Manatee Sighting Reports: 2015 – 2016

Manatee Annie and her newborn calf surface for air at Blue Spring State Park.
On August 15, 2016, Annie, one of the manatees in Save the Manatee Club's Adopt-A-Manatee program, gave birth to a calf at Blue Spring State Park. She is pictured above with the calf.

By Wayne Hartley, Manatee Specialist

March 28, 2016
For several days recently the river has been above the magic number of 68° F (20° C) but cooler than the spring run, which was 72° F (22.5° C). As a result, a few manatees have dropped by. On March 25th, Cora Berchem, Save the Manatee Club’s Multimedia Specialist, stopped by the park and saw six manatees. Five of those were ID’d. As of today, the river temp, 75.4° F (24° C), is definitely warmer than the spring run!

March 22 – 23, 2016
On Tuesday, the river temp that had been up around 76° F was down to 69.7° F (21.9° C). The park staff counted five manatees half way up the run in the heavy mist coming off the water. We counted seven and ID’d seven. Gator came in as we went up the run. Gator had a swelling on his right side, but he was behaving normally — chasing Cassandra and her calf. I think it was warmer than predicted on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the river temp was 70.8° F (21.6° C). I got worried about Gator when we found him alone, but we soon discovered most of his companions from yesterday nearby. Gator also rushed to greet each newcomer. That is so typical of Gator, we quit worrying about him. The roll call was six manatees, but four more came in after it was over. Seven of the 10 were ID’d. One named Stormy tried to nurse on a youngster designated “Seasonal 72/2015.” She rolled over, and we saw she was female. Film taken yesterday showed Cassandra’s calf was also female. So it was a small but good day.

March 16, 2016
The three cool days are back in the forecast for Monday – Wednesday. With a current river temp of 75.1° F (24° C), I do not know if the river will get cool enough to get some manatees back. We shall see.

March 14, 2016
No roll call today. The river is warmer than the spring run and the weather was predicted to be rain and high winds. Friday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission captured S139/15, AKA “Skinny Guy,” and took him to SeaWorld Orlando for care. He is in good hands. This seems to be the end of the Blue Spring manatee season. I was watching three days of cool predicted for the end of the month, but that prediction has faded away.

March 11, 2016
The river temp was 70.3° F (21.3° C). The count was three manatees, but two manatees showed up after the count. Four of the five manatees seen were ID’d.

March 10, 2016
The river temp is now 69° F (20.7° C). Eight manatees were in and I ID’d two of them. Yesterday, Lola did not visit Blue Spring, and the capture attempt for the skinny juvenile was not successful. They were not in today either, but I will keep an eye out for them and notify FWC if they show up again.

March 9, 2016
The river temp was 68° F (20° C). That is the magic number that brings in the manatees in the fall, but they are not too impressed by that temp after a cold winter. The manatee count today was 10. The park staff counted five manatees, but I believe five came in as we counted. I ID’d six of those.

March 8, 2016
Yesterday I could not get to the park and Cora Berchem, Save the Manatee Club’s Multimedia Specialist, went out. She filmed Brutus!!! She also saw Lily, Annie, and Nick. This may be Brutus’ only appearance at the park this season. Today the river temp was up to 67.4° F (19.7° C), and the park staff and I both counted 20 manatees. Nick was the only adoptee sighted. Lucille’s first calf Lola, born in 1985, has been giving us concerns. She would flee the canoe — not her normal behavior, but not too unusual. Then she finally sat still to be filmed. I was pleased until I saw the film in the evening. Lola appears to have serious buoyancy problems. Cora and I passed film and pictures around the manatee research and support community, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission staff came out to assess her. Capture is definitely indicated. There is also concern about a thin juvenile. We have many thin manatees this season, especially at the end of the season, but this little critter seems to have other difficulties. His case is under serious consideration as well.

March 4, 2016
The river temp was 66° F (18.9° C). I counted 17 manatees and the park staff counted 20. I was able to ID six of those manatees. I finally got film of one of our old timers, and her behavior concerns me enough to consult health experts, but more about that later.

March 3, 2016
Yesterday I was so disgusted with the visibility due to the wind that I put the camera over the side and hoped for some more ID’s when I reviewed the film. I did get two more ID’s and found the cow/calf pair I wanted to ID was a manatee named Schwartzie with someone else’s calf. Probably Paula’s. Today the river temp was up another degree to 65.6° F (18.7° C). The wind was down so visibility was better, but many of the manatees were very dirty juveniles (covered with algae) that I could count but not ID, because I couldn’t see the scars. I did count 33 manatees and ID’d 17, including Lily. The season seems to be winding down.

March 2, 2016
Very frustrating day. Started late and the wind was up distorting all the manatees’ scars with large ripples. The river temp was up as well to 64.4° F (17.9° C). The park staff counted 41 manatees and I counted 48. Given the problems involved with counting, that is agreement. I did ID 18 manatees and one was Lily!

February 28 & 29, 2016
On Sunday, the river was down a small .2° F from Saturday to 62.7° F (17° C). I counted 241 manatees and ID’d 161. Margarito was in along with Annie, who is staying near the river lately, and also Lily, Lucille, Paddy Doyle, Phyllis, Gator, Whiskers, and Doc. As I neared the beach to leave the water, our good Philip flashed his primary scar at me to let me know he had come in late! Speaking of scars… During the recent warm weather the manatees went out to feed and boaters went out to play. I am seeing many new scars. Please remind friends who are boaters to remember the manatees. When I reviewed my film for the day I found Warf. He had not seen since 2011. He’s not an adoptee but it’s a good sighting for the research program.

On February 29th, Cora Berchem, Save the Manatee Club’s Multimedia Specialist, got out on the run. She counted 159 manatees but felt there were more. Cora spotted Lily, Margarito, Lucille, Gator, and Annie. The river temp was 64° F (17.8° C), so perhaps her count was better than she thought!

February 27, 2016
Now the river temp is down to 62.9° F (17.1° C) and instead of counting 55 manatees like yesterday I counted 204! I was able to ID 98 of those. We saw Lily, Lucille, Doc, Philip, Paddy Doyle, Phyllis, and Gator. Looking forward to tomorrow!

February 26, 2016
With a river temp down to 64° F (17.8° C), I counted 55 manatees and ID’d 35. I saw Annie, Lucille and Lily! As cold is predicted, I guess I will be at Blue Spring the next two days.

February 23, 2016
Had a French film team from One Planet with me today. They were great! The river temp was 67.2° F (19.6° C). The park staff and I both counted five manatees officially but because the One Planet team needed film, we stayed out, and I ended up with six manatees ID’d. The count starts at the river and ends at the boil, so manatees coming in after the start of the count can cause the number ID’d to be higher than the official count. I saw Lenny on the way up and as we stayed around we got to see Lucille and her big calf come in!

February 20, 2016
The river temp continues to go up and is now at 62.1° F (16.8° C). Today Philip was the first adoptee I saw followed by Doc, Gator, and Rocket. I counted 123 manatees, and the park staff counted 133 — not bad. Of those, I ID’d 72. A 62-degree water temperature no longer impresses them very much as they have seen worse. A problem for me now is that if they stay out a few days, they get covered with algae and silt, and I have to ID them all over again as their scars are hard to make out.

February 18, 2016
The river temp is up to 61.2° F (16.3° C) now. I counted 104 manatees and ID’d 56 of those, including Lucille, Doc, Rocket, and Philip. While I was up the run a large female named Lemon went out and lured Philip in.

February 17, 2016
River temp of 60.3° F (15.8° C) only brought in 115 manatees. I was able to ID 74, and among those were Lucille, Gator, and Rocket. Gator appeared to be practicing for an Olympic swim team, but he settled down. Rocket has been away and actually missed the roll call. He has a new boat hit that is almost no more than a scratch but consists of twelve small propeller cuts and a long skeg cut.

February 12, 2016
The river temp today was 55.5° F (13° C). Cora Berchem, the Club’s Multimedia Specialist, and I counted 377 manatees for the statewide survey, 26 of which were calves. For this survey we rush things a bit to make sure manatees are not moving around so much they get counted twice. In other words, we do not spend as much time identifying the manatees, we focus on the numbers counted. Still, we saw Annie, Robin, Doc, Lily, Margarito, Lucille, Phyllis, Deep Dent, Philip, Gator, Paddy Doyle, and Whiskers. The wind also came up rippling the water and making things harder to see.

February 11, 2016
The river temp is down to 54° F (12.2° C). I counted 342 manatees and ID’d 200! Lucille, Phyllis, Lenny, Lily, Philip, Deep Dent, Gator, Floyd, Doc, Whiskers, and Paddy Doyle were seen. Paddy was late but was half way up the run when I saw him. Funny things happen when so many manatees are in. I never wrote Phyllis down, but I saw her in two different places, so I just added her to the count. Over the next few days we do the Synoptic Survey to count manatees in Florida. I count tomorrow.

February 8, 2016
The park staff counted 340 manatees yesterday. Today the river temp was 58.6° F (14.7° C). I counted 314 manatees. The manatees had the clay stirred up so sometimes I could only see silhouettes and no scars to ID with. To give an idea how packed they can be: after paddling 25 yards I had ID’d 75 manatees. The wind came up about then, and I ended up with 190 manatees ID’d. Among them I saw Robin, Howie, Paddy Doyle, Lily, Lenny, Deep Dent, Doc, Phyllis, and Whiskers. Whiskers was way up the run upside down playing in some clay, and I was proud to recognize him! Sawyer was in for the first time this season. I’ve been looking for him. He’s named for Mark Twain’s title character Tom Sawyer.

February 6, 2016
The river temperature is heading back down. It was 62° F (16.7° C). I counted 132 manatees, and the park staff counted 180. The park staff counted much earlier than I did. I think the manatees were scooting back into the river for a bite to eat when I got there. Of those, I ID’d 79 manatees. I got to see Lucille, Annie, Lily, Gator, and Whiskers. That is more adoptees than I thought I would see. On the way back down, I saw a manatee nursing one as big as itself or larger. I swung the canoe around to see who was the nurser. It was “S37/15,” just into the small manatee category. I took out my notes to see if I had entered S37/15’s sex as female. It was entered as male. Again I swung the canoe around and S37/15 did me the favor of rolling over. Yes he was male! This was not an ignorant calf making a brief mistake when it saw a flipper available; this was a three or four year old doing full scale nursing where no teat or milk was available! Manatees never cease to amaze me.

February 3, 2016
The river temp was up to 66° F (19° C). The park staff counted 34 manatees, and I counted 48. I counted too many and the park staff counted too few. The park staff counts from the boardwalk are often low as it is easy to miss manatees under the trees on the far side of the run. I was trying to film and keep a rough count as manatees swam out of the run behind me. I ID’d only 19. Over half of the manatees were juveniles with no easily seen scars to ID. The sole adoptee in was Gator. On November 25th, Cora Berchem, Save the Manatee Club’s Multimedia Specialist, and I observed a heavily scarred calf by itself. Cora said she saw it approach a young female named “88.” I had hoped 88 was pregnant last season, and she was the nearest and only female I observed on the 25th. That was the only time 88 and calf were seen until yesterday. They were in together and definitely a cow/calf pair! Beaten and battered by propeller and skeg as it is, the calf is fat and doing well. 88 is well, but kind of skinny for a manatee.

February 2, 2016
The river temp went up almost five degrees to 65.7° F (18.8° C). The park staff counted 91 manatees, and I counted 106 — that is close. Of those, I ID’d 67. Lucille made roll call, and Gator and Rocket came in late. The fog did not affect visibility in the run and the high winds predicted never came while the count was made. Manatees were filmed until no more were left to film, and the count was still over early. Air temps in the 80s today and tomorrow, so I doubt 50 manatees will be in tomorrow. The river is almost up to 68° F (20° C) at 2:00 pm.

February 1, 2016
The weather said 5 mph winds becoming calm — wrong! Then the manatees that were frolicking well above me in the run suddenly began streaming out of the run at flank speed. They upset each other that way sometimes. The river temp was 61° F (15.9° C). I counted 292 manatees and the park staff counted at least 30 more. Of those, I ID’d 135. Doc, Lucille, Gator, Deep Dent, Phyllis, Rocket, and Whiskers were seen. Rufus was in for the first time this season. He is not an adoptee, but I have been missing him. Total for the season is now 472.

January 30, 2016
The river temp was 57.1° F (14° C). Staff from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Sea to Shore Alliance, and Save the Manatee Club were trying to tag Una so she could be captured and her tangled flippers treated. As a result my count was a very poor 240. Unfortunately Una avoided the effort. I am sure the park staff count of 339 was closer to the truth. I did ID 173 manatees and saw Lucille, Robin, Howie, Annie, Nick, Lenny, Deep Dent, Paddy Doyle, Lily, Whiskers, Gator, Phyllis, and Rocket. It was good to see Deep Dent as he was the only one that had already come in but missed the Manatee Festival days.

January 26, 2016
The river temp was down to 52° F (11.4° C). I had someone along (media) in the canoe, which always lowers my count, but it was 323 manatees seen. The manatees know warmer temps are coming. Of those seen, I ID’d 220. Conditions were perfect for ID and filming. There was no wind at all. The adoptees I saw in order of sighting were Robin, Howie, Margarito, Lucille, Nick, Paddy Doyle, Lenny, Phyllis, Annie, Doc, Philip, Lily, Gator, Rocket, and Whiskers. That’s everyone who has come in except Deep Dent. Merlin, Flash, and Brutus are safe in a spring to the north, which leaves Elaine and Squeaky. Elaine will show up some year, and we are working again on determining if Squeaky has been seen. The total number seen this season is now 471 manatees. There are 272 manatees returned from last season, nine from previous seasons, 36 calves, 42 unknowns, and 112 seasonal. I was glad it was more than the 466 manatees I counted Saturday. I have had more for a daily count than I ID’d in a month but not for the season. Bad weather, so I may not get out again until Saturday.

January 24, 2016
Day Two, Manatee Festival: Colder at first but warmer later. The wind was insignificant compared to Saturday! The river temp was just below 54° F (12° C). I counted a record 466 manatees. I was sure I made a stupid 50 manatee mistake, but I did not, so the count total holds. My previous record was 395 set on Thursday. The all-time record was 414 manatees set in January 2015 by the park staff. I recently said I hardly ever see a river temp of 53.5° F (12° C) any more, but I saw it today. I ID’d 244 manatees, and the adoptees were Robin, Margarito, Nick, Howie, Philip, Annie, Gator, Phyllis, Lucille, Lily, Floyd, Doc, and Rocket. Rocket was in the boil. Although I did not see him, I felt sure Whiskers was there somewhere.

January 23, 2016
Manatee Festival, Day One; the river temperature was 57.6° F (14.2° C). The wind was beyond awful. The park staff counted 156 manatees from the boardwalk, and I counted 285, also from the boardwalk. I am sure there were many more! I saw Lucille, Lily, Floyd, and Phyllis, and I am sure there were many more adoptees as well. I did decide that the youngster Lucille has with her is her calf as it has been with her since the first day I saw Lucille, even though I did not see it. The calf was with her on the webcam. On January 8, 2016, I saw a manatee with a strange tail mutilation and just managed to get pictures as it disappeared into the murk. USGS Sirenia Project researchers have pictures of the same manatee taken January 30, 2005 in Brevard County. These are the only two sightings of this manatee and 11 years apart! The weather is supposed to be nicer tomorrow. I was informed by Monica Ross, a biologist with Sea to Shore Alliance that Brutus joined Flash and Merlin in their spring retreat to our north on January 21st!

January 21, 2016
The river temp was 57.4° F (14.1° C) today. I counted a personal high of 395 manatees and the park staff was within ten of my count. Conditions were so good that I was able to ID 240 manatees. As a reminder, I list the adoptees in the order I find them. Today Robin was not only the first adoptee ID’d but the first manatee ID’d. After Robin came Howie, Nick, Annie, Lucille, Lenny, Paddy Doyle, Philip, Deep Dent, Phyllis, Margarito, Lily, Floyd, Rocket, and Whiskers. Doc was seen, but he was late for roll call. That is everyone that has returned for the season so far! I’ll be at the Blue Spring Manatee Festival this weekend. Drop by and say hello if you can make it.

January 20, 2016
The river temp was 56.8° F (13.7° C). I counted 324 manatees and feel I must have missed many in the crowd and the mist steaming from the water. Of those, I ID’d 82. The adoptees were Howie (first ID for today’s count), Doc, Annie, Robin, Paddy Doyle, Margarito, Lily, Phyllis, and Whiskers. USGS researchers from the Sirena Project were in the water photographing and assessing the manatees.

January 19, 2016
The river temp was 59.2° F (15.1° C). Thirty some years ago, when I started doing research, a river temp of 12° C (forgive me for using only Celsius, but it is easier) packed the manatees in the run. Nowadays it is a river temp of 15° C. I hardly ever see a river temp of 12° C anymore. I counted 386 manatees, and the park staff counted 400. Given the conditions, the counts can be considered the same, but I like the park count! I ID’d 194 manatees and saw the following adoptees; Nick, Robin, Lucile, Doc, Lily, Annie, Floyd, Phyllis, and Whiskers. New manatees are still coming in.

January 18, 2016
The river was 61.1° F (16.2° C). I counted 260 manatees and the park staff counted 246. Groups of seven to 21 manatees were scattered up and down the run cavorting and frolicking and stirring up the clay at a tremendous rate. I would have to say the counts were very close! To my surprise, I ID’d 113 manatees. The adoptees I saw were Nick, Lenny, Lily, Annie, Whiskers, and Floyd. It will be cold the next two days as we head for the Blue Spring Manatee Festival weekend on January 23rd and 24th.

January 14, 2016
The river was colder again today than yesterday at 59° F (14.9° C). The park staff counted 383 manatees, and I counted 350. I like the park count. I get involved in IDing manatees and lose track. I ID’d 229 manatees. Robin was here along with Annie, Nick, Paddy Doyle, Lenny, Deep Dent, Lucille, Margarito, Lily, Floyd, Phyllis, Doc, Whiskers, and Rocket. We finally got pictures of Phyllis. A manatee named Paige came into the spring for the first time ever and even had a calf with her. She has been known at one of the northern springs along the St Johns since 2009. This is her second calf. I thought I saw Phillip at a distance, but if I did, he scooted out before we got to him.

January 13, 2016
New coldest river temp thus far for the season today: 60.7° F (15.9° C). Counting from up high on the boardwalk before the wind came up, and perhaps before the manatees stirred the clay, the park staff counted 374 manatees. I counted 332, of which I ID’d 203. Lucille was in nursing her juvenile. I’m beginning to think it must be her calf as Lucille was pregnant last season. Yesterday Cora Berchem, Save the Manatee Club’s Multimedia Specialist, thought she saw Margarito on the Manatee Cam. Which makes me doubly sure I saw him today down in the murky water near the river! Annie had a calf, but in this case I am sure it was not hers. Keeping track of calves this year is like herding cats. Phyllis was in again, but again I saw her at a distance with no chance to film. Philip was over halfway up the run and very calm about my presence. Whiskers and Rocket were also well up the run but not as far as Lily. Lily was in yesterday but got left off the list. Finally late, but present, was Robin. After I had left, Melody Fisher, a biologist from Sea to Shore Alliance, came in and cut the line running from one of Una’s flippers to the other. Melody also took off KK’s tracking belt. KK was tagged for a feeding study at Port Everglades and came all the way to Blue Spring. KK’s retagging or unbelting was a two-year project. He was kind of flighty to say the least. More manatees still coming in!

January 12, 2016
Doc is back, and he looks good!! The river temperature was at its lowest for the season, 63.1° F (17.3° C). I expected at least 350 manatees but only counted 297. The park staff counted 293 manatees. I ID’d 202 and besides Doc, there were Lenny, Nick, Rocket, Paddy Doyle, Gator, Lucille, Floyd, Whiskers, and Philip, who was late. At least 12 manatees were ID’d as making their first appearance since last season.

January 11, 2016
Whiskers! Whiskers! Whiskers! The river temperature was 65.7° F (18.7° C) and falling. Tomorrow should be a crowd. I counted 194 manatees today. I started out ID’ing almost all, but the clay the manatees were stirring up combined with a light breeze meant I could barely make them out on the bottom, let alone ID. I did ID 92 manatees including Robin, Phillip, Lucille, Annie, Rocket, and Whiskers. Rocket was a large part of the clay cloud problem. Whiskers was resting after what must have been a long swim, but as is his habit, he was three quarters of the way to the boil.

January 8 – 10, 2016
On Friday, the river temp went up 7° F and the manatee count went down by 58! The river temp was 65.2° F (18.3° C). I counted 266 manatees and ID’d 169. The first adoptee ID’d was Deep Dent, who looks fine after his summer in the river. Then I noted Lucille, Annie, Philip, Robin, Nick, Lenny, Lily, Floyd, and Rocket. And lastly as we came down the run looking for good photo subjects, we found Paddy Doyle — the Irishman was late. Exciting to me was to have Sally come up to the canoe with a calf. Three years ago, Sally was a juvenile with a small wound on her head and a slight boat scar on her right flank. When she came back the next year and I could still recognize her, she got her name and a number. I was very disappointed when she failed to appear last season. A small but satisfying pleasure!

On Sunday, I was at home catching up on the paperwork that goes with the research. After crunching the manatee numbers for the season, I have come up with 383 manatees seen so far this season. There are 226 manatees back from last season, seven from previous seasons, 30 are calves, 38 are identifiable but unknown to me at this time, and 82 manatees will just be tracked for the season as they are too difficult to re-ID in the future. If the unknowns remain that way, they will get names and numbers.

January 7, 2016
It was the coldest river temp so far this season, 64.5° F (18° C), and so the highest manatee count this season: 324! I ID’d 173 manatees. There is still a lot of wind and manatee-made clay clouds. I found Robin, Nick, Philip, Paddy Doyle, Phyllis, and Rocket. Phyllis was a quarter of the way up the run stirring up huge clouds of clay, so I could not get her picture. Rocket was at the boil chasing a young female. On the way down, after the roll call was over, I saw a very dirty manatee that turned out to be Lenny. Many manatees are covered in algae and silt when they come in from the river, but in a day or two they are pretty and gray after being in the spring. After Lenny, I also saw Lily, Lucille, and Annie. By the way, Annie was in yesterday as well. I missed her when I did the update. I hope I got some good pictures of Lenny.

January 6, 2016
The river temp is up a little, but it is still cold, so the manatees are coming in! The river temp today was 66.1° F (19° C). I counted 186 manatees and ID’d 81. Rain and wind and manatees muddying the run with their frolicking made it tough. Robin was in for his first visit in addition to Lily, Lucille, Floyd, Nick, and Philip.

January 5, 2016
The river was down to 65.2° F (18.6° C), but the manatee count was a disappointing 87. Among the 47 manatees ID’d were Lucille, Floyd, and Lily. The winds have been too high to do proper roll calls and filming, but the season has started so slowly that I go when I can. The long-term weather forecast for January is for cool manatee gathering temps, but the short term, or week ahead, from a different source is predicting temps in the higher 70s. We can only wait and see.

January 4, 2016
Manatees are returning after the warm spell, including Rocket! The river temp has been dropping like a stone from a high of 77° F (25° C) to 69.5° F (20.8° C). The park staff counted 30 manatees. I counted 43 manatees and more were coming in. Looking ahead at the weather forecast for January, we should have plenty of manatees this month! Click the following link to see photos of Rocket.

December 30, 2015
There were NO manatees for the count today or yesterday or the day before. This SEASON we have seen 310 manatees, but only four manatees were at the park today. They were too late for the count and only stayed about five minutes. The river temp today was 75° F (23.6° C), which is higher than the spring run. Their food is in the river, and the river is warm, so that is where they will stay until sometime next week when (if) it gets colder.

December 28, 2015
The river temp is up to 73.3° F (23.1° C) and the manatees are out. So I have taken the time to crunch the figures. We have seen 310 manatees so far this season and 28 of those are calves. That tiny cold spell really brought some in. I was sure we would be over 200 but was amazed to have seen over 300 already this season.

December 23, 2015
The river temp is up to 68.3° F (20.2° C) and manatee numbers are declining accordingly. I counted 94 manatees at roll call and saw 38 more after for a total of 132. Of these, I ID’d only 38 manatees. I’ve been lucky with the wind this season. It came up late after roll call or passed over the run as the wind direction favored me. Today it came out of the south, straight up the run, and with the wind speed predicted. In addition, it was dark as the cloud cover was very heavy. Things should be better in mid January.

December 22, 2015
Howie did not make roll call but he is back! No new visible scars and he looks fat rather than his normal sleek, for a manatee that is. The river temp has risen to 67.1°F (19.4°C) and manatee attendance was down to show it. My official count was down 14 to 210 manatees and the number seen was down 26 to 234. Of those, 125 manatees were ID’d. Present for roll call were Philip, Paddy Doyle, Lucille, and Annie. Coming late were Nick and Howie. For those who may wonder, the official manatee count starts at the river and is over a third of a mile later when the boil (spring) is reached. Any manatees seen after that are recorded but do not go on the count. I also got word this morning that Merlin has joined Flash at a spring to our north.

December 21, 2015
Phyllis and Paddy Doyle are back. The river temp continued down to 65.2° F (18.5° C), so manatees kept coming in! I counted 224 manatees on the formal count and 30 more after the official count was over for a total of 254. I was able to ID 148 manatees. Lucille, Lily, Phyllis, and Floyd made the roll call, but Nick, Paddy Doyle,and Philip were late.

December 20, 2015
The river temp was 65.8° F (18.7deg; C). It was just as if it was really manatee season. I counted 149 manatees and the park staff counted 155. I saw 160 manatees of which I ID’d 109. Lucille, Lily, and Annie made the count, and Nick showed up late. More calves and many, many more new arrivals. Macon, one of Georgia’s daughters, has another calf! Marge, a non-adoptee, was the first manatee to come in that was not here last season. Marge came in as a battered adult three years ago. She had a calf the next season but missed last season. I was so pleased to see her. Lucille charged in, and Lucille charged out, so I missed filming her, but I hope I got Lily and Annie on film.

December 19, 2015
The river was down to 70.3° F (21.4° C) and falling. Got a good count of 24 manatees, but I expected more. With the official count over, I could see many more manatees had come in, but the wind was too bad to stay on the run. With the wind up, you cannot see the manatees, and even if you could, the canoe is uncontrollable. So, unless I wanted to join the manatees in my winter clothing (which I did not), I decided it was time to get the canoe off the run. The best part of the day was counting Annie as my first sighting. She no longer has her yearling with her but Annie looks good.

December 16, 2015
The river temp was up to 72.3° F (22.4° C) today, and I was amazed to see 11 manatees! I ID’d 10 of them. The forecast temperatures for the latter half of December are going up, but we should have a few days with manatees.

December 15, 2015
The river temp today was 71.9° F (22.2° C). The roll call was eight manatees with seven ID’d. Floyd was scratching on some palm logs and looking pregnant again. Reinforcing this was Cora Berchem’s (the Club’s Multimedia Specialist) film of a calf trying to nurse on him. The calf was so plump I believe it was “parked” (when a mother manatee leaves a calf in a safe spot, goes to feed, and then returns) or was one of Britta’s twins left behind when mom and sibling went out to eat. Tomorrow, because of the warm weather, we should have three to none!

December 14, 2015
On Friday, I participated in filming at Blue Spring for an upcoming program by the BBC. The river temp was 69.7° F (20.9° C), and manatees were in. I even got to note Easter and Joti were in for the first time and maybe Delain & yearling, unless I dreamed it that night. With the filming, it was a 13 1/2-hour day. On Saturday, I participated in the Volusia County Manatee Watch training. Since Friday, the river temp has risen to 71.2° F (21.8° C). Looking ahead, because of the current warm weather, I do not see much manatee activity until after December 18th when it should finally cool.

December 10, 2015
Philip is in!! The river temp was up a bit to 68.6° F (20.4° C). My manatee count was 128. Philip was in the count, and Nick came in late. Note of interest: We have twins again! A manatee named Britta has two very small, plump active calves. So far, 189 manatees have come in, but this includes 21 calves. My calf count may be high as calves seem to be wandering off with any breeding female that comes along instead of staying with their mothers. As the season goes on, it will become clear who actually has a calf.

December 9, 2015
The river temp today was 68.3° F (20.2° C). I counted 136 manatees and more were coming in! I was able to ID 72 manatees including Lily and Floyd. I hope to have pictures of Nick and Floyd soon. All three adoptees look good with no new scars visible. I’ll get pictures of Lily if she slows down and I am not distracted. So hectic, so confusing, and so much fun this time of the season.

December 8, 2015
Before I left the house, I got an email from Cora Berchem, Save the Manatee Club’s Multimedia Specialist, enclosing pictures I ID’d as Flash. He is to our north and hopefully spring hopping his way to Blue Spring. Then when I started roll call, Lily came down the run. After I had finished, Nick turned up asleep in the middle of the run. Meanwhile the river temp was 69.6° F (20.8° C), and I counted 67 manatees. Many new arrivals for the season.

December 6, 2015
On Thursday I not only counted one manatee, I finally got all the transect stakes out in the spring run and marked with orange tape. Now the rangers at Blue Spring can easily locate the manatees along the run when they count them. On Friday I realized the weather was too bad to go out in the canoe, so I labeled still pictures of manatees pulled from my films instead. Sunday I had a film team from Brazil coming to see me, so I had to go to the park. The park staff counted 42 manatees, and I counted 27. I started late due to the visiting film team, and I think the manatees that were in the mouth of the run had dispersed by that time. Just over half of them went up the run and the rest of the manatees went to the river where the water temp was 70.9° F (21.6° C) and rising.

December 3, 2015
The St. Johns River temp continues up it is now at 72.4° F (22.5° C). The park staff counted zero manatees and I counted one! A fat little guy swam out from under some logs and followed me for the rest of the time I was on the water. The temperature was cooler than I expected today, so I have some hope for tomorrow.

December 2, 2015
The rising temp in the St. Johns River is up to 71.8° F (22.2° C), and my count was down to seven manatees. The park staff counted 16 manatees but some of the manatees were going out into the river. I ID’d eight manatees but no one new has appeared.

December 1, 2015
The St. Johns River temp is up to 71.7° F (22° C). The park staff counted 19 manatees at 7:30 a.m. and I counted 14 at 8:30 a.m. By 9:30 a.m. there were even fewer manatees as they went to the river to feed. As of today, we have 46 manatees returned, 11 calves, 8 unknown (those manatees badly scarred but not recognized) and 24 seasonal (so lightly marked I have no hope of recognition next season) for a total of 89 manatees. Looking ahead, in a couple of days the air temp highs are predicted to drop to the low 70s but the lows are predicted to remain the same. Hopefully the actual lows will be lower!

November 30, 2015
The temp in the St. Johns River was 76° F (21.4° C). I counted 32 manatees and then, with the count over, Floyd swam in at 9:38 a.m. Our first adoptee!

November 27, 2015
The temp in the St. Johns River is up to 68.7° F (20.3° C) and the manatee count is down to 39. Temperatures are rising and the manatees may all go out in the river for a break. This is good for them, but not so good for manatee research! Three new calves showed up with manatees Sofie, Aqua and Kirsten. I have often seen Kirsten pregnant or nursing, so it is about time she had a successful birth! Una was in, and we are hoping to help with her flipper entanglements. Sarge, a manatee rescued in 2013 for cold stress and released at Blue Spring in January 2015, made it in on Thanksgiving, but he was dragging a non-floating tag (a transmitter used for tracking). He was deemed a success and to have the knowledge to survive (or as I put it, he passed his A levels), so his tag was removed. May you all have happy merry holidays!

November 26, 2015
The St. Johns River reached below the magic number of 68° F (20° C). It was 67.9° F (19.8° C) and 59 manatees were in. We have seen 62 manatees and six were calves. Two calves seen earlier have not come in yet for the season. With 20 manatees yesterday and 59 today, I am sure we will have at least 15 tomorrow to make the 24th of November the first day of the season!

November 24, 2015
The temp in the St. Johns River was a surprising 69.6° F (20.8° C). My count was 17 manatees officially, but I saw 20 so we may have the start of season if they stick around for two days! There were no adoptees, but I did have two new calves to add to the ones we already have. Mata H was nursing a yearling last season so I did not expect her to have a calf, but she does. A heavily scarred cow was also in with a calf, but I could not ID her. I think a visitor took a picture of her in the spring run during the summer and emailed it, so I shall try to match the pictures.

November 21, 2015
On November 18th the St. Johns River temp was down to 72.6 ° F (22.5 ° C). Now it is back up to 76.3 ° F (24.6 deg; C). Next week the lows are predicted to be in the 40s at least two days. We shall see!

November 11, 2015
Well I did my practice manatee count and even saw a manatee as Gator dropped by for a visit, although this does not mean the season has started yet. This manatee is named Gator because he likes to chase alligators. The temp in the St. Johns River was 82° F or 27.6° C. The cooler temperatures that were predicted are disappearing so we may not have a season start until December. When I do a practice count, I am making sure all my gear is ready and functioning. That means the canoe paddle, life vests, cleaning brush, and cleaning solution are in the car. The brush and cleaner are for the underwater webcam. I also make sure I have a bag of dry clothes to change into in case of rain, manatee canoe upsets, and so on. I carry a GoPro camera on a stick and a waterproof ammunition box for storage. In the box should be a field notebook, scar drawings, extra GoPro, pens with non-smear ink that dries instantly, water thermometer, research permit, ear warmers, heavy gloves, rope, camera batteries, memory cards, and a card reader. I stop at the park’s ranger station and make sure the weather station is in place and I still know how to get the hi-low air temp. I check out the canoe and make sure the lock is oiled. Then I paddle up the run checking the transect markers. The transects were for vegetation sampling. When we stopped sampling, we kept them to locate the manatees along the run. So I am ready. All I need is manatees.

November 10, 2015
The last two seasons manatees would be in at this time. Not this year! I noticed the temperature in the St. Johns River over 90° F (32° C) during the summer! Right now the river is around 80° F (around 27° C). I got a little excited when the temps started to drop in early October, but summer returned. Now as I look forward, air temps are beginning to approach the mid-70s and mid-50s. If that goes on long enough, manatees will come in. I hope this is a sign temps will continue to drop, and the season will finally get under way!

There have been a few sightings. I already mentioned Phyllis giving birth in the spring on April 30th. On May 6th, Blue Heron Tours sent us a neat picture of Volusia and her growing twins in the Hontoon Dead River. An egret was standing on the middle of Volusia’s back. Amber was in several times in July with a new calf. Now Alice and Dix have brought in new babies to show off during the past week!

On the down side, I ID’d a picture sent on April 28th from Whitehair Bridge, west of DeLand, as Hogan. Hogan was a very large manatee first ID’d at Blue Spring in 1991. His cause of death could not be determined. Pictures of a dead manatee recovered at Astor on July 2nd proved to be Necro. She was very young but had had one calf. Her cause of death is also undetermined at this point. On August 4th, I was notified that a manatee recovered at Astor in October 2014 was O’Shea. Now I know why I did not see him last season. His cause of death could also not be determined. O’Shea was the 1989 calf of Sweetgums, a former Save the Manatee Club adoptee. He was with her as a yearling when she was killed by a boat west of DeLand. Sweetgums’ family still has four surviving members. On August 5th, I was notified a manatee picked up at Satsuma on July 6th was Caleb. He came into the spring in January 2011 horribly affected by cold stress and had to be rehabilitated at SeaWorld. SeaWorld fixed him up great! Now Caleb is gone, but we do not know the cause. Last for now, is Jessica who was killed by a boat in Jacksonville, Florida, on September 4th. Jessica was a member of the Jane matriarchy and had eight calves. She was born in 1991. I look forward to happier news as the cold finally gets here and the season commences.


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.

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Wayne Hartley, Manatee Specialist, and Cora Berchem, Director of Multimedia and Manatee Research Associate, take "roll call" on a cold winter morning at Blue Spring State Park. Photo courtesy David Schrichte.

Manatee Sighting Blog

The river temperature was pretty much the same as the spring temperature at 71.9°F (22.2°C). I counted 7 manatees, none of which were adoptees and they were all hanging out in the canoe basin by the river.  We didn’t do any counts yesterday and Wednesday, but adoptee Annie made a quick visit on Wednesday and was seen on the webcam. 

Rocket is always a bit shy and likes to take off when he sees the research canoe. He arrived for the season on December 21!

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Howie first showed up on November 8, 2021. His visits have been consistent with the chillier weather. Here he is on January 5, 2022.

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