Wayne Hartley, Manatee Specialist, and Cora Berchem, Manatee Research & Multimedia Specialist in the research canoe at Blue Spring State Park.
Wayne Hartley, Manatee Specialist, and Cora Berchem, Manatee Research & Multimedia Specialist, take “manatee roll call” at Blue Spring State Park.

Manatee Reports from Blue Spring State Park

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

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