Sunday began the final dolphin week of Bimini Adventures' 2016 season. Though it was strange to prep for a boat trip without Nicole, I was happy to meet the new guests and search for dolphins in calm seas. About 45 minutes into the trip, the guests had their first swim break, giving them an opportunity to test their snorkel gear, practice getting on and off the boat and generally acclimate themselves to Bimini's waters. It was not long after this that I saw a splash. It was far, but it was big and soon crewman Michael saw it too. We guided Al toward the splash and soon everyone was seeing a leaping young dolphin - man, this dolphin was getting some serious height!
The Atlantic spotted dolphins were scattered in an atypical way. It seemed like they were snacking on something and showed little interest in the boat. So, we waited for quick glimpses and big leaps, enjoying it all. Eventually, six dolphins came together and though they weren't interested in typical bowriding, we were able to watch them for quite a long time. They were not part of the long-time Bimini community, so may be dolphins from the Grand Bahama group who are now frequently seen off Bimini. Briefly, another, small dolphin watching boat distracted the dolphins, but after the boat departed we rejoined the group. They made two direction changes and suddenly, there were lots more dolphins! Al counted at least 14 as I joined the guests in the water. First Noodle (#94) swam by the camera, then Speedy (#78) (I think!) and Split Jaw (#22), plus several others that I didn't know at first glance. It was a wonderful way to wrap up the day!
Until next time,
Thursday was the final boat trip for this week's Bimini Adventures group. It was also Nicole's last boat trip of the season so we were very optimistic that it was going to be a good one! The weather was on our side and the guests saw true, Bimini sunshine for the first time. After a quick stop at "The Bimini Road," it was a mere 10 minutes before we saw spotted dolphins! The group of over 15 dolphins included Romeo (#10, still associating with a calf, yay!), Freckles (#15), Stefran (#82, also with a calf), un-named #75, Paul (#99) and possibly Niecey (#48). After a short swim with the large group, we observed a slightly smaller subset, including Stefran and Paul, as well as two youngsters practicing their aerial skills. It was a great finale day to the week and we really enjoyed being welcomed by this great group!
Thursday night we indulged in a work-free dinner, but Friday morning it was (nearly) all business. Coordinating data files and tidying Nicole's apartment, we were both wishing Nicole was only going home for the weekend! But, she'll be super busy back at school, prepping her new Master's project!
Next week is the final dolphin week of 2016. Wonder what it will bring?!
Kel & Nicole
As you may have noticed, DCP has been expanding and growing, with our mission statement reaching farther than ever before. DCP has been fortunate to gain the support and interest of so many people, which was evidenced in our recent matching fundraiser in June—surpassing our fundraising goal of $2,000 by more than 15%! Feeling so grateful about the support received, DCP has decided to give back in its own way. To that end, DCP has started a new program to pay it forward to a conservation organization in two ways. First, one of DCP’s board members will commit to a financial contribution directly to that organization. Second—and this is the fun part for you—DCP will also commit to telling the story of that organization to all of you, to build awareness about immediate conservation issues, and to build partnerships among organizations with shared goals. We hope this will be an annual event that we will all look forward to!
Everything in the ocean is connected. As such, supporting worthwhile conservation efforts outside our own will continue to drive DCP’s mission to promote the scientific study of dolphins and inspire their conservation.
The first recipient organization for DCP’s Pay It Forward for Conservation initiative is ¡Viva Vaquita! Stay tuned for a blog post featuring the vaquita!
Monday was a busy, busy day on Bimini! We left the house early, shuttling dog crates and supplies to the ferry; we carried them to South Bimini so we could meet the rest of the team and head up to Resorts World Bimini...oh, wait. We're getting ahead of ourselves, aren't we?
Long story short, Kel is a regular volunteer at local vet clinics and with efforts to get island strays into foster and forever homes. So, when word about some stray dogs and puppies on RWB's property reached us about two weeks ago, we began spending all our free time visiting with the dogs and coordinating their rescue. Backed by the Humane Society of Grand Bahama (HSGB) and Island Paws Rescue (IPR), we joined forces with other local volunteers and RWB employees to capture five adult dogs and eight puppies. The adults headed to HSGB this afternoon; the puppies will head to Fort Lauderdale tomorrow. You can see these dogs on Facebook at The Stray Dogs of Bimini. If anyone is interested in adopting one of these Bimini sweethearts, please contact IPR!
While Nicole stayed on dog-rescue-duty (even during a downpour!), Kel prepped for and headed out on the day's dolphin trip. With my rain jacket on for most of the trip, I enjoyed chatting with guests as we dodged squalls and searched the seas. It wasn't looking promising as we began to head to shore having seen little more than rain drops and small waves. Suddenly, a guest spotted dolphins behind us! We headed that way and, knowing that sunset wasn't far off, we hopped in the water quickly. First, it was two youngsters swirling around the divers. Soon, Tina (ID#14 and yes, still pregnant!) joined, giving Kel and the other guests some good, close looks. She periodically interacted with the youngsters as they swam ahead and then back to us, ahead, to the boat and back to us again. It was a wonderful swim and watching the pure joy and amazement on the guests' faces afterwards was incredible.
As we cruised the rest of the way home, we all soaked in the gorgeous sunset, only to turn around to a phenomenal rainbow (double on one side!) arching over Bimini. What a day!
Though the weather forecast continues to be challenging, we're pretty optimistic and grateful after today.
Until next time,
Kel & Nicole
Wednesday through Saturday were off-the-boat days for DCP. In lieu of dolphin-searching, we filled our days with data entry, photo ID and (Master's) project preparation. We also spent some time preparing for the rescue of 7 puppies and 5 adult dogs found on North Bimini--Island Paws Rescue is coordinating these efforts and we wanted to lend a hand! Stay tuned for details!
By Sunday we were ready for the newest Bimini Adventures tourist group. Nicole was on the boat at 1500 to join the guests on their first boat trip. Despite a heavy wind and threat of rain, we set off with the excitement only a Bimini dolphin trip can inspire. At the beginning of our journey, we stopped for a gear check, allowing the guests to become accustomed to their fins and snorkels. Shortly after that, we had to change course to avoid a large squall. But only a little while later we had our first dolphin sighting! Just off our port side we saw a dolphin leap--this turned out to be a group of 7 bottlenose dolphins. This sighting was particularly exciting because Captain Al thinks 3 of these may have been a little different from the rest. It's possible these dolphins are from a different population than the Bimini bottlenose--they might be the offshore bottlenose ecotype, which are characterized as being larger and slightly darker than the coastal population we are used to seeing. Hopefully the surface photos Nicole collected will be useful for exploring this theory further.
Not long after getting a good look at the whole group, we lost sight of these 7 and continued on our way. While the wind and rain had thus far not been a big deal to us, at this point the waves got a bit bigger and the squalls more menacing. Since we weren't seeing anything in our normal search areas, and it started drizzling, we decided to move back towards the island. This turned out to be a good idea; not only did the wind die down a bit but we had 4 more sightings of bottlenose dolphins! These were rather brief (and not great for surface dorsal fin photos) but it was still exciting for our new guests! Many of them got a really good look at these dolphins from the bow!
The guests were thrilled to have seen dolphins on their first day! Everyone was also thrilled to simply have the chance to swim in the beautiful waters of Bimini. We are looking forward to the rest of the week with this group-- what will tomorrow bring?
Nicole & Kel
The Dolphin Gazette, 20.3, is here! It is jammed packed with exciting announcements and heartfelt reflections. From our Pay It Forward for Conservation initiative (Viva Vaquita!) to strengthening relationships with students and collaborators, we're sure you'll enjoy this issue. And for all you college-kids (and parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings and friends of college kids), be sure to check out the details on our Dec/Jan field course to RIMS. Applications and deposits are coming in - secure your space now!
Click here to download The Dolphin Gazette. Thanks for reading - and for sharing with your friends!
Tuesday was the Hunter and Manhattan College group's last day on Bimini. For their final boat trip we departed from the dock just after 1400, a tad earlier than usual, to do a bit of snorkeling before commencing the search for dolphins. Our snorkel stop was at Bimini Road (known by some as the Road to Atlantis, or some variation of this name). After the students had explored the site, they returned to the boat and we began our search. With the wind disturbing the water and the clouds closing in it was rather difficult to see much of anything. Nevertheless, about 45 minutes after we left Bimini Road two of the students spotted something at 3 o'clock! It took us a few minutes to find them again but they turned out to be two bottlenose dolphins (good job students!). Even though we stayed in the same spot for 10 minutes, it was hard to tell what this pair was doing--they did not stay at the surface for very long. We were able to collect a few photos of their dorsal fins before we lost sight of them completely and proceeded on our way.
As we continued our travels, a squall to the northwest was moving closer, bringing large clouds that were blocking the sun. It's surprising how difficult it is to see dolphins from a distance without sunlight but it was well-illustrated for us when the next group of dolphins we saw basically found us--they were less than 10 feet from our starboard side! If they hadn't surfaced so close we likely would not have seen them at all. This was a group of at least four bottlenose dolphins. Unfortunately, with the impending rain and increasing winds we could not stay to observe these dolphins, or even linger to take surface photos. As we got closer and closer to the channel entrance we tried harder and harder to see something in the water. We even turned back and retraced our path for a few minutes to be sure there wasn't anything we had overlooked. Unfortunately, the dark sky made our efforts futile so we returned to the harbor, slightly more on-time than our previous trips.
It was not the most dolphin-packed last day for this university group but they did get to enjoy the natural wonders of the Bimini reefs. They also had many great dolphin days during their time with Bimini Adventures which left the students with smiles on their faces and amazing stories to share! DCP is grateful to Dr. Kaplan and Dr. M for including us in their Bimini visit. We look forward to seeing them again next year!
The next few days are off the boat for us but keep an eye out for some updates of our goings-on on the island!
Until next time,
Kel & Nicole
PS: Did you read about Nicole’s and Dr. Kaplan’s big announcements? Check out the latest issue of The Dolphin Gazette!
Sunday was another beautiful day on Bimini. Kel and Nicole had planned to have a morning meeting but it was rescheduled so instead, they took care of some other island business (we can’t resist trying to help The Stray Dogs of Bimini!). By 1500 Nicole was ready to head out with the Hunter/Manhattan College group once again. Only 15 minutes into the trip, Dr. Kaplan's wish was granted--we spotted three bottlenose dolphins, including one older calf, and they were crater feeding! We observed this group from the boat for a bit, collecting surface photos of their dorsal fins. Then the student teams were able to take turns doing underwater observations as Dr. K and Dr. M recorded video and acoustics. After an almost 50 minute encounter, we decided to get back on the boat to search for more dolphins.
A relatively short time later we came across a small group of Atlantic spotted dolphins--an adult, a juvenile and an older calf. These dolphins were moving pretty slowly and not interacting much with each other. We watched them from the surface for a bit before entering the water. We had a couple of encounters with the younger two individuals, the male juvenile and the female calf, who were playing with seaweed but still not interacting very much with each other. After some time we decided to leave these dolphins to see who else we might find. And what do you know, only 6 minutes later we came across more bottlenose dolphins! This was a different group of 3, also including a calf, who were also crater feeding. Dr. Kaplan must have been wishing really hard because her request was granted twice in one day! Our underwater observations of this group were shorter than earlier in the day but everyone was able to collect some interesting data. And the last student team who had not yet had the chance to see bottlenose crater feeding finally had the opportunity!
As we climbed back on the boat and left the bottlenose dolphins, Captain Al saw something in the distance. At first we thought it might just be fish but it turned out to be 2 juvenile Atlantic spotted dolphins, a different pair from the ones we saw earlier. We were not able to identify these from the boat, and our underwater observations were not successful, so we started to head for home. As we approached the channel entrance Dr. Kaplan noticed dorsal fins between us and the island! It was a group of at least 5 bottlenose dolphins, likely crater feeding. The sun was setting so it was too late to do more than mark their location and continue for home. Yet again, we docked in the dark and battled the mosquitoes as we got off the boat. But we were all very satisfied with our dolphin experiences from the day. This group has one more dolphin trip on Tuesday--let's hope it is as successful as the past few days have been!
Until next time,
Nicole & Kel