Man Oh Man Oh Manatee!

The suffering of us Floridians during winter seems to go unnoticed by our northern neighbors. We had winter this year, and not just the typical five or six days sprinkled throughout January and February. We have had to turn the heat on a lot lately, and our flip-flops have been collecting dust.

Today is the first day I have worn sandals this month! Claustrophobic feet is a real thing down here. Even Bob was seen wearing socks over the last few weeks, so I know we have a valid chill factor going. One night he even used a blanket on the bed. Yep, we’ve had winter.

There are some good things about winter. For instance, it reminds me of why I like living in Florida. I figure if I were to live up north, I’d lose what’s left of my mind by a literal brain freeze.

We also have manatees who like to put on a show in the winter. Manatees get cold easily, so they do not like winter. They do make the best of it though. I relate to them.

Among other places in Florida, they gather in the warm 72-degree waters of Blue Spring State Park whenever the temperatures dip down to the point where Bob wears socks. Personally, I prefer the water to be 82 before I go in it – but then again, I may be pickier than a manatee.

January 28 through February 3 forecast – Sometimes they tease us with 80 degrees. I think that is aimed at drawing the tourists down here.

January 30 was a perfect manatee viewing day. The weather had been very cold the night before. How cold? We had a hard freeze and our gardens told the story. We woke up to 32 degrees. A hard freeze means several hours below freezing, and this is what happens to cold-sensitive plants. They may come back. In a few weeks we’ll know for sure. It might be time to rethink this garden.

The beauty of that day was that right after that freeze, there was a warming trend. Therefore, we weren’t too cold, and the manatees were still hanging around. The sun came out and the wind stopped. It was perfect. My sister accompanied Bob and me that afternoon and we arrived just in time to make it into the park. On especially cold days, the pursuit of manatee sightings can cause the park visitor numbers to bulge enough to close the park. As we drove in, the gates closed.

We were excited to have Linda with us as, even though she had lived in Florida for several years, she had never seen the manatees outside of the occasional viewing one may have in a canal or along one of our rivers. This was her first trip to Blue Spring State Park. We were thankful to have made it in.

The manatee count that day was a whopping 711, which I believe broke a record. I don’t know how they count the big mammals, also known as sea cows. They are typically slow moving as they graze and frolic along the rivers and springs, so that is helpful; but they can swim up to 20 miles an hour. Still, it would be nearly impossible to get an accurate count in my opinion. But, who cares! There were so many manatees that it looked like you could hopscotch from shore to shore on their backs. But that would be illegal and ill-advised.

Side note: It is illegal to touch the manatees and alligators. Also, something I find must be a God thing, the alligators seem intimated by the manatees and they leave them alone.

When the weather starts to warm here, you may spot the occasional manatee in the area. The masses of them will have moved on and by summer it would be unusual to see one in the springs.

Here are a few shots from our walk along the boardwalk, which borders the headspring all the way down to the St. Johns River – about 1/3 of a mile. It’s a lovely walk.

Manatee snout

Bob and I wearing our winter clothes

This park is located in Orange City, Florida, about halfway between Daytona Beach and Orlando. Here is a link