With temperatures dropping in both the air and the water, dozens of manatees have returned to one of their favorite spots for the winter: The warm waters of the TECO power plant in Apollo Beach.
At least 100 manatees were visible Saturday in the canal alongside the Big Bend facility, where discharge saltwater from the power plant warms the water to summer-like temperatures.
According to TECO, the manatees begin to arrive when water temperatures in the bay drop below 68 degrees. Thermometers on the site indicated the bay was at about 65 degrees this weekend, but the waters neat the plant's outflow pipes was 80 degrees or warmer.
The discharge canal is a state and federally designated manatee sanctuary and is a popular spot for manatee watchers.
Despite dreary skies, the viewing center was jammed with people watching the manatees and other wildlife -- birds, fish, and even small sharks.
The manatee viewing center is free and open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. You can learn more on TECO's website and even watch the manatees live view two webcams.