC, FWS, SeaWorld, and Volusia County was swiftly assembled. We were able to capture Tama, and the team transported her to SeaWorld for rehabilitation, but unfortunately Tama passed away shortly after arrival at the manatee hospital. Necropsy results may show what was wrong with her. We appreciate the good teamwork by all the different agencies from the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership who gave Tama the best chance she could have had.
March 16, 2022:
The river temperature stayed at 67.1° F (19.5° C), and the manatee count dropped slightly. The park staff counted 31 manatees from the boardwalk, and I counted 39 from the canoe. The SMC adoptees today were Philip and Doc! It surprises me that we see different manatees every day this week and different adoptees. Likely those who have not migrated too far away from Blue Spring yet and therefore returned with the short cold front. We oftentimes get asked where the manatees go when they leave Blue Spring after the winter season. While we don’t know where each individual goes, we know some stay in the St. Johns River year-round and venture out into adjacent lakes and tributaries like Lake Monroe, Lake Dexter, Lake Woodruff, or Lake George. Some will swim all the way up to Jacksonville to the Atlantic ocean and then turn North or South. One manatee, named “Harmon” (not an adoptee), had a long sighting history in Brevard County before he showed up at Blue Spring a few years ago. I saw him last week in Lake Monroe in a cavorting group and today he was back at Blue Spring.
March 15, 2022:
The river temperature came up slightly to 67.1° F (19.5° C), but it seemed some manatees making their way to the spring during the little cold snap just arrived. I counted 43 manatees, and Lucille was the only one representing the adoptees today. Interestingly, we see manatees now that we haven’t seen all season! It will be interesting to see if they wintered elsewhere, which we may find out once we compare some photos and sightings with other researchers after the season is over. Yesterday, Wayne matched a newly-arrived manatee to “Beryl,” a manatee we knew from last season but had not seen yet this season! Unfortunately, we also keep seeing a number of manatees come in with new boat strikes. All of them are superficial and won’t require intervention, but they serve as a good reminder to go slow and watch for manatees while boating, especially right now when manatees are on the move.
March 14, 2022:
The river temp was 66.2° F (19° C). Temperatures in the 30s and rain caused the river to cool rapidly over the weekend. We counted 33 manatees today, much to my surprise. More were coming in. We saw Save the Manatee club adoptees Lucille, Lenny, and Una. We also spotted a belted manatee with no floating satellite tag attached. The tracking folks at Clearwater Marine Aquatic Research Center were notified. They already had someone on a mission to a nearby lake, so they were diverted to Blue Spring. The manatee had gone out to feed for at least two months and returned when it got cold, so he was considered to have passed his “A” levels and did not need a tag any more. First, the manatee had to be retagged so if he got away he could be relocated and his belt cut off. The tagging went well, and after the manatee chased a cow calf pair around for a few minutes, so did the removal of his belt. Things do not always go so smoothly. Cora and I kept an eye on the manatee and watched for alligators.
March 13, 2022:
With the freeze coming through last night I figured I will go check on the manatees this morning. I don’t think I’ll ever understand how the temperature in Florida can drop from 88 to 39 within 48 hours. The wind was much stronger than predicted. I got a river temperature of 68.9° F (20.5° C), but I feel it might have been influenced by the spring. The park staff counted five manatees, and I counted three, but I saw three more on the way back. Still not as many manatees as I had expected. A few additional ones were cavorting in the river. Maybe a few more will be showing up tomorrow or Tuesday. No Save the Manatee adoptees and no tagged manatees today!
March 11, 2022:
In an effort to avoid the rain, I delayed the count and then went straight to the canoe. I counted one manatee, as did the park staff, in the boil. Then, being in the canoe, I went out into the center of the river and took the river temperature about three feet down to avoid the effects of the spring run waters. I got a temperature of 82.5° F (28.5° C) — a lot different from the temperature at the fishing dock. Sometimes it is hard to get a proper reading from the dock. After all my effort to avoid the rain, it never rained!
March 10, 2022:
I was debating whether to even write a blog post or not, because everything was the exact same as yesterday. The river stayed at 74.3° F (23.5° C), and one manatee was at the spring head. It rained heavily, so I did the count from the boardwalk instead of from the canoe. Maybe early next week a few more manatees will show up.
March 9, 2022:
The river was 74.3° F (23.5° C) this morning, so it was warmer than the spring run. This is not surprising, because the high temperature yesterday (air) was 87° F! I counted one manatee at the spring head. The wind was blowing already at 8:00 a.m. Usually we see some birds like cormorants, anhingas, or great blue herons perched around the spring run, but apparently it was too windy even for them. I only saw a lone sandhill crane in the parking lot calling for its mate. Some cooler weather is supposed to come in over the weekend, which may bring a few manatees back.
March 8, 2022:
The river temp was 75° F (24° C). As I took the river temp, I saw one of our recent releases leaving the run, but it was too far to ID. At the boil, I found our most recent released manatee sleeping. So my count was two manatees, and the park staff’s count was one. As I came down the run with the count over, I passed Belly. She is not an adoptee, but she is very friendly. She is named for a large J-shaped white mark on her belly. Perhaps more on the chest, but we liked the name Belly.
March 7, 2022:
The river temperature was pretty much the same as the spring temperature this morning — 72.5° F (22.5° C), and only two manatees were in, our most recent releases, hanging out together at the spring head. Next week may bring a small cool front after this unseasonably warm weather.
March 4, 2022:
The river temperature stayed at 69.8° F (21° C), but the air didn’t get as cool as the night before. The manatee count dropped in half to five, including two of the recently-released manatees, the two manatees released last year, and one juvenile. Again, four out of five of the manatees were hanging out near the river. No SMC adoptees were seen.
March 3, 2022:
The air temperature overnight dipped to 45° F (7.2° C), and the river was 69.8° F (21° C) this morning, but the air warmed up quickly. I counted 10 manatees — the most we have seen in a while, but nine of them were very close to the river. No SMC adoptees were seen, but I did see the three manatees recently released, tagged ones, as well as Amelia and Irma, who were released last year. They are still hanging out together! The warmer weather surely brings the boaters out, too. One of our calves came in with a new boat strike, which luckily is not severe, and the calf overall is doing very well. Mom seemed to have gotten away with a few scratches. It’s a good reminder, though, to watch out for manatees when on the water as they are migrating away from their winter warm water habitat and are traveling to feeding grounds.
March 2, 2022:
The river temp was 72° F (22° C). The park staff and I both counted four manatees, which included three recent releases and a juvenile.
March 1, 2022:
The river temperature was 72.5° F (22.5° C), so very similar to yesterday. The air had cooled a bit overnight, and it was pretty windy this morning. I counted five manatees, but none of them were Save the Manatee Club adoptees. Two of them were ones that were recently released — a mom/calf pair and a juvenile. The mom and calf came in just as I started the count with the mom rushing up the spring run, but the calf taking some time to check out the canoe. It’s good to see that all of our first-time moms and their calves seem to be doing really well this year, and the calves are growing big!
February 28, 2022:
The river temp was 74° F (23° C). The park staff counted no manatees, and I counted two. I found one manatee by the river and the other on the boil. The river water was on top of the spring water, indicating it is warmer and lighter than the spring water. The river temp I got confirms that. Is the season over? We shall see. The manatees seen today were both recent releases and not too familiar with the big wide world yet. Sad news, a Blue Spring numbered manatee named Tirma has been confirmed dead. We are waiting for further information.
February 25, 2022:
The river temp was 72° F (22° C). I imagine the park staff counted three tagged manatees. So did I. I also counted Belly (not an adoptee) and a cow/calf pair that rushed to see me when I launched. A cow/calf pair I knew also came in after the count. So I counted six manatees and ID’d six manatees and a cow/calf pair went unID’d. No save the Manatee Club adoptees were seen. Two days ago, a rock by the canoe beach was a ¼ inch out of the water, and the trees were bare. Today the rock was over three inches out of the water, and tiny new leaves were showing on the trees. When the trees start to respire with the advent of warm weather they suck up the river like we do soda through a straw. You can almost sit on the bank and watch the river go down.
February 24, 2022:
The river had warmed up to 68.9° F (20.5° C), and park staff and I agreed that there were four manatees in the spring: two at the head spring and two further down the run. After I finished the count, two more came in, bringing the total to six manatees. None of them were Save the Manatee Club adoptees.
February 23, 2022:
The river temp was 68° F (20° C). My count was two tagged manatees swimming in the boil. Then I came down the run and checked by the river and, sure enough, a perfectly-clean, unmarked juvenile had snuck in while the count was going on. Later in the day, with media aboard, we saw another tagged manatee and a juvenile from yesterday. No Save the Manatee Club adoptees were in. At the start of the count there was only one bird in the run rather than dozens!
February 22, 2022:
The park staff counted eight manatees, and I thought that was good as I only needed my fingers to count. But I counted 15 manatees, so there is no rest for the weary. One group was by the river and hard to see from the boardwalk, and one group was under a tree and hard to see from the observation deck. Ten manatees were ID’d. There were no Save the Manatee Club adoptees present. The river temperature was 67.8° F (19.9° C).
February 21, 2022:
Although we had some overnight lows in the upper 40s and low 50s, the daytime high temperatures evened that out. Over the weekend, the park staff counted five manatees on Saturday and 11 on Sunday. This morning the river temperature was 66.2° F (19° C). The park staff counted 17 manatees, and I counted 13. Except for one, they were all located close to the river, so most likely they kept moving in and out while the park and I counted. No adoptees were seen today. Out of the 13 manatees I counted, two were cow/calf pairs — both mothers with their first calves. It is promising to see that all of our first-time moms this year are doing really well with their calves, and the calves are growing big already!
On another positive note, manatee calf “Tink Tink” we helped rescue in early December at Blue Spring is doing extremely well in rehabilitation at SeaWorld. She was orphaned and cold stressed, but she has been putting on weight and is eating like a champ. All her cold stress lesions have healed. She has a long way to go as she was rescued at just over 130 lbs and needs to weigh 600 lbs before she can be reintroduced into the wild, but she’s certainly on the right track!
February 18, 2022:
It warmed up significantly, and the river temperature was up to 65.3° F (18.5° C). We didn’t do a count yesterday, but the park staff counted 65 manatees. Today we only counted 23 manatees, and most of them were located close to the river. With the warming weather, they are eager to go out into the river to feed. No adoptees were sighted today.
February 16, 2022:
The river temperature was 61.7°F (16.5°C), but the air during the day was warming up. The park staff counted 252 manatees, and I counted 205. As I was paddling from transect 2 of the spring run into transect 3 (the run is divided into 19 transects), some of our regular buzzards were fighting with each other in the trees. It was quite the commotion until a big tree limb dropped from the trees into the water with a huge splash, scaring the manatees, who scattered. Luckily I was far enough away so the research canoe did not tip over, but the count after that was difficult as the water was completely stirred up by the activity. However, I did manage to see adoptees Doc, Lesley, Howie, and Nick. Lenny, Philip, and Merlin came in after the count was over.
After the count, we also assisted with the release of manatee “Plantaina.” Plantaina was rescued as a small orphan in 2018 and rehabilitated at the Miami Seaquarium. She was first released back into the wild last spring at Port Everglades in South Florida, but she had a hard time learning how to be a wild manatee. Plantaina was re-rescued by members of the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP) as she had visibly lost weight and was not adjusting to her new surroundings. She was rehabbed again at Miami Seaquarium and Disney’s Epcot The Living Seas. Today Plantaina was released at Blue Spring by FWC, Disney, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Volusia County, and state park staff to give her another chance. She is outfitted with a satellite tracking device so researchers from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute can monitor her movements to make sure she adapts to life in her new surroundings.
February 15, 2022:
The river temp was down almost two degrees to 62.6° F (17° C). Manatees were coming in during our entire count yesterday and continued to come in after the count. We more than quadrupled our count of 90 manatees yesterday to 383 today. The park count was close behind at 347 manatees. I’m sure more came in during and after their count and before we counted. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees present were Lily, Nick, Phyllis, Gator, Whiskers, Doc, and Merlin. Not having seen Lucille, we checked the north side of the spring mouth where Lucy likes to hang out just inside the run from the river before we put up the canoe. There she was! Later Moo Shoo and calf were found on the webcam. Now we are due for some warm weather, and the counts should decline.
February 14, 2022:
The river temp was 65° F (18° C) today, which seems a little high to me. The wind was out of the north and may have been pushing the warm spring water into the colder river water coming from the south. We counted 90 manatees. The park staff counted 53 manatees. The park count was over before we started at 8:00 a.m. The whole time we were on the run, more manatees were coming in. It was cold and due to get colder tonight. Tomorrow should be a day with plenty of manatees. Our only Save the Manatee Club sighting today was Lucille.
February 11, 2022:
The river stayed at 59° F (15° C), but quite a few manatees must have left to go feed as it warmed up during the day yesterday. The park did not do a count today due to too much fog over the water. I counted 308 manatees, including adoptees Whiskers, Howie, Paddy Doyle, Gator, Doc, Merlin, and Margarito! None of our female adoptees were in today. The park staff were working on removing some trees that were about to fall onto the aluminum platform, which seemed to interest the manatees nearby. After the count was over, a cormorant got spooked by the canoe and jumped from a low-hanging branch directly onto a manatee, causing the manatees to scatter, but everyone settled down again pretty quickly.
February 10, 2022:
The river temperature today was 59° F (15° C). At the start of the roll call, the air was 35° F. Steam from the run combined with the steam from the river meant we could not see across the river. The park staff postponed their count until the mist thinned. We found we could see in the vicinity of the canoe and went. We counted 428 manatees, and the park staff counted 541 manatees. I imagine the park count is the more realistic count. We saw Save the Manatee Club adoptees Paddy Doyle, Lucille, Philip, Margarito, Lesley, Lily, Una, Whiskers, Merlin, Doc, and Rocket. Moo Shoo and calf, Nick, and Howie were late unless the mist hide them from us on the way up. Not so many adoptees as yesterday, but with some we did not see yesterday, I call it successful.
February 9, 2022:
The river temp was 63° F (17° C), which seems a little high to me. Perhaps the run is still affecting it. The park staff did not count as the steam off the run was so thick. We counted 477 manatees, and it was a good count.
Normally, though it does not really matter, I give the Save the Manatee Club adoptees in the order seen. Today they are in the order I saw them and the order Cora remembered seeing them during an early morning interview with the Christian Science Monitor. We saw Aqua, Nick, Lily, Paddy Doyle, Floyd, Philip, Lenny, Annie, Lucille, Moo Shoo and calf, Lesley, Una, Phyllis, Gator, Rocket, and Whiskers. So many, it is hard to believe some were missing today. The wind gave us a bit of a problem today. Once when it blew us into a group of manatees, I guided the canoe on top of a fallen tree so none of the manatees could come up under us. There beside us was Una. We would not have seen her without the wind.
February 7, 2022:
The warm weather last week gave the manatees a bit of a break to go out and feed, and numbers in the spring dropped. It got a bit colder over the weekend, and that brought the manatee count up to 265 today! The adoptees seen were Annie, Phyllis, Lesley, Gator, Moo Shoo with calf and Nick. Lesley followed the canoe almost all the way up the spring run. It is amazing to see how well her boat strike wounds have healed. Philip came in after the count was over. Lily, Lucille and Lenny were seen on the webcam over the weekend.
February 4, 2022:
The river temp was up to 60.8° F (16° C). We counted 199 manatees, and the park staff counted 171. The wind was down at first, and we could get closer to the manatees. As a result we outcounted the park for the first time in a while. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees were Lucille, Annie, and Rocket. As I checked the pictures of the dead manatees from last year, I found a manatee with a forked right flipper and the left trimmed off in a concave crescent, and it was female. Even though the deceased manatee was found on the east coast, I was certain it was our Sirena. But we had webcam pictures of Sirena three days after the picture of the dead manatee. I was assured the pictures from the webcam were dated properly. Today, Sirena surfaced beside the canoe as Cora filmed. What a relief! Sirena has no ID scars on her back so she could have been coming in for some time this season. Now we can be certain.
February 3, 2022:
The river continued to go up. It was 57.7° F (14.5° C). Manatee numbers were down again. We counted 330 manatees, and the park staff counted 449 manatees. By the time we could really count, the wind had come up and counting and ID’s became difficult. We had a reporter from PBS in southeast Florida interviewing us and going out in the canoe. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees we found were Howie, Deep Dent, Paddy Doyle, Phyllis, Aqua, Nick, Gator, and Rocket. More warm weather and then rain.
February 2, 2022:
The river temp today was 57.2° F (14° C). Our count went down accordingly to 465 manatees and the park staff count to 516 manatees. We ID’d 182 manatees, and the Save the Manatee Club adoptees were Nick, Howie, Lesley, Paddy Doyle, Philip, Lily, Gator, Moo Shoo & calf, Doc, Merlin, Aqua, Rocket, and Lucille. The weather was beautiful, and the wind calm. The manatees were not stirring as much silt as previously, so we had a good count.
February 1, 2022:
The river temp was down to 53.6° F (12° C), but the air temperatures are rising, and the manatees seem to know this. We counted 536 manatees in a heavy mist and a good deal of murky water stirred up by active manatees. The park staff counted 580 manatees. But at least the wind was calm so we could ID quite a few. If the manatees had not been so jammed together near the river, we would have done even better. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees among the 191 manatees we ID’d were Lucille, Lenny, Howie, Margarito, Floyd, Annie, Lesley, Gator, Deep Dent, Rocket, Phillip, Nick, and Doc. The counts should go down some the next few days as it warms up.
January 31, 2022:
The river temp remained 55.4° F (13° C). The weather forecast was for calm wind shifting as the day went on. What I got was a more than 10 mph wind that pushed me up the run against the current with no effort by me. ID”s were almost impossible. I counted 392 manatees, and the park staff counted 543 manatees. I think I missed a few again. I only ID’d 18 manatees. Save the Manatee Club adoptee Gator was one. One of our wonderful volunteers saw Merlin, Lucille, and Lily. The only clear water was where there were no manatees to see and ID.
January 30, 2022:
The air temperature reached a low of 22° F (-5.5° C) overnight and the river temp was 55.4° F (13° C). The park staff counted 711 manatees. I finally started counting at 9 a.m. after fixing issues with the webcams (again). Counting from the canoe was tough due to many manatees stacked in the lower part of the spring, and then the wind started picking up. Only 462 made my count, so I think the park count was more accurate. The adoptees seen were Lily, Doc, Aqua, Merlin, Rocket, Philip, Deep Dent, Una, Margarito, Gator, Moo Shoo with calf and Phyllis. I suspect more were in the lower part of the spring run where I couldn’t see them.
January 28, 2022:
The river temp was a bust. Again, the wind out of the north pushed the water of the spring south against the river, so the river temp we got was useless. We counted 425 manatees in spite of the rain and wind that began an hour earlier than the forecast. We were half way through the roll call, so we got pretty wet before it was over. Save the Manatee Club adoptees present were Paddy Doyle, Whiskers, Moo Shoo and calf, Gator, Phyllis, Rocket, Lily, Lesley, Aqua, and Lucille. Two years ago, Isla Bella and her calf Kasper (not adoptees) came in. Isla Bella was still nursing Kasper the next year. Now Isla Bella is in a spring to our north and Kasper is hanging out with Moo Shoo and her calf. Kasper is two and does not need to nurse, but like many juveniles, he wants to. Kasper got a big white scar from a boat when he was one year old. We use it to locate and then ID Moo Shoo. Later, Annie and Floyd came in as Cora was trying to fix the webcam.
January 27, 2022:
Today we had a reporter from National Geographic with us on the morning roll call. The weather was threatening rain, and the wind was increasing, but we did well all things considered. The river was a chilly 55.4° F (13° C), but the air was a balmy 60° F. We counted 411 manatees including Save the Manatee Club adoptees Moo Shoo and calf, Una, Floyd, Nick, Deep Dent, Aqua, Merlin, and Gator during the roll call. Afterwards we saw Lily and Annie. Then Howie turned up on the webcam. Not bad for a day I would have canceled if not for Nat Geo.
January 26, 2022:
Reporters from the Village Sun were out at the park today to cover how we use technology, including our webcams, GoPros, and hydrophone for the research, so getting an exact count was secondary to that today. However, my count of 418 was fairly close to the park count of 453. During the afternoon we had to perform maintenance work on the above-water webcam – luckily it is fixed now and livestreaming again! Over the course of the day, many adoptees were seen: Una, Lily, Lucille, Doc, Merlin, Aqua, Lesley, Gator, Howie, Paddy Doyle, Phyllis, Nick, Annie, and Moo Shoo and her calf. Annie and Moo Shoo were extremely curious about the webcam work that was being dong and had to come check it out close-up. Brutus and Flash were spotted at another spring this week by fellow researchers.
January 25, 2022:
The river temperature this morning was 57.2° F (14° C), and 468 manatees were counted. However, the on and off rain and manatees stacked snout to snout in the lower part of the spring run made a count difficult. I tried to canoe on the sides of the spring run in order to not disturb the resting manatees. What I did not watch out for was the alligator, who must have had the same idea – sitting on the side of the run. He got spooked by the canoe, which in turn spooked the manatees. The park staff counted 649 manatees earlier from the boardwalk. However, the adoptees were well represented by Annie, Moo Shoo with calf, Whiskers, Phyllis, Lily, Nick, Howie, Merlin, Deep Dent, Gator, Aqua, Una and Paddy Doyle. Lucille and Lesley came in after the count was over. I identified many more manatees (non-adoptees) from the boardwalk while doing maintenance work on the webcam in the afternoon.
January 24, 2022:
When media accompany me, I consider it their day. Publicity for the manatees is good. So with The New York Times reporter with me, I was talking and answering questions and got a bit distracted from the roll call. I counted 445 manatees, and the park staff counted 725. I accepted the park counts of 663 and 664 last week, and with the 31-degree cold last night, I accept the 725. The river temp was 56.8° F (14° C). We saw Save the Manatee Club adoptees Nick and Whiskers. Only 50 manatees were ID’d. Mostly I made sure we did not get turned over!
January 22 – 23, 2022:
Saturday was the first day of the Blue Spring Manatee Festival. The rain and drizzle in the morning did not seem to bother the festival goers, but things died off in the afternoon as it got colder and the wind and gray skies continued. The river temp was 59.5° F (15.5° C). The park staff counted around 411 manatees, and I counted 370. I think I missed a few. Rain, high winds — normally I would not even have come to the park, but it is the festival. I got the river temp. It was windy. I went to the canoe, and it was windy. I walked up the run to the first overlook, and the wind was not getting down in the run. So I went and did fairly well. I saw Save the Manatee Club adoptees Nick, Philip, Deep Dent, Gator, Phyllis, and Moo Shoo and calf. Cora saw Rocket from the board walk. On Sunday, the wind was stronger than predicted and pushing the river and run to the south, so that the temperature was ridiculous, and I will not even give it. The run was murked up by the manatee movements, and the wind was coming down the run from north to south, so the water was rippled and making it hard to ID manatees, even if they were heavily scarred. Yesterday the wind was stronger, but blowing from west to east, so it went over the run above the trees. Still, I counted 612 manatees, and I do not think I missed many! Our Save the Manatee Club adoptees were Lily, Moo Shoo, Nick, Lucille, Doc, Floyd, Lesley, Phyllis, Whiskers, Merlin, Rocket, and Annie. The promised sun finally arrived in mid afternoon, and all who could moved out from behind the shaded displays to take advantage of it. More people today, and they seemed to be enjoying themselves.
January 20, 2022:
The river temp remained at 57.7° F (14.5° C). The park staff counted 507 manatees. The manatees were in the lower half of the run as they often are when they anticipate warming weather. We ID’d 149, among them were Save the Manatee Club adoptees Lily, Margarito, Nick, Gator, Rocket, Aqua, Phyllis, and Whiskers. Also among the ID’d, but late, were Doc and Lucille. I was saying we saw Lucille right here at this time two days ago when Cora got a odd look on her face. Looking over my shoulder, she could see Lucille’s tail coming out of the water behind my back. The Blue Spring Manatee Festival is this week end! Come and visit the Save the Manatee Club table at the park.
January 19, 2022:
The river temp was 57.7° F (14.5° C). We counted 577 manatees, many estimated through a mist rising from the run in the cold — very pretty but hard for vision. We also confined ourselves to one side of the run to keep from hitting a manatee and getting turned over, thus panicking the rest of the manatees. The same Florida Park Service ranger that counted yesterday waited until the mist burned off and, from the higher boardwalk, counted 664 — one more than the record set yesterday when he also did the count. I trust his counts. Another new record. We saw Save the Manatee Club adoptees Margarito, Una, Aqua, Gator, Phyllis, Annie, Merlin, Moo Shoo and calf, and Whiskers. That was during the roll call. Coming in late, we saw Philip and Nick, or maybe they were there all along. Even later on the webcam: Lucille, Lily, Floyd, and Paddy Doyle were spotted. Margarito we do not expect to see often, but Floyd has been unusually rare this season. I can only say again that in 40-some years I have never seen manatees packed bank to bank like this.
January 18, 2022:
The river temp reached 58° F (15° C), and the manatees packed in. We were unable to get a count due to a manatee release covered by the media and high winds. The park staff was able to count 663 manatees, and I would certainly say they were right! That is a new record for a morning count. We were able to see Save the Manatee Club adoptees Philip, Phyllis, Lesley, Una, Flash, Doc, Gator, Whiskers, Aqua, Deep Dent, Howie, and Lucille. A “belted” manatee (previously tagged) was also spotted leaving the run without the transmitter that should have been attached. We picked it up near the bank behind a log. If the tag catches on anything, it is designed to break, and it did. Last season a calf was rescued because juveniles were stealing milk from her mother, so she became too thin. SeaWorld Orlando has let us know that the calf, named MaryKate, is doing so well she has been transferred to the Columbus Zoo in Ohio to finish growing enough to be released back at Blue Spring. Sad news as I continue to review pictures of dead manatees for identification purposes. I found a young male named Alamo. He was canoe friendly without trying to push it or grab the gunwale. Alamo died in February 2019 of undetermined cause in Spring Garden Lake near De Leon Springs State Park.
January 17, 2022:
Thinking I might be able to beat the wind that was supposed to pick up significantly after 10 a.m., I decided to attempt a count. I got to the park and to my surprise, there was no wind! Of course it picked up in gusts as soon I launched the canoe, and after four transects of estimating manatees, I turned around and gave up. Deciding to do the count from the boardwalk didn’t turn out to be much better. However, the park, who counted earlier than me, counted 548 manatees. I counted at least 397, but I’ll go with the park count today. The river temperature was 16° C (60.8° F). The adoptees I was able to spot were Aqua, Moo Shoo with calf, Annie, Gator, and Phyllis. Most likely there were many more. Yesterday, Lucille, Lily, and Paddy Doyle were on the webcam. Due to the high winds, there were lots of leaves, tree limbs, and palm fronds that fallen into the water, so the manatees were checking those out all around the underwater camera until late into the evening yesterday. Lucille was one of the participants – it was a sight to see! Hoping for less wind for the rest of the week.
January 15, 2022:
It got cold overnight with low air temperatures in the 30s. The river was at 60.8° F (16° C) today and 512 manatees were counted. Park staff even counted 578 from the boardwalk! They may have had the better view looking from up above rather than circling around the manatees, making sure not to accidentally bump someone who was coming up for a breath of air. The adoptees in were Lesley, Una, Annie, Rocket, Philip, Paddy Doyle, Lily, Lucille, Gator, Deep Dent, Aqua, Moo Shoo with calf, Phyllis, Flash, Nick, and Whiskers! More could have been hiding in some big groups in the lower part of the run that were hard to see and ID.
January 14, 2022:
The river temperature dropped to 17° C (62.6° F), and I counted 391 manatees. The park staff even counted 417 from the boardwalk, and that may have been just as accurate. The manatees were huddled together and with the wind picking up, the count became increasingly difficult. The adoptees identified were Nick, Howie, Lucille, Deep Dent, Rocket, Philip, Phyllis, Moo Shoo with her calf, Whiskers, and Lesley! More may have been hiding in the big groups and gone unnoticed. All of the recently-released manatees — Gibbs, Matthew, and Pippen — were in the spring run today and seemed to be doing well and acclimating to their new environment!
January 13, 2022:
The river temp was 65.3° F (18.5° C), which was warmer than yesterday, but I guess manatees that were farther away from the spring are still coming in. We counted 310 in a quick count. That just means we did more counting than IDing so we would be finished by the time of the release. We saw Save the Manatee Club adoptees Flash, Howie, Una, Lenny, Moo Shoo & calf, Phyllis, and Rocket. Pippen and Mathew were the manatees released. Pippen, the larger releasee, was rescued as a orphan at Daytona Beach in July 2016. This will be his first real experience in the wild. Mathew was rescued as an orphan in October 2016 in New Smyrna. He was the smaller of the two. Mathew was released in March 2020 in Brevard County. He was re-rescued in an emaciated condition in September 2021. Brevard County is not a very good place to manatees right now, so Mathew was re-released at Blue Spring State Park. The release was a cooperative effort by FWC, SeaWorld, Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute, Volusia County, Florida Park Service, and Save the Manatee Club.
On a more somber note, I review the pictures of the dead manatees from the east coast of Florida every year. With COVID stopping face-to-face meetings. it took a while to organize the exchange of pictures. The first dead manatee I recognized was Cassandra, BS827. She was recovered in Lake Jessup south of the park in December 2019 — two weeks after we last sighted her. The cause of death could not be determined. Cassandra had two calves. The first we could not keep track of as it had no scars. The second, BS1018, born in 2016, we named Creek, and he is alive and well in the run as I type. Unfortunately, I have many more pictures to go through.
January 12, 2022:
The river temp was 66.4° F (18° C). We counted 246 manatees. We saw Save the Manatee Club adoptees Lucille, Flash, Annie, Moo Shoo & calf, Aqua, Phillip, Phyllis, and Rocket. The manatees were “wall to wall” across the run at the start, making it very hard to ID them without bumping one. I was surprised how many we ID’d and how few we had to just count without a name or number.
January 10, 2022:
The air temperature warmed up significantly, and the river was at 66.2° F (19° C). I counted 103 manatees, and the park staff counted 134. The park may have gotten the better count as the manatees were swimming around all over the place in the lower transects when I started counting. Either they were just eager to go out into the river or they were upset by the leaf blower that was being used in the background. As I was finishing the count, they had settled down and allowed me to ID some more individuals. The SMC adoptees in were Annie, Rocket, Flash, and Moo Shoo with her calf. Colder temperatures are predicted for mid/later this week again.
January 8 & 9:
The river temperature was 18° C (64.4° F) both days but the air warmed up significantly. There were 313 manatees in the spring run on Saturday and 269 on Sunday. The adoptees in on Saturday were Una, Annie, Aqua, Flash, Lily, Gator, Paddy Doyle, Howie, and Whiskers! On Sunday Annie, Gator, Lily, Aqua, Howie, Phyllis, Paddy Doyle, Flash, Moo Shoo with calf, and Nick showed up. No cormorant/heron interaction over the weekend, but when rangers and volunteers retrieved various items that visitors had accidentally dropped from the boardwalk, all the manatees rushed over to take a look at what was going on. It was a sight to see!
January 7, 2022:
The low was higher and the high was lower and as a result the river temp went down a degree to 66.2° F (19.5° C). We counted 226 manatees including Save the Manatee Club adoptees Lucille, Howie, Paddy Doyle, Lily, Annie, Aqua, Flash, Una, and Gator. Today two cormorants were fighting over a fish one of them had caught and the great blue heron jumped in as soon as it heard them. I think the great blue considers theft easier than catching its own. However, today one of the cormorants kept the fish.
January 6, 2022:
It got a tad cooler, the river was 67.1° F (19.5° C). However the number of manatees counted went down to 162. We saw Save the Manatee Club adoptees Lucille, Flash, Paddy Doyle, Lily, Howie, Una, Aqua, and Gator. As we launched the canoe, we also saw a cormorant dive and come up with a nice catfish, whereupon our resident great blue heron jumped her, took the fish, and swam back to the bank.
January 5, 2022:
The river temp was 68° F (20° C). We counted 180 manatees, and the Save the Manatee Club adoptees were Lucille, Howie, Paddy Doyle, Lily, Una, and even Brutus stopped in, although he missed the roll call. We are still getting totally new manatees in along with regulars we have been expecting. Looks like a semi-warm spell coming up, so we will see how that works out. Gibbs, our new release seems to be settling in very well!
January 4, 2022:
Much better day today. The river temp was 66.2° F (19° C). The wind was skipping over most of the run above the trees, so the surface of the run was smooth and clear. We counted 52 manatees, none of whom were Save the Manatee Club adoptees. With the count over, we were floating on the run, at the mouth of the river, waiting for Gibbs, a new release from SeaWorld, and we ID’d 15 more manatees. Gibbs arrived and was duly released. She was rescued near Welaka, Florida, with severe cold stress and weighed in at only 400 pounds. Gibbs was near death. She was intubated and given CPR all the way to SeaWorld. Her name comes from a Bee Gees song, “Stayin’ Alive.” Today she weighed 900 pounds. We all went home and at around 3:00 p.m. Cora saw the two L’s on the webcam Lily and Lucy (Lucille). So we had a couple of Save the Manatee Club adoptees after all! Once again SeaWorld, Clearwater Marine Research Institute, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Florida Park Service, Save the Manatee Club, and the University of Florida worked smoothly together for a good result.
January 3, 2022:
Weather forecast, 40% chance of rain, possible thunderstorms, wind 20 mph gusting up to 35 mph and all of three manatees counted yesterday. I think I will wait until tomorrow after a predicted low of 47° F and normal winds!
January 2, 2022:
The river temp was 69.8° F (21° C), and only three manatees were in the spring run. Again, no adoptees, but cooler temps over the next days may bring some more manatees in!
December 31, 2021 – January 1, 2022:
On Friday, the river temp was 68° F (20° C), and only 14 manatees were in. No adoptees, but when reviewing webcam footage from the past week, we noticed that adoptee Una might be pregnant! Also of note was manatee Buckeye chasing around Amelia and Irma — all three of them are manatees that were rescued as orphans and released at Blue Spring after successful rehabilitation. It’s good to see them all! On Saturday, there was no change in river temp, and only seven manatees made the New Year’s count. No adoptees on Saturday either. Maybe with some slightly cooler overnight temperatures a few more will come in next week. However, the park visitors were delighted by an alligator catching and eating a fish straight across from the second overlook.
December 30, 2021:
The river temp was 68.9° F (20.5° C), and we counted a surprising 42 manatees. All the manatees were in the lower sixth of the run. No Save the Manatee Club adoptees were present. It is supposed to cool off a little on Monday, so perhaps we will have a better luck next week! The bright side of the current weather is that the water is clearer, and there is no mob of manatees to cloud it up. We get a better look at the manatees that are here and better films. Another benefit is the manatees are out feeding and staying fatter and healthier.
December 29, 2021:
The river temp is back up to 68° F (20° C). Still, I counted 44 manatees. None were Save the Manatee Club adoptees unfortunately. It was a beautiful day to be on the water. I got to film a couple of new arrivals. We are up to at least 731 individual manatees seen this season, and 79 appear to be calves. Of those, 385 of the manatees were here last season.
December 27, 2021:
The river temp stayed at 65.3° F (18.5° C), but the manatee numbers dropped to 84. Again, most manatees were congregating down in the lower transects toward the river. No adoptees were spotted today, but there was a very cool find. Over the Christmas holidays we photographed a manatee with an old, healed scar pattern — someone we should recognize. Our co-researchers from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute were able to match him! His name is Glenn. He was rescued in 2016 near Jacksonville for slight cold stress and released later that year. According to tracking data, he spent the following winter at the power plant in Cape Canaveral, but this year he showed up at Blue Spring! This is a positive sign and shows some manatees from the Atlantic coast do know Blue Spring, or other springs along the St Johns River, that provide good habitat. Welcome to Blue Spring, Glenn! And Happy Birthday Wayne!
December 24 – 26, 2021:
On Friday, Christmas Eve, the river dropped down to 66.4° F (18° C). The park counted 195 manatees earlier, and Cora counted 277. Many were moving around in the lower part of the spring run stirring things up, so IDing them was at times difficult! The adoptees in were Moo Shoo with calf, Flash, Lucille, Lily, Nick, Paddy Doyle, Phyllis, and Una! On Christmas Day, the river stayed at 64.4°F (18°C) and 226 manatees were in! The adoptees present were Howie, Moo Shoo with calf, Annie, Philip, Doc, Lucille, Lily, and Flash. Una showed up after the count was over. Aqua and Gator were seen on the webcam on the 23rd and 24th respectively after the count was finished! On Monday, December 26th, the river temp was going back up. It was 65.3° F (18.5° C). The manatees are again abandoning the upper run to hang near the river and wait for the warm weather to let them graze In the river. We counted 181 today — all but 8 in the first 6th of the run from the river. None, to our amazement with so many in, were Save the Manatee Club adoptees. Error correction: Una was one of the adoptees in on the 23rd of December.
December 23, 2021:
The river temp was down to 66.2° F (19° C). We counted 110 manatees. This included Save the Manatee Club adoptees Lily, Lucille, and Moo Shoo with her calf. Yesterday I decided manatee U9/21 was BS1168, Belly. Belly got his name because he does an Amazonian manatee impression with a white scar or birth mark on his belly. Nearly all Amazonian manatees have white on their undersides. Today it was proved as we filmed Belly’s belly. We also managed to ID U95/21 as Macon, BS329. Macon was also in this summer without our knowing who she was.
December 22, 2021:
The park staff counted 17 manatees early, and I counted 41 and rising a short while later. A few manatees were coming down the run, but many more were going up. As I tried to do something clever with Lucille not being in, as she had the last two days, I paddled up on my two big L’s: Lily and Lucy (Lucille). Lily was doing a barrel roll in front of the big platform over the water, and the crowd of visitors watching her seemed pleased to know they were watching Lily. Lucille was just around a fallen tree near the river. The river temp was 67° F (19.5° C). Looks like the manatee business will be picking up for awhile.
December 21, 2021
I was hoping the weather would hold up as only a 50% chance of rain was predicted for 8:00 a.m. By the time I arrived at the park, the chance of rain had gone up to 100% ,and that’s exactly what happened as soon as I got on the water — a downpour. The park staff had counted three manatees, I counted eight. I could see silhouettes, but IDing was almost impossible. The rain let up for a few minutes as I was coming back down the run, letting me make out manatees Irma and Amelia before it started downpouring again, and I decided that was it. No adoptees today, but with the cold front coming in, we expect to see many more manatees toward the end of the week.
December 20, 2021:
The weather forecast yesterday was rain and wind. Today the rain had retreated, so I went out this morning. It looked like rain, but none came. The wind did, but it stayed on the river and did not come into the run. So I easily located Lucille, Irma, Amelia, and a juvenile just in the run at the edge of the dark river water. It was good to see Lucille as we had not had a Save the Manatee Club adoptee in for over a week because of the warm weather. Amelia and Irma were in captivity together and when first released, they were inseparable. They finally separated some time in the summer. Now that both are in for the winter they are back together again. The river temp was 73° F (23° C). The park staff counted zero manatees, but the four I saw were only visible to me when the canoe was almost on top of them.
December 17, 2021:
The sky was clear, the air was cool, and the run was like glass. I met one juvenile manatee that came to greet me a fifth of the way up the run. It was still there when I came down the run, so that was my count, one! The park staff counted three manatees. The river temp was 71° F (22° C). If a difference is ever noted between the Fahrenheit and Celsius temps, the correct one will be the Celsius — science is done in Celsius!
December 16, 2021:
The river again stayed at 21° C (69.8° F). The park staff didn’t see any manatees from the boardwalk when they counted, and I saw only six. That makes sense as at least four of them came into the spring right as I was starting the count. All of them were congregated near the buoy line by the river on the far side of the run, making it difficult to detect them from the boardwalk. No adoptees were among them. Yesterday I filmed a large manatee that I at first thought was “Lark” (a non-adoptee). Upon further consideration, I decided the scars on the tail matched “Beth” (also a non-adoptee). The water was very calm and clear, so it was easy to get good photos/video of the whole animal and a series of healed, grey scars were visible in the video. Wayne and I put our heads together, and compared pictures and video from many previous seasons and finally determined — Beth and Lark are one and the same manatee! We have many pictures showing only one side of the animal or pictures taken in murky water, under sunny conditions, or in a large aggregation. So that was a good find for the research! In addition, we re-identified Beth’s calf from last year. It has by now been weaned, but two little distinct tail notches make it identifiable, so maybe we will be able to keep track of it. For now it is U124/21 (Unknown #124 of the 2021-22 season)
December 15, 2021:
The river stayed at 21° C (69.8° F), and I counted 15 manatees. The park staff counted 15 too — always good when we match! No adoptees were seen today. A number of manatees were once again cavorting near the buoy line separating the spring run from the river. As I started the count, some decided to “greet” me and continue the cavorting under the canoe, which led to the canoe almost tipping over. I decided to not spend any more time near the group and paddled further up the run, leaving them to their activities.
December 14, 2021:
The river temperature was 21° C (69.8° F), and the park staff counted nine manatees. I counted 19, but this was probably due to a large cavorting group right by the buoy line. They may have been in the river when the park counted and in the spring run when I did the count. When I finished the count, they were back out in the river!
No SMC adoptees were seen today. The only rather exciting thing to see was a large alligator far up the spring run, where I did not expect him. It is nice to see the mothers with calves who we, and our dedicated manatee observer volunteers, watched over the summer. Manatee “Moore” and “Corinn” (both non-adoptees) are first-time moms. They had calves over the past summer, and both calves look great and are growing fast!
December 13, 2021:
A beautiful day to count lots of manatees, but there were not lots of manatees. The river temp was 70.3° F (21.5° C). The park staff counted nine, and I counted seven. This was expected, and there may be less as the week goes on because of the warm weather. No Save the Manatee Club adoptees were in nor was there any other news of note.
December 10, 2021:
The river temperature remained at 68° F (20° C). The park staff counted 22 manatees, and I counted 35. Most were near the river, going in and out, so it’s very possible there were 22 at 7:30 a.m. and 35 at 8:30 a.m. After the count was over, I saw two additional mom/calf pairs. No SMC adoptees were present today. The water was very nice, clear and calm, so I took the opportunity to closely film some juvenile manatees that just had some very small, healed gray scars. Those are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to see when hundreds of manatees are in the run and stir up the water. Maybe we will be able to match them to some known animals from previous seasons! It always amazes us how some rather superficial scars stay and turn very white making the manatees identifiable for life whereas very severe deep cuts completely heal and barely leave anything visible to allow re-identification!
December 9, 2021:
We counted 29 manatees, and there were no Save the Manatee Club adoptees. The river remains at 68° F (20° C). We do not expect many manatees for the next week and a half because of the warm weather.
December 8, 2021:
Not much to report today. The river temp was 68° F (20° C). We counted 55 manatees. None were Save the Manatee Club adoptees. We are keeping an eye on Mandy. She was rescued in a malnourished state last season, and now she is starting to look thin again
December 7, 2021:
I expected around 60 manatees,and I counted 53. The river temp was 68° F (20° C). Sixty-eight degrees is the temp that starts the manatees coming in for the season, so really 53 manatees is pretty good! Rocket was again the sole Save the Manatee Club adoptee in the run. The orphan that was rescued the other day weighed 120 pounds. Not enough for a manatee even at her young age. She is showing some good sign,s so all are keeping their fingers crossed.
December 6, 2021:
The river temp has gone up to 64.4° F (18° C). We counted 133 manatees, and the sole Save the Manatee Club adoptee in was Rocket. Because of the expected warm temperatures, there should be even fewer manatees in the next few days.
December 3, 2021:
The river temperature on Friday was at 62.6° F (17° C). Cora counted 256 manatees, and the park counted 278, so it was pretty close. The adoptees in on Friday were Merlin, Aqua, Annie, and Rocket for roll call, and Howie showed up after the count was finished. Just like yesterday, most manatees were congregated near the river ready to go out with the warming weather to feed. The manatee we assisted releasing on Tuesday, Lawrence, has yet to make it in for roll call! But our partners from Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute who are monitoring Lawrence are telling us that he is coming in, which is good! He made a brief appearance yesterday before we assisted with the orphan calf rescue. Maybe he just doesn’t like to be counted for roll call!
December 2, 2021:
The river temp was 64.4° F (18° C). The river was warming and the manatee count was going down. We counted 239 manatees, and the park staff counted 241. Love it when it works out that way! The manatees, as I have noticed before, seem to have fine internal barometers that tell them of the changing weather. When it warms after a cold spell, they congregate near the river ready to go out and feed. Yesterday they were almost all in the bottom third of the run, and today they were in the bottom fifth. After one day of calm clear water on November 30th, we have gone back to the manatees swimming around stirring up the clay and silt! In a joint effort today with FWC, Save the Manatee Club, and Volusia County, an orphaned calf was rescued. When the FWC rescue boat arrived, the wind was up and it was hard to find and track the little calf. Cora suggested she go to the far bank and try to locate it. I canoed her over and I got out of the way. The calf appeared to be bothered by the canoe and would move away so that we would lose it in the rippled water. Cora was able to locate it and the FWC boat came up the run and dip netted the little lady. She was definitely underweight and with cold stress or some other skin condition. We will know more as her treatment progresses at SeaWorld. Save the Manatee Club adoptees Merlin, Howie, Lucille, Rocket, Annie, and Aqua were seen today.
December 1, 2021:
The river temp today was 62.6° F (17° C). It may have been raised a degree or two by the spring water moving south. We counted 440 manatees including Save the Manatee Club adoptees Paddy Doyle, Howie, Lucille, Philip, Phyllis, Una, Aqua, Lily, Flash, Gator, Nick, Annie, Lenny, Merlin, Doc, Whiskers, and Rocket. Yesterday Cora stayed all day at the park for Giving Tuesday. She added Lucille, Deep Dent, Phyllis, Philip, and Howie to the three adoptees I saw while waiting for manatee Lawrence’s release. At the end or the roll call we got to watch a great blue heron chase a cormorant all around the canoe basin trying to steal a nice catfish the cormorant had in its bill. The cormorant finally got to eat its catch.
November 30, 2021:
The river temp was 61° F (16° C). The wind and manatees were calm, but Cora had an interview with CBS News in the canoe, and then Lawrence the manatee came down from Jacksonville Zoo to be released. We had no real opportunity for a manatee count, but the park staff counted over 300 manatees. We saw Save the Manatee Club adoptees Phyllis, Gator, and Merlin. Merlin was trailing a long piece of something on the webcam the other day, and it was good to see it was gone. Our second “floater” has off gassed and is fine now. I should have mentioned that earlier. We have seen 603 manatees so far this season. There are 345 recognized from last season, 6 from earlier seasons, 88 “easy to recognize unknowns” (meaning they are badly scarred), 95 “hard to recognize seasonals” (lightly scarred), and 69 calves. There are many more manatees to be seen as the season continues! It will be a little warmer for a couple of days — but not enough to cause all the manatees to depart — then more cold weather is due.
November 29, 2021:
The Save the Manatee Club adoptees seen during the count today were Philip, Annie, Lily, Flash, Phyllis, Whiskers, and Rocket. We were about to beach the canoe when we found Lucille. The river temp was 62.6° F (17° C). It has been my observation that 68° F to 63° F river temps get the manatees in mostly for comfort, while water temps below 63° F can be life threatening to them. Of course the smaller manatees and calves would likely be susceptible earlier. We counted 386 manatees from the canoe while the park staff counted 474 manatees from the boardwalk. This is one of the times when counting from higher up on the bank gives an advantage. With the stirred up clay and silt, we often had to look at the current patterns created by the manatees on the surface and estimate how many were down there in the murk!
November 27, 2021:
The river was at barely 66.2° F (17° C), and I counted 335 manatees, but I think I severely undercounted. Some transects were very stirred up again, making it extremely difficult to see the manatees. The last thing you want to do is paddle over them without them realizing you are there and spook them! The park staff counted 431 manatees from the boardwalk, 48 of them at the spring head alone. When I got to the springhead, only one manatee was left there. Adoptee Deep Dent made his first season visit today, so all Blue Spring adoptees are accounted for! The other adoptees in today were Aqua, Flash, Annie, Floyd, Brutus, Lucille, Moo Shoo with calf, Philip, Gator, Margarito, and Doc. Nick, Paddy Doyle, Lily, and Una showed up after the count was finished. We are still seeing new arrivals each day.
November 25 – 26, 2021:
On Thursday, the river temperature had dropped to 62.6° F (17° C), and the manatees were certainly piling in for Thanksgiving! Cora counted 391 manatees and park staff even counted 414! With it being so early in the season, the manatees were very active and had once again stirred up a lot of clay, both in the lower half of the spring run and in the upper part where they were cavorting and swimming back and forth, so getting an exact count was very difficult. Two mom/calf pairs with an entourage of followers kept going up and down the run multiple times to make sure they got counted! There were lots of new arrivals, and Cora was able to get photos of manatees we hadn’t seen yet this season. Adoptee Lenny made his first season visit today! The other adoptees seen were Paddy Doyle, Floyd, Moo Shoo with calf, Gator, Aqua, Lucille, Lily, Rocket, Doc, Philip, Phyllis, Margarito, and Lesley! Many more may have been hiding in the murky waters. On Friday, the river temp was 65.2° F (18.5° C). We counted 346 manatees. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees in were Howie, Philip, Lily, Floyd, Brutus, Paddy Doyle, Annie, Rocket, Gator, Doc, Whiskers, Moo Shoo and calf, Aqua, Flash, and Una. It was quite a good showing and with Whiskers in, and the only adoptee we lack is Deep Dent. Next week is predicted to have a lot of temps in the forties so we expect to be busy!
November 24, 2021:
The river temp was down to 64.4° F (18° C). The manatees responded appropriately. We counted 329 manatees, so we are obviously past the total seen I reported recently of 304. Maybe I can work on that this weekend. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees responded as well. We saw Annie, Paddy Doyle (very dirty), Lucille, Lily, Flash, Moo Shoo and calf, Una, Floyd, Gator, Doc, and, late for roll call but welcome all the same, Rocket and Merlin! All we need for a full set is Deep Dent, Lenny, and Whiskers! Many others were in that we were glad to see. Millie, an adoptee from the east coast of Florida was in, also big Donna. Donna came in just before season last season and wasn’t seen again until today. With the problems on the east coast and some of the research curtailed by Covid, we were more than worried about her. Many Blue Spring manatees do frequent the east coast from time to time. The last two days, the area in front of the above-water web cam has been “Black Vulture City.” There may have been as many as 50 of them mostly on the ground and a few in nearby trees. It could have been due to an eagle using one of their favorite trees
November 23, 2021:
The river temp was 66.2 ° F (19° C). We counted 74 manatees. It would have been 73, but we found one more hidden under a log at the boil. Lucille and Gator were the only Save the Manatee Club adoptees in. ID’s were very difficult with the winds up to 20 mph. Yesterday it was rain, and today it was wind. With both we would not go out, but with it so early in the season and so much to observe every roll call, we push to get out on the run even when it is difficult.
November 22, 2021:
Before the rains came, I was able to ID Lucille. I doubt there were any other Save the Manatee Club adoptees present. There were at least 40 other manatees. The river temp was 70° F (21° C). I ID’d 12 out of the 40 manatees present. Normally we ID at least half or more. Cold the next two nights. Should get better!
November 19, 2021:
I ran out of time yesterday, so I am doing yesterday’s blog today! The river temp was 66.2° F (19° C). I think the previous three days were affected by the warm spring water. We saw 84 manatees, including Save the Manatee Club adoptees Lily, Gator, and Annie. Annie’s calf was born early in the spring of the year, and we believe Annie decided to wean it early. We have not seen Annie with a calf for some time. We are watching another high floating manatee. It was not floating earlier, and we hope it resolves on its own. Cold weather coming Monday night.
November 18, 2021:
The river temp is still 68° F (20° C). We counted 155 manatees. Save the Manatee Club adoptees Paddy Doyle, Flash, Howie, Annie, and Lily were in. The warmer days are telling. Manatees breathing warm air are not as concerned with the cold water.
November 17, 2021:
Today the thermometer read 68° F (20° C). We counted 186 manatees. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees were Lucille, Howie, Paddy Doyle, Gator, and Annie. It so rewarding to see individual manatees return even if they are not adoptees.
November 16, 2021:
The river temp did not seem to agree with what was happening, but for what it was worth, it was 68° F (20° ). There were more manatees, and the dark, heavy, cold river-water intrusion was farther, so the river should have been colder. We counted 163 manatees. Flash, Nick, and Lesley made their first visits for the season to join Lucille, Annie, and Gator. A total of 29 manatees made their first appearance of the season today. That impressed me! Good news — our floater was resting calmly on the bottom of the run!
November 15, 2021:
The river was 66° F (19° C) today and the manatees are coming back. We counted 96 manatees, and the adoptees were Gator, Annie and calf, and Lucille. We have two manatees we are concerned about. One is swimming funny, and we are keeping an eye on it. We have only seen it on the webcam. The other was in today for the roll call. He was a floater. Floating high and submerging with difficulty. This is usually just gas and resolves itself over night, so we will be watching tomorrow to see how he is doing.
November 14, 2021:
The river temperature was 68.9°F (20.5°C). Cora was out at the park and counted 52 manatees. None of them were Save the Manatee Club adoptees. Wayne viewed the webcam where he saw 14 manatees sleeping in water, but the images were very disturbed by the wind so he made no ID’s. Yesterday he was on late and saw four juveniles sleeping or “stooging” around. He also did some numbers work: we have seen 304 individual manatees this week. At least 172 of them were returns from last year, and 42 are calves. Not bad for the first week of the season! The Save the Manatee Club webcams — above and underwater — are back up again now and livestreaming. Besides being a fun, entertaining tool for the general public, they also provide us with important data for the research, such as taking additional photos for scar-ID and getting footage of manatees we may be concerned about. It is getting cooler again, so we are expecting more manatees over the next few days.
November 12, 2021:
As expected the river temp has risen. It was 69.8°F (21°C). The manatee numbers were down to 79, and only Gator showed up to represent the Save the Manatee Club adoptees. We expect a big increase next week as low temperatures will be in the 40s for two or three days. Even though the predicted lows have gone up, they are still to be in the 40s for now. For those new to the Club, Cora and I participate in a life history study of the manatees at Blue Spring. The heart of the study is to re-recognize the individual manatees as they come in each season. This is done by keeping track of the manatee’s boat scars with photographs and drawings. Scar patterns heal, and new ones are suffered so even the well-documented manatees have to be frequently re-photographed. My favorite non-adoptee named Cleburne already suffered a severe strike in the past along with many small ones. Now he is back with a third of his tail missing on the left side. Boaters take care!
November 11, 2021:
Manatee numbers showed the drop in the river temp to 68°F (20°C). We only counted 124 manatees. We saw no new Save the Manatee Club adoptees, but we did see Philip, Gator, Una, and Lucille. There should be another drop in manatee numbers tomorrow, but after the weekend things may be crazy with lows in the 40s!
November 10, 2021:
In spite of the temp coming up to 65.3°F (18°C), the number of manatees we counted increased to 213. The manatees are still very active — stirring the silt and clay up into the water to make viewing and filming very difficult. We saw Save the Manatee Club adoptees Margarito, Gator, Philip, Una, and Lily. This was the first day in for Margarito, Philip, and Una.
November 9, 2021:
The river temp dropped almost another two degrees to 64.4°F (18°C). Manatees continue to come in and are very active! We counted 203 manatees for roll call. Our Save the Manatee Club adoptees were: Paddy Doyle, Lily, Brutus, Gator, Annie and calf, Moo Shoo and calf, Aqua, and Phyllis. We have seen 11 adoptees now. The season before last, a non-adoptable manatee named China (BS797) was terribly cut by a boat propeller just before the manatees left for the season. Last season she did not come in, and we feared the worst. Covid meant less information was available on dead manatees, which increased our uncertainty about China. China was in today looking very well and she had a calf! We also had another long time “no-see” manatee named Linden come in for the first time since January 2017. This is a fun time for research!
November 8, 2021:
The river temp was down almost two degrees from yesterday to 66.2°F (19°C). The manatees responded accordingly. We counted 105 for the official count while still dealing with the clay clouds the manatees were stirring up. Manatees were trooping in and out the entire time we were on the water. Forty-four more manatees were ID’d after the count, and others that could not be ID’d came in as well. Many calves and juveniles were in as they are the most susceptible to cold. Seven adoptees were in: Lucille, Annie and calf, Gator, Lily, Phyllis, Howie, and Moo Shoo and calf. Not bad for the second day of the season! Now the weather warms and many will leave, but tomorrow should still be very good.
November 7, 2021:
The river temp was 67.9°F (19.9°C) today. The wind was awful so the count could only be made from the boardwalk. I counted 52 manatees, but there must have been over 60 if I could have seen all the manatees in the clouds of clay they were stirring up! Many cows and calves were seen plus Gator and Lily! The park staff has been busy, so I was unable to get an idea of the numbers of manatees in the past few days. I think this is the day the manatee season starts even if the coming warm temperatures cause most to leave! I’m looking forward to tomorrow even if the wind keeps up.
November 1, 2021:
Cora, our Manatee Research Associate, is seeing manatees in and out lately on the webcam, but not enough or consistently to start the season. During October we saw Annie and calf, Nick, and Lucille. Today we saw several mothers and calves including Annie. Many non-adoptees have been coming in, but they do not stay long.
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 2020 – 2021 Manatee Season