Bimini 2009_T44_ID78Saturday’s dolphin trip was cancelled due to a huge thunderstorm that was headed our way.  Luckily, the storm cleared up and we were able to reschedule for today (Sunday).  It was clear skies and the boat pulled out of the harbor around 1620.  We were out for about an hour and a half without any sightings so we decided to stop for a swim break to cool down.  Everybody jumped in and got recharged for the last hour and a half of the trip.  After a few possible sightings (@1843, 1847, & 1858) it was starting to get dark and hopes were dwindling.  But, right around 1924 there they were… spotteds!  The excitement on the boat was immeasurable!  We saw Nemo (#76), unnamed #25, #78 (pictured here), #79, #87 and possibly Vincent (#11) and Tim (#69).  We all got in the water with them and they swam with us for about twenty minutes.  We were racing against sunset, so as soon as they split so did we.  A few spotteds raced to the bow for a sunset bowride, including Split Jaw (#22), Lil Jess (#35) and, we think, Billy (#64).  The boat pulled into the dock about 2035 with very happy people. What a surprising trip! 

Vicki, Alexis, and Kel

 

PS: Are you interested in supporting DCP through our Name-A-Dolphin program? You can give a name to Bimini spotted dolphin #78 - click here for details.

Our trip today was full of guests and luckily also full of dolphins. We had our first sighting at 1710 in the distance. As we got closer we realized we had at least 8 bottlenose dolphins. They appeared to be sticking around so at 1716 Vicki hopped in and took some pictures while Kel took dorsal shots from the boat and Alexis recorded sighting data. We stayed around until 1728 when we decided to go searching for some Atlantic spotted dolphins. Luckily for us, we found a group at 1730 very close by, including Romeo (#10), Swoosh (#36), and Leslie (#80). This group was very spread out swimming all around the boat. We had at least 8 dolphins all around us, in addition to the bottlenose still visible to the west. We decided to try to swim with the spotteds, hoping they would stick around for us. After we got in it appeared that the dolphins just weren’t ready for us yet, so we jumped back on the boat. At 1755 before we decided to head back to the bottlenose, we saw Finn (#09), in addition to Romeo (#10), Swoosh (#36) with her male calf (pictured here) and another adult and calf. At 1815 2 large bottlenose swam around the boat for 6 minutes before we left them and tried one more time for the spotteds. As we headed back towards the other group of dolphins we caught sight of about 6 spotteds at 1823. Then at 1829 Kel, Vicki, Bimini 2009_T43_Swoosh and calfand Alexis, all jumped back in the ocean. Alexis and Vicki took still photos, while Kel recorded video for about 15 minutes. Kel even got great video of an adult female we didn’t recognize. After this last encounter with the dolphins it was about time to head back home, so we turned the boat around and headed back for shore. It was quite a successful day and now we have a day off before *hopefully* our next boat trip on Saturday.

So, until then, 

Alexis, Vicki, and Kel

We started Wednesday aboard the Shedd Aquarium’s boat, R/V Coral Reef II, where Kel gave a talk to Chicagoland school teachers about DCP, what she’s doing here in Bimini and what DCP hopes to accomplish in the future.  They invited us to stay for lunch and all we had to do in return was talk more about dolphins; our favorite subject!  After lunch it was off for another dolphin trip.  The boat left late (1645) due to a thunderstorm passing through the area.  After about an hour of sailing the clouds cleared up and hopes were high!  Unfortunately, after sailing without one sighting we had to head back.   

More dolphins tomorrow, we hope!

Vicki, Alexis and Kel

So Monday’s trip started with looming rain to the west of us, but don’t worry it broke up throughout the trip and we never felt a drop! We proceeded out for a delightful snorkel swim at a location thought (by some) to be part of the lost city of Atlantis. After a 30 minute exploration of a possible underwater city we headed out to find our dolphins. At 1741 we spotted our first set of dolphins in the distance. As we got closer we realized we saw at least 6 Atlantic spotted dolphins including un-named #43, un-named #94, a young male calf (pictured here), and 3 other adults. At 1750 we hopped in to get a closer look. We swam around with the dolphins taking lots of still photos and video (with Kel in the water with the MVA) for about 10-15 minutes. Today the dolphins seemed a little shy, staBimini 2009_T41 male Sf calfying on the outskirts of our group. After getting back to the boat and regrouping a bit we spotted the same group of dolphins at 1805 with the additional of White Blotch (#29). We hopped back in and swam with the dolphins for a little less than 20 minutes. Then we all got back on the boat and started heading back towards shore with #94 taking a long bow ride with us. Three dolphins from this previous group (including #94) continued to remain within a close distance to us until 1841 when they disappeared from our sight.  

At 1911 we got another sighting, this time of the bottlenose dolphins who stayed around for about 15 minutes. Alexis got in the water to take pictures while Kel was on the boat taking dorsal fin shots and Vicki was recording our sightings. After about 15 minutes we had to leave the dolphins to return to shore as the sun was starting to go down and the day was coming closer to an end. Now we have plenty of work to do with our data. 

Next trip on Wednesday; hopefully the sun will return and the dolphins will be out! 

Alexis, Vicki, and Kel

Bimini 2009_T40_Tt w AlexisWe spent Sunday morning beginning our review of 2008 video data for DCP’s on-going pectoral fin study. The dolphin trip was not scheduled until 1600, but started off with a bang - a bottlenose sighting only 20 min. in!  A group of at least 8 dolphins was sighted and we were so excited when they decided stay.  Kel took lots of surface pictures while we all hopped in the water.   They let us swim with them for about half an hour!  Alexis and Vicki took as many underwater pictures as they could before getting back on the boat to see if we could make it a two for one deal and find some spotteds.  Unfortunately, it seemed the weather had another plan.  Light showers started around 1730 and continued off and on the rest of the trip.  A few more sightings; at 1738 (at least 2 dolphins), 1849(at least 2 dolphins), and 1915 (at least 3 dolphins) kept the wet trip interesting, but we were unable to identify any of these dolphins.  The real rain started around 1930, but fortunately we were pulling into the harbor.  Now we’ve got plenty of work to do with all the pictures and data. 

Hopefully tomorrow’s trip will be full of dolphins and minus the rain! 

Vicki, Alexis, and Kel

Bimini 2009_Trip 39 calf_smSaturday’s dolphin trip was quite the adventure! The day began with a nice snorkel swim at “3 Sisters” for about 30 minutes and then it was on to the real show. We got a glimpse of our first group of about 5 Atlantic spotted dolphins at 1737. Then our trip was filled with a very large (at least 30!) group of spotted dolphins, including a number of young calves. Everyone onboard was amazed at how rare a site they were seeing and an even more rare experience in the water with them. The large group was seen at 1742 and by the end of the day we had seen (are you ready? It’s a long list): Buster (#04), Lumpy (#17), White Blotch (#29), Lil’ Jess (#35), Niecey (#48), Billy (#64), Nemo (#76), Leslie (#80), Stefran (#82), un-named #25, #78, #79, #84, #89, #91, #92, #93, #94, possibly Trudy (#57) and Juliette (#12) and several others that we could not immediately identify.  

We swam with a slightly smaller group for about an hour. Alexis filled up one camera and Vicki almost filled hers. Kel joined in the water for about 30 minutes filming the dolphins with the MVA. The water was calm, warm, and perfect for the wonderful day we had! Now we have lots to do with all the data! 

Another trip tomorrow, hopefully we will be as lucky as today! 

Alexis, Vicki, and Kel

Bim09_interns_day1Sunday’s dolphin trip, Vicki’s and Alexis’ first, was filled with bottlenose. After telling the interns and the passengers how little we know about Bimini’s bottlenose dolphins, how unpredictable and skittish they can be, etc., everyone got to observe them under water for TWO HOURS! It was amazing. Kel filled the memory card of the surface camera. Alexis’ camera battery died. Vicki nearly filled her camera. The MVA recorded 30 minutes of data. And we were all exhausted. What a great way to start their field experience!Bim09_Ttmomandcalf 

We now have a lot of work ahead of us, entering field forms and sorting through today’s still photos – not to mention video logging. But, we can already tell that we will find matches in the DCP photo-ID catalog for some of the bottlenose seen today – will the adult in this possible mother/calf pair be among them? 

Until next time,

Kel, Vicki & Alexis

Today began with a guest talk to Shedd Aquarium’s high school marine biology field program. I shared details about DCP, the dolphins and how I came to be in this field. Soon after, I met up with the 2009 summer interns, Alexis and Vicki, who arrived on Bimini this morning. Stay tuned for field reports from them! 

Then, at about 1300 the phone rang with news of a 1600 dolphin swim. I pulled together my gear and headed down to the dock. The afternoon began with a strong east wind, but it wasn’t too bad in the dolphin grounds. At 1540, the dolphins appeared! A group of 5 juveniles – Nemo (#76), Leslie (#80), Tilly (#87) and un-named #88 and #89. After a 30 minutes swim, we headed back toward the island. The seas were calming and before long, White Blotch (#29) and her juvenile calf (#94) were on the bow. We also got a quick glimpse of un-named #43. What a day! 

Another trip tomorrow,

Kel

Bimini 2009 Lil Dot ID94What a great final day for this dolphin week! On Thursday, we saw some dolphins just after 1700. It was a group of 4 youngsters, including un-named #84, who were playing with each other and seaweed. In the distance we could see several other dolphins, but they did not approach the boat. We observed the young group under water for over 20 minutes until two older dolphins cruised through and appeared to lead the young dolphins away. Back on the boat we renewed our search and quickly came upon a group of 5 bottlenose dolphins. I recorded a little bit of underwater video, but they didn’t stay close for too long. 

For me, the most exciting part of the day was our final sighting. Swoosh (#36) and her male calf were there, along with another young male, White Blotch (#29) and her previously un-cataloged female calf. We first saw this calf (affectionately called ‘Lil’ Dot’) just a few weeks after her birth in 2004. Until now, this calf has had no re-identifiable markings, so we have not been able to add her to the catalog. That changed today! Everyone, meet 5-year old DCP ID#94 – welcome! I look forward to many more years of observing her! 

Until next time, Kel

Wednesday’s trip again included an extended snorkel stop and lunch for the guests. On our way, we were treated to some bottlenose which we observed from the boat. I have yet another folder of pictures to sort through! At one point in our afternoon of searching, we came across a group of adults, including Lumpy (#17) and un-named #75, both adult males. Lil’ Jess (#35) was also on the periphery of this group, with a fresh, but relatively shallow injury to the right side of her peduncle. Since we saw her yesterday, we know the injury occurred in the last 24 hours. The group was traveling quickly so we did not get to see them under water. As our search continued, some had given up hope. But, late in the day we saw a large group of dolphins (over 15). It appeared that there was a group of adults staying further away from the boat, and a group of 9 juveniles who were in a very fast-paced play mode. The passengers enjoyed the high-energy swim and I was able to record over 15 minutes of video. 

Tomorrow is the last trip for this group. So, until then,

Kel

Tuesday was another fantastic day. It started “early” with a post-lunch dolphin talk with the passengers. They had great questions and stories to share – thank you! By 1530 it was time to leave the dock and although it took some time to find the dolphins, dolphins we found. The overall numbers were large (at least 15?) but as the individuals were scattered it was difficult to get a firm count. We did see Lil’ Jess (#35), Split Jaw (#22), un-named #91 and several calves and adults. But, perhaps the most interesting was the bottlenose dolphins that spent time on the periphery of the group and then became surrounded by adult spotted dolphins as they touched the bottlenose and slowly swam through the human group. I’m hoping once I slow down the video footage I will be able to confirm that the bottlenose was female and get a view of the dorsal fin to see if she is already in our photo-ID catalog. 

Until next time,

Kel

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