Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Madhouse of Manatees

Traveled to Citrus County today for some guests of Wild Florida and the viewing of manatees at King's Bay.
The internet weather hacks had a 40% chance of rain, and that was worrysome. But they turned out to be wrong again. Clear, with scattered clouds, light wind around 8 mph, and in the lower 60's.

We paddled over to Jurassic Spring first, and noticed right away the water clarity was excellent. About six swimmers inside the roped area along with maybe four manatees.
Left there and headed around Pete's Pier towards Shatz Is. for a break, plant id session, and equipment adjustment. I pointed out the numerous Brazilian Peppers that lined the shore, and the invasive nature of this exotic species.

After watching some idiot motor boat manuevering in the canal, we paddled up towards Gator Hole, spotting upwards of a dozen manatees along the way. Another half dozen at the Hole. Continued up to Idiot's Delight.
In passing some residents seated along the seawall, I asked them how the circus was today, and they replied 'same as always'.

Boats to the left of us, boats to the right of us, it was boats everywhere. Not many swimmers on the outside at Idiots Delight sanctuary, so that meant only one thing, they were ALL up inside Three Sisters. We headed up into the chasm, I mean channel, and had to wait while a cow and calf exited. No wonder, it looked like a Guiness record attempt inside to see how many scubas, and snorkelers could fit inside the area. Paddle skills were at their highest level of performance while running the obstacle course of human bodies.
And though it was the most people I've seen up inside, there were also more manatees inside the area than I've ever seen before. Eight individuals resting in the northern section, six in the middle section, and up to eight more just swimming back and forth among the southern area and the middle section. All the while the swimmers/scubas were splashing about. And this on a very warm day.

Back on the outside, we noticed the manatees were packed inside Idiots sanctuary like sardines. Again, odd it being such a warm day, so it must have been some cold stressed animals staying close to the warmer water.

From there until we reached the bay, we must have counted another 20+ individul manatees. Ball park figure so far around 50+, not counting what was inside the sanctuary (25-35+).
Made a detour to a hidden cove to see if the dolphin were hunting mullet. They weren't there, though we did see a multi jumper mullet.

Back at Hunter's Springs Park, it was some what crowded with new arrivals getting ready to launch on their own excursion to see the manatees.

Over all, a crowded day for boats, though not the worst I've seen, and more manatees counted yet, than in the past.

Other wildlife sighted included: immature bald eagle, cormorants, pelicans, osprey, kingfishers, mullet, mangrove snappers, needle fish, many species of ducks, and lots of vultures.

February is quickly giving way to March, and not too many more trips south to see the over wintering manatee. Going next Sunday, come along!

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