Bimini 2009 Trip66 SfThe wind forecast was no-good for a dolphin trip, so I really did think that yesterday’s trip was the last of 2009. But, Mother Nature surprised us and we had a New Year’s Eve dolphin trip! The seas were calm and the passengers excited (especially those with birthdays!). We headed out, keeping our eyes open. Then, we saw it. Well, we saw them. Bottlenose dolphins coming right at us! We soon realized that the dolphins were scattered all about. While this made it difficult to focus on any one group, it made the trip very exciting! The dolphins weren’t overly interested in the boat, so we decided to investigate a big splash just to the north. It turned out to be a spotted dolphin adult, juvenile and calf – and a bottlenose dolphin. After observing them from the boat, everyone put on their wetsuits and hopped in the water. I can’t wait to review the video. I really hope that visibility is good enough for me to identify the older juvenile spotted because I really did not recognize who it was! Could it be a new Bimini 2009 NYeve blue moondolphin or, more likely, one who developed new spots this fall and I didn’t recognize at first? 

The rest of the day included observing more bottlenose from the boat and a second group of 5 spotteds. One of these spotted dolphins had so many white spots it may have been the oldest spotted dolphin I have ever seen! I have lots of photographs of both species to sort through, including the adult spotted dolphin pictured above. Our trip went past sunset, which is not normal, but it meant we got to watch the New Year’s Eve blue moon rise! 

I hope that 2010 is as good as 2009. Happy New Year to everyone!  

Thanks for following,

Kel

BiminiDec09_Tt18It was a slightly choppy day in the dolphin grounds, but the sun was shining! We didn’t get a chance to see any spotted dolphins, but we did four bottlenose dolphins! They were surfing the swells and it even looked like they might have been pursuing some small fish. If that was the case, it may be the first time I have ever seen bottlenose dolphins feeding in any way other than bottom grubbing (aka crater feeding).

 

I think I’ll be able to ID at least three of the four individuals, including Tt#18, seen here. 

The winds are forecasted to pick up from tomorrow and stay up into the weekend. So, it looks like today may have been the final dolphin trip of 2009. Thank you to everyone who made 2009 a great year! 

Until next year,

Kel

I was thrilled to see calm seas for today’s dolphin trip! Too many weeks passed without a dolphin trip! Bill & Nowdla had a great boat full of excited passengers and all eyes were scanning the sea. Unfortunately, there were no dolphins to be found. We did enjoy a close-up of a large loggerhead turtle as “he” rested at the surface though. Our fingers are crossed for more calm weather this – and hopes are high for more dolphin trips. 

Until next time,

Kel

Bimini 2009 5 Oct Tt Neonate 

I spent my day off on the boat. I didn’t mean to see dolphins, but there they were! It was a large group of bottlenose dolphins. They were fairly scattered and traveling slowing. We quickly noticed that there was a tight smaller group. As I began capturing ID photographs, I noticed not just a bottlenose calf, but a neonate (right, photo)! A neonate is a newborn dolphin. They are recognized by “fetal folds,” which are basically wrinkles from having been folded up in utero. This is the first time I have seen a neonate bottlenose dolphin in the wild! The wrinkles will stretch out as the calf grows in the first few weeks of life. The youngster was closely flanked by two different adults, so I cannot tell who the mother is, but it was an exciting day in Bimini!

 -Kel
Bimini 2009 T62_C5 seaweedAfter some time away, I returned to Bimini just in time for a dolphin trip. Unfortunately, there wasn’t time to prepare the MVA, but I took advantage of the chance to take some still photographs for our ID catalog. A group of 7-8 Atlantic spotted dolphins were soon seen just off the bow! In this group were Swoosh (#36), un-named #25 and this as-of-yet un-ID’d adult, all with what appeared to be their own calves. Un-named #91 was also in the group and all of the dolphins were playing each other and the plentiful seaweed.  

 

 

On the way home we also got a chance to watch White Blotch (#29), her older calf (#94) and an un-ID’d adult ride the bow for 6 minutes. There is another trip tomorrow; I can’t wait! 

Until then,

Kel

Bimini2009 ID078 T61Sunday’s dolphin trip was, well, incredible. The seas were flat clam and the water was crystal clear – well, except for what looked like jellyfish post-blender. We headed out on the early side (14:21) and by 14:58 we had at least 25 dolphins in our sights. They were on the move, but I was able to ID Romeo (#10), White Blotch (#29), Lil’ Jess (#35), Lone Star (#56), Billy (#64), and un-named #78. Here, you can see #78 making sure he’s noticed! We were in and out of the water throughout the day, but during the longest underwater encounter I recorded lots of un-named #84 and two other very young juveniles, all female. Back on the boat, I also saw Finn (#09, once again with Romeo) and un-named #17, 24 and 75. Soon there were bottlenose in the group and I spotted Nemo (#76) playfully biting at a bottlenose dolphin’s peduncle! A group about 10 spotted dolphin broke away from the mixed-species group, including Niecey (#48), her calf (#92) and again, un-named #24 and 75. 

With the busy season basically over, this trip was a great way to end the main research season. Now I’ll catch up on data processing, prepare for the October Biennial Conference on Marine Mammalogy and hope for sporadic dolphin trips to learn more about what the animals are doing in DCP’s off-season. 

If you are looking for a way to support DCP, check out our name-a-dolphin program – un-named #78 (pictured here) needs a name! Looking for something more hands-on? Join me in Bimini in May 2010! Click here for more details.  

Thanks to everyone who has been following our research in Bimini! And, as always, a HUGE thank you to the boat operators in Bimini, without whom we would not be able to complete our research. Thank you to Bill & Nowdla Keefe's Bimini Undersea and Al Sweeting Jr.

Until next time,

Kel

Today’s surprise dolphin trip was the 60th of 2009! At first glance, I thought the sea conditions were going to result in a bumpy ride, but I was pleasantly surprised. We had to be patient today as we waited for the dolphins. First, we saw two spotteds and I believe Tina (#14) was one of them. They were surfing the small swells though and did not show any interest in the dolphin boat. Shortly after that we saw another group of dolphins. This time it was two bottlenose dolphins, but soon we realized that there were several spotteds with them. I think that un-named #79 may have been there, but am sure that Lone Star (#56) was. It was great to see her! Unfortunately, the underwater visibility was uncharacteristically poor and the dolphins were on the move, so we did not get any underwater observations. I’ll be waiting until next time! 

Until then,

Kel

While the seas have not been completely flat, they have been much more enjoyable than earlier this week. So, we thought for sure we would see some of Bimini’s spotted dolphins. On Thursday we had a part exciting, part frustrating day (at least it was for me). We did see a group of 6 spotted dolphins and although guests (and myself) did not get a good look at the dolphins underwater, we did enjoy the show from the boat. But, here’s the exciting part: I am suspicious of these dolphins. By that I mean that I suspect they may not have been “Bimini” dolphins at all. There was an atypical coloration pattern on a young individual and distinct markings on two of the adults that I was not familiar with. The frustrating part? They didn’t come close enough for me to document their markings with photo or video. So, I’ll have to wait to see them again – and hope my memory doesn’t let me down. 

Bimini2009_T59_TtOn Friday, we had a rare morning dolphin trip. Because we do not have very many in the early part of the day, I never know what to expect. The water was a beautiful Bimini blue at high tide and late in the trip we saw a group of at least 18 bottlenose dolphins! It was amazing to see such a large group and exciting to see an older calf among them. I have plenty of dorsal fin photographs to sort now! This week will be quiet in terms of boat time. Although I will miss being on the water, I will appreciate some much needed down time – and time to catch up preliminary data analysis and entry. 

Until next time,

Kel

The strong east winds finally quieted this afternoon. It was much appreciated! The boat guests first enjoyed a snorkel at the “3 Sisters” before we headed into the “dolphin grounds.” It was a much more comfortable boat ride, but unfortunately, we did not see any dolphins. Hopes are high for tomorrow though – and the weather forecast is even better! 

Until then,

Kel

As the boat prepared to depart the harbor, squalls were looming on the horizon. Luckily, we didn’t get anything more than a sprinkle. We were soon snorkeling at the Bimini Road (aka Atlantis) and the winds calmed to almost a whisper. Unfortunately, the calm seas did not last long and things got a bit bumpy as we tried to search for dolphins. Our commitment was rewarded with a view of at least 3 (possibly 5) bottlenose dolphins. Although this sighting was short, I suspect that TtID28 was there! There are more dolphin trips scheduled throughout the week – I hope the winds die down! 

Until then,

Kel

Bimini 2009_Talk to Chicago City Day SchoolFriday began with a presentation to a group of students from Chicago City Day School aboard the Coral Reef II. The group was filled with enthusiasm for both dolphins and the days of exploring the marine biology of the Bimini area that lie ahead of them. Thank you for your great questions and I hope your trip is going great!

 

 I spent the rest of Friday working on data entry before enjoying a much needed day off on Saturday. Today I’m keeping a close eye on the tropics as Tropical Storm Ana and Bill are now out there. The forecast for the week is a bit windy, but hopefully it will calm down enough to continue to search for dolphins. Today’s trip was a bit short and a bit bumpy, and even though we did not see dolphins, this week’s passengers are hopeful for the remainder of the week! 

Until next time,

Kel

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