A severe storm was moving across the upper US states so rather than drive into bad conditions, we opted to spend an extra day in Florida. That gave us time to visit the Marine Science Center at Ponce Inlet just south of Daytona Beach. While there, the staff told us that there was a large congregation of Manatee at Blue Springs State Park north of Orlando so that became our afternoon destination. As soon as we got there we unloaded the truck, set up tents and headed out in search of the Manatee. (Location)
The water from the Blue Springs source is at a constant 72F temperature and the Manatee come up into the stream when the weather is cold. We had heard that there were significant numbers of Manatee at this time of the year but on our first visit only a few were sighted. A polarizing filter would be a very useful piece of equipment if trying to photograph the Manatee and that was one piece of equipment that I didn’t have with me so I had to try and find angles with the least amount of reflection.
There are a number of viewing areas along the course of the stream from the source pool down to where the stream meets up with the river. The water is very clear and has a natural green-blue tint to it.
The Manatee are not the only things worth looking at as the stream is teeming with all sorts of fish and wildlife.
One fish that had benefited from the constantly warm waters of the the Blue Springs flow is a Vermiculated Sailfin Catfish which is present in large numbers and competing with native species. It is a non-native pest species likely introduced from the tropical fish trade.
The highlight of the evening was a pair of Red Shouldered Hawks which swept down into the picnic area to consume some hamburger patty that had been dropped on the ground near to one of the picnic tables. The hawks were quite comfortable around people so I can only assume that it was not the first time that they had entertained park visitors in this fashion.
The day ended with a beautiful sunset.
The next day, the Manatee were back in larger numbers and, with fewer reflections on the water, photographing them was a lot easier.