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, Director of Multimedia & Manatee Research Associate, take “manatee roll call” at Blue Spring State Park.

Manatee Reports from Blue Spring State Park

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

January 19, 2021:

The river temp was 62.6° F (17° C). We counted 376 manatees and ID’d 251. That is a lot of ID’s! The Save the Manatee Club adoptees in were Lucille, Lenny, Margarito, Paddy Doyle, Una, Deep Dent, Floyd, Lily, Merlin, Gator, Phyllis with calf, and Doc. Rocket, Nick, and Philip showed up after roll call.

January 18, 2021:
I looked at the weather forecast and it was windy, but I had said I would go so I went. I got to the park and realized it was a holiday. I definitely would have canceled, but I was there so I got on the water. The river temp was 59.5° F (15° C). It should be colder — I do not understand! The manatees know it is cold. I counted 360. I ID’d 123. I would have done better, but the wind finally came up just after I took a break from the roll call to rescue a boy’s jacket that fell in the run. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees that were in were Doc, Margarito, Philip, Deep Dent, Paddy Doyle, Phyllis with calf, Whiskers, Aqua with calf, and Rocket. Merlin was seen by a volunteer as I was fighting the wind to get the canoe beached. Manatees are still making their first visits. Ordo and Roos (not adoptees) were in side by side near the mouth of the run. Makes me happy to see the old guys.

January 17, 2021:
The river temperature this morning was 60.8° F (16° C), and I counted 375 manatees. The park staff counted 382, so it was very close. It was extremely foggy to the point where you couldn’t see the opposite bank on the St. John’s River! This happens sometimes but not very often. The adoptees in today were Margarito, Annie, Doc, Paddy Doyle, Merlin, Aqua with calf, Moo Shoo, Una, Phyllis with calf, Deep Dent, Whiskers, Lenny, and Floyd!

January 15, 2021:
The canoe basin at the mouth of the run usually has about five or six manatees in it at roll call. Today it looked like 60! When we launched the canoe, the entire bunch went to panic mode! The USGS folks working on the flow meters had the same experience. I guess it was the capture yesterday that has them spooked. The river temp was at 58.8° F (14.9° C). The river, being cold, is heavier than the warm run water, so it goes up the run on the bottom. Instead of being a 100 or more yards up the run, it was not even all the way across the canoe basin. Has me puzzled. We counted 321 manatees in spite of the commotion. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees we saw were Lily, Paddy Doyle, Annie, Una, Deep Dent, Whiskers, Phyllis with calf and Doc.

January 13 – 14, 2021:
Yesterday the river was at 60.8° F (16° C), and we counted 380 manatees. The adoptees in were Lenny, Paddy Doyle, Deep Dent, Rocket, Annie, Floyd, Nick, Moo Shoo, Philip, Phyllis with her calf, and Lucille! Today the river was at 61.7° F (16.5° C) and 397 manatees were counted; however, we did a rather quick count as we had to assist with locating some manatees in need of rescue today. We have been watching one manatee that looks very skinny, but he was very responsive to the rescue team and escaped all efforts to catch him. We assisted our partners from FWC, Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute, Volusia County, and Blue Spring State Park with hoop-netting a very small female calf that was not thriving. It was transported to SeaWorld Orlando for rehabilitation. The adoptees seen throughout the day today were Annie, Lily, Lucille, Floyd, Moo Shoo, Paddy Doyle, Una, Howie, Nick, Phyllis with calf, Deep Dent, and Lenny!

January 12, 2021:
The river temp was 64.5° F (18° C). A third of the way up the run the wind was so bad for visibility and my ability to guide the canoe. I allowed that if it was this bad at the start we would not have started. To add to our troubles, a cormorant diving into the run spooked the manatees again so the water clarity became even worse. One manatee looked like the others had tried to bury him in sand during the panic! Still, we counted 277 manatees compared to the park’s 293. Of those, 122 manatees were ID’d. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees were Phyllis with calf, Paddy Doyle, Una, Howie, Floyd, Lily, and Philip. A little incident from yesterday: We were about a quarter of the way up the run when Cora seemed to have spotted an unusual manatee, but her reaction was off. I looked and found we were about six feet from a nine-foot alligator submerged in about a foot and a half of water. He was between a ruined dock (also submerged) and the bank. He did not bother us, and we sure did not bother him, so the count continued.

January 11: 2021:
The manatees were very “spooky” today. They dashed about and stirred up the run at the least provocation. Still, we counted 400 manatees. The river temp was 59° F (15° C). The Save the Manatee Club adoptees present were Lucille, Nick, Margarito, Paddy Doyle, Flash, Doc, Merlin, Floyd, Annie, Whiskers, Lilly, Philip, Gator, Rocket, Howie, and Phyllis with calf. Pretty good attendance! Brutus was reported wandering the springs to our north. Sadly, we also received word that Bay, BS562, was found dead of cold stress at Salt Spring on December 19,  2020. Bay first appeared at Blue Spring in 2008 and was last seen at Blue Spring in 2018. Bay missed the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons but will come no more.

January 10, 2021:
The river had dropped to 59.9° F (15.5 ° C), which was not surprising as the past few nights have been pretty cold! I counted 384 manatees, but there were most likely a lot more. Something stirred them up, and many manatees were swimming around in the lower transects, which made it hard to count them all and identify them. The adoptees in today were Una, Annie, Aqua with calf, Phyllis with calf, Merlin, Flash, Lily, Lucille, Gator, Lenny, Rocket, Floyd, Whiskers, Doc, Moo Shoo, Paddy Doyle, and Deep Dent! Una seems to be accompanied by a juvenile, which makes me wonder if it might be her calf “Maguna” from last year. Una and Maguna were rescued in February of 2020 and brought to SeaWorld Orlando for rehabilitation after Una had both her flippers severely entangled in fishing line. The pair was successfully released in the late summer, and we would have expected that Maguna would be weaned by now. Since Maguna has no scars, it is impossible to identify her.

January 9, 2021:
The river remained at 62.6° F (17° C), but the air temperature keeps dropping. This morning, 394 manatees were counted. The park staff even counted 418 from the boardwalk and reported that over 100 of them were at the spring head, which seems to be a new record! When I reached the head spring, there were still almost 30 manatees up there. The adoptees seen today were Lily, Annie, Aqua with her calf, Lenny, Lucille, Whiskers, Una, Doc, Gator, Paddy Doyle, Flash, Floyd, Margarito, Nick, Moo Shoo, and Merlin! Manatee “Sawyer,” who we mentioned in our update the other day, is now back at Blue Spring, which is good news, meaning he did not get stuck at the other site he was visiting!

January 8, 2021
The river remained at 62.6° F (17° C). The number of manatees went down as the air temp was higher for the evening low. We counted 293 manatees. We saw Save the Manatee Club adoptees Whiskers, Paddy Doyle, Moo Shoo, Nick, Merlin, Gator, and Doc. We filmed some question and answer sessions for educational videos, and then Cora did an interview with Channel 13 while I went home.

January 7, 2021:
Late news form yesterday. As Cora reviewed the webcam film, she picked out Aqua in front of the camera! Today the river temp remained at 62° F (17° C). We counted 366 manatees, and the park staff counted 400 manatees. We would have done more except for the birds. Cormorants generally hop off the tree limbs into the water very quietly. This time one about 25 feet away must have landed on a manatee. Manatees (the ones awake) took off in all directions, and we were lucky to remain upright. This was in the mob near the river, and the dashing about and the silt stirred up did cause a decline in the count! Later an anhinga further up the run caused the same thing on a smaller scale. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees were Una, Annie (very pregnant), Aqua, Lily, Moo Shoo, Phyllis with calf, Gator, and, with roll call over, we saw Nick. Cora stayed at the park to work on the cameras and emailed me that Merlin was in.

January 6, 2021:
The river temp was down to 62° F (17° C), and more manatees were in. Cora and I counted 264 manatees. More Save the Manatee Club adoptees were in as well. The 166 manatees ID’d included Una, Annie, Lily, and Phyllis with calf. Manatee numbers seen at Blue Spring as of today this season is 639. This number includes 78 calves.

January 5, 2021:
The river temp remained at 65° F (18.5® C), but the humid cool air got more manatees in today. I counted 190 manatees, and the park staff counted 187 — close enough! Save the Manatee Club adoptees Annie and Una were among the 80 manatees I ID’d today. I watched a cormorant swallow an armored catfish and asked him to tell his friends it was delicious. The armored catfish is a South American import that is doing no good for the environment. Two more old timer manatees came in for their first visit, and it was good to see them. When I got home I ID’d one of my unknown drawings as Nacho, not an adoptee. He came in back on December 8th. Nacho was always a playful manatee and often at the boil. You have to love a manatee named Nacho.

January 4, 2021:
Eighty-one manatees, 47 ID’d, none were Save the Manatee adoptees! The river temp was 65° F (18.5° C). The manatees are out in the river feeding or waiting at the mouth of Blue Spring to go out. A Blue Spring manatee named Sawyer has entered into another warm water area with abundant food at a different spring. Water levels are going down, and if they go low enough he could be trapped there. Researchers, our own Cora Berchem among them, are keeping an eye on him in case human intervention is required. Hopefully he will leave on his own while the water is still deep enough.

December 31, 2020:
The last day of the year! The river temp was up to 63.5° F (17° C). The manatee count was down to 145. Of those, 71 were ID’d. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees present were Margarito and Rocket. I forgot to relate a small incident from yesterday as I was so tired. As we started up the run, a great blue heron was perched on a four-inch in diameter limb sticking out of the water. The heron took exception to our approach and  launched itself with a squawk, causing about a foot of its perch to break off and fall in the water with a splash. The bird was lucky not to be with it. Seconds later there was another splash in almost the same place. Something snakelike was swimming rapidly to shore. It was a squirrel dragging its soaked tail behind it. I am sure it blamed us. It is what squirrels do.

December 30, 2020:
The river was back up to 59° F (15° C). We counted 288 manatees as did the park staff. We ID’d 170 manatees. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees were Aqua, Moo Shoo, Lily, Whiskers, Gator, and Rocket. Nick and Howie were with the late crowd.

December 29, 2020:
The river finally went down in temp today to 59° F (14° C). But with temps in the 80s coming up, the manatee count went down. Manatees seem to have a fine internal barometer! I saw 325 manatees; the park staff saw more but in the same ball park. Of those, 111 manatees were ID’d. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees were Howie, Philip, Phyllis with calf, Gator, Aqua with calf, Whiskers, Deep Dent, and Doc. Merlin was seen after roll call, but given the amount of clay the manatees had stirred up he could have been there all along. Today I rescued a small girls’ flip flop. Not as much fun as the toy stuffed manatee…

December 26 & 28, 2020:
On Saturday, the river temperature stayed at 16° C (60.8° F). Cora did the roll call but felt her reading may have been influenced by the spring temperature as the air had cooled significantly to 29° F overnight. The park staff counted 524 manatees, and she counted 446, but she may have missed some again! Sometimes they are easier to see from the boardwalk and sometimes it’s easier from the canoe. However, almost all of the adoptees were present! The adoptees seen were Nick, Annie, Aqua, Phyllis with her calf, Philip, Deep Dent, Flash, Merlin, Brutus, Una, Lily, Rocket, Lucille, Doc, Floyd, Gator, Margarito, and Paddy DoyleHowie showed up after the count was over.

On Monday, the river remained steady at 60.8° F (16° C). Cora and I counted 473, and the park staff counted 469 — not bad. Only four apart! We ID’d 259 manatees and saw Save the Manatee Club adoptees Nick, Brutus, Paddy Doyle, Phillip, Lily, Lenny, Margarito, Lucille, Una, Flash, Moo Shoo, Aqua, Rocket, Phyllis with calf, Whiskers, Doc, Merlin and FloydHowie was too late for roll call again! The only ones missing were Annie and Deep Dent, and we think they were in two days ago.

December 25, 2020:
The weather changed from a balmy 81 degrees yesterday to 35 degrees overnight with a heavy storm and winds overnight. The wind extended well into the morning. The river temperature (which always drops a bit slower than the air) was at 60.8° F (16° C) this morning and 216 manatees were counted. The park staff counted 262, which may have been more accurate. There may have been more manatees, but the wind made it almost impossible to see anything, especially in the transects close to the river. More and more manatees started to arrive, and when I reached the spring head 53 manatees were huddled there — a sight I have never seen before! The only adoptees seen today were Flash, Moo Shoo, and then Deep Dent after the count was over. I expect many more over the weekend as the weather remains cold. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!

December 24, 2020:
The river temp was 65.3° F (18.5° C) again today. With far less clay stirred up, we counted 328 manatees and ID’d 167. The manatees were mobbing up by the river as it warmed to go out to eat before the temperatures in the 30s arrive. We observed Save the Manatee Club adoptees Nick, Flash, Lily, Philip, Annie, Moo Shoo, and Rocket. So far, we have seen 559 individual manatees and 63 are calves. “In peace, move through the seasons like the manatee.” Have a safe and happy holiday!

December 23, 2020:
The river temp was 65.3°F (18.5° C), but in spite of the increase from yesterday, the manatee count went up. We counted 333 manatees and so did the park staff! We get the same count sometimes, but 333? The wind was not too bad, which offset the clay the manatees were stirring up. We ID’d 174 manatees including Save the Manatee Club adoptees Howie, Annie, Moo Shoo, Philip, Lily, Merlin, Rocket, Whiskers, and Paddy Doyle. The park staff saw Phyllis with calf headed into the river in the early morning to avoid roll call.

December 22, 2020
Dramatic manatee rescue at Blue Spring! Sharp-eyed Cora spotted an object near the east bank as we came down the run after roll call. It was hung on a vine and floating high. Cora filmed as I maneuvered the canoe to close on a fuzzy beady blue-eyed manatee about eight inches long! It was, of course, a stuffed manatee with the price tag still attached. I said someone was crying — either they were told it was a life lesson or they got another manatee. It was the latter. As we continued down the run with our dripping prize, someone called from the boardwalk. They met us a the canoe beach to reclaim the victim, thank us, and announce they now had two manatees! The river temp remained at 62.6° F (17° C). We counted 304 manatees. We ID’d 147 manatees and saw Save the Manatee Club adoptees Philip, Howie, Phyllis with calf, Una, Annie (forgot to mention her yesterday), Lily, and Flash. At least six more old-timers made their first seasonal visit. Twenty-one Blue Spring manatees have been recorded at nearby springs. It is good to know where they are and that they are well, but it not like being here!

December 21, 2020:
The river temp today was 62.5° F (17° C), and we counted 341 manatees. The count was good in the clear water, but the manatees had the lower end of the run near the river obscured with the silty clay they were stirring up. ID’s were made difficult by the wind when we could see a manatee. Still, we did well. We ID’d 158 of the 341 manatees counted. Among them were Save the Manatee Club adoptees Howie, Lily, Brutus, Deep Dent, Phyllis with calf, and Aqua. We had at least four old timers in for the first time this season. They are always good to see. Yesterday Phud (pronounced Pud) came in. I was worried about him. He was the last calf of Phoebe, a dearly-loved adoptee, before she died from complications during calving. He is 12 now, and a beat-up manatee (with scars), but lively!

December 19, 2020:
The river dropped a bit more to 59° F (15° C), and 365 manatees were counted. The park staff even counted 476, but something spooked the manatees halfway up the run and many of them were swimming quickly, which made counting and IDing in the lower transects more difficult. I just waited for a while in the canoe and tried to count and ID every manatee that passed me, but I have a feeling many more passed me that I didn’t see while I was looking down at my notebook and writing. The adoptees in today were Annie, Nick, Deep Dent, Aqua with calf, Philip, Lily, Una, Flash, Floyd, Doc, and Phyllis with her calf. The calf is a girl! (Click link to see the photo.)

December 18, 2020:
The river dropped to 60.8° F (16° C), and 268 manatees were counted. The park staff counted 315, which may have been more accurate today. The wind was just enough to turn the water into ripples and push the canoe around, making counting and IDing very difficult, and more and more manatees kept showing up. The SMC adoptees in today were Annie, Brutus, Merlin, Flash, Una, Rocket, and Phyllis with calf. Lily showed up after the count was over. Most likely more manatees and more adoptees will be coming in over the weekend!

December 17, 2020:
The river temp was 67° F (19° C) today. We counted 201 manatees and 78 of those were ID’d. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees present were, again, only Brutus and Philip. Colder days are coming, especially the next two days. It should be interesting!

December 16, 2020:
The river remained at 64.5° F (18° C), but more manatees were in. I counted 154 manatees and ID’d 101. Good old Philip was back representing the Save the Manatee Club adoptees and, to my surprise, so was Brutus! The murky water was not too bad for roll call, but it was hard to film. We are IDing more new arrivals, and with our film we are finding named manatees among the unknowns.

December 14 and 15, 2020:
It was a terrible weekend as three dead Blue Spring manatees were recovered. One never made it to Blue Spring this season but may have been on the way. I will await mare details of the causes of death before I use their names. None of the recovered manatees were Save the Manatee Club adoptees. On the 14th, the river temp was 67.8° F (19.9° C). We counted 164 manatees, one of whom was adoptee Philip. The next day the river temp was 64.5° F (18° C). We counted 137 manatees, and Philip was again the only Save the Manatee Club adoptee. As we assisted to load one of the dead manatees for transport, we were told another dead manatee was reported where one of the first three was found. Though sad, it was a young manatee that had never been to Blue Spring. To close on a more pleasant note, as we approached the boil we saw two deer walking along the west bank — one of the perks of the job.

December 12, 2020
The river temperature was at 59.9° F (15.5°) degrees today, but the air was warming up, so a lot of manatees seemed to be heading toward the river to feed or stay in the lower transects (which didn’t improve the visibility with the bottom stirred up!). SMC adoptee Merlin made his first season visit! We were so happy to see him! The other adoptees seen today were Annie, Philip, Phyllis with calf, Moo Shoo, Doc, Paddy Doyle, Floyd, Una, Howie, Margarito, Lily, Lucille, Deep Dent, Whiskers, and Gator!

December 11, 2020

The river temperature was 60.8° F (16° C) and 312 manatees were counted. Many seemed to be heading to the river as it was warming up just a little bit. The park counted 371, so I might have missed some! The water was still pretty stirred up. The SMC adoptees seen today were Whiskers, Aqua, Philip, Lenny, Brutus, Paddy Doyle, Lily, Lucille, Deep Dent, Flash, Howie, Gator, Nick, Una, and Doc! This was Doc’s first visit of the season, and it was exciting to see him, although he only briefly zoomed by the research canoe!

December 10, 2020

The run remains filled with the stirred up clay from a bunch of active manatees but we managed to count 400 manatees as the park staff counted 416. The river temp was 60° F (15.5° C). The latest from the Save the Manatee Club adoptees is that Lenny came in! Now we are down to waiting for Merlin and Doc. Other adoptees present today were Moo Shoo, Margarito, Floyd, Brutus, Lily, Rocket, Annie, Flash, Whiskers, Philip, Gator, Paddy Doyle, and Phyllis with calf. We have now ID’d 422 manatees and 57 are calves!

December 9, 2020:

The river temperature was at 59° F (15° C) and 362 manatees were counted. More may have been hiding in the darker and murky water and a lot of cavorting and playing was going on further up the run, which was entertaining to watch, but made it hard to correctly count and identify the manatees! SMC adoptees Annie, Aqua with calf, Brutus, Flash, Howie, Paddy Doyle, Philip, Una, Moo Shoo, Lucille, Lily, Gator, Margarito, Whiskers, and Phyllis with calf were in. Phyllis was in the boil! Brutus was very far up the run too — he usually stays closer to the river, but once he realized cavorting was going on he decided to join!

December 8, 2020:
The river was down to 52° F (11° C). We are still dealing with the manatees stirring up the clay, and a windy day rippling the water did not help, but we counted 254. We ID’d 131 and saw Save the Manatee Club adoptees Lucille, Philip, Una, Floyd, Whiskers, Annie, Aqua with calf, Lily, Moo Shoo, Phyllis with calf, and Gator.

December 7, 2020:

I believe there were more than 300 manatees in the run today, but they had so much clay stirred up we could not see them all. We counted 231 and ID’d 135, including Save the Manatee Club adoptees Gator, Phillip, Floyd, Una, Howie, Whiskers, Aqua with calf, Annie, and Rocket. Deep Dent came in late. We are still waiting to see Doc, Lenny, and Merlin. If you have not heard it elsewhere, the manatee that was stuck in a bike tire has returned with out his tire! Now all we want to do for him is to make sure the wounds the tire caused are healed. What a relief to see him without the bike tire! Here are some numbers for the season: we have ID’d 328 manatees, 49 of which are calves. This does not include the many unscared juveniles and adults with no visible scars. We had almost 800 manatees last season, so we have a ways to go!

December 6, 2020:
The river temperature was 65.3° F (18.5° C) and 264 manatees were counted. Many may have been hiding in the murk as the park staff counted 332! Adoptees Moo Shoo, Annie, Philip, Deep Dent, Lily, Floyd, Aqua, and Gator were in! A female manatee named Faye, who was rescued this past summer for watercraft injuries and released near Blue Spring on July 15th of this year, showed up at the park today! During her rehabilitation, SeaWorld vets and staff had confirmed her pregnant while she was undergoing treatment for her injuries. Today she brought in a little calf! This was heartwarming to see and also shows once again how resilient manatees are.

December 4, 2020:

The river temperature was 64.4° F (18° C) and once again the water was extremely stirred up. The manatees still have a lot of energy as it’s early in the season, which makes counting and identification hard. You certainly don’t want to accidentally go over one that you cannot see as it rises to the surface to breathe and may tip the canoe over! I counted 276 manatees, but there could have been more. SMC adoptees Annie, Una, Aqua with calf, Phyllis with calf, Howie, Lucille, Paddy Doyle, Gator, Whiskers, Philip, Floyd, and Moo Shoo were present. This was Howie’s Philip’s, Whisker’s, and Moo Shoo’s first visit of the season! Then with the count over, adoptee Nick showed up! Many other “old timers” that are not adoptees also showed up for the first time today, which is always nice to see. It is also nice to see that since Una was released back into the wild this fall, she has not picked up any new fishing line entanglements.

December 3, 2020:
The river temp was up to 65° F (18.5° C). Manatees were piling in. We counted 272, and there were more we could not see as the manatees had churned the bottom up so bad the visibility in deeper water was terrible. We ID’d 161 manatees. The Save the Manatee Club adoptees present were Phyllis with calf, Margarito, Deep Dent, Una, Brutus, Lucille, Lily, Aqua with calf, Gator, Flash and Floyd. Then Paddy Doyle showed up after the count was over. It was so good to see Brutus and Flash on the first big day! Many other old friends came in that are not in the adoption program. It was good to see some of the manatees with health concerns back and well. Particularly as we have new health problems coming in.

December 2, 2020:
Save the Manatee Club conducted a Giving Tuesday fundraiser yesterday that was very successful. As a part of it, Cora and I did a livestream from the park during manatee roll call. My part ended when the roll call was over at 9:00 a.m. Cora stayed the entire day. The marvelous success of the fund drive was darkened when Cora discovered a manatee had died in the run during the day. We do not know the cause of death at this time. It was not a Save the Manatee Club adoptee. Today has been much happier. The river is down to 63° F (17° C), and we counted 114 manatees. There were more, but the wind was still blowing and the waters of the run were murky, so I’m sure we missed a few. Sixty-one manatees were ID’d. We saw Gator, Una, Phyllis with calf, and LilyLily was in the boil — something we cannot remember happening before!

December 1, 2020:
It was so cold it hurt with the wind blowing as it was. The river temp was 68° F (20° C), and we still only counted 16 manatees. None were Save the Manatee Club adoptees. The wind rippling the water made a proper count impossible. I am sure there were a few more that we missed. Tomorrow should be much better.

November 27, 2020:
The river temp was 72° F (22° C). We counted seven manatees, and the park counted five! We picked up a couple of new manatees, and one of them appears to be name and number worthy. With the count over, a cow with a large calf came in. I ID’d her as Carrie who I called as pregnant on February 25, 2020. Sometimes I get it right! So it was a sparse day but good research wise.

November 26, 2020:
The river temperature was 69.8° F (21° C), and I counted 21 manatees. The park staff counted 19, so we were very close! None were Save the Manatee Club adoptees — they must be spending Thanksgiving out in the river and its tributaries, still enjoying a big meal before the cold front next week! The manatees that were at the park today were mostly cavorting/playing and stirring up the bottom, making it hard to see, let alone identify them. Both JJ and Molly have very small calves who were at first hidden in the murk, but I eventually saw both of them.

November 24-25, 2020:
The river temp remained at 70° F (21° C) on November 24th. We counted 17 manatees, and none were Save the Manatee Club adoptees. We ID’d another unnumbered and unnamed manatee from last season and remedied that situation. On the 25th, the river was up a degree to 71° F (21.5° C), so it was a surprise that we counted 32 manatees compared to 17 on the 24th. None of the manatees sighted were Save the Manatee Club adoptees. However, Cora saw Annie on the webcam later in the morning! In the afternoon we got together with researchers that do other springs, using Zoom, and tried to find manatees that had been to another spring last season. We found eight, which we considered pretty good work.

November 23, 2020:I got a river temp of 70° F (21° C) today. There were 23 manatees in, but none were Save the Manatee Club adoptees. I did not file a blog Friday as I was not near a computer. When we had finished the count, a young manatee came over to push the canoe around and rolled enough we could see its underside. It had a large white scar that we recognized from last year. We named it Belly. It could come in a hundred times, and we would not know unless it rolled over! On Thursday the 19th of November, we counted 29 manatees, Friday we counted 30, and Cora counted 39 on Saturday. That means the 19th of November is the first day of the 2020-21 manatee season! We give it three days to make sure it is not just a random group like a mating herd. Now all it needs to do is stay cool for a while!

November 21, 2020:
The river temperature had come up a bit and was at 21.5° C (70.7° F). I counted 39 manatees. None of them were Save the Manatee Club adoptees, but adoptee Annie showed up shortly after the count was over. Annie does look big, so we think there’s a good chance she might be pregnant. Annie usually gives birth every two years in the summer months and had calves in 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2018, so we expected her to calve this summer, but she did not come into Blue Spring. Maybe she will have a calf next spring! It seems like many manatees were headed toward Blue Spring when it got cold earlier this week and are just now arriving. It is nice to see many known manatees from previous seasons.

November 19, 2020:The river has reached a temp of 71° F (20.5° C). We saw 29 manatees and one of them was Lily! Two more days of this, and I can consider the manatee season started. It is Tarpon City in the spring run. Tarpon come in for the warmth of the run as well as the manatees. I had not noticed any tarpon until today.

November 18, 2020:
The river temperature dropped down to 72.5° F (22.5° C), and 14 manatees were counted. None were Save the Manatee Club adoptees, but a couple manatees were known ones from previous seasons. JJ was in with her little calf, and the calf was seen nursing on her, so it’s definitely JJ’s calf! Three subadult manatees were accompanying JJ and her calf, including Buckeye, a manatee who had been released at Blue Spring in early 2018. It is nice to see that he seems to have adapted well to his life in the wild and is enjoying the company of other manatees. Since the river temperature always drops a little bit slower than the air temperature, we are expecting to see more manatees as the week progresses.

November 17, 2020:
Our last river temp was 75° F (24 ° C). A few manatees have wandered in and out. Tomorrow we hope to see some. It would be nice to start the season! Research-wise, we got some pictures of a manatee and calf. It turned out to be S114/19 from last season. The S meant that I wasn’t sure if her scars would heal as something we could recognize this season. We did not even know it was female. It is nice to see her back and give her a name and Blue Spring number. I did pick S114/19 as one manatee to draw at the end of the scar sheet for this season. This made it easier to ID her.

November 13, 2020:
Long time, no blog. The week has been warm, rain, windy, and Hurricane/Tropical Storm Eta. The cool weather is not arriving as soon as predicted, but next week should finally bring some manatees in. Only a couple of manatees a day have been seen by those braving the weather.

November 6, 2020:
The river temperature was up to 23° C (73.4° F), and I counted nine manatees. None were Save the Manatee Club adoptees, but JJ was back in with her tiny calf. The Manatee Observer volunteer saw the calf nursing, so I am pretty sure the calf is JJ’s. The pair was also accompanied by two juvenile manatees. People often ask if the juveniles are calves from previous years. That’s hard to say, but juveniles have a tendency to hang with cow/calf pairs and try to opportunistically nurse from the mothers, although they really don’t need it. Some mothers tolerate this more than others. The last couple of days, Mata Hari was in with her calf. The calf must have been born in the spring as the pair was seen at the park many times over the summer this year. Most recently, the pair was seen all the way up at Wekiva Springs State Park and a few weeks later near Katie’s Landing at the Lower Wekiva River State Park. We are happy they made it safely back to Blue Spring. The female calf already has a scar from a boat strike across her tail, so we should be able to keep track of her. The forecast for the next few days looks pretty warm, so the manatees will most likely all be moving back out into the river.

November 5, 2020:
The river temp remained the same, even with the warm day yesterday, and we had 25 manatees for the count. There were no adoptees in today. I did see the smallest manatee I have ever seen with a flipper entanglement. We saw a female named JJ with no calf and then the rest of the count we saw JJ with a tiny calf following her everywhere. We would like to see it nurse to be sure it is JJ’s.

November 4, 2020:
The river temp has continued to drop to 70° F (21° C). Today there were 18 manatees. Annie was in with no calf. She went straight to the boil. Another manatee, EC023, was in. EC means east coast. From his low number you can see he has been around awhile. We first saw him last season. I named him Pascal and gave him a Blue Spring number, BS1120. Pascal has almost no tail, and his right side is almost white from all the large scars he is carrying. It is still predicted to warm up, so we will see.

November 3,2020:
The river is down to 72° F (24° C), and we counted 10 manatees for the roll call. No adoptees but one of our problem releases was in and looking mighty fine. His name is Buckeye and after his first release he had to be recaptured for some remedial training before he was released again. We knew he was okay last March, but it is good to see him. Cora just sent me photos showing scars that we could not see from the canoe on one manatee we thought was unscarred. It is Chloe. We ID’d eight of 11 manatees we saw. One manatee was late to make the total seen 11, but the official count stays at 10. Now it will get warmer again.

November 2, 2020:
The weather has been cooler, in the 80s rather than the 90s, so we decided to do a roll call today. Yesterday was much warmer than originally predicted, but feeling a rehearsal for the new season would be nice, we persevered even though the winds were kind of high. Arriving at the park, Cora, Save the Manatee Club’s Director of Multimedia & Manatee Research Associate, and I were first informed that Floyd was sighted yesterday by the Manatee Observers! There were several other manatees seen in the run yesterday as picked up on the webcam, which is almost ready for prime time. We found the river temp to be 75° F (24° C). We fought the wind up the empty run until we reached almost to the spring where we found two manatees. They were Peaches, son of Georgia, and Mel, but no adoptees. With the canoe almost to the beach to be put up, we found O’Neil. He was a captive released last year. We shall try a roll call again tomorrow as the day is to be cool.

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 2019 – 2020 Manatee Season