This is…..a manatee snout! With the cooler overnight temperatures, this is the time of year to see manatees (or catch a glimpse of their nostrils as they come up for air). Affectionately known as "sea cows", these large, hefty mammals float around shallow waters (fresh, salt and brackish) grazing on vegetation. In the winter, they gravitate to power plants that discharge warm water. There's such a plant in Ft. Myers, so I headed out to a nearby park (Manatee park) early in the morning when the temperature was in the mid-40s. Dozens of manatees were huddled around. For as large as they are, they sure are quick! They poke their nostrils out of the water, inhale, and go right back under. For a wildlife photographer, it makes for extremely challenging shooting.
I shot dozens and dozens of frames and this was the best I could get…which I was disappointed with until, upon closer inspection, discovered this most likely is a shot of a mama manatee with a calf. (In that case, then…kudos to me!) Zoom in under the nostril...and that blob looks like a baby manatee.
It was beautiful morning with kayakers pushing their way through the mist….no doubt looking for manatees. Although manatees spend most of their time hidden underwater, there's an easy way to spot their presence: a small swirl on the water. So, looking at the foreground of this photo, I would say several manatees were underwater right in front of me.
The "Idle No Wake" boating sign is in place specifically to protect the manatees, which can get seriously injured or killed by motorboats. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced last month that it's considering downlisting the manatee from an endangered to threatened species (which has caused a bit of a dust up with wildlife conservationists here in Florida).
Although I like the kayakers in color…I tinkered around and converted it to black and white. Moody! Which do you prefer?