Manatee Reports from Blue Spring State Park
by Wayne Hartley, Manatee Specialist
Save the Manatee Club
January 18, 2018:
The river temp was 52° F (11° C). As cold as I was in 26° F (-3° C) air, that did not seem right, but the river comes from the south where it is warmer. I counted 419 manatees and ID’d 175 of them. I saw Howie, Nick, Annie, Gator, Lenny, Paddy Doyle, Phyllis, Whiskers, Deep Dent, and Aqua among the Save the Manatee Club adoptees. I keep mentioning that manatees are still coming in for the season for their first visit. Today it was a manatee named Roos. Several times I thought Roos was in, and when I would check the pictures it would be another manatee. Today, when I checked the pictures, I found it really was Roos! Making the manatee ID’s was hard today with the wind coming all the way up the run and frequently pushing me against the bank. The ripples distorted the scars, and I was afraid of being blown onto a manatee that did not expect it, but all went well.
January 17, 2018:
The river temp was 57° F (13.5° C) today. We counted 316 manatees and ID’d 179 of them. Among those sighted were Howie, Nick, Lenny, Lily, Floyd, Annie, Whiskers, and Phyllis.
January 16, 2018:
The river temp was 58° F (14° C). I had a member of the media with me, so my count was rather loose, but the park counted 314 manatees, and that seems right. I ID’d 165 manatees and saw Save the Manatee Club adoptees Howie, Nick, Doc, Floyd, Lily, Whiskers, Phyllis, and Gator. My companion adopted Phyllis, so that was nice. On the above water webcam, we’ve seen so many film clips of the manatees playing with an old fallen palm tree. Two days ago, a fresh tree fell in the same place, and the manatees are enthusiastic.
January 12 and 15, 2018:
The river temp was up to 62° F (16.2° C) on Friday the 12th, and so there were fewer manatees in. We counted 188 manatees and ID’d 83. Unfortunately, none of the Save the Manatee Club adoptees were in attendance. But the cold is coming back, and this next week should be something! On Monday, the river temp was 55° F (13° C), and there were plenty of manatees. The wind was up, making it hard to count and harder to identify. We finally came up with a count of 480 manatees and ID’d 126 of those. Unlike Friday, we had some adoptees in. We saw Lucille, Paddy Doyle, Howie, Philip, Lily, Floyd, Gator, Phyllis, Whiskers, and Doc. New manatees are still arriving.
January 11, 2018:
Cora Berchem, Save the Manatee Club Multimedia Specialist, did the count alone again today. The river temp was 58° F (14° C) and 235 manatees were in. Cora ID’d 103 manatees and saw Annie, Howie, Lily, Gator, Floyd, Philip, and Whiskers. The first week of January, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission staff photographed Millie, BS133, at Port Everglades. The last time we saw her was at Blue Spring in November 2014.
January 9, 2018:
Ah Florida! On Friday, I was dressed in long johns, two T-shirts, a heavy knit sweater, a heavy knit muffler almost as big as a sweater, a field jacket, a floatation device zipped up to keep out cold, and mittens. On Monday, I was wearing two T-shirts and the floatation device buckled but unzipped to keep cool. The river temp today was 54° F (12° C). We counted 354 manatees and the park staff counted 359. With 191 manatees ID’d, we saw Lucille and her calf, Lenny, Howie, Floyd, Doc, Gator, Lily, Whiskers, and Phyllis. A research note would be that a manatee named Nu was seen at Silver Spring on New Year’s Day. Nu was at Blue Spring two years ago for a day or two and made it into a YouTube video appearance earlier in Silver River, but I did not pick up on the ID then.
January 8, 2018:
The river remains at 50° F (10° C). My count was 426 manatees. Among the 237 manatees I ID’d were these Save the Manatee Club adoptees: Lenny, Nick, Floyd, Annie, Deep Dent, Philip, Doc, Gator, Paddy Doyle, Phyllis, and Whiskers.
January 6-7, 2018:
On Saturday, the river temp came up 50° F (10° C). We doubted the thermometer on that one, but it was still quite cold for a manatee. This was our synoptic survey day, when we participate in an attempt to count every manatee in Florida in a two or three-day period. I was sidelined and so Cora Berchem, Save the Manatee Club’s Multimedia Specialist, had to go it alone. She did very well indeed. Cora counted 485 manatees and 53 of those were calves. The highest count made at the park to date! Cora ID’d 167 manatees and saw the following adoptees; Nick, Lucille, Annie, Deep Dent, Philip, Lily, Floyd, Whiskers, Phyllis, Doc, Aqua, and Paddy Doyle. On Sunday, I determined that the river temp of the last two days, 50° F (10° C), was correct. The water comes from the south where it can be much warmer. Cora did the count again on Sunday. She counted 446 manatees, and the park staff counted 441 — not bad. Cora ID’d 169 manatees, including Nick, Lucille, Philip, Howie, Lenny, Deep Dent, Margarito, Lily, Gator, Floyd, Whiskers, Doc, Aqua, Phyllis, and Paddy Doyle who was late again for roll call.
January 5, 2018:
The river temp is down to 48° F (9° C).The park staff counted 391 manatees, and Cora Berchem, Save the Manatee Club’s Multimedia Specialist, and I counted 453 manatees and ID’d 209. The adoptees in that number were Deep Dent, Lucille with calf, Howie, Lily, Floyd, Margarito, Aqua, Phyllis, Whiskers, Doc, Paddy Doyle, and Philip. There have been higher counts at the park, but I believe this is my highest!
January 4, 2018:
The river was 51° F (10.5° C). Needless to say, many manatees were in. Cora Berchem, Save the Manatee Club’s (SMC) Multimedia Specialist, did a count of 418 manatees after the park staff count of 363. The wind made things very difficult, but Cora ID’d 124 manatees. SMC adoptees Lily. Gator, Floyd, Aqua, Phyllis, Doc, Whiskers, and Philip were definitely seen, and there may have been others.
December 30-31, 2017:
Deep Dent is back! To greet him were Annie, Nick, Lenny, Lucille, Howie, Paddy Doyle, Floyd, and Philip. The river was 62° F (16.5° C). The run was so stirred up with clay and silt on Saturday that Cora Berchem, Multimedia Specialist for Save the Manatee Club (SMC), deferred to the park staff count of 347 manatees rather than the 253 she counted. On Sunday the 31st, the river temp was 60° F (15.5° C). Cora did the manatee roll call again on that day and counted 354 manatees with much clay suspended in the water to hide them. The park staff counted 364 manatees before the clay was so stirred up. Among the 136 manatees Cora ID’d were SMC adoptees Lucille, Paddy Doyle, Howie, Nick, Margarito, Aqua, Deep Dent, Phyllis, Doc, and Philip. The last two manatees were not seen during roll call, but after.
December 29, 2017:
The river was down to 64° F (17.8° C) and the weather was miserable and getting worse. The park staff counted 385 manatees, and I counted 327. Of those, I identified 171 manatees. The second one I ID’d was Howie! Then I saw Lucille, Annie, Floyd, Paddy Doyle, Whiskers, and Aqua. Many more than Howie made their first roll call of the season today. I was glad I came in spite of the weather.
December 28, 2017:
Cora Berchem, our Multimedia Specialist, did the count. Cora counted 257 manatees and ID’d 102. Aqua was seen leaving the run between the taking of the river temperature (it was still 66° F (18.8° C), and launching the canoe, but Aqua counts. Also seen during the count were Annie, Lucille and calf, and Whiskers. Nick showed up too late for roll call, but he showed!
December 27, 2017:
The river temp remained the same at 66° F (18.8° C). But it was a damp cool that seems to bother the manatees as it does us. So today we counted 190 manatees and ID‘d 127 of those. At 10:55 a.m. with the count over since 10:04 a.m., Lucille and calf came in. Especially nice since we were doing a livestream on our Facebook page! At least we had one adoptee.
December 26, 2017:
The river temp today was 65° F (18.8°C). I counted 148 manatees with more coming in. The badly injured juvenile female manatee we are monitoring is behaving normally and shows signs of healing, so we are continuing to monitor. Still with no adoptees.
December 23 – 25, 2017:
Our Multimedia Specialist, Cora Berchem, counted on Saturday through Christmas Day. On Saturday, the river was 65° F (18.5° ) and 67 manatees were in. Of those, 32 were ID’d. On Christmas Eve, the river temp was 67° F (19.5° C). Cora counted 63 manatees and the park staff counted 64. On Christmas Day, the river temp was 66° F (19° C). Cora counted 80 manatees and the park staff counted 77. No adoptees were present on these three days.
December 22, 2017:
The river was at 66° F (18.8° C). We counted 99 manatees and ID’d 82. None were adoptees.
December 21, 2017:
The river went down a degree to 65° F (18.5° C). Cora Berchem, Save the Manatee Club’s Multimedia Specialist, counted 113 manatees. She ID’d 52 manatees, but none were adoptees. Good news: the situation with our high floating cow resolved itself, and she appears to be okay now. Good thing too as we had a big-time capture scheduled for her today. There’s other news about Una and her calf, Mr. Baby, released on December 12th. Una behaved as if she hadn’t been away. Mr. Baby did not leave the run until yesterday. But today he was found out in the feeding grounds eating and socializing with other animals.
December 20, 2017:
We counted 109 manatees today, and the park staff counted 107. The river temperature was up to 65° F (18.5° C). Of those counted, 58 manatees were ID’d, but there were no adoptees present. We have 55 calves for sure, but there may be six others and more to come. I have decided Amber did not bring her April first calf in. Well, she had at least eight months to nurse it and then wean it. But it does not get on the season count though! Yesterday, one of my unknowns got into the clear water while the wind was down and turned out to be Venetia. She was a rehab manatee released last year, and we all hoped she would be back!
December 19, 2017
Only half the manatees today with a river temp of 66° F (18.8° C). We counted 147 and the park staff counted 148. Conditions were good, so 84 of the manatees were ID’d. The sole adoptee present was Philip.
December 18, 2017:
The river temp was 64° F (17.5° C). It is warming up. Soon it will be summer again in winter. I counted 278 manatees in a flat calm and less silt. I ID’d 149 manatees and saw Lucille, Annie, Lenny, and late boy Philip. With the clearer water, I filmed my heart out!
December 16, 2017:
Cora Berchem, Save the Manatee Club’s Multimedia Specialist, did a count today. She counted 264 manatees with a river temp of 65° F (18° C). Philip, Paddy Doyle, Floyd, Gator, Doc, Phyllis, and Whiskers were among the manatees ID’d. Our orphan seems to be settling in, but now we have a new one. It doesn’t look as fit as the first, so we shall be watching it.
December 14 – 15, 2017:
On Thursday, Cora Berchem, the Club’s Multimedia Specialist, did a count. The river was 58° F (14° C). She counted 304 manatees and the park staff counted 314. Of the manatees counted, Cora ID’d 108 of them and found Lucille, Philip, Gator, Doc, and Phyllis. Later, with the count finished, she discovered Lenny. We have been notified that Brutus is warm and comfy in another spring. On Friday, the river was at 59° F (14.5° C). We counted 335 manatees and the park staff counted 321. I love it when we are close that way. Of those, 158 manatees were ID’d. First, we greeted Nick for the first time this season and then saw Lucille, Gator, Paddy Doyle, and Annie. It looks like our floater is getting closer to help. A boat, nets, people, and a place to go for treatment may soon be available.
December 13, 2017:
The river was down to 58° F (14° C). The wind and silt were better but still bad. The better visibility was shown as I counted 344 manatees and ID’d 178. Paddy Doyle, Doc, Flash, Lily, and Phyllis were in. All were in the upper half of the run above the aluminum dock. Philip made his first appearance this season by swimming in during the count. Una and her yearling were in but far apart. If they had stayed in the wild, Una would have weaned him long ago. Our female floater is not looking better.
December 12, 2017:
The river went up a degree and a half to 61.5° F (16.5° C), but we counted 261 manatees again. Conditions were worse with wind and silted water. We ID’d 121 manatees. Margarito was the first adoptee ID’d, and it was his first day this season. Then we saw Phyllis, Gator, Doc, Paddy Doyle, and Annie. Una is home from SeaWorld with her yearling. The release went well. Mr. Baby, the yearling, is tagged, so we have two tagged manatees now. The other tagged manatee is Randall, and he is learning to come to the warm water of Blue Spring quite well. Our male floater is unseen for now, but we continue to watch for him. How we will handle the female and her calf is still under consideration. More calves and other manatees are coming in.
December 11, 2017:
The river was 60° F (15.5° C). Steam was coming off the run as we counted 261 manatees. There must have been many more, but they are still so happy at meeting old friends that they are still churning up the clay and silt as they cavort together, making counting more than challenging! Of those, 131 manatees were ID’d. The adoptees in order sighted were Lily, Lucille, Floyd, Paddy Doyle, Doc, Flash, Whiskers, Gator, Phyllis, Lenny, and Merlin! As for our two floaters; the gentleman (manatee) from Rivera Beach was not seen. Hopefully that means he has recovered, but we want to see him to be sure. The female with calf was still floating high, and we continue to watch her. At the start of the day, I had seen 248 manatees this season. I think I need to do some more figuring. There are 48 calves now. Amber is in, but we cannot say we have seen her calf (born before the season started) yet.
December 10, 2017:
FLOYD IS BACK! With that out of the way, the river temp was 60° F (16° C). We counted 145 manatees under very poor conditions. The wind was up and the run was silted up by cavorting manatees. Many more must have been in. Of those, 80 manatees were ID’d. As well as Floyd, Lucille and calf, and Annie were in from the adoptees. There have been 248 manatees seen so far this season. I look forward to the next few days as many old acquaintances will be coming in. Yesterday a manatee that made his first appearance at the park on December 8th was floating high. He was reported, and we were asked to keep an eye on him. Today he was very close to normal. Cora Berchem, Save the Manatee Club’s Multimedia Specialist, sent pictures to the USGS Sirenia Project, and he was ID’d as Rivera Beach654. RB654 was ID’d in 2009 and last seen in 2010. Another manatee was floating very high today, and we hope she improves tomorrow as Unknown 28 (RB654) has.
December 8, 2017:
It was cool and drippy yesterday. The river temperature dropped a degree to 68° F (20° C). The manatees knew it and probably know it is getting even cooler. We saw 45 today. And for that matter, we are up to 45 calves seen this season. Annie came in to get on the count, so we even had an adoptee! Where are so many others? I hope by the end of next week we will know. Winter is coming!
December 7, 2017:
The past three days, the park staff counted 12, 11 and 5+ manatees. Today the river temp was 69° F (20.5° C). I counted 12 manatees, and the park staff counted 10. I had six unmarked juveniles, three poorly marked juveniles, one poorly marked adult, and two named and numbered Blue Spring manatees. Because I have missed days and cold weather is coming, I shall try again tomorrow in spite of the weather forecast. Saturday looks really awful, but Sunday may be perfect.
December 1, 2017:
The river temp remained at 68° F (20° C), which was surprising. Cora Berchem, the Club’s Multimedia Specialist, and I counted 38 manatees and ID’d 26 on that Friday. None were adoptees. Cora was also able to count on Saturday and get some observations on Sunday. The manatee count on Saturday was 20, and though the count was up to 23 on Sunday, the temp was also up to 69° F (19.5° C). Of those, 19 manatees were ID’d, but none were adoptees. Winter is coming, I think.
November 30, 2017:
The river was 68° F (20° C) again today. Also again today, the manatees had the clay in the lower run stirred up. I counted 57 manatees and ID’d 37. Seven manatees were ID’d after some of the clay settled. No adoptees made the roll call, but Gator came in late. We have been informed that Galadriel died of a natural gut upset that was probably bacterial.
November 29, 2017:
The river temp is up to 68° F (20° C), and the manatee count is down to 80. Of those, 54 were ID’d, and Gator was among them! Calves seen during the season are up to 42. I should have mentioned Randall yesterday. He was released near Satsuma, Florida, in the St. Johns River, and when the cold arrived, he did not get that he needed to move to a warm water source. So staff and volunteers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Sea to Shore Alliance, SeaWorld Orlando, Save the Manatee Club, and Blue Spring State Park went and got him. Randall has been at the park for a few days now, and he definitely seems to get it now. He goes out, feeds, and comes back to the warm spring. Now a new problem. A young mother with a young calf has a line entanglement. I saw this in the film I shot to get her new boat scar. Calves and pregnancies complicate things when it comes to rescues.
November 28, 2017
The river temp was 65° F (18.5° C). We counted 98 manatees today, but it should have been more. At the start, the clay was badly stirred up in the lower part of the run. Then the manatees did a panic (perhaps one manatee shoved another against a sharp tree branch in the water). At that, we moved up beyond the clay and counted from there, estimating we missed 16 manatees, but it was probably more. The research depends on manatee recognition, and the count is almost incidental. We ID’d 65 manatees but again no adoptees. The run was very clear when we came back down from the boil. Cora Berchem, the Club’s Multimedia Specialist, and I also did a livestream to the Club’s Facebook site during the roll call. We are up to 40 calves seen this season and 204 manatees total. Every season now, with so many manatees coming in, we seem to have an orphan or two. This year we have one nicknamed “Brown Calf.” She is very small, and we finally realized she was all about the run by herself and became concerned. I got film of her belly (to see if she is malnourished), and she looks good. Then Cora filmed her nursing, and today she was keeping close company with two other manatees. She will probably be fine, but we will keep an eye on her. We are also looking forward to the return of Una and calf, Mr. Baby, from Sea World where Una was treated for line entanglement on both flippers.
November 27, 2017
The river temp was 64.5° F (18° C). We counted 101 manatees and ID’d 68, but there were no adoptees present. Thirty-six calves have been seen for sure. We are still waiting to see if two of the mothers have calves or are just borrowing little ones. The third mother we were wondering about proved to us she does indeed have a calf. It just does not like to hang around with mom. We are also waiting for Amber to bring her calf in for the season. Amber brought it in off and on all summer, so we are getting a little impatient. After the count, we bid farewell to Galadriel as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recovery team came to pick her up. We should know the cause of her death soon.
November 25 – 26, 2017:
November 25th: The river in Palatka at Racy Point was 65° F (18.4° C), but it was 68° F (20° C) at Blue Spring, which is why I cannot use Racy Point to determine the water temp at the park. I counted 66 manatees, and the park staff counted 65. I ID’d 49 manatees, none of whom were adoptees. We have at least 33 calves is so far. Our total manatees seen is 158.
November 26th: Yesterday a manatee named Galadriel was floating high as they often do with gas. It was her first appearance this season. I asked the rangers to call if she was still having buoyancy problems today. Instead, we were notified this afternoon that a dead manatee had been brought in to the park. We ID’d it as BS344 Galadriel. Galadriel was ID’d very young in 2002. She brought in calves in 2005, 2012, 2014, and 2016. IDing the dead manatees is the saddest part of this work. The cause of Galadriel’s death will have to be determined.
On a lighter note. Cora Berchem, Save the Manatee Club’s Multimedia Specialist, was able to do a count today. The river temp was 66° F (19° C) and 91 manatees were in. Of those, 39 were ID’d and Lucille was among that number with her calf.
November 22, 2017:
Racy Point in Palatka and Blue Spring both had a river temp of 66° F (19° C). If it would be consistent, it would make my job easier, and I could just get the temp from the Internet at Racy Point. I counted 77 manatees, but there were many more in the clay the manatees were stirring up on the west side of almost half the run. There are more calves in and more manatees in for their first visit of the season. Yesterday, while I stayed home, a manatee released two weeks ago was captured and brought to Blue Spring to help him learn about warm water sites. He seems to appreciate being here. Of the manatees counted, there were 47 ID’d, and only Lily and Lucille among the adoptees in today.
November 21, 2017:
The weather looked too bad to count, so I stayed home and worked on numbers. We have seen 109 different manatee at a minimum. We have at least 24 calves. The returned adoptees are Lily, Lucille, Annie, Phyllis, and Gator.
November 20, 2017:
Today the river was down to 64° F (18° C), and we had a count of 43 manatees. Of those, 30 manatees were ID’d. There was hardly anyone new, and the only adoptees were Lucille and Lily. The weather ahead looks very bad for manatee roll calls! Rain and more rain.
November 17, 2017:
The river temperature came in as 66.2° F (19.1° C), so we were up to 38 manatees for the count. Of those, 21 were ID’d. Lily and Lucille were in. Twenty-three calves have been seen, and there are three adult “maybes” that might have calves or have been borrowing little ones. Getting better and better!
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