Wayne Hartley takes "manatee roll call" at Blue Spring State Park.
Wayne Hartley takes “manatee roll call” at Blue Spring State Park.

Manatee Reports from Blue Spring State Park

by Wayne Hartley, Manatee Specialist
Save the Manatee Club


November 16, 2017:
Cora Berchem our Multi-Media Specialist did a count today. She also did one on November 11th. On the 11th, she counted three manatees then ID’d a non-adoptee after the count was over. The river was 70° F (21° C). Since then, the park has averaged around five manatees a day. Today the river was 68° F (20° C), and the manatee count was 26. Cora ID’d several manatees with more to follow as we look at her film. Lucille and her calf were in! Looking at the forecast for Orange City and knowing it is often cooler (or hotter) at the park, I was, and am, planning on counting tomorrow and Monday. After Saturday, the rest of the month looks like manatee weather.

November 4, 2017:
The river temp was 68° F (20° C.). I was surprised it was so low, but the manatees seem to know the air temps will be in the 80s (and was yesterday), as only 11 were in. Six manatees were ID’d, but none were adoptees. I shall be keeping an eye on the webcam and the thermometer.

November 3, 2017
Cora Berchem, our Multimedia Specialist, did the count today. The river temp was up to 70° F (21° C).  She counted 10 manatees and the park staff counted nine. Cora ID’d nine manatees, and one of them was Gator — the sole adoptee.

November 2, 2017

River temp of 67° F (19.5° C) today. I counted 44 manatees, and the park staff counted 32. I have an advantage most days by being in a canoe. Of those, 36 manatees were ID’d, and the only adoptee was Gator. We are up to 15 calves and are waiting for four we saw pre-season to show up. The season began on October 31st. Now I expect to see the numbers of manatees drop to near zero as the warm weather returns for an extended period. P.S. Just got a look at a still from a film Cora Berchem, the Club’s Multimedia Specialist, shot on Tuesday, and Annie is pregnant!

November 1, 2017

Today we counted 39 manatees and the park staff counted 31. Given the high opaque water, that is much the same count. The river was 69.5° F (20.9° C). For those who do not know, a river temp of 68° F (20° C) gets the manatees coming in, and the lower the river temp gets below that, the more manatees we see. Of the 34 manatees ID’d, only one was an adoptee. Gator is back and was all over the run engaging in play with everyone, whether they wanted to play or not. Phyllis showed up later on in the afternoon and was spotted by Cora Berchem, the Club’s Multimedia Specialist. But Phyllis did not have a calf with her. If the season started yesterday, and that will be determined tomorrow, we have seen 10 calves. We are waiting to re-sight four manatees seen during the spring and summer. Lot of calves for two days.

October 31, 2017
Cora Berchem, the Club’s Multimedia Specialist, went out with me today. We got a river temperature of 67.9° F (19.9° C). We saw 54 manatees! So we will go out tomorrow as well. Lucille was in with her calf seen during the summer, and Annie came in as we finished up. Twenty-eight manatees were ID’d. As usual at the start of the season, it is cow/calf pairs and juveniles that tend to show up first. Frustrating, as I have so many I cannot ID. If this is the start of the season, we may have a month without many manatees as the warm weather is predicted to return.

October 27, 2017
It was cool a few days, and I had to be near the park anyway, so at noon I dropped by for a manatee check. The river was 72° F (22.2° C) at Racy Point in Palatka, which is too far from the park, but an indicator. Yesterday 10 manatees were sighted in the spring run at the park. Today I estimate six gathered to watch me recover the canoe from the high water. The park had reported three manatees. The water was too dark to ID any manatees. Later I saw a cow/calf pair nursing near the river but still no luck with an ID. There are 20 number markers along the run on stakes. Only eight number markers were visible where they should be, one was on the bottom, and 10 were missing or not visible due to the high water. I hope to go back out Tuesday. This is the time when manatees drop by the park as the river cools, only to find out it is not cold enough to start the manatee season yet.  But they are reassured to find the spring still there at 72° F (22.2° C).

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 2016 – 2017 Manatee Season