Wednesday, March 12, 2014
As we continued our way down the Gulf Coast of Florida we spent a few nights near St. Petersburg. On March 8th we drove over to Apollo Beach to visit the Manatee viewing area operated by Tampa Electric at their Apollo Beach power generating plant.
During much of the year Manatees are widely distributed solitary animals. But in winter they congregate in warmer waters because they become very vulnerable in water that is cooler than 68F. Historically they have depended on fresh water springs that provided warmer waters. As the population grew and power generation plants were built, the Manatees discovered the warm water discharged at these plants. The area around Tampa Electric's Apollo Beach power plant is now a federally protected wildlife sanctuary. Tampa Electric has developed a very nice Manatee viewing and education facility.
Most of the Manatees were resting by floating nearly motionless just below the surface. They would occasionally raise their nostrils just above the surface to take a breath then sink back down again.
Since the Manatees tend to rest floating just below the surface, they are vulnerable to the propellers of power boats. Many of them showed scars most likely from wounds inflicted by careless boaters.
This one had quite a colony of barnacles growing on its back.
While most of the Manatees seemed content to float quietly, a couple of them were swimming on their backs at the surface.
They have most unusual tails.
What a face!
There were some other large fish swimming in the same area, but they did not interact with the Manatees.
Happy Manatee observers