March Manatees Part 2

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Expanding on my post March Manatees Part 1, this March 2014 has been an interesting mix of frisky manatees, mothers and calves, blue spring water and as always the twist of some very intriguing manatee tidbits!

 Manatee Calf Plays With Mom – March 18, 2014Florida manatee, Trichechus manatus latirostris, a subspecies of the West Indian manatee, endangered. Horizontal orientation. An older male manatee calf plays intimately with his mother. This behavior is thought to be a signal to mom that her calf needs to be weaned. Strong March sunlight lights this intimate scene. The pair is floating in the warm blue freshwater of Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Kings Bay, Crystal River, Citrus County, Florida USA. (Carol Grant)

Beginning where the last post left off, many of my friends wanted to know more about this frisky male calf growing up and his doting mother. I mentioned what Dr. Bob Bonde told me about this behavior in the previous post. Since I’m very exacting about going to the most reliable source for information, here is what Bob said to me in an email after my first observations of a calf nursing from his mother and then playing intimately with her:

“The first [photo] is likely the male calf expressing sexual interest in its mom.  When this reproductive curiosity get too overt, it is a signal to mom that it is time for weaning.  The activity will also extend to other males during their social interactions with cohorts. I doubt the male calves are ever successful at an impregnation at this stage of their development.”

This explanation from Dr. Bonde really makes sense, especially as in March mating herds and smaller cavorting groups swim in and out of the springs. The youngsters must pick up on this overtly frisky atmosphere! Manatee mothers are very patient and take everything in stride acting like it is as normal a behavior as can be. In March, mother manatees seem to be even more affectionate with their calves, but still seem to keep a tight rein on them!

Manatee Snout Snuggles – March 18, 2014Florida manatee, Trichechus manatus latirostris, a subspecies of the West Indian manatee, endangered. A male manatee calf rubs snouts with his affectionate mother near a warm water spring vent. The mother and this older calf have a close bond. Horizontal orientation. The pair is floating in the warm blue freshwater of Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Kings Bay, Crystal River, Citrus County, Florida USA. (Carol Grant)

Manatee Mother And Calf Swim Together – March 18, 2014Florida manatee, Trichechus manatus latirostris, a subspecies of the West Indian manatee, endangered. Vertical orientation. A mother manatee swims with her male calf right next to her. Strong March sunlight lights this scene with reflections on the calm surface. The pair is swimming in the warm blue freshwater of Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Kings Bay, Crystal River, Citrus County, Florida USA. (Carol Grant)

Manatee Mother And Calf Surface In Sync – March 18, 2014Florida manatee, Trichechus manatus latirostris, a subspecies of the West Indian manatee, endangered. Horizontal orientation with reflections. A male manatee calf surfaces with its mother in the warm  freshwater of Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Kings Bay, Crystal River, Citrus County, Florida USA. (Carol Grant)

Another thing I love about March is more abundance of the pure blue spring water we love at Three Sisters Springs. I believe this is due to milder weather patterns in March and very strong sunlight. If you haven’t seen the springs in early springtime you must, the light is absolutely magical! A photographer’s dream!

Manatee Surfaces Near Blue Water Spring – March 13, 2014Florida manatee, Trichechus manatus latirostris, a subspecies of the West Indian manatee, endangered. Horizontal orientation. A manatee surfaces for a breath of fresh air by one of the warm blue freshwater vents of Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Kings Bay, Crystal River, Citrus County, Florida USA. (Carol Grant)

 Manatee Calf In Sunlight Surfaces With Mother – March 13, 2014Florida manatee, Trichechus manatus latirostris, a subspecies of the West Indian manatee, endangered. Horizontal orientation. A male manatee calf surfaces with its mother and is lit by strong, late-season sunlight in the warm  freshwater of Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Kings Bay, Crystal River, Citrus County, Florida USA. (Carol Grant)

Either early or late in March, it’s lovely if the weather patterns are conducive and manatees choose to stick around the clear water springs. Manatee mothers and calves often surface together to breathe, as many times one seems to trigger the other to take a breath.

 Mother Manatee And Male Calf Surface –  March 4, 2014Florida manatee, Trichechus manatus latirostris, a subspecies of the West Indian manatee, endangered. Horizontal orientation. A male manatee calf surfaces for a breath with its mother in the warm  freshwater of Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Kings Bay, Crystal River, Citrus County, Florida USA. (Carol Grant)

Groups of manatees around the springs usually thin out in March, but not always! In this photograph I count about twenty manatees (not including reflections of course) gathering near this warm spring vent at Three Sisters Springs. Some manatees rest with others behind them and some manatees are actively cavorting in the background. Plus there are additional manatees surrounding the other spring vents. When many manatee gather in aggregations to stay warm, water clarity can suffer a bit, but I think you will agree it is worth it to see so many manatees in one frame!

 Many Manatee Gather Near A Spring – March 7, 2014Florida manatee, Trichechus manatus latirostris, a subspecies of the West Indian manatee, endangered. Horizontal orientation. Late in the 2014 manatee season in March many manatee gather near the warm  freshwater vents of Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Kings Bay, Crystal River, Citrus County, Florida USA. (Carol Grant)

An overview of the 2013/2014 manatee season for myself is this:

28 days in water (a little less than last season due to a very warm November and December 2013)

Approximately 112 hours in-water total time observing manatees for the season.

Manatees were in the clear water springs every day except one. I got skunked on March 20th with no manatees at all anywhere near where I was. It’s the first year I’ve been skunked in several seasons as I’ve become pretty proficient at predicting the siren’s presence and blue water. There were so many manatees two days before, but that’s March for you! The 20th was the first day of spring and manatees seemed to know it as I think they sense “Spring Fever” too! Ahhhh, warm water, food and friskiness beckon! Spring has indeed sprung!

Here is the final frame I took at the end of this season on Thursday, March 27, 2014. The manatees stuck around for a few more days after this, but as far as my penchant for clear blue spring water photography and a lack of busyness, this was my last frame of the season. I think this photograph says something peaceful and poignant about the beautiful Three Sisters Springs we are privileged to visit and conserve. Here three of the larger vents of one of the springs at Three Sisters are reflected on the calm surface. A baby manatee surfaces for a breath as his mother rests below. Soon this pair will leave due to the daily tidal flux, but for now it is their exclusive lovely blue haven.

 Manatees And Three Sisters Springs – March 27, 2014Florida manatee, Trichechus manatus latirostris, a subspecies of the West Indian manatee, endangered. Horizontal orientation. A mother manatee rests on the bottom as her calf surfaces for air. Reflected are the manatees and three vents at one of the springs of Three Sisters. The pair is warming themselves in the warm blue , safe freshwater of Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Kings Bay, Crystal River, Citrus County, Florida USA. (Carol Grant)

Best, Carol