Manatee Reports from Blue Spring State Park
by Wayne Hartley, Manatee Specialist, and Cora Berchem, Director of Multimedia & Manatee Research Associate
The river temp today was 68° F (20° C) same as yesterday. The manatee count was down to 28 of the 40 I predicted. Undeterred by my failed prediction, I expect 10 tomorrow. None of the manatees sighted were Save the Manatee Club (SMC) adoptees.
On February 17th, we were notified that a dead manatee had been towed into Holly Bluff Marina about four miles north of Blue Spring State Park the previous day. With the morning count over, the SMC researchers went to Holly Bluff and ID’d the large dead female as Amber, BS286. Amber was last seen alive and well in the spring run on February 15th. Click this link to read more about Amber.
March 10, 2020
The river temp was 68° F (20° C). We counted 83 manatees and ID’d 59. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees we saw were Annie, Aqua, and Doc. I really think we will be down around 40 manatees tomorrow.
March 9, 2020
The river temp was 66° F (19° C). I counted 88 manatees and ID’d 70. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees present were Philip, Paddy Doyle, Deep Dent, Annie, Nick, and Phyllis. Phyllis was very late and very dirty with algae and silt.
March 8, 2020
The river temperature was down to 66.2° F (19° C). We were joking that the park staff may not have realized that manatees don’t do daylight savings, since they only counted three manatees. I counted a bit later and got 51! Most of them were very close to the river though, where it was hard to see them from the boardwalk. Adoptees Nick, Lucille, and Annie were in. Season may be coming to an end.
March 5, 2020
Today the river temperature had come up to 69.8° F (21° C) and only two manatees were in, none of them adoptees. One more came in after the official count was over and the wind was picking up quickly. The air definitely felt cooler, and it looks like a bit cooler temperatures over the weekend, which may bring some manatees back in.
March 4, 2020
The river temp was 68° F (20° C). We were lucky to have 12 of the 20 manatees I predicted. None were Save the Manatee Club adoptees. It was very warm in the canoe. My chief entertainment was to watch a blue heron with a fish in its beak moving up the run ahead of me as if it were afraid I wanted to steal its fish. I just tried to ID the fish. By type, not by name!
March 3, 2020
The river was up another degree to 66° F (19° C). I predicted 80 manatees, but we counted only 52. Tomorrow I predict 20 manatees. Lenny was the only Save the Manatee Club adoptee at roll call, but five minutes after I walked away from the run Cora spotted Gator slipping in. Should be in the 40s over the weekend. The manatee season is close to an end.
March 2, 2020
The river temp was up two degrees to 65° F (18° C). The manatee count was cut almost in half to 174. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees present were Paddy Doyle, Doc, and Gator. Tomorrow I expect about 80 manatees.
March 2, 2020
The river temp was 63° F (17° C). I counted 313 manatees. There may have been more, but there was certainly not less! The Save the Manatee Club adoptees in were Howie, Phyllis, Lily, Annie, Paddy Doyle, Lenny, Philip, Nick, Doc, Aqua, Moo Shoo with calf, Gator, and Whiskers. When the roll call started the wind was very calm, but by the end it was pretty bad and ID’s were hard.
March 1, 2020
The river temperature was down to 60.8° F (16° C).The park counted 311 manatees in pretty heavy fog and mist, and I counted 360 manatees in nearly perfect conditions today with little wind. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees seen were Aqua, Gator, Lily, Annie, Lucille, Doc, Howie, Lenny, Phyllis, Moo Shoo with calf, Whiskers, Nick, Floyd, and Paddy, who came in late.
February 29, 2020
On Saturday, the river temperature was down to 61.7° F (16.5° F). The park staff counted 301 manatees, and I counted 262. However, there were most likely more as they were all moving around in the lower part of the run, and the wind started picking up significantly after the count started. I was having a hard time paddling around the manatees without getting tipped over. Save the Manatee Club adoptees Lucille, Gator, Lenny, Aqua, Paddy Doyle, Nick, Phyllis, Moo Shoo with her calf, and Floyd were in. Newly-released manatee O’Neil was milling with new friends in the middle of all the other manatees in the lower part of the spring run.
February 28, 2020
On Friday, the river temp was 64.5° F (18° C). I counted 115 manatees. It was very windy, and I could only ID 30. Among those 30 were Save the Manatee Club adoptees Gator, Nick, Lenny, and Paddy Doyle. The count was a bit odd. Normally the count starts at the river and ends at the spring. Three capture boats were waiting at the mouth of the spring run in hopes of capturing an animal with a bad entanglement. So I avoided the mob of manatees at the start and counted the 13 that were further up the run. Then I came back and counted the 102 manatees at the mouth of the run. Cora was on the boardwalk acting as a spotter for the entangled manatee. It came in twice but did not stay long enough for capture. It was also in the mob at the mouth of the run and that makes it difficult.
February 27, 2020
The river temperature was 66° F (19° C). We counted 62 manatees. There were no Save the Manatee Club adoptees in, but we had plenty of time and waited until Paddy Doyle showed up!
February 26, 2020
The river temp was 67° F (19.5° C). We counted 29 manatees. Paddy Doyle was the sole Save the Manatee Club adoptee present.
February 25, 2020
The river temp was 66° F (18° C). I counted 74 manatees. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees were Brutus, Paddy Doyle, and Doc. That’s not even half the total count we had yesterday. Temperatures will be in the thirties next two days, so there should be many more manatees.
February 24, 2020
The river temp was 71° F (21.5° C) today. We counted 165 manatees. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees in were Moo Shoo with calf (seen before the count started), Brutus, Lenny, Howie, Aqua, Doc, Lily, Una with calf, and Paddy Doyle, who was late. Then we captured Una and calf so Una can get her entanglements removed from her flippers again. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute, the Florida Park Service, Save the Manatee Club, SeaWorld Orlando, and Volusia County staff all participated. We have had two more dead manatees brought in (not adoptees) but will wait to comment on them until the cause of death can be determined, if possible.
February 23, 2020
The river temperature dropped to 66.2°F (19°C). The park counted 204 manatees and I counted 295. The adoptees in were Howie, Nick, Brutus, Annie, Philip, Lily, Una with her calf, Moo Shoo with her calf, Whiskers, Paddy Doyle, and Gator. During the warm spell when the manatees went out, so did the boaters. Unfortunately, we saw many individuals today coming in with new boat strikes. After the count was over, we received a call that there was a dead manatee down the river, so we went to go check and helped with the recovery. It was one of our “unknown” manatees from this season. An “unknown” is a manatee that has some scars on it, but we can not recognize it, so it gets an unknown number. No apparent cause of death was visible, but FWC will conduct a necropsy. The cooler weather should keep some manatees in the spring!
February 21, 2020
The river temp was 72°F (22°C). The manatee count was three. None were Save the Manatee Club adoptees. I was bothered by a female floating high but it turned out the wind had blown a huge clump of Spanish moss into the run. The moss had hung on a branch just under the water and the manatee was feeding on it! Then I stressed because her calf wasn’t there but it turned up and all was well. Should be manatees next week. Cold weather is coming.
February 20, 2020
The river temp has reached 73° F (23.5° C). Loyal Buckeye (not a Save the Manatee Club adoptee) was under the stairs at the aluminum dock scratching his back. Buckeye’s back is algae covered and very dirty.
February 19, 2020
The river temp was 72° F (22° C) today. We counted one manatee. The park staff counted none because Buckeye was hiding under the crown of a tree that fell into the run. Buckeye is not a Save the Manatee Club adoptee. He was a captive-raised manatee that was released at Blue Spring with a female named Cassie. Cassie acclimated to the wild and soon had her tracking tag taken off. Buckeye did not and hardly ever left the spring run. He got too thin and was recaptured and received more training and then was released again. Even though Buckeye stayed in the run a lot this season, he has gone out in the river to feed enough to stay nice and round. So this week, he got his tracking tag off.
February 18, 2020
The river temp remained at 71° F (21.5° C). The manatee count was three with no adoptees. We then went over to Holly Bluff Marina where a dead manatee had been brought in the day before. It turned out to be Amber, BS286, cause of death could not be determined. I will have much more about Amber in my next blog.
February 17, 2020
The river temp was 71° F (21.5° C). The park staff counted five manatees, and we counted six. Two more came in after the count, and we ended up with six manatees ID’d. Una with her calf was one of the ID’d manatees. We saw a lot of turtles swimming on the bottom as well. I enjoyed that.
February 15-16, 2020
The park counted six manatees on Sunday. Save the Manatee Club did not do a count that day. On Saturday the river temperature was 69.8° F (21° C). The park counted four manatees, and I counted three inside the spring run and three leaving the spring run as I was getting the river temperature. None of the manatees seen were adoptees. The female manatee with the recent propeller cuts from last Monday was back in the spring run, and I was able to get some good photos of her this time for identification. It is indeed “China,” a known Blue Spring female, like Wayne and I had thought. She seemed fine and curious about the canoe, but we will keep an eye on her.
February 14, 2020
The river temperature had come up to 71.6° F (22° C), so it’s almost the exact same temperature as the spring run. I can summarize the count in three words: warm, windy, rainy. Neither I nor the park staff saw any manatees. It is supposed to get a bit cooler over the weekend, however it may not be enough to bring the river temperature down significantly and probably won’t bring a lot of manatees in. We shall see.
February 13, 2020
The river temp was up to 69.8° F (21° C), and both the park staff and I only counted five manatees. None were Save the Manatee Club adoptees. On a sad note, we were informed by our partners from FWC this morning that “Trap,” the severely cold-stressed manatee we helped rescue two weeks ago, passed away this morning. A necropsy will be conducted to determine the exact cause of death.
February 12, 2020
The river temp was 68° F (20° C). The park staff counted 10 manatees early, and I counted five around 9:30 a.m. However, I ID’d 11. That means that manatees were coming in and out after the count rather than one group staying put in the run. No Save the Manatee Club adoptees were seen.
February 11, 2020
The river temp jumped four degrees to 67° F (19.5° C). The count was down to 59 manatees. Una, with calf, was the only Save the Manatee Club adoptee present.
February 10, 2020
The river temp was 63° F (17° C). The park staff counted 177, and I counted 174 — pretty good! The Save the Manatee Club adoptees in were Annie, Nick, Aqua, and Gator. Many people were worried about Gator as he had not been in for a while. He looked fine. However, a non-adoptee had a boat strike bad enough to mention. Most boat strikes are minor, but this one was bad. Three deep cuts near the left shoulder with some skeg involvement. Cora thought it might be the manatee named China, and my film seems to agree with that, but we will need to confirm the ID. The film was a bit fuzzy where it was needed most. I do not believe China will need intervention, but we will be watching her.
February 8, 2020
The air temperature dropped significantly over night and the river dropped to 16° C (62.2° F). Park staff counted 89 manatees, and I counted 139. I counted a bit later than they did, so more may have come in. The only two adoptees in today were Floyd, who was down by the river, and Una with her calf, who was further up the spring run.
February 7, 2020
The river temp was 65° F (18° C) today. The park staff and I both counted the same number of manatees, 20! The wind was terrible! No Save the Manatee Club adoptees were visible. Monday should be much better. It is already cooler.
February 6, 2020
The river temp was 64° F (18° C) — warm enough to drop the manatee count to 101. The only Save the Manatee Club adoptee was Una with her calf.
February 4 – 5, 2020
On Tuesday, the river temp was 59° F (15° C). We counted 360 manatees, and the park staff counted 405. We feel the park was closer to correct as we were distracted by the perfect conditions to ID manatees at the beginning of roll call. We ID’d 213 manatees. The Save the Manatee adoptees we ID’d were Lenny, Paddy Doyle, Lucille, Una with calf, Moo Shoo with calf, Deep Dent, Whiskers, and Aqua. As a bonus, we saw Bartram (not an adoptee). He is one of Phyllis’ twins — the first twins from our Blue Spring population. He normally stays at another spring, but we saw him on December 17th and now again. On Wednesday, the river warmed up to 60.8° F (16° C), and the air had warmed up significantly, so most of the manatees were concentrated in the lower transects of the spring run close to the river. The park staff counted 333 manatees, but Cora only counted 189. Many manatees were moving around. The adoptees in were Lucille, Phyllis, Lenny, Una with her calf, and Paddy Doyle. We heard from our fellow researchers that Brutus, Flash, and Rocket were spotted at another spring recently.
February 3, 2020
The river temperature was 61° F (16° C). The park staff counted 370 manatees, and I counted 365 — not bad. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees were Lenny, Philip, Nick, Phyllis, Paddy Doyle, Annie, Doc, Whiskers, Moo Shoo with calf, and Una with calf. At 11:30 a.m. as I watched an attempt to tag a manatee of interest, Lucille swam in! Of interest to me was the first visit this season of Rhubarb (not an adoptee). Many of my favorite manatees are because of the names I have given them.
February 1, 2020
It was pouring rain today, but since we have a number of “manatees of concern” we are monitoring, I went out and did a count. The river temperature stayed at 61.7° F (16.5° C), and I counted 151 manatees. The park staff counted 242, so I guess some number in between there would be correct. It was very difficult to count and identify due to the rain. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees present were Annie, Una with her calf, and Lenny. Yesterday we assisted Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), SeaWorld, the park staff and Clearwater Marine Aquarium with the rescue of manatee “Trap” who showed signs of very severe cold stress. Cold stress occurs when manatees spend prolonged time in water colder than 68 degrees. Trap had come to Blue Spring two weeks ago, and we reported him to FWC immediately, but he didn’t return. Yesterday he looked even worse and the decision was made to immediately capture him. He was transported to SeaWorld Orlando for rehabilitation.
January 31, 2020
The river temp was up to 65° F (16.5° C). We counted 371 manatees. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees in were Aqua (in the river), Lenny, Philip, Una, Lily, and Deep Dent. Una’s calf is not listed with her, but there were at least 77 manatees in Una’s vicinity, and the calf was undoubtedly lost in the crowd. On a more somber note, four manatees connected to Blue Spring have died since the season started. Esme, BS1007, was ID’d during the 2016-17 season. She came in for the 2017-18 season and was seen often during the summer of 2018 and into the fall with a calf but did not come in for the 2018-19 season. Esme was found dead near the Moss Bluff locks on the Ocklawaha River on January 3rd. She had broken ribs and lung damage from the locks or a boat. U45/19 (he was the 45th unknown manatee at Blue Spring during the 2019-20 season) was first ID’d at Blue Spring on November 21, 2019. He was found dead of cold shock on January 6th in Lake George. U52/19 was ID’d at Blue Spring on November 18, 2019. In late January we discovered he had been found dead near Satsuma in the St Johns River. His cause of death could not be determined. One other manatee with a Blue Spring number has died of a boat strike. That animal received a Blue Spring number, but it had never been to Blue Spring. It was released near Blue Spring after being treated for cold stress, and I gave it a number just in case it ever came in. Other information on this manatee awaits a formal tribute.
January 30, 2020
The river temp remained steady at 59° F (15° C). I counted 412 manatees. Mixed in among these were Save the Manatee Club adoptees Lenny, Nick, Phyllis, Lily, and Doc — a poor turn out of adoptees compared to yesterday. Cora also spotted Moo Shoo and calf and Una and calf on the webcam. Last week as we prepared to assist a film crew from the UK, a juvenile manatee was seen under the stairs at the diver entry (closed at this time of year) tangled in a rope he had found somewhere. He was barely able to surface to breathe. Cora and the Park Manager Michael Watkins were able to enter the water and cut the rope so it fell away and the youngster could swim free. (See a news feature on the rescue from WFTV.)
January 29, 2020
The river temp was back down to 59° F (15° C). We counted 422 manatees, and the park staff counted 397. They were spread out along the run far more than yesterday, and it was easier to get ID’s and a count. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees in were Howie, Deep Dent, Una with calf, Annie, Lily, Paddy Doyle, Floyd, Philip, Aqua, Phyllis, Whiskers, Moo Shoo with calf, Doc, and Lucille. We have a manatee named Mitsu (not an adoptee) with a calf. On the 20th of January as Cora reviewed her film, she saw the calf had a fishing lure hooked in its upper lip. We saw it the next day, and the calf was put on a rescue watch. Rescues can take time to organize and sometimes manatees have to wait while more serious cases are tended to. By the next time we saw Mitsu’s calf on the 24th of January, we were happy to see the hook was gone. I will try to include some more items from the research as the week goes by.
January 28, 2020
It was a delightful day on the run today even if the wind tried to control the canoe from time to time. The river temp was the same for me as it was for Cora yesterday, 61° F (16° C). Counts were similar as well. I counted 372 manatees, and yesterday Cora counted 375. Today the park staff counted 381. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees present were Philip, Aqua, Lily, Floyd, and Deep Dent.
January 27, 2020
The river temperature was at 16° C (60.8° F). The park staff counted 417 manatees, but I only counted 375, so I may have missed a few. Sometimes when there are a lot of manatees in one spot, it is easier to count from the boardwalk. The SMC adoptees in were Aqua, Floyd, Lily, Howie, Una with calf, Moo Shoo with calf, Deep Dent, and Nick. Philip, Lucille, and Paddy Doyle showed up late today.
January 26, 2020
The river temp was 59° F (15° C). In spite of the colder water, I had 22 fewer manatees today. The number for roll call was 313 manatees. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees in for the second day of Manatee Festival were Nick, Lily, Floyd, Una with calf, Whiskers, Moo Shoo with calf, Aqua, Philip, and Howie.
January 25, 2020
The river temp went up a degree to 61° F (16° C). The number of manatees went up as well, though it should not have, to 335. This was a good thing for the Manatee Festival! The Save the Manatee Club adoptees I saw during roll call were Paddy Doyle, Moo Shoo with calf, Una (I am sure the calf was somewhere near), Lily, Whiskers, Philip, and Deep Dent. Cora noticed a manatee with a belt, but no transmitter, so we got the canoe out and found Ansel had lost his tag. That problem was being addressed as I left. Cora reports that adoptees Howie and Nick joined the crowd in the afternoon.
January 24, 2020
The air temperature came up a lot, but the river temperature had only come up slightly to 15.5° C (60° F). The manatees were all moving around, coming and going and stirring up the clay. The park staff counted 358 manatees, but I only counted 325. I also counted one hour after the park did their count as I was busy trying to get the above-water webcam back to work (it is now back up!). The Save the Manatee Club adoptees seen were Doc, Whiskers, Nick, Paddy Doyle, Howie, Moo Shoo with her calf, Una with her calf, Lenny, Phyllis, and Annie. Floyd and Philip showed up after the count was over. This weekend is the big Manatee Festival, so there should definitely be some manatees around for the visitors to see!
January 23, 2020
The river temperature was a true 59° F (15° C) today. The park staff counted 534 manatees, and I only counted 411. However I was distracted by having a large camera aboard with its operator. Conditions were good for filming, and we spent a good long time on the run. I was able to spot Save the Manatee Club adoptees Howie, Philip, Margarito, Lily, Doc, Moo Shoo with calf, Phyllis, Aqua, Una with calf, Floyd, Paddy Doyle, and Deep Dent among the 229 I ID’d. Cora saw Nick from the boardwalk after the count was done.
January 22, 2020
The river temperature I got was 64° F (18° C), which had to be influenced by the warm spring water being blown south in the river by the wind. The wind was so violent that a proper count was impossible from the canoe. The park staff counted 449 manatees from shore, which certainly sounds correct to me! Of those, 58 manatees were ID’d — half from the boardwalk after the roll call was over. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees spotted were Floyd, Paddy Doyle, Nick, Doc, and Philip. Many more may have been present. The wind is due to let up before morning, and we hope for better tomorrow.
January 21, 2020
The river temp has continued to drop and is now at 62.5° F (17° C). We have jumped from 23 manatees counted yesterday to 149 manatees today. The park staff counted 179 before we counted and felt there was many more hidden by the mist off the spring run. We also felt we undercounted, but our problem was the 10-15 mph winds with gusts up to 20 mph. Sometimes we can get in ahead of the wind, but not today. We did see Save the Manatee Club adoptee Una and her calf and hope for more adoptees tomorrow as the water gets colder, even with the wind due to continue.
January 20, 2020
The river temp had dropped all the way to 64° F (18° C). The park staff counted 38 manatees, but we could only find 23, although some were still coming in after the roll call was over. We ID’d 23 manatees, but only one was a Save the Manatee Club adoptee. That was Una, and she and her calf were almost in the springhead. There should be many more manatees as the week goes on.
January 17, 2020
The river temp is up to 71° F (21.5° C). The park staff counted two manatees after an initial zero. My official count was one, but another manatee was picked up late. It already feels cooler! Next week should be much better!
January 15, 2020
I rounded the river temp off to 70° F (20.9° C). The park staff counted two manatees. I had to beat them, so I counted three. While I was up the run, two manatees left and another came in so I saw four total! None were Save the Manatee Club adoptees, but Una and her calf did us the favor of coming in at about 11:00 hrs. Una was caught on the webcam. Weather prediction remains the same: getting cooler starting Saturday night.
January 14, 2020
The river was up to 68° F (20° C) and only seven manatees were counted. None were adoptees. After the count was over, adoptee Una and her calf came in.
January 13, 2020
The river temp is up to 67° F (19.5° C) today. We saw 17 manatees for the count and none were Save the Manatee Club adoptees. Because of the warm weather, I imagine that will be the case with fewer numbers each day until next Monday or the day after. With all done, we found Una and her calf near the river so at least we got on adoptee in.
January 12, 2020
The weather is warming up and the river temperature was at 65.3° F (18.5° C). I counted 74 manatees, and most of them were congregated right down by the river ready to go out to feed. The only adoptees in this morning were Una with her calf and Rocket. However, Floyd came in late and posed for a nice picture.
January 10 – 11, 2020
(Wayne) On Friday, the river temp was 63° F (17° C) today. I counted 303 manatees, and the park staff counted 300. Of these, 250 of these were crowded together near the river. It is warmer and scheduled to get even warmer, and they know it. They are waiting to get out to the river salad bar where many of the others are already! Our Save the Manatee Club adoptees in today were Howie, Nick, Phyllis, Philip, Una with calf, Lily, and Whiskers. (Cora) On Saturday, the river temperature surprisingly stayed at 17° C (63° F), although the air warmed up. Many manatees had left for the river to feed, and the remaining ones were clustered near the river. A total of 175 manatees were counted. The adoptees in were Una and Moo Shoo with their calves, Nick, Floyd, Philip, and Deep Dent. Paddy Doyle came in after the count was over.
January 9, 2020
This is one of those odd days with a lot of hurry and not much getting done. I did not get the river temp or a count. The park staff counted a record number of manatees this morning — 566! The previous record had been 558 in one day early last year. From the boardwalk, Cora ID’d 179 manatees. Among them were Save the Manatee Club adoptees Annie, Deep Dent, Nick, Phyllis, Philip, Moo Shoo with calf, Una with calf, Aqua, Lily, Paddy Doyle, Merlin, Doc, Floyd, and Howie.
January 8, 2020
Today the river temp was 61° F (16° C). We counted 497 manatees. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees were Lucille, Howie, Nick, Lenny, Lily, Phyllis, Una, Deep Dent, Floyd, Philip, Merlin, Paddy Doyle, and Whiskers. Doc took Philip’s place as the late guy. It was good to see Lucille and Merlin again.
January 7, 2020
Here we go again. Got a river temp of 64° F (18° C). A little higher than yesterday. We counted 462 manatees, and I believe that was a low count. We could not see them in the lower run unless we passed right over them. Murky water and glare from the sun. Save the Manatee Club adoptees present were Lily, Nick, Una with calf, Aqua, Howie, Annie, Lenny, Floyd, Doc, Deep Dent, Paddy Doyle, and Moo Shoo with calf. Philip came in late again!
January 6, 2020
The river temp is down to 63.4 ° F (17° C). We counted 353 manatees. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees that were in were Paddy Doyle, Lily, Moo Shoo with calf, Annie, Floyd, Whiskers, Aqua, Rocket, and Deep Dent. Philip joined in late! It was a little cool at first but became a beautiful day for seeing manatees at the park. Cora did a livestream from the run for our Facebook page and in the right locations the pictures were wonderful. Manatees were posing like crazy — especially Aqua. Aqua has always been a ham! After the count was over, Cora spotted Nick, Phyllis, and Una with her calf (Una also posed). She also saw Dogwood, and Hadar and her calf came right up to the second overlook. The visitors were ecstatic!
January 3, 2020
The river temperature was up to 66.2° F (19° C). The park staff counted 123 manatees, and I counted 157. It was extremely windy, which made identification and maneuvering around the manatees very difficult. Adoptees Una and Phyllis made roll call and Howie showed up after the count was over. Two days ago we, as well as our partners at FWC, received a report from a concerned citizen about a manatee mom with calf in the Wekiva River where it is rare to encounter manatees. The citizen sent some photos of the pair, and we were able to identify the mother as BS622 “Peyton,” who we had already seen at Blue Spring this season. Since Peyton is an experienced mom and both she and the calf seemed in good body condition, it was decided that they would most likely be fine unless they got stuck when water levels dropped. This morning we were happy to see both Peyton and the calf back at Blue Spring! Apparently they had decided to go on a long swim for New Year’s but decided that they preferred it at Blue Spring!
January 1-2, 2020
The river temperature was at 18.5° C (65.3° F) both days, but the manatee count went up from 73 on Wednesday to 192 on Thursday. Wednesday the only adoptee in was Una with her calf — it seemed like many others were still out in the river celebrating the new year. Today Una was joined by Annie, Rocket, Floyd, and Lily.
December 31, 2019
The river temp was 68° F (20° C), but the count was down to three manatees. I was cold but obviously the manatees were not. No Save the Manatee Club adoptees were present.
December 30, 2019
Well the river temp was 70° F (21° C). I counted eight manatees going up the run and four coming down the run. I ID’d four and one of those was Save the Manatee Club adoptee Una. Una’s calf was with her. It will be colder later in the week and more manatees will be in.
December 26 – 27, 2019
On December 26th, the river temp was 65° F (18.5° C). With the increase and the warm weather, we expected fewer manatees, but instead we counted 226 manatees. We saw Save the Manatee Club adoptees Flash, Nick, Whiskers, Una with calf, Moo Shoo with calf, and Aqua. Moo Shoo had her calf, another calf, a yearling and two juveniles trying to nurse on her. It can be trying to be a mother manatee! On December 27th, the river temp was up to 66° F (19° C). The park staff counted 54 manatees, and we counted 90. With most of the manatees in a tight group near the river, it is easier to count from the canoe as Cora and I do than it is from the boardwalk, as the park staff does. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees that were in were Lily, Floyd, Una with calf, and Aqua. The number of manatees present should continue going down for several days as the warmer weather continues.
December 24, 2019
The river temperature was 63.5° F (17.5° C), and although the air temperature was 55° F, it felt chilly with the wind and drizzly rain, which picked up during the count. The park staff counted 130 manatees, and I counted 152. The only adoptee in was Una with her calf — maybe everyone else is out holiday shopping and getting an early Christmas dinner in the river! We didn’t do any counts the past two days due to rain but did see at least Annie and Deep Dent on the webcam.
December 21, 2019
The river warmed up slightly to 64.4° F (18° C), and the manatee count dropped slightly to 338. But the Save the Manatee Club adoptees seemed to have all talked to each other and decided to come in today! Annie, Flash, Phyllis, Lily, Lucille, Margarito, Howie, Lenny, Una with her calf, Moo Shoo with her calf, Nick, Paddy Doyle, Merlin, and Gator made the count. Floyd, Deep Dent, and Brutus showed up after the count was over! This was Brutus’ first visit to Blue Spring this season, which was exciting! He had been seen at a spring to our north by fellow researchers, but it is nice to see him at Blue Spring with the others! Bertram (one of Phyllis‘ twin sons) was in again, too. The weather for the next two days looks very rainy and windy, so we probably won’t get a count again until Tuesday.
December 20, 2019
The river temp was the same today, 62.6° F (17° C), but the manatee count was up considerably to 427. The park staff count of 494 was probably closer to correct! I got to see Lucille, Howie, Philip, Doc, Moo Shoo with calf, Merlin, Lily, and Gator of the Save the Manatee Club adoptees. I am not sure he did it, but Howie was under the canoe when it gave a tremendous bounce. The only thing that seemed to suffer was my scar drawings.
December 19, 2019
The river temp today was 62.6° F (17° C). It was more than five degrees lower than yesterday, and the manatees responded. We counted 329 manatees in spite of the wind. We were able to ID Save the Manatee Club adoptees Una with her calf, Deep Dent, Philip, Howie, Whiskers, Paddy Doyle, Aqua, and Floyd. We also got to welcome Bertram. Bertram and Bartram were Phyllis’ twins and her first calves back in 1991. We last saw Bertram in Blue Spring during the 2007-08 season, but we know he hangs out at springs to our north. Unfortunately, we have not seen Bartram since Spring 2013.
December 18, 2019
The river temp was 67.8° F (19.9° C). The weather was not too cold, but the dampness and the wind made it feel so. The manatees agreed. The park staff counted 11, then I counted 23, and before I got off the run there was over 30! Tomorrow should be interesting. No Save the Manatee Club adoptees were sighted today.
December 17, 2019
The river temperature had come up to 67.1° F (19.5° C), and I only counted 43 manatees. Park staff counted even less. No adoptees were seen, but conditions were good with clear water and no wind to take some photos for scar identification. This is an important part of the work we do every winter as each manatee needs to be photographed and drawn, especially if it has gotten any new scars or old scars have healed and changed. We share this data with our partners at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Sirenia Project for inclusion in the statewide manatee ID database. It gets very interesting when we see animals we have never seen before but then find out they have a long sighting history along the east coast of Florida prior to showing up at Blue Spring. The weather is supposed to cool down a bit after today, so we may see more manatees over the next few days.
December 16, 2019
The river temperature had come up slightly to 66.2° F (19° C). Park staff counted 65 manatees, and I counted around 90, but my count got thrown off as I was trying to locate the manatee entangled in the bicycle tire. A large group of cavorting manatees made its way down the spring run, picking up more and more participants as they went. Unfortunately, the bicycle tire entangled manatee left into the river before rescue crews arrived, and he did not return. The only adoptee seen today was Una and her calf. Since one of our partner researchers from Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute (CMARI) was at the park, she was able to cut off a large portion of the fishing line that was wrapped around Una’s left flipper including multiple sinkers. Cases like Una’s remind us of the importance to always discard trash and fishing line in appropriate bins and trash cans so manatees and other wildlife do not get entangled in it. If you see an entangled manatee, please report it to FWC at 1-888-404-3922 so trained staff can remove the entanglement safely.
December 14-15, 2019
Park staff counted 35 manatees on Saturday. Save the Manatee Club didn’t do a count in the morning due to thunderstorms and 15 mph winds, making it impossible to go out on the canoe without disturbing a bunch of manatees. We counted 48 manatees around 11 a.m., but none of them were adoptees. It got colder overnight, and on Sunday morning the river temperature was down to 65.3° F (18.5° C.). The park staff counted 107 manatees, and Save the Manatee Club counted 112. Una with her calf and Merlin were the adoptees who made roll call. Rocket came in after the count was over. During the warm weather this past week, the manatees went out, and so did the boaters. A number of manatees have come back in with new scars that we draw and photograph. None seem severe, but it is still important to note. We are still on the lookout for the manatee entangled in the bike tire and are working with our partners to organize another rescue attempt when he is sighted again and conditions allow a capture.
December 13, 2019:
The river temp was 67° F (19.5° C). There were 60 manatees counted and none were Save the Manatee Club adoptees. They did get the tag on the manatee’s belt they were looking for yesterday, but he did not like it and shook it off. All were glad when I found it near the spring boil and brought it back!
December 12, 2019
The river temp has increased to 66° F (19° C). In spite of that, I was cold last night, and I guess the manatees were as well as the number almost doubled at roll call from yesterday to 112. Still no Save the Manatee Club adoptees present. An effort was made to retag a manatee that still needs observation since he was raised in captivity. He was located in the run from his belt signal, and I found him visually. As we waited for the swimmer who had the new satellite tag, a black vulture landed on a branch of a tree that had fallen in the spring run and died. The branch, which was sticking out of the water, broke and fell in the water. It was quite large. Manatees were fleeing in all directions, and research canoes were bobbing and threatening to turn over. My comment was “Oh, we needed that!” Our manatee calmed back down a little, but they still hadn’t got his new tag on when I left.
December 11, 2019
The river temp was 65° F (18.5° C). The manatee count was 57. No Save the Manatee Club adoptees were seen.
December 10, 2019
The river temp today was up to 64° F (18° C). The manatees in were near the river. The park staff counted 196 manatees. We were involved with a manatee that needed assistance with an entanglement. We spent a great deal of time on the run but never got to count and did not manage to capture the young male with a problem. We did ID about 65 manatees, and I guess you could say the only Save the Manatee Club adoptee to be seen, Una, wasn’t late, even though she came in around 12:30 p.m. I have finally seen Una with a calf, and it seems devoted to her. I will think about that.
December 9, 2019
Temps going up, number of manatees counted going down. The river temp today was 63° F (17° C). My count was 226 manatees. For the near future it will get even lower as the temps are going up and the manatees know it. They have fine internal barometers. At the start of the count there was a mob near the mouth of the spring run. As the count went on, the few up the run were drifting down to join the group waiting to go out. Our Save the Manatee Club adoptees in today were Una (I have yet to see her near a calf), Paddy Doyle, Deep Dent, Gator, and Moo Shoo with calf.
December 7-8, 2019:
On Saturday the river temperature was still at 60.8° F (16° C), but by Sunday it had come up to 62.6° F (17° C). Many manatees were heading towards the river, especially in the course of the day, as the air was really warming up. On Saturday I counted 374 manatees but had a feeling I undercounted. The park staff counted many more than me. The adoptees in were Lucille, Una with her calf, Philip, Margarito, Deep Dent, Floyd, Lily, Annie, Paddy Doyle, Phyllis, Moo Shoo with her calf, Flash, Whiskers, Doc, and Gator. Rocket and Howie arrived after the count was over. On Sunday I counted 319 manatees, but the park staff counted over 400. They counted earlier than me, so many manatees were headed towards the river by the time I started. Adoptees Phyllis, Deep Dent, Rocket, Gator, Lily, Doc, and Moo Shoo with her calf were in. Moo Shoo had three additional youngsters in tow and was right in front of the aluminum platform where the visitors enjoyed seeing her. Annie arrived after roll call was over.
December 6, 2019
The river stayed at 16° C. (60.8° F), and I counted 444 manatees, including adoptees Doc, Paddy Doyle, Lenny, Lily, Lucille, Una with calf, Gator, Philip, Phyllis, Floyd, Flash, Margarito, and Whiskers! It is warming up a bit now in the afternoons, so many manatees start heading out into the river to feed. Over the past days, we got quite a few questions about whether we feed the manatees at Blue Spring, to which the answer is “No.” They are wild animals and will go out into the river to feed. Feeding or giving manatees water is against the law as it habituates them to people and makes them prone to approach docks and boats waiting for handouts. Tomorrow we will be having our first Education Day of the season at Blue Spring from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., and we expect quite a few manatees to be around for the public to see!
December 5, 2019:
The river temp was 60.8° F (16° C), and I counted 496 manatees. The park staff even counted 525! While I was starting to paddle up the run, something further up the run must have scared the manatees, as many of them came swimming down very fast, making counting and identification almost impossible. The adoptees seen were Howie, Lucille, Floyd, Magarito, Lily, Philip, Una with calf, Deep Dent, Merlin, Paddy Doyle, Phyllis, Whiskers, Flash, Gator, Moo Shoo with calf and Aqua! We also just got an update from our partner researchers from Clearwater Marine Research Institute that Brutus was seen at a spring North of Blue Spring!
December 4, 2019
The river temp was 63° F (16.5° C) today. I counted 425 manatees. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees in for roll call were Lucille (my first sighting this season), Margarito, Lenny, Doc, Deep Dent, Aqua, Paddy Doyle, Floyd, Rocket, Gator, Moo Shoo with little Moo Shoo, and Phyllis. Flash was late, but it was nice he dropped in!
December 3, 2019
Merlin is in! He was on the webcam the 29th and the 30th of November but did not make roll call until today. The other Save the Manatee Club adoptees that joined him were Deep Dent, Lily, Nick, Floyd, Paddy Doyle, Whiskers, Gator, Annie, Doc, and Aqua. All of the adoptees have appeared this season except Brutus. The river temp was 64° F (17.5° C). We counted 295 manatees. There are more new manatees every day. To do a quick and perhaps rather inaccurate rundown on the number of manatees in: 50 Calves, 282 returned from last season, 5 returned from seasons before last season, 76 well marked but unknown to me, 36 poorly marked that I hope I can track through the season for a minimum total of 452. Even these numbers have not settled down, so I say the count could be inaccurate at this time. In addition, I have given little consideration to the unmarked juveniles that will have to be included somehow.
December 1, 2019
The river temperature was up to 68° F (20° C.) The park staff counted 136 manatees but said many of them were heading downstream toward the river. I counted 105 manatees. The only adoptee seen was Phyllis, heading downstream as well. The manatees are most likely stocking up on some food in the river before the next cold front, which is expected to hit early this week, so we should be seeing higher numbers again.
November 29, 2019
The river temperature was up to 66° F (19° C). The park staff counted 90 manatees, but they told me upon arrival that it had been foggy and the manatees had stirred up the bottom playing in the clay, so the count may not have been accurate. I confirmed that the manatees had indeed played in the clay, which made identification rather difficult. I counted 194 manatees. Among them were adoptees Lenny, Flash, Una, and Lily. Annie showed up after the count was over — she must have been Black Friday shopping in the river or eating Thanksgiving leftovers.
November 28, 2019
The river temp was up to 65.3 F (18.5C) today and 205 manatees were counted. Among them were adoptees Rocket, Lenny, Gator, Floyd, and Una. We saw a manatee on the above water webcam last week and finally in person yesterday and today. It reminded us of Homer II (a well known, long-term Blue Spring manatee) with terrible new scars. However, we saw Homer II last week with no new scars. We photographed his “twin” and forwarded our pictures to USGS to see if the manatee was in the statewide database and it was! It turned out to be a manatee with the ID number EC023 that was last seen in 2014 in Brevard County and Jacksonville!
November 27, 2019
The river temp was back up to 64.4° F (18° C) today but the count was higher. We saw 232 manatees. New for the season arrivals keep coming in. Most satisfying are manatees that missed last season but are back now! Among the Save the Manatee Club adoptees in today were Una (and maybe a calf? We are working on a decision on that.), Philip, Nick, Annie, Floyd, and Gator. Then here came Rocket down from the boil! Now all we need are Brutus and Merlin!
November 26, 2019
The river temp was back to 63° F (17.5° C). Cora and I counted 218 manatees. Save the Manatee Club adoptees in were Floyd, Philip, and Moo Shoo with calf. Lily was late again.
November 25, 2019
The river was up to 64° F (18° C). Our count was 203 manatees. The adoptees present for roll call were Philip, Annie, and Aqua. Aqua may have had her yearling with her. As a bonus, Lily was late. Now the weather will warm for a while.
November 22, 2019
The river temperature was up a degree to 64.4° F (18° C). I counted 231 manatees and the park staff counted exactly 231 as well! It is rare that we get the exact same count. Manatee adoptee Lucille made her first season appearance. Phyllis, Deep Dent, Floyd, Gator, and Whiskers also made roll call today. Last season, along with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and park staff, we were closely monitoring a manatee that was only able to swim on its side. We nicknamed him the “Sideswimmer,” but he escaped several rescue attempts. We thought he may not make it through the summer, but today he came back and he seems a little bit better. We will monitor him closely. With the afternoons warming up a bit, many manatees were headed toward the river to feed at the end of roll call.
November 21, 2019
The river temp was up a degree to 63° F (17° C). Cora and I counted 261 manatees. There were 31 more than yesterday as we started earlier. Adoptees Doc and Deep Dent were in for their first visits and met up with Nick, Philip, Lily, Una, Paddy Doyle, and Gator.
November 20, 2019
The river temp was down another degree to 62° F (16.5° C). The park staff counted 374 manatees, but Cora Berchem, our Manatee Research & Multimedia Specialist, and I only counted 230 manatees. We counted later than the park, and I think many manatees were anticipating a short warm spell, so they left. The air temp was 70° F (21.2° C) before we finished the count. We confirmed Whiskers was in yesterday and saw Annie for the first time this season. Lily and Gator also made roll call. Flash was late! We have a very tiny mom with a very tiny calf (naturally) that have a few very tiny barnacles. I have never had a calf with barnacles in the run before.
November 19, 2019
The river temp went down a degree to 65.3° F (17° C), and the number of manatees went up to 275! Nick, Margarito, Lenny, Floyd, and Flash came in to join Moo Shoo, Philip, and Gator. Una was seen but missed roll call. Moo Shoo has a calf, but Una does not seem to have one. We are still waiting for Annie, Brutus, Deep Dent, Doc, Lucille, Merlin, Rocket, and Whiskers. Cora Berchem, our Manatee Research & Multimedia Specialist, and I keep thinking or hoping we have seen Whiskers but haven’t pinned the ID down yet. Playful manatees are stirring the clay up in the run, so it is hard to count, let alone ID.
November 18, 2019:
While I have been watching the weather and the river temperatures from a distance, the real weather at Blue Spring has been very different! The river temp has reached 64° F (17.5° C). The manatee count from the park staff reached 58 on Sunday. At least 24 were in on Saturday. The count was only 15 on Friday, November 15th, but I have made it the start of the manatee season as the count was made in pouring rain and wind conditions. The number of manatees present was much higher — they could just not be counted because of the weather. Cora Berchem, our Research & Multimedia Specialist, has been at the park working on the webcams and saw Lily, Gator, and Una. Today Cora and I counted 249 manatees. The adoptees were Lily, Howie, Phyllis, Philip, Paddy Doyle, Una, Moo Shoo, and Gator! Quite a crop for our first day counting. Some observers thought Una had a calf. Moo Shoo might have a calf. We are still checking on that. Many calves in, and it is already like herding cats to keep track of them.
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 2018 – 2019 Manatee Season