Just Add Manatees

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Right now, as I am writing this, there are manatees moving into the freshwater spring areas around Crystal River, Florida. Yea! Their arrival is a gradual process though, so I thought you might like to see what Three Sisters Springs looks like right before the manatees arrive for the winter season.

October 24, 2014 – No Manatees Yet Enjoying The Three Spring Vents

Three Sisters Springs, no manatees yet,

March 27, 2014 – Note The Same Three Spring Vents In March!

Manatees, Three Sisters Springs, mom and baby, peaceful

The green lyngbya algae blankets areas invasively all around Crystal River. Even the lovely Three Sisters Springs is not immune. Note the difference at the end of the season in late March. Where did the lyngbya go?  Continue reading

Man and Manatee Project

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How curious are manatees? What happens when a snorkeler quietly floats nearby? Are we watching manatees or are they watching us? Let me give you a glimpse of my project to document passive, polite observation at the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Florida.

Floating quietly with hands to oneself is the best way to invite a profound interaction. This adult female manatee is curious about Meredith and is approaching to say hello. January 2014.Florida manatee, snorkeler, curious

For many years now I have been observing and photographing manatees in and around the springs of Crystal River, Florida. Continue reading

Protective Manatee Moms

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Manatee mother and calf bonds are one of the strongest bonds of all underwater marine mammals. Often this equates to a touching sight of mom tucking baby under her ample tail fluke and steering the little one around in safety.

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Manatee Protection Signs

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These new manatee protection signs are popping up all around Crystal River, Florida. While signs to watch for manatees and a limited number of educational kiosks have been placed in coastal areas throughout Florida, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has raised the bar with these excellent signs!

Manatee protection signs

Three-panel manatee protection sign at a boat launch. Put up by USFWS, Crystal River, Florida.

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March Manatees Part 1

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Manatees in March – what is special about this time of the year in the freshwater Florida springs? First, we are very lucky to see manatees in March as if it warms a lot in late February a warm March will beckon manatees to leave the springs and spread out early.

If we have a cooler March, the manatees will tend to stick around near the warm springs and this becomes my favorite time of year to see them. The lovely blue spring water seems more abundant in March due to strong sunlight and milder cold fronts. There are more delightful mothers with their young ones out and about too. I find it peaceful in places like Three Sisters Springs during much of March. Yes, Spring Break is upon us, but I don’t go on busy weekends and find that when I do go the manatees have the springs mostly to themselves. Also the Manatee Watch volunteers do a good job supervising in and around the springs. It becomes truly quiet and serene as you will see in this series of photographs.

 Manatee Mother and Her Young Female Calf – March 4, 2014Florida manatee, Trichechus manatus latirostris, a subspecies of the West Indian manatee, endangered. Horizontal orientation. A young female manatee calf with a thick algae layer poses next to its mother in the warm blue freshwater of Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Kings Bay, Crystal River, Citrus County, Florida USA. (Carol Grant)

This young female calf above sports a blanket of thick algae and a bit of a little “grin”. Continue reading

Manatee Sleeps With The Fishes

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Movies often evoke dramatic thoughts and pictures, even years later. Such is the case when I saw the movie “The Godfather”. In a suspenseful moment, after Sal Tessio retrieved a package including a fish, Clemenza says , “It’s a Sicilian message. It means Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes.” I must admit I got chills when I first saw it and I never forgot that scene. But now something’s changed and I can’t quite conjure up the drama connected with that scene. Why, you ask? I think this photograph will explain why…

Manatee Sleeps With The Fishes — January 10, 2014Florida manatee, Trichechus manatus latirostris, a subspecies of the West Indian manatee, endangered. An adult manatee rests on its back in the warm freshwater. Fish, bream, Lepomis spp. surround the resting male manatee. Verticle orientation with sun rays. Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Kings Bay, Crystal River, Citrus County, Florida USA. (Carol Grant)

Manatees “sleep with fishes” and they do seem to enjoy it so!

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Something’s Fishy In The Springs

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Manatees gather together in the wintertime at various warm water sites around Florida. Some of these manatees frequent natural freshwater springs. Fish also enjoy congregating near the outflows of spring water. It is here that manatees and a number of fish species share the same watery real estate until the weather warms and manatees spread out again. While together in the springs fish often surround manatees as illustrated in this photograph:

Fish Gather Around A Manatee In The SpringsFlorida manatee, Trichechus manatus latirostris, a subspecies of the West Indian manatee, endangered. A manatee floats near a warm blue spring and submerged tree roots surrounded by fish, bream, Lepomis spp. and a mangrove snapper, Lutjanus griseus. The manatee is tolerating the bream fish attention as it is the price to pay for sharing the warm waters. Bream target dermis and dead skin on the manatee. Vertical orientation with blue water and light rays. Undisturbed, natural behavior. Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Kings Bay, Crystal River, Citrus County, Florida USA. (Carol Grant)

Interaction between fish and manatees is an interesting behavior to observe. In fact some fish, particularly bream also known as sunfish (Lepomis spp.) and sheepshead (Archosargus probatocephalus) are known to continually surround and peck at the manatee’s skin especially while they are resting. Note the bream below are nipping this manatee:

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