The annual visit to the manatees

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One of the fun outdoor things to do when my sisters are here for Christmas is to drive over to the Tampa Electric Company to see the manatees. The electric plant pulls in cold water to cool the plant and flushes out the warm water so the manatees spend the winter in the channel next to the plant where the water is warmer.

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It’s always fun seeing the manatees floating around in the channel.  Several of them were floating on their backs.  Some of them only stick their noses out to get air.

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They have a new stingray pool where you can pet them.  You can also see them out in the channel swimming by.

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The mangroves along the channel are covered in these black mangrove crabs.

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White pelicans were flying high over our heads.

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Pretty flower in the butterfly garden.

It was a beautiful day right before Christmas but too warm.  82 degrees is too hot for the end of December. It would have been nice to have long sleeves on when we were out running around. The tourist from up north didn’t seem to mind. I’m sure they were all happy to be out of the snow.  The Manatee Viewing Center at TECO is only opened from November through April.  Even though the weather was warm, there were still plenty of manatees to see.

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The electric company

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Why would anyone go hang out next to a power plant? Because they use the water in the bay to cool the towers.  The warm water comes out in the channel and keeps the manatees warm during the winter. Hundreds of manatees spend their winters in this channel.  The power plant built a dock for people to stand on and watch the manatees come up for air.

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One of the manatees near the dock.

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For extra enjoyment, they hire sharks to jump out of the water and entertain us. (Just kidding, this was the first time we had seen this here before).

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Little fiddler crabs and willets hang out on the shoreline under the dock.

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Overhead, an osprey was gathering sticks for a nest.

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Little fishies.

We made our annual winter trip to the Tampa Electric Plant to see the manatees in late February. Even thought it’s been a warm winter, the water in the bay has been cold enough for the manatees to congregate in the warmer waters next to the plant. There were tons of manatees in the water but I think this time there were more people than manatees.

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Manatees at the TECO plant – Skywatch Friday

Tampa Electric Company.

Manatee mosh pit.

More manatees. They must huddle together to stay warm.

This manatee was so close, that's my shadow standing over him.

Fish tails. You can see the scars on his back and tail.
If you’re in the Tampa bay area and looking for manatees, the best place to find them is at the Manatee Viewing Center at the TECO plant. You could drive over an hour north and see them at Homosassa Spring Park or go swimming with them up near there but if you’re looking for a quick sighting, this is the place. It’s free and fun. It was a little bit cold the day we went, around 60 degrees. Even though the water stays warm in this lagoon due to the electric plant running the warm water out in the bay, the manatees seemed to huddle together. I would assume it was to stay warmer. The manatees get pretty close to the boardwalks so you can see them upclose.  We usually see a lot of stingrays in the area as well but none were present on this trip. The manatees usually start heading out to their summer homes around late March or April depending on the weather, so the viewing center closes in mid-April.
Info on the viewing center and a manatee web cam can be found here http://www.tampaelectric.com/manatee/
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