Manatee Reports from Blue Spring State Park

Manatee researchers at Blue Spring State Park.
Wayne Hartley, Manatee Specialist, and Cora Berchem, Director of Multimedia & Manatee Research Associate, take “manatee roll call” in the winter at Blue Spring State Park.

by Wayne Hartley, Manatee Specialist, and Cora Berchem, Director of Multimedia & Manatee Research Associate

Thursday, 2 February 2023
The river temperature was up another degree to 70.7°F (21.5°C), so almost the same as the spring. The park staff counted 2 manatees, I saw none. Even on the way back down and on the webcam I couldn’t detect any manatees. They must have sneaked out before I got there. Sometimes we look for “flipper drags” on the bottom of the spring run which would be an indication that some manatees were there as they “dragged” their flippers through the sand. I thought I saw some in the upper part of the run, but it could have also been from an alligator or from yesterday. Still a beautiful day at the spring, just without manatees. ~Cora

Wednesday, 1 February 2023
The river temp was 68.9°F (20.5°C). The Park counted six manatees around 7–7:30 a.m. I counted zero manatees at 8 a.m. At 8:45 a.m. with the count over I saw five that had come in while I was paddling the run. I found it interesting that three of the five were manatees that had been rescued, rehabbed and then released at Blue Spring. It is February and the season usually ends in March, but I feel like I am still waiting for the season to really get underway. Too many warm days. Boaters take note: the manatees are in the waterways and not in their refuges.  -Wayne

Tuesday, 31 January 2023
How the mighty are fallen. Two days ago Cora and I counted 392 manatees and today we counted 29 manatees! The river temperature was 66.2°F (19°C). the air temperature was in the 80s the last two days so the manatees are in the river grazing for the most part. Looking ahead we will be counting even fewer unless the cold returns. No Save the Manatee Club adoptees were present. Sunday with the count over I let the canoe drift as I checked my notes. The canoe drifted to the west bank instead of the east as I expected so I decided I better see where I was going. I was going to greet the very large very obese alligator on his favorite fallen tree. I decided to paddle rather than drift.  -Wayne

Monday, 30 January 2023
It warmed up quite a bit, so it wasn’t surprising that the manatee count dropped significantly. The river temperature was 65.3°F (18.5°C). The park staff counted 120 manatees and I counted 97. However, I had a crew from the BBC with me today filming the manatees, so getting an accurate count and identifications was secondary today. I was still happy with the 97 I came up with. The only adoptee in today was Flash, which surprised me as we don’t see him that often! The first manatee we encountered with the BBC was “Dagney” (not an adoptee). She is a juvenile and extremely curious about the research canoe, which looks cute but can get a little “annoying” when she positions herself right under the canoe and we can not move. We need to stay away from the manatees and of course don’t touch them or lure them to our canoe. That rule does not apply vice versa! The BBC was thrilled to have a manatee that close to film it! A little further up the run we encountered an alligator, that made the BBC folks happy too. It got even better when manatee Dagney decided to leave the research canoe alone for a little while and pose with the alligator! We always tell reporters or film crews that seeing a manatee and alligator close together to film is rare and should not be expected. Well, the crew today got it all!

As an addition to yesterday’s update—adoptee Phyllis came in at 5 p.m. after the Manatee Festival was over and most other manatees had left the spring run! ~Cora

Sunday, 29 January 2023
The river temp was 62.6°F (17°C). The Park counted 452 manatees and I counted 392 after a big manatee rush to the river. By the time I finished counting, I felt at least half the manatee I saw had also left as the air temp approached 80°F (26.7°C). We noted the following Save the Manatee Club adoptees; Floyd, Annie, Lily, Nick, Margarito, Paddy Doyle, Moo Shoo and Gator. The second day of the festival seemed slower than the first. Folks at our booth liked it as the smaller numbers meant a greater chance to talk to people and as a result get more adoptions! -Wayne

Saturday, 28 January 2023
The first day of the Blue Spring Manatee Festival and the river temp was 64.4°F (18°C) again. The Park counted 397 manatees and I counted 485 manatees present for duty, more were coming in! There seemed to be more exhibitors than the last festival and that is a good thing. There seemed to be plenty of them at Valentine Park as well. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees were Doc, Paddy Doyle, Margarito, Annie, Lily, Aqua & calf, Una & calf and Moo Shoo. Most of the day was cloudy and cool, if not cold, so with a low temperature of 57°F (13.9°C) predicted overnight plenty of manatees should greet me in the morning. However, the high predicted tomorrow is 80°F (26.7°C) with lots of sun. Manatees should be leaving through the day. After that it appears that temperatures will be bouncing up and down daily and manatee attendance will vary accordingly. -Wayne

Friday, 27 January 2023
The air temps dropped quite significantly over night, but the river was still at 65.3°F (18.5°C). The park counted 186 manatees from the boardwalk and I counted 159 manatees from the research canoe, but many more came in after the official count was over. I had expected more manatees to be up the run with the cooler temps, but they were mostly congregated in the lower transects by the river. The adoptees seen were Annie, Lily, Flash, Millie and Paddy Doyle. Una with her calf came in after the count was over. ~Cora

Thursday, 26 January 2023
After six days the river temp finally moved off of 64.4°F (18°C). It is now 66.2°F (19°C) but dropping. The Park counted 30 manatees from the boardwalk. We counted 79 from the canoe. Manatees were coming in during and after the count. They know it is getting colder! No Save the Manatee Club adoptees were seen today but I am sure several will be in tomorrow.

Wednesday, 25 January 2023
The river temp is still 64.4°F (18°C). I counted 186 manatees and the Park counted 194 manatees. That is very close. I saw Save the Manatee Club adoptees Deep Dent, Doc and Paddy Doyle. Not many! The predicted high temp today is 85°F (29.4°C). The wind I faced today indicates a change in the weather. Tomorrow the high temp should be 66°F and the low after that is said to be 41°F. Friday’s temps should be much the same and should provide a nice group of manatees for the Manatee Festival this weekend! -Wayne

Tuesday, 24 January 2023
For the fifth day in a row the river temp was 64.4°F (18°C). Maybe the thermometers are broken. We counted 214 manatees and the Park counted 189. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees present were Lily, Paddy Doyle, Phyllis, Moo Shoo, Margarito, Una & calf, Lenny, Annie and Flash. Lenny, Annie and Flash were late to the party, but we were still there to see them as an attempt to rescue an injured manatee was under way. The manatee in question was not aware we were trying to help and avoided his rescue. We will try again. Another manatee had his tag removed by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute. It was well done. They did not feel he needed to be watched any longer.  ~Wayne & Cora

Monday, 23 January 2023
SMC did not do a count on Sunday, but the park staff counted a surprising 278 manateesmost likely because it never really warmed up on Saturday. Adoptees Lily, Lenny, Moo Shoo, Phyllis, Deep Dent and Paddy Doyle were seen on the webcam.

It warmed up significantly during the day on Sunday, so this morning the river temperature was still at 64.4°F (18°C), but the manatee count dropped to 88. Winds up to 25mph were forecasted, but luckily it was glassy smooth and calm between 8 – 9 a.m. with strong winds picking up at 9:15 after I just remarked to park staff that the wind predictions had been wrong! The only adoptees seen during the count today were Moo Shoo and Paddy Doyle. Lily made an appearance on the webcam in the afternoon.  ~Cora

Saturday, 21 January 2023
The river stayed at 64.4°F (18°C) but the manatee count dropped to 164. Most manatees were congregating in the lower and middle part of the run today and many came in after the official count was already over. The only adoptee seen today during the count today was Moo Shoo, but after the count was over Paddy Doyle swam up the run. A little bit later Philip and Phyllis made an appearance on the webcam!  ~Cora

Friday, 20 January 2023
The river temp remained at 64.4°F (18°C). We counted 231 manatees and the Park counted 238 manatees. Again there were very few manatees in the upper two thirds of the run. We saw Save the Manatee Club adoptees Moo Shoo, Paddy Doyle and Deep Dent. We look to the counts getting lower as the week goes on. Hopefully things will cool down as predicted for the Manatee Festival.  -Wayne & Cora

Thursday, 19 January 2023
The river temp jumped up to 64.4°F (18°C) from 58.1°F over night. The Park counted 399 and we counted 349. Most of the manatees were in the lower third of the run. They were crowded together and hard to count from the canoe. The manatees were very antsy and moving all over the place. Only two manatees were in the upper two thirds of the run. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees present were Deep Dent, Howie, Philip, Paddy Doyle, Doc, Gator and Aqua & calf. Lily did not make roll call but she was seen at 07:30 a.m. before the count. -Wayne

Wednesday, 18 January 2023
The river was cold with a temp of 58.1°F (14.5°C). The Park counted 592 manatees and told Cora the manatees were leaving the run in groups. I would say so. Our count was 527 manatees and they were still leaving. The river may be cold but the manatees know warmer days are on the way in the next week. If the manatees can breathe 75°F to 85°F air they tend to ignore the cold water. Our Save the Manatee Club adoptees were Nick, Howie, Paddy Doyle, Philip, Lesley, Una & calf, Gator, Lily, Rocket, Moo Shoo, Deep Dent, Whiskers and Aqua. -Wayne

Tuesday, 17 January 2023
The river was down to 55.4°F (13°C). The Park counted a record 729 manatees. Ours was not so high. Our Save the Manatee Club adoptees were Lily, Howie, Paddy Doyle, Philip, Doc, Lesley, Gator, Phyllis, Moo Shoo, Deep Dent, Whiskers and Aqua & calf. -Wayne

Monday, 16 January 2023
The river temp was 69°F (15°C) and the surface of the run was white with mist. We almost needed to wait for it to clear some before we could launch the canoe. We counted 646 manatees and the Park counted 642! Our Save the Manatee Club adoptees were Howie, Margarito, Lily, Doc, Gator, Phyllis, Una & calf, Deep Dent, Whiskers, Lesley, Moo Shoo and Aqua & calf. We may have seen Philip but could not get close enough to be sure. The count was longer than usual due to the mist. We had to be very careful to avoid bumping into a manatee. We only recently saw alligators again during the roll call. Today Cora pointed out the new heavy-weight alligator to me. I am not sure of its size but I believe it is the largest alligator I have ever seen in the run! -Wayne

Sunday, 15 January 2023
It was a very cold morning and the spring run was packed with manatees. The St. Johns River was 58.1°F (14.5°C) and the park staff counted 625 manatees from the boardwalk. SMC counted 491 from the research canoe, but the park was probably closer. It was difficult to see all the manatees who were resting on top and next to each other. Lots and lots of adoptees today! Phyllis, Nick, Floyd, Paddy Doyle, Una with calf, Aqua with calf, Lily, Doc, Gator, Rocket and Whiskers made the count.
After the count was finished Howie, Annie, Millie, Lesley and Margarito showed up. It’s likely that more adoptees were tucked away in the big crowds of manatees in the lower spring run.

Many people ask us about adoptee Lucille. She is the only one we have not seen yet this season, but our research team keeps an eye out for her. Some manatees skip a season and winter elsewhere, which is not uncommon although Lucille has never done this. We are continuing to look for her! ~Cora

Friday, 13 January 2023
The day started out with some pretty heavy rain, but it let up around 8:30 a.m. allowing for a quick count before it started raining again mid-way through.

The river temperature was 65.3°F (18.5°C) and 203 manatees were counted. IDing was difficult especially since my main focus today was to keep an eye out for an injured manatee in need of rescue. The SMC adoptees seen today were Floyd, Moo Shoo, Una with calf, and Lily. More manatees kept coming in as the day went along with temperatures dropping and the wind chill increasing. Along with many of our Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP) partners, we attempted to rescue the injured manatee. Unfortunately he escaped the rescue attempts, so we will continue to monitor him. We want to thank everyone who mobilized out to the park to try, we had partners from at least 7 different organizations. ~Cora

Thursday, 12 January 2023
I am home sick so I have no fresh news, but I have been catching up on past data. Last winter season Blue Spring manatees received 80 boat strikes shared by 76 manatees. Some manatees are hit more than once during the season so the total manatees hit was 76. This is not good but it is better than the 102 hits the season before. A twenty-boat-hit drop seems a lot but two years ago the number of hits jumped from 64 to 109 so I guess it can go down fast as well. This season started well with few boat strikes as the flooding from the storms kept boating to a minimum, but strikes are picking up now. If you boat, wear polarized glasses, stay in the middle of the waterway as much as possible (manatees spend more time near the vegetated banks), obey the posted speeds and watch for manatee footprints. Manatee footprints are eddies on the surface that are made by the movement of the manatee’s tail. Fish make them as well but fish eddies are random while manatee eddies are in a line.

So far this season we have seen 688 individual manatees at Blue Spring. 437 returned from last season, five from past seasons, 163 we have not identified and 83 calves. If that holds it will be a record number of calves. Keeping track of manatee calves at Blue Spring is very like herding cats. Manatee mothers feel safe at the spring and let their calves swim at will all over.

Perhaps Cora will have more to add later.   -Wayne

I do not have much to add as I was not able to do a count at Blue Spring this morning due to other work commitments. I did swing by the park in the afternoon to work on the webcam and get eyes on a manatee we monitor. The park staff had counted 256 manatees this morning and some were still in the spring run. However, the water was ripply due to the wind and the sun was at an angle that made any identification impossible. However I did manage to see adoptees Rocket and Millie! Rocket surprised me as he was in the lower part of the run on the opposite side of everyone else. I did not expect him there!  ~Cora

Wednesday, 11 January 2023
The river temperature was 61.7°F (16.5°C) today and a lot of manatees were huddled together in the lower part of the spring run, making it very difficult to count especially with the steam coming off the water and an air temperature of just 38F. Sometimes it is surprising how many manatees huddle together in one transect rather than using the entire spring run where there is so much room! The park staff counted 300 manatees from the boardwalk and I counted 256 from the canoe, but I’m certain I undercounted as I had to make a lot of estimates today.

The adoptees identified today were Floyd, Moo Shoo, Nick, Millie and Gator. There is a very good chance that more were in the midst of the big huddle by the river and we were unable to see them.  ~Cora

Tuesday, 10 January 2023
Today the river temperature was 62.6°F (17°C), but the air during the day warms up quite a bit, so the manatees come and go. I counted 237 manatees this morning, including SMC adoptees Lenny, Gator, Millie, Lily, Moo Shoo and Nick.
With the count over, a known manatee (not an adoptee) with a new boat strike came in. We will be monitoring it for now alongside our partners to determine if it needs to be rescued. We want to remind everyone to please boat slowly and watch out for manatees while on the water. In addition, please do not approach or touch manatees or try to lure them to your kayak, paddle board or boat as it makes them lose their natural fear of people. Passive observation is the best way to observe manatees in their natural habitat without disturbing them.  ~Cora

Monday, 9 January 2023
The river temperature was up to 64.4°F (18°C), which isn’t too surprising as it warmed up quite a bit during the day both yesterday and Saturday, but then it gets a bit cooler again at night. The park staff counted 341 manatees and I counted 266 manatees in the spring run today. By the time I started my count, most of the manatees were congregated down towards the river, probably either coming back from feeding or ready to go out. The adoptees seen today were Nick, Annie, Lily, Gator and Aqua with her calf.

One of the manatees we could not identify last week turned out to be a known manatee from the east coast. He was first seen in the Jacksonville area in the 1990s, last seen in Riviera Beach in 2010, and has now found his way to Blue Spring, which is great news! We thank our partners at FWC/FWRI for making this match and providing us with the sighting information!  ~Cora

Saturday and Sunday, 7 and 8 January 2023
On Saturday the river temperature remained at 17°C (62.6°F) and on Sunday it was down to 16°C (60.8°F). On Saturday SMC got a count very close to the park: 212 manatees, and the park staff counted 208 from the boardwalk. On Sunday, the park counted 444 manatees (what a great number!) and I counted 339. I had to make a lot of estimates as the manatees were huddled together in some of the transects, making it impossible to see everyone or go over them without disturbing.
On Saturday, adoptees Lenny, Aqua with her calf and Una were seen. Una’s calf was most likely around too, but sometimes the calves go off and play while the mothers rest and it’s hard to tell which calf belongs to which mom! On Sunday adoptees Gator, Lily, Annie, Brutus, Nick, Una with her calf and Aqua with her calf were seen. This time the calf was with Una! Moo Shoo showed up after the count was over.
Also for the first time this season a large alligator was hanging out in the spring run. It is not uncommon to see alligators in the spring with the manatees (they don’t bother each other), but we had not seen one yet this season, maybe due to the high water levels at the beginning of the season. The alligators like to sit on the logs and sun themselves, but there were no logs due to the flooding. They are slowly starting to re-emerge now.  ~Cora

Friday, 6 January 2023
The high temp yesterday was supposed to be 77°F (25°C) but the day was so dreary I am sure it helped the river temp drop to 62.6°F (17°C), along with an overnight low of 44°F (6.7°C). At any rate, I counted 73 manatees and we even had a Save the Manatee Club adoptee show up. It was Una and her calf! The week ahead looks to be promising for increased manatee presence. I saw my first racing shell of the season. The rowing teams of Stetson University are often on the river but northern schools will send their crews down to sunny Florida to get a start on training. What we Floridians consider cold the northerners consider a joke. I sometime worry about the chase boats, which are powered, sticking by the posted manatee zone speeds.  -Wayne

Thursday, 5 January 2023
The river temperature stayed at 67.1°F (19.5°C) and 48 manatees were counted. They were all down towards the river about to go out and feed while some others came in after the count was over, most likely about to take a break in the spring for a bit after coming back from feeding. No SMC adoptees were seen today. So many manatees look alike as they have very similar scars that sometimes we accidentally confuse one manatee with another, until we look at pictures to see it’s a “lookalike.” That almost happened today as I thought I saw adoptee Howie when in fact it was an unknown “lookalike!”  ~Cora

Wednesday, 4 January 2023
The river temperature today was up to 67.1°F (19.5°C) and only 59 manatees were in the spring run. Most of them were huddled together in the lower part of the spring run close to the river. No adoptees were seen today, but manatee adoptee Lily has been making some appearances on the webcam in the afternoon lately! The weekend should bring some slightly cooler temperatures again.

With the warmer weather, we want to remind everyone to watch out for manatees when boating, especially near warm water aggregation sites as manatees are out feeding right now. Unfortunately, we have already seen some manatees come in with new boat strikes since the season started. Nothing severe, but a reminder to slow down and watch out.  ~Cora

Tuesday, 3 January 2023
The river temperature was up to 63.5°F (17.5°C) today. I counted 115 manatees. Most were congregated in the lower part of the spring run. None were SMC adoptees—they must have all been in the river feeding. Adoptee Lily made an appearance on the webcam late afternoon yesterday.  ~Cora

Monday, 2 January 2023
The river stayed at 60.8°F (16°C) which was surprising given that the air temperature yesterday rose to over 80°F. However, the manatee count dropped to 162—most manatees were out in the river feeding. The only adoptees who made roll call today were Gator and Una with her calf.

Manatee ‘Estel’ (not an adoptee) has been in almost daily for the past week with 2 calves of equal size in tow. While ‘cross-nursing’ is very common at Blue Spring or manatee mothers tend to ‘adopt’ other calves, it may be possible that Estel indeed has twins! This is extremely rare in manatees, so we will keep an eye on it! A good indication at Blue Spring for a mother having a calf (or in her case maybe 2 calves) is that they will leave for the river to feed together and return together. Once in the spring run it is not uncommon to see calves by themselves playing or being away from their respective mothers while the mothers rest. That’s why it’s so difficult sometimes to determine who actually has a calf!  ~Cora

Saturday, 31 December 2022 – New Year’s Eve!
The river temperatures stayed at 60.8°F (16°C). There was a heavy fog over the St Johns River and throughout Orange City, Debary and Deltona, but it did not affect the spring run! I counted 331 manatees. The adoptees seen were Rocket, Doc, Howie, Gator, Millie and Moo Shoo. Philip and Annie showed up on the webcam shortly after the official count was over. Some of you may wonder what ever happened to manatee “Schwinn” or the “bike tire manatee” as he was referred to a few years ago. Schwinn is alive and well! He has been visiting the spring frequently and looks good as far as his body condition goes. He will always have a significant scar from where he was entrapped in the bike tire a few years ago which makes him easy to identify. We still see new manatees arriving each day!  ~Cora

Friday, 30 December 2022
The river continues to warm with a temp of 60.8°F (16°C) today. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees in were Lily, Deep Dent, Paddy Doyle, Phyllis, Philip, Millie, Gator, Moo Shoo and Lesley. Another nature observation: I believe I am seeing many more tarpon in the run this season. Manatees are not the only animal that come into the run to be warm in the winter. The blogs are a little short this season I think. No news is good news. Normally we would be describing bad wounds and rescues but the manatees at Blue Spring are very well this season. As Cora pointed out, perhaps the high water from the hurricanes kept a lot of the boat traffic off the river just before the season.  -Wayne

Thursday, 29 December 2022
The river temp has continued up to 59°F (15°C). We counted 406 manatees. Save the Manatee Club adoptees Nick, Philip, Lenny, Lesley, Gator, Doc, Aqua, Whiskers and Flash were in for roll call. Brutus was late. Note Aqua’s calf is not included. In the area Aqua was in, there were many mothers and many calves. None of them were together but there were plenty to go around. The only adoptee we have not seen is Lucille but new arrivals are coming in every day. If Lucille is stuck in some other refuge, the warm weather on the way could give her a chance to get to Blue Spring. The river has been a little cold for traveling lately. Today, instead of moving to other trees, the vultures just moved down a few floors to lower branches to get away from the eagle perched in the top of the tree. I had not seen that before.  -Wayne

Wednesday, 28 December 2022
The river temp was up to 56.3°F (13.5°C). With a better day to count (less wind, and less murky water) we counted 561 manatees. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees in were Howie, Lesley, Philip, Gator, Merlin, Moo Shoo, Deep Dent, Flash, Whiskers, Phyllis and Aqua with calf. Millie, an East Coast adoptee, was also present. One of the perks of this job is the wildlife. Today the Park eagle was perched in the tallest tree across the river. When he arrives the tree will be filled with black vultures. There is a big bail out as the vultures move several trees away or even up into the run.  -Wayne & Cora

Tuesday, 27 December 2022
The air temps warmed up but the river continued down. The river today was 50°F (10°C). While the Park count went up by fifty ours went down from 557 to 479. But that was due to murky water, wind and the disadvantage of counting from so low in the canoe. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees seen were Nick, Howie, Brutus, Philip, Lesley, Gator, Deep Dent, Una & calf, Floyd, Doc, Phyllis, Rocket, and best of all Merlin!! Merlin made his first visit of the season. We often have to wonder if he will show up at all. A bonus adoptee was Millie from the east coast.  -Wayne & Cora

Monday, 26 December 2022
The river temp was 55.4°F (13°C). The numbers of manatees showed it. We counted 557 manatees and we missed a few. The hard part of the count was staying to one side of the run, trying not to bump a manatee and cause a commotion. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees in were Nick, Brutus, Philip, Howie, Una & calf, Annie, Aqua & calf, Whiskers, Floyd, Paddy Doyle, Deep Dent, Lily, Lesley and Phyllis. This was Deep Dent’s first appearance this season. Annie had a small pale calf on her back but we decided it was not hers. It left her and wandered around the run. It looks fine but we want to see it with a mother! Not just the manatees were crowding into the Park. The line of cars full of visitors must have extended over a mile. If you go to Blue Spring go early and be patient!   -Wayne & Cora

Sunday, 25 December 2022
Merry Christmas! The wind had let up a bit and, although the air was even colder than yesterday, it didn’t feel as bad. The spring run was carpeted with manatees resting next to each other, under each other, on top of each other. So it was difficult to get a good count from the research canoe without accidentally running into anyone or bothering them as they really need to rest right now with the freezing temps. A lot of what I needed to do was estimate and I feel I underestimated a lot. The park did not get a count today, so there was nothing to compare mine to.

The river was at 57.2°F (14°C), the air temperature was 30°F (-1.1°C) at 8 a.m., but I believe the low overnight was in the 20s. I managed to count 447 manatees. The adoptees in were Lily, Nick, Annie, Moo Shoo, Aqua with calf, Una with calf, Flash, Gator, Philip, Phyllis, Brutus, Howie, Whiskers, Doc and Floyd! This was Doc’s and Floyd’s first day in. Adoptee Millie was in too. She is not a Blue Spring adoptee per se, but considered an East Coast adoptee. She shows up at Blue Spring, in the Silver River, and at the Port Everglades Power Plant. Sometimes within the same season! Now the only adoptees we have not seen yet are Lucille, Deep Dent and Merlin. We know that Deep Dent and Merlin have in the past been seen at other springs. Lucille loves to rest in the murky water by the river, so chances are she may have been there and we haven’t been able to spot her, but we will keep our eyes out. Chances are also that many of the other adoptees were tucked in somewhere today, but I was unable to identify them in the midst of everyone else.

Many people keep asking if the manatees at Blue Spring receive supplemental feeding. This is not the case. The Blue Spring manatees are faring very well and there is sufficient food in the river nearby. They can leave for short periods of time during the cold weather to feed before coming back into the spring run. They can also go for several days without feeding during freezing temperatures. The manatees on the Atlantic coast are another story and we want to remind people that it remains against the law to feed wild manatees without proper permission. It is encouraging to see that some East Coast manatees are choosing Blue Spring as their winter home.  ~Cora

Saturday, 24 December 2022
The freeze certainly hit with a bang and with a lot of wind! The air temperature at the park was 31°F this morning and the river had dropped to 59°F (15°C). Unfortunately, the wind was too strong to allow for a good count and identification. It was not predicted to be that way or I would have not even attempted a count from the canoe. Between the wind, the manatees stirring up the water and clay throughout the lower part of the run and a juvenile manatee pushing the canoe conditions were less than ideal.

The park staff counted 476 manatees from the boardwalk, SMC counted 343 from the canoe, but there were probably double that. I would definitely go with the park count for today. The adoptees I was able to pick out today were Moo Shoo, Nick, Philip, Paddy Doyle, Aqua with calf, Una with calf, Lily, Brutus, Gator, Flash, Annie and Rocket. There’s a very good chance more were present.  ~Cora

Thursday, 22 December 2022
If the river temp is correct, it went back to 64.4°F (18°C). We counted 395 manatees. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees present for roll call were Lily, Nick, Paddy Doyle, Flash, Una & calf, Lenny, Gator and Aqua & calf. Later we saw Philip, Howie and Brutus. The manatee from yesterday with a tracking belt but no tether and transmitter left as soon as we spotted it. Then another came in with only a belt and the researcher from CMARI was doing a “tagger and manatee” dance as I left; the tagger tries to swim to the tail while the manatee keeps an eye on the tagger, leaving them face to face and no chance to retag. They keep going in circles. Tomorrow is predicted to be very windy so it is uncertain if there will be a count.  -Wayne

Wednesday, 21 December 2022
The river temp went up to 65.3°F (18.5°C). That does not make sense so I believe the spring run effected our thermometers. Our count today was 449 manatees. Given the mechanics of the counts of yesterday and today the 366 manatees reported yesterday did not seem right. I did a recount in the quiet of my office in stead of in the hurry of the canoe and found the count for yesterday was 426. Save the Manatee Club adoptees present were Lily, Howie, Paddy Doyle, Brutus, Philip, Annie, Lenny, Lesley, Moo Shoo, Phyllis, Flash, Gator, Aqua & calf, Una & calf and Rocket! It was the first visit this season for Flash, Howie, Paddy Doyle and Rocket. The manatee released Monday was cavorting in the boil with thirty or so of his new friends. Good to see him fitting in. Also in the boil was a release from last season that still had a belt but had lost the tethered transmitter. A new transmitter will soon be provided. If we get the predicted temps in the twenties over the Christmas weekend Monday’s count should be interesting. Maybe the five missing adoptees will be in!   -Wayne

PS: Adoptee Margarito was in too – SO many manatees, hard to keep track of, especially in the stirred up murk (we saw Margarito’s tail 😊)   ~Cora

Tuesday, 20 December 2022
The river temp was the same today as yesterday, 64.4°F (18°C). I did not mention that yesterday! We counted 366 manatees today. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees in for their first day this season were Brutus, Moo Shoo, Philip, Whiskers and Lenny. They were joined by Lesley, Nick, Lily, Una, Gator, Aqua & calf and Phyllis. We should have a few more in before the week is out! It was a treat to see Eyre (not an adoptee) with a fat, healthy calf. Two years ago her calf Xavier was a stillbirth caught on camera in the spring run. I have just finished a data crunch on the manatee numbers this season. We have seen at least 380 manatees. 235 are known returnees. 92 are new. 53 are calves.  -Wayne

Monday, 19 December 2022
We counted 340 manatees and the Park counted 384. The big gray kids were so happy see their many friends after the summer that they really had things stirred up in the run and it was much easier to count from the boardwalk than the canoe. Save the Manatee Club adoptees present were Lesley, Nick, Margarito, Lily, Aqua & calf, Una & calf, Annie and Gator. Lesley was healed when released from Sea World but still had some swelling and redness in her terrible wound. That is all gone. She looks great! This is Aqua and Margarito’s first appearance of the season. Annie and Gator did not make the count but I cannot call them late as we missed so many in the stirred up silt and clay. I call notice to Aqua’s new calf! When the count was over we had to rush back to the river area to participate in the release of Miles. Miles was a rescue from the East Coast in a starving condition who was fattened up and brought to Blue Spring. Many others are due to follow as there is little vegetation regrowth in the Indian River area.   -Wayne

Sunday, 18 December 2022
The river temperature dropped to 66.2°F (19°C). The park counted 187 manatees and I counted the exact same number, which is always nice! However, gusty winds and cavorting manatees made counting, let alone IDing, very difficult. The only adoptees spotted today were Nick, Lily, Gator and Una with her calf but I feel there may have been others. The water was very murky due to the wind and the manatees moving around and playing. At the beginning of season they have a lot of energy and move around a lot. At least 10-15 were cavorting in a big pile just slightly up the spring run from the aluminum deck. I tried to stay as far away from the pile as possible as I didn’t want the research canoe to tip or disturb the activity. On the way back down they had settled a bit, but the wind was blowing ripples across the spring run. Maybe conditions will be better the next few days.   ~Cora

Saturday, 17 December 2022
It certainly got chilly overnight with air temperature in the low 40s and the river was at 68°F (20°C), which seemed a bit high, but water takes longer to cool down than the air. The manatees were certainly reacting!

I counted 114 in the spring run this morning with more and more coming in after the official count was over. Nick and Lily represented the adoptees during the count and Una came in with her calf after the count was over.

Two manatees, Glenn and Northleaf, who visited Blue Spring for the first time last winter season and were matched via photo-ID with known manatees from Brevard County, are both back at Blue Spring. This is encouraging to see as they seem to have chosen Blue Spring as their preferred winter habitat now, which is better habitat than the Indian River Lagoon at the moment.

Should be many more manatees coming in over the next few days!   ~Cora

Friday, 16 December 2022
No Save the Manatee Club adoptees but we counted 36 manatees. With lower temps coming we should have crowds next week. The river temp was 68°F (20°C). The natives were restless. Cavorting in the river, coming into the run, going back out circling in the run and two youngsters were trying to rub their backs on the bottom of the canoe. If the manatees had settled down I am sure we would have counted more!   -Wayne

Thursday, 15 December 2022
It was a warm and humid morning with a tornado watch for the area, so not the best day to count manatees, but since some work on the webcam needed to be done it was worth it going out to the park. The wind was picking up already making counting and identification difficult. Luckily, the rain held off until 10 a.m. when the count was finished.

The river temperature was up to 69.8°F (21°C) again. The park staff counted 7 manatees and I counted 10. They were all down by the river and most were unscarred juveniles. No Save the Manatee Club adoptees were present, but that should change starting tomorrow with a cold front coming through!

One of the previously released and tagged manatees “Plantaina” decided it was time to graduate on Tuesday by losing her tracking equipment in the spring run. The equipment broke off at one of the weak links, just as it was supposed to if it got stuck on something – in this case a submerged log in the lower part of the spring run. Plantaina had been released at the park at the end of last winter and was monitored by researchers from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute (CMARI) since then. Our valued manatee observer volunteers helped all summer long to keep an eye on Plantaina and educate park visitors about manatee tagging and tracking and make sure nobody was getting too close to Plantaina. Plantaina adapted well to life in the wild and it looks she has made Blue Spring her permanent home – coming in when it gets cold and going out to feed with the other manatees when it warms up, which is exactly what she is supposed to do!   ~Cora

Tuesday, 13 December 2022
The river temperature this morning was 68°F (20°C), which seemed a little cold to me given that it was 73 last Friday, but since we hadn’t measured it in a few days and it got a little chilly overnight, maybe it was correct after all. The park staff announced they counted eight manatees but that there seemed to be “more” right by the river. I counted about 30 minutes after they finished their count and saw cavorting manatees in the river that then moved into the spring run. So my total count ended up to be 28! A lot more than I had expected. None were Save the Manatee Club adoptees. The manatees were all very active in the lower part of the spring run and many were unscarred juveniles, so it was hard to keep track. “Buckeye,” a manatee that was released at Blue Spring a few years ago, was vigorously pursuing “Carrie,” a big female. He was joined by a number of other juvenile manatees. It is always nice to see released manatees doing so well and looking like they feel “right at home” at Blue Spring!   ~Cora

Friday, 9 December 2022
The river temp today was 73.4°F (23°C). I saw seven manatees going up the run and two coming down, the other five must have left. The Park count was zero. Evelyn (not an adoptee) was in with her calf. Evelyn was ID’d in 2018 with a calf. She had another in 2020 so that makes three. A calf every two years is very good. Evelyn was accompanied by an unmarked manatee and Amelia. Amelia was a rescued orphan released at the Park on February 15, 2021. Half way up the run I found U22/22 with her calf and an unmarked juvenile manatee. U22/22 is the twenty-second identifiable scarred manatee to be seen in the 2022-23 season. No Save the Manatee Club adoptees in today.   -Wayne

Thursday, 8 December 2022
The river temperature stayed at 70.7°F (21.5°C). The park staff counted 3 manatees that were apparently all close to the river. By the time I counted a half an hour later, they were all gone and my count was zero. When I paddled back, one had come in and was right by the buoy line that connects the river and the spring run.

People oftentimes ask us why the SMC count sometimes differs from the park staff count. The park staff counts a bit earlier than we do—usually between 7:15 – 7:45 a.m. from the boardwalk, so they have a count when they open at 8 a.m. and the visitors come in. SMC usually starts the count shortly after 8 a.m. and we count from the canoe. Sometimes it is easier to see the manatees from the boardwalk, depending on weather conditions and where they are located, and sometimes it is easier to see them from the canoe. Also, manatees move around, so some may have left or come in between the two counts. We always love it when we come up with the same count as the park staff.

A cold front is predicted for the end of next week which should bring quite a few manatees in.   ~Cora

Wednesday, 7 December 2022
By all indicators the river temp should have gone up, but instead it was down a degree according to the thermometer to 70.7°F (21.5°C). The same juvenile that rushed to greet me yesterday did the same today. Only today I filmed him. Only tiny little marks but he is documented for the season. He was the only manatee in. No Save the Manatee Club adoptees.   -Wayne

Tuesday, 6 December 2022
The river was up to 71.6°F (22°C). With the canoe launched (it is not easy with the high water, each day it goes down a little and changes how you have to do it) a juvenile manatee rushed to greet us. We thought that would be it, but about fifty yards up the run we found Peek-a-boo. We did not name her but I call her Peek. Easier to write in the field notes and it fits the attendance sheets. She is not an adoptee.   -Wayne

Monday, 5 December 2022
It’s been a warm weekend and warm morning. The river was up to 70.7°F (21.5°C). The park staff didn’t see any manatees, we counted 1. On the way back down, we saw 2 more that had joined the one we had seen earlier. All three were just inside the spring very close to the river. None were adoptees. Cooler weather is predicted for next week, so we shall see.   ~Cora

Sunday, 4 December 2022
On Saturday, the park staff counted 24 manatees and we saw a lot on the webcam, so we thought it might make sense to count them today. Well, the park staff counted 5, we counted 6. None were SMC adoptees and, except for one that we could identify, all were unscarred juveniles. The river was 68.9°F (20.5°C). It gets a little chilly overnight, usually in the 50s (air temperature) at the moment, so the manatees are around and some stop by the spring only to briefly warm up but leave again quickly. Plantaina, one of the releases from last year, was seen yesterday. The park staff saw her this morning, but she had left by the time we counted. Shortly after, park volunteers and researchers from CMARI informed she was in again and apparently stayed around most of the day. Clearly, she does not want to make the Save the Manatee Club roll call.   ~Cora

Friday, 2 December 2022
The wind had calmed down and it was a beautiful morning to count manatees. The river temperature was 68.9°F (20.5°C) and the park announced they had counted 24 manatees when we arrived, which surprised me since the temperature didn’t seem to have dropped very much. We started the count and soon we knew they were right! We ended up counting 30 manatees, most of them in the lower transects by the river. Only four manatees were in the upper transects – one cow/calf pair that we saw coming in as we started the count decided to swim all the way up the run to rest. No SMC adoptees were in and most of the manatees were unscarred juveniles. A very low flying plane irritated the manatees, and they started swimming back and forth making it harder to keep counting. In the midst of this a large mother manatee with two juveniles in tow decided the red research canoe was the perfect toy and kept pushing it and going under it. Her calf was further up the run. Eventually she let go of the canoe letting me finish the count.   ~Cora

Thursday, 1 December 2022
Too windy to go out today but the Park counted two from the boardwalk. We kept busy consolidating numbers. 118 have returned from last season, 2 from previous seasons, 23 are easy to ID unknowns, 37 are hard to ID seasonals and 39 are calves for a total of 219 for the season so far. Unknowns we name and number and hope to ID next season. Seasonals we doubt we will know it they return next season.   -Wayne

Wednesday, 30 November 2022
The river temp was 70.7°F (21.5°C). We counted four manatees and the Park counted ten. No Save the Manatee Club adoptees were sighted. We said Manatee weather was due to return on the fourth of December now it is the seventh. As we approach cooler weather it retreats from us! We participated in a statewide abundance survey today. The manatees were not abundant!   -Wayne

Tuesday, 29 November 2022
The air temperature cooled down a bit over night, but the river was still at 69.8°F (21°C). The park staff counted 17 manatees and we counted 11. Most were near the river and most were unscarred juveniles. No SMC adoptees were seen today. It seems that the darker river water is being pushed out by the stronger flow of the spring water now that water levels from the storms are receding a bit. That, along with no wind gives us perfect conditions for manatee counts—all we need are the manatees!   ~Cora

Monday, 28 November 2022
The river temp was 70.8°F (21.5°C). Save the Manatee Club counted one and the Park counted five. Going to be slim pick’ns the next few days. If the extended forecast is correct, we should start getting more manatees from December 4. Perhaps not several hundred a day but at least some manatees.   -Wayne

Saturday, 26 November 2022
The river temperature stayed at 70F (21.1C) and the manatee count dropped down to 14. The park counted 12 and many of the ones we counted were heading towards the river, probably joining the others to feed. No SMC adoptees were seen today. During the recent hurricanes more palm trees fell into the water. The manatees like to play with them by swimming over and under the stems and playing with or eating the leaves! Almost every morning, we can be sure to find at least one or two near one of the fallen trees. Today manatee JJ with two juveniles was having fun with the tree. We know JJ has a calf, so we paddled on looking for the calf, which was a bit further upstream. It’s not uncommon for calves at Blue Spring to leave mom for a bit and play elsewhere, knowing that this is a safe place for them. Once it’s time to go into the river to feed, mom will ‘call’ the calf to her side and they leave together.   ~Cora

Friday, 25 November 2022
The river temp was 69.8°F (21°C). We counted 12 manatees, no Save the Manatee Club adoptees. With so few here to write about I’ll do a little life history. After all it is the research we are doing. Corinn and yearling made the count today. They were late for Cora’s roll call yesterday. We believe that was their first visit this season. Corinn was ID’d as a yearling in 2015. She was U9/15 (the ninth unknown of the 2015-16 season) until she was named in a Save the Manatee Club naming contest. Most female manatees have their first calf at five or six, so Corinn was a little late. It was good to see her. I’ve always had a soft spot for Corinn and also several hundred other manatees!   -Wayne

Thursday, 24 November 2022
The river temperature was 67.1°F (19.5°C), at least that’s what my thermometer said. We assume it was probably a bit higher given that the air temperature is warming up too.
The park staff counted 84 manatees and we counted 67. A few seemed to be heading out, but once we were done with the official count and paddling back down towards the river, a bunch kept coming in! They’re probably around, deciding if they want to rest a bit more or spend Thanksgiving Day out in the river feeding. The SMC adoptees seen today were Lily, Gator and Annie. Lily and Gator were in the same transect, almost next to each other while Annie was a bit further up the run. We’re still seeing new arrivals each day.

Manatee “Paprika” who was rescued last spring for a watercraft injury near Welaka Springs, rehabilitated at SeaWorld Orlando and released near Blue Spring this summer returned to Blue Spring a few days ago as well. She was heavily pregnant on the day of her release, and everyone is happy to report that she has a healthy calf in tow. She is outfitted with a satellite tracking device so researchers from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Institute can monitor her movements.   -Wayne

Wednesday, 23 November 2022
We expected the river to be warmer today. After some consultation around the thermometers we decided it was! The manatees agreed as the count went down from yesterday’s 172 to today’s 97. The river temp was 68°F (20°C). The adoptees in were Lily and Nick. The folks from Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute want to share the following information about the manatee with a belt but no floating transmitter. His name is Fezzik. “He was tagged for the CMARI’s North Atlantic manatee movement study and to assist with the understanding of how manatees are using habitat due to the loss of habitat on the east coast. We offered to tag Fezzik for our project in hopes he might go to Georgia but also as an experiment for future release candidates to see if we put an animal in the upper St Johns River they might use the St Johns River for winter refuge. Glad he gave us some great starting point data.” By the way Fezzik was in again today.   -Wayne

Tuesday, 22 November 2022
The river temp continued at 66.2°F (19°C). We counted 172 manatees and the park counted 174. We love it when it works out that way! We saw adoptees Lesley, Gator, Nick and Phyllis. Almost at the boil we saw a manatee we did not know* with a transmitter belt but no floating transmitter. In an exchange with Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute (CMARI) personnel we found that it was rescued in February on the East Coast during the Mass Die off Event. It was having buoyancy problems. After rehab at Jacksonville Zoo the manatee was released in April at Welaka. We were given a heads up in case it came to Blue Spring and now it has!   -Wayne

*The manatee’s name is Fezzik and he was tagged for CMARI’s North Atlantic manatee movement study and to assist with the understanding of how manatees are using habitat due to the loss of habitat on Florida’s east coast. CMARI researchers offered to tag Fezzik for their ongoing research project in hopes he might go to Georgia but also as an experiment for future release candidates to see if when releasing an animal in the upper St Johns River they might use springs along the St. Johns for winter refuge.

Monday, 21 November 2022
The river temp was still 66.2°F (19°C) and the dark water about the same distance up the run as well. We counted 149 manatees including adoptees Lesley, Lily, Una, Nick and Gator. Then with the count over Annie and Phyllis showed up. Lily was in before the season but now she’s official! Phyllis’ visit is her first for the season. Seven adoptees seen and sixteen to go.   -Wayne & Cora

Sunday, 20 November 2022
The river temperature was 65.3°F (18.5°C), which made sense! The wind was pretty gusty at times making it hard to count and identify the manatees, but some of it was do-able in between gusts! The park staff counted 79 manatees and we counted 95. We saw adoptees Nick (almost all the way up the spring run, which is the furthest we have ever seen him!), Annie, Lesley and Una with a calf! We were especially happy to see Lesley and Una as they were both previously rescued and released at Blue Spring. Lesley for a severe boat strike and Una twice for flipper entanglement with monofilament line. We were waiting off to the side for Una to surface so we could see her flipper and make sure there were no new entanglements—there weren’t, which is wonderful. Buckeye and Irma, also previously released at Blue Spring, made the count today too. Unfortunately, one of our other regular females, Jaden, not an adoptee, lost a large part of her tail from a boat strike over the summer. She seemed very active though, so she should be fine. With all the flooding in the St. Johns River the only good thing is that the manatees currently do not have to content with boats.   -Wayne

Saturday, 19 November 2022
We have a ½” by 8″ bolt attached to my thermometer so it stayed deeper than Cora’s. My take on the river temp was 66.3°F (19°C). The heavy cold river water was about a quarter of the way up the run. The run gets shallower there and when temperatures were colder on average that was where the dark water came and where most of the manatees hung out. So the Park built an observation deck there. It is a good and useful deck but the manatees don’t congregate there anymore. The first manatee we came across was adoptee Crazy Nick about a third of the way up the run. We would go on to count thirty-six manatees and see adoptees Annie and Gator. A panic caused by the clank of a lose gate on the board walk near the boil made identification difficult during a mass manatee exodus down the run. we did recognize thirteen. If we see twenty manatees between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. the next two days, we will declare the season started! Meanwhile the gate is being tended to.   -Wayne

Friday, 18 November 2022
The river was 64.5°F (18°C), or at least that’s what the thermometer said; it seemed low. The current of the river is very strong at the moment so the thermometer was floating under the dock, then on top of the water before we could retrieve it, so the colder air temperature may have influenced the reading. Water levels are still very high from hurricane Ian and launching the canoe is an adventure, but it’s do-able. The swim deck is still about a foot underwater!

The park staff counted 14 manatees and we counted 9. Two of the ones we counted (Amelia and Matthew) were manatees that had been released at Blue Spring in past seasons, so it was nice to see them returning and looking good! Amelia was released 2 seasons ago and Matthew was released at Blue Spring last year after he had already been released along the Atlantic coast once before. Both of them were hanging out together in the upper part of the spring run today and Amelia came over the greet the research canoe. No Save the Manatee Club adoptees made the roll call today, but on my way back down the spring run Lily showed up! Later when we reviewed the webcam footage, we saw that Gator had come in at 6:40 a.m., but had left again at 7 a.m. Sneaky guy trying to avoid roll call, but the webcam catches everything! Our above water camera is up and live streaming again and we hope to install the underwater camera over the next couple of days. Since the water cools slower than the air, we expect to see more manatees over the next days.   -Wayne

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.

Cora Berchem is Save the Manatee Club’s Director of Multimedia and Manatee Research Associate. She was born and raised in Bonn, Germany and moved to the United States in 2002. Cora oversees the club’s live webcams, social media, and video production projects, and assists Wayne Hartley with research at Blue Spring.

Read Wayne’s reports from the 2021 – 2022 Manatee Season