05 August 2017

Pizza and Progress

179

On Friday we woke up and worked on our usual ID’s and video logs, but then we decided to shake things up. We soon got ready and headed up the island to Edith’s Pizza for lunch. We arrived on our bikes, as they were opening and ordered our highly anticipated chicken wings and pizza. It was a much needed meal and change of pace for the day. We headed back home after eating our delicious lunch and enjoyed getting back to air conditioning after the long ride of blistering heat. While Patrick was gone on the boat, Tori and Kaiya spent their day at home making significant progress with their office work.

Patrick:

I met Al and his guests at the marina and we were quickly heading out to sea shortly after 2 pm. We headed straight for Three Sisters for a quick snorkel stop around the always interesting rock formation that is full of life. After about half an hour, we jumped back on board and headed in search of dolphins. Around 45 minutes later we spotted a lot of splashing in the distance. As we got closer we saw it was three juvenile spotted dolphins, who I realized were #s107, 108, and 112! We followed them for a bit as they chased fish and each other and splashed around. As we prepared to attempt to get in the water with them, we spotted more dorsal fins surfacing on the horizon. As we were watching them, we lost the original three in their quick, playful travelling. So, we decided to check out the new group. As we got closer we counted a rather large group of 16 spotted dolphins! They were also travelling but they would break apart into smaller groups, slow down and interact with one another and come back together again. From the surface I noticed Swoosh (#36) and Leslie (#80), I was excited to get in the water and see the rest of the group up close! Throughout the three encounters with this group we had spent about 20 minutes with them in the water. We saw quite a bit of interaction, seaweed play, and a few of the dolphins seemed to enjoy sneaking up behind us. I was able to ID Inka (#93) and Paul (#99), while Tina (#14), Prince William (#64), and Speedy (#78) may have also made an appearance (I also was able to identify Juliette (#12) and #109 from the video when I got home)! I was thrilled to be able to identify them as they were all interacting and being so playful together in such a large group. It’s always difficult to not get caught up in the dolphins and focus on the video and keeping track of who’s who, but being there in their environment with them will never get old in any way. But, we soon decided they were moving too quick and we should look for another group on the way home. In a few hours, when we were close to home, we spotted a few more fins in the distance. This time, it was a small group of about eight bottlenose dolphins. After snapping surface photos we enjoyed an encounter with them since they were staying in the same spot as they crater fed. Along with the bottlenose we saw two massive nurse sharks taking advantage of the apparently abundant feeding grounds. During the swim we saw some very interesting behaviors: At one point there were four dolphins chasing a small spotted eel; as they were seemingly toying with the creature, one individual eventually caught it and carried it off to play with and, I think, eventually eat it. Later on we saw a few instances of seaweed play and a calf attempting to nurse, as well. They had a few moments where they seemed interested in us, and would swim circles around us in-between their crater feeding bouts. Nearly every individual looked familiar to me, since I have been working on sorting bottlenose pictures for quite a while now, so I was excited to get home and see which individuals were there. After a near 45 minute encounter we called it quits and head home. It was another fantastic day in the office and I’m soaking up every moment I can before I leave next week. Hopefully the dolphins will grace us all with a few more great encounters before we all leave Bimini!

The Trio

Kaiya, Tori and Patrick

Kelly Melillo Sweeting

Kel is DCP's Bimini Research Manager, and all around awesome scientist.

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