Manatees of the St Johns River, FL

In late November we had the pleasure of spending a few weeks on the St Johns River. There are many sections where you have to cruise at slow or idle speed because the Manatees are traveling to the warmer (72 deg) waters of the springs. One of the very popular is Blue Springs. They might be as many as 100 Manatees in there on a cold day. So at some point they will be traveling S on the river.

We stopped to photograph a fairly large alligator…and Jim called to me that he saw a Manatee. So we shut down the boats engine and drifted. Sure enough a female Manatee surfaced.


We were surprised to see a very small one with her….and even more surprised to see two.


We thought we had found a female with twins. The little one surfaced together.


and then they dove under the boat (we were glad the motor was off) and continued an S towards Blue Springs.

If you are on the for these wide flat swirls. It wont be long before you’ll spot a nose or a back. Just sit quiet and wait.


The area between Hontoon Island and Blue Springs is especially busy as the Manatees leave the springs to feed and then return. Be very vigilant and travel very slow. If you look at many Manatees you will start to notice all the prop marks on them.

Luckily this one didn’t have any major scars.


But this Manatee..seen at Salt River Run Springs  a few weeks earlier wasn’t so lucky.


If you really want a thrill…rent a canoe from the Springs. The Manatees are very friendly and curious and will even come over to investigate you. In this photo we are in our inflatable dingy.


Take your time on the river to slow down and give these big beautiful slow moving animals a chance to enjoy you…enjoying them.

Barred Owl

On our last trip up the St Johns River, we stopped at Hontoon Island and docked for the night. They have a nice museum and a video you should definitely watch if you are in the area. They have campsites and cabins for rent.

We took a short walk up the trail …039cs towards the Indian Shell Mounds and spotted this Barred Owl.


It was quite content to sit there for a few pictures..


I had my small poodle with me…she’s about the size of a small rabbit. Perhaps that was the attraction and kept it in the area. I can’t tell if it’s licking it’s chops or not.


I was surprised at how large the Barred Owl is, and that it has brown eyes where most other owls eyes are yellow.

Gators on the St Johns River

We had a wonderful day on the river. Seemed like every where we looked there was a nice sized gator sunning itself. This one was sharing the area with a turtle and a White Heron.


The water was so flat the reflections are almost perfect.




This one sat for a short video before heading into the water.

I definitely missed getting some good pictures of the biggest gator we’ve seen out here.


He had a nice spot behind a few big trees with some brush for cover. As we got closer, he raised up and walked a few steps.


Then he dropped down and waited to see what we were going to do. Look at the size of that hind foot and claws.


Before we could get around the tree he went into the water. We have his spot marked on the chart and will be looking for him on the way back up river. He was huge!!


Haven't been on the boat for a few weeks so I went back through my photos and found a few nice gators. This one was sunning itself with a smaller one.

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Here they are swimming out toward the boat.

This gator was sitting with his back to us…we cruised up as close as we could.

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As we got closer it turned to watch us….then went into the water.

I find these creatures fascinating and never tire of watching for and photographing them.  We cruise much slower than most boats on the river (6 mph) and create very little wake. If they are out there…we spot them. Oh…don’t think for a minute that because you don’t see them….that they aren’t there….Just start shining the shoreline after dark…all those eyes are most likely gators….big and small.

Great White Heron

This Great White Heron was working the shoreline at Salt River Springs when Raisin and I rowed shore.


It wandered off a bit…but didn’t seem bothered by our presence. Raisin is used to seeing large birds in the yard and knows she isn’t supposed to chase them. We have wild turkeys coming in all the time.


Just one of the beautiful birds found in this area.

Salt Springs Run Manatees

We have spent many nights in Salt Springs and never knew Manatees were frequent visitors here. There is a boat launch, ramps and gift shop. If you look close you can see tow of the Manatees (grey spots in the water).


You can see it’s back raising out of the water.


This looked like the smallest one…maybe 5 or 6 ft long. You can see several prop scars on it already.


In this photo you can see the same one, on the right,  with another much larger one.


Here are 3 of them together.


This Manatee swam right past our dingy. The white on the R is the back of our boat. You can see how close they came.


At first glance, this looks like the same Manatee in the photo above, but it’s not. Look at the different prop scars on this one. You can even see several on the tail. They are big and slow moving, and it’s hard to get out of the way if there are several boats and shallow waters. Yet they still seem to find us interesting.

Our dingy is 8’ long and this Manatee was much longer than that.


There is a Manatee under all the sparkles the wind and sunshine created.


Manatees come into Salt River Run Springs and Blue Springs because the water is warmer than the river during the winter. Blue Springs can have 90 or more at one time, and can be visited by car or by boat.

Salt River Run Springs has 15 that are regulars.

If you have a shallow draft boat you will have no trouble getting into Salt River Run. Be careful during the winter as that’s when you will be most apt to encounter Manatees on the Run.

We draw 3’ and can only get over the bar at the entrance when the water level in Lake George is up.

Gators on this trip

We spotted these two on Blue Creek, just off the St Johns River, FL. I found it intriguing since the small gator is resting his head on  a large turtle. Someday it will be on the gator’s menu…


The turtle didn’t like us getting so close and  decided to leave.



A few days later we spotted this one on the river bank. It was fairly large. I would guess at least 9 or 10 ft.


But the biggest treat was to spot this huge gator at one of our favorite anchorages.


It has a very broad back,  a very large head and a lot of “gator tail”.  One of the specialties on the menus around here. So I’m not going to mention where we spotted it.


Just as I switched from photos to video it headed into the water and I missed the action.

Is it grinning at me?

Immature Black-Crowned Night Heron?

I spotted this bird while taking Raisin ashore. It was sitting on another dingy. It didn’t seem worried as I motored past, but when I came back it had moved to the other side of the run at Silver Glen Springs, FL.


In my “Field Guide to the Birds East of the Rockies”, I found 2 birds that might fit.

I believe it is the Immature Black-Crowned Night Heron.059cs

My guide doesn’t have a photo..just a drawing, and both immature Yellow-Crowned and Black-Crowned Herons look similar, the beak on this bird most closely resembles the beak on the Black-Crowned Heron. 075cs

I had a great time watching it. For a moment I thought it was going to dive in and grab something.

I will be watching at dusk to see if I can spot an adult. They look like beautiful birds…ones that I have never seen.

Nature’s Clean-up crew

While cruising back to Lake Monroe, FL, I spotted a flock of vultures. It isn’t unusual to see them sitting in a tree, but when they are on the ground it usually means they are feeding on something.


At first glance it appeared they were sitting on a log, but it did seem unusual so we turned around for a better look.


We were right to double check…it is definitely a gator. August 15 thru Nov 1 is hunting season.

It’s possible it died of natural causes but with the season open……..not likely.

I know they are dangerous…and the big ones especially so…but I sure hate to see all the big old gators killed off. Many of the problems are caused by people who feed them and they start associating people with food instead of being wary of them. During breeding season it’s best not to hang around their territory. Many people hunt them for the meat, hides and the extra money to keep the family going. I have no problem with that. I’ve done it myself in the past.(though not with gators).  Not a fan of “trophy” hunters, though.

Fall Colors

I know it’s hard to believe..but we do have fall in Florida.016cs

It was really pretty on parts of the St Johns River.


It’s nothing like you see in the NE…but the colors are pretty against all the green.

An Anhinga with trash around it’s beak


Our friends, Debbie and George, have a beautiful pond. Many ducks call it home. Many more wild ones come in daily to feed. Blue Herons and Anhingas also frequent it.

This Anhinga showed up and has stayed a few days. They realized there was a problem. I took some pictures this afternoon, so we could get a look at what is on it’s beak.


It almost looks like rags or something with knots in it.014cs

The bird was quite a distance away and the pictures aren't very good.

They contacted someone who knows how to handle a situation like this. They will try to net it when it gets a bit weaker. They don’t want to chase it away, it might not get any help then.


For some reason it cant get it off it’s beak and that means it can’t eat. I will let you know how they make out getting it free.

This is one of the reasons we carry nippers and bags for trash when we are out in our dingy. We once saw an Anhinga with fishing line trailing behind, as it flew past, and decided  we’d  start gathering all the fishing line that is left in the bushes etc. We have to take our dog ashore each evening and morning…while out..we cruise the waters edge looking for “stuff”.

Check out the “Pick it up” button on the right….just click on it.  This is why you’ll find it on all my blogs.

Red Dragonfly

I need some help on this one. I’m not sure what kind it is.069cs

A very pretty reddish brown.074cs

It didn’t seem afraid. I was able to row right up to it.082cs

It was a bit more reddish than the pictures show. There looks to be a dark line down the top of the body.084cs

It was about the size of a Meadowhawk, so possibly a Cardinal Meadowhawk?  Not a real bright red though, more of a deep reddish orange. Pretty…whatever it is.

Big Gator

We just spent 3 nights on the St Johns River, FL.  It was hot and humid, with afternoon thunderstorms. But it was a good trip.

We spotted this big gator on our way home.On River 229cs

The hunting season hasn’t opened yet, but he was still pretty wary of us making a “U” turn and coming back to take pictures.On River 230cs

But he didn’t make a big run and splash. He just casually turned and glided in.On River 231cs

I hope he makes it through the season. He sure was a handsome guy.