Manatees–Sirens of Crystal River Details

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WetPixel, a premier on-line underwater photographic website, has posted manatee images of mine and a short introduction I wrote in their “Full Frame” gallery. Here is the link: Carol Grant: Manatees –Sirens of Crystal River

Being all about the images and letting them speak for themselves, WetPixel’s Full Frame includes short titles. I wrote some more descriptive captions, though, I thought some of you might be interested in. I have included a quote of the text I wrote and the images 1-23 in the order they are in on Full Frame. The only thing added is a descriptive caption below each image for those interested in a little more story behind the shots, plus the month and year of the photograph. In the future I’ll write more extensively about each photograph, but for now here is much more data. I also note the three brand new images I debuted for WetPixel’s Full Frame! 

Carol Grant: Manatees–Sirens of Crystal River

“Come this way, honored Odysseus, great glory of the Achaeans, and stay your ship, so that you can listen here to our singing… Over all the generous earth we know everything that happens.” (Siren’s Song excerpt, The Odyssey by Homer, Book 12:184-196)

Float peacefully in Three Sisters Springs and you may be lucky enough to peer into the deep, dark, soulful, all-knowing eye of a real Siren, the Florida manatee. Ranging far and wide for over 50 million years, the Sirenians, which include manatees and dugongs, are now found in small isolated populations. Today we are privileged to be able to observe manatees in their natural warm water springs winter retreat, at the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge in Florida.

What inspires me to slip into the clear blue water and photograph the interesting life of the manatee? Sirenians embody a sense of mystery, especially when showcased in the exquisite beauty of the freshwater springs. The light dancing through tree foliage and casting ever changing rainbow hues around the manatees underwater is a photographic experience like no other! The beauty and peaceful feeling of a time gone by is what keeps me coming back. I find it touching that manatees are extremely gentle marine mammals in a somewhat harsh and mechanized modern world. I want to lend them a hand by telling their story.

Why do I find manatees such fascinating subjects? Perhaps, like Odysseus, I too have been lured by the Siren’s Song… – Carol Grant


Manatees,Three Sisters Springs, Florida#1 – I just flipped and my heart skipped a beat when this young female manatee calf, with a thick algae layer, posed next to her mother. Young calves are very cute and often sport a sort of little Siren “grin”. Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris). Endangered. Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. March 2014.

Manatees,Three Sisters Springs, Florida#2 – The mystery of Sirenians swimming is highlighted by the amazing light and water movement as a male follows a female into the springs. Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris). Endangered. Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. January 2014.

Manatees,Three Sisters Springs, Florida#3 – “Little Boy Blue” is a documented orphan male manatee calf. He floats above a warm blue freshwater springhead and appears quite rotund as he has been observed nursing off more than one female. An Atlantic needlefish, (Strongylura marina) swims next to him. The manatee calf in this beautiful undisturbed scene seems to say: “Please Save My Warm Spring!”. Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris). Endangered. Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. January 2010.

manatees,black and white,Three Sisters Springs,Florida#4 – New image. My first black and white! I picked a scene that tells the story of light in the springs and the mysterious manatees. Rather than turning a closeup into a black and white, I wanted my first one to capture an intimate glimpse into manatee lives. Sunfish, bream, (Lepomis spp.) are present. Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris). Endangered. Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. February 2013.

Manatees,Three Sisters Springs, Florida#5 – The soulful eye of a real Siren peers out, lit by filtered sun rays. A cypress knee in the sand is reflected as a question mark on the rippling water surface. I get the feeling this manatee knows all! Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris). Endangered. Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. January 2013.

Manatees,Three Sisters Springs, Florida#6 – A male manatee calf rises for a breath as his mother watches. She is being nipped by sunfish, bream (Lepomis spp.) but is pretty good at ignoring the fish attention and shakes them off from time to time. Submerged cypress tree roots are in the background. Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris). Endangered. Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. March 2010.

Manatees,Three Sisters Springs, Florida#7 – I love the symmetry of this image and the fantastic buoyancy skills of this young manatee as it floats near one of the warm blue springs while surrounded by sunfish, bream (Lepomis spp). The manatee is learning to ignore the nippy bites from the fish that target bits of its own skin. Endangered. Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris). Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. February 2013.

Manatees,Three Sisters Springs, Florida#8 – New image. Manatee mothers swimming with their calves are often joined by young males or other calves. Males like to pester the slow-moving pairs and calves temporarily alone while their mothers forage will also follow mother and calf duos. Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris). Endangered. Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. March 2014.

Manatees,Three Sisters Springs, Florida#9 – The beauty of this scene of an adult male manatee floating with perfect buoyancy over a large spring is marred by his ugly propeller scars and tail slit. The story is in the reflection on the calm surface, a surface that is often not calm in populated traveled waters. I’ve observed this individual for several years in a row now, same time, same place. Despite his scars, I think the ladies are very attracted! Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris). Endangered. Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. February 2009.

Manatees,Three Sisters Springs, Florida#10 – My popular manatee that graced the covers of Alert Diver and Visit Citrus magazines. Sirens make great covers! This manatee floats near a warm blue spring and submerged tree roots surrounded by fish, bream, (Lepomis spp.) and a mangrove snapper (Lutjanus griseus). He is tolerating the bream fish attention as it is the price to pay for sharing the warm spring waters. Bream target dermis and dead skin on the manatee, but manatees are good at ignoring them and taking it all in stride. Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris). Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. January 2010.

Manatees,Three Sisters Springs, Florida#11 – Male and female manatee courting or cavorting behavior is fascinating! The male appears to tickle the female as she leisurely takes a breath, not trying very hard to get away. Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris). Endangered. Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. March 2013.

Manatees,Three Sisters Springs, Florida#12 – A young little Siren floats in beautiful blue freshwater rimmed by sunlight that seems magical. Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris). Endangered. Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. March 2013.

Manatees,Three Sisters Springs, Florida#13 – Mother manatee surfaces at the same moment as her male calf. Often, mother and calf pairs breathe in unison. Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris). Endangered. Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. March 2014.

Manatees,Three Sisters Springs, Florida,kayak,#14 – My friend Stacy in the kayak takes ID photographs of a female calf near the channel to the springs. The floating manatee is the older calf in my story “Little Orphan Manatee” in Alert Diver Magazine. Her mother left her in the springs while she went out front to nurse the orphan. Sunfish, bream (Lepomis spp.) are present. Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris). Endangered. Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. January 2012.

Manatees,Three Sisters Springs, Florida#15 – A small orphan female calf nurses with adoptive manatee mother. Her older well-fed female calf waits on the right sporting a curmudgeonly expression. I wrote a story called “Little Orphan Manatee” in Alert Diver Magazine, chronicling this calf adoption and ID of the adoptive mother. Sunfish, bream (Lepomis spp.) are present. Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris). Endangered. Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. January 2012.

Manatees,Three Sisters Springs, Florida#16 – I’m proud when an image of mine helps by creating an impact. This photograph of a manatee warming itself in a carefree manner, upside down, was used by agencies to help secure the purchase of Three Sisters Springs from developers. This ensured the property would never be commercially developed. Also, as cover for the 2011 Nature Conservancy Calendar, the message went out to over a million households worldwide. A sunfish, bream, (Lepomis spp.) is present in the sunlight. Florida manatee, (Trichechus manatus latirostris). Endangered. Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. January 2009.

Manatees,Three Sisters Springs, Florida#17 – A Siren swimming! An adult female manatee relaxes and rolls upside down in the warm shallow waters that rim the springs. Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris). Endangered. Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. February 2010.

Manatees,Three Sisters Springs, Florida#18 – These two boy manatee calves are buddies and they played together non-stop for days! Mother has called her son over next to her. The other calf, who is like the “next door neighbor’s kid who never leaves”, rubs flippers with his cohort. Sometimes their feverish play was overtly frisky and curious. It wore me out just watching them! The lone calf’s mother is probably out foraging. Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris). Endangered. Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. January 2013.

Manatees,Three Sisters Springs, Florida#19 – Currently, this is my husband’s favorite Siren! I’ve included it for him as he thinks this adult male manatee is singing something to the fish… who really knows? Mangrove snapper (Lutjanus griseus) hover in the warm blue spring outflow. Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris). Endangered. Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. February 2013.

Manatees,Three Sisters Springs, Florida,passive observation,snorkeler,#20 – Passive observation is the key to amazing, undisturbed manatee encounters. Floating at the surface with hands to oneself ensures the manatee is in charge. Isn’t the light in the springs amazing? Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris). Endangered. Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. January 2014.

Manatees,Three Sisters Springs, Florida#21 – On a cool January day a mother and calf enjoy the warming mid-day sunlight. Note the closeness with which they swim. Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris). Endangered. Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. January 2014.

Manatees,Three Sisters Springs, Florida#22 – New image. This curious male manatee checks out the photographer while rising for a breath near a warm spring. The thin cloud layer produced an interesting glow in the springs. Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris). Endangered. Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. March 2014.

Manatees,Three Sisters Springs, Florida#23 – A male manatee calf was left by himself in the springs, seemingly forlorn, when an observant female manatee checked in on him. The adult female is not his mother, yet the two manatee engage in tender tactile behavior with snouts and flippers touching. Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris). Endangered. Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. February 2011.

I hope you enjoyed the extra details!

Best, Carol Grant