Bimini2010_T50_InternsThursday we set out with our fingers crossed for cooperative weather since there were some squalls in the area. As we set out around 15:30, the wind began to pick up which made for an exciting ride! Everyone held on tight and kept a sharp eye out for dolphins. After the bumpy cruise north, we turned around and slowly headed back towards the island. Seemingly out of nowhere, spotted dolphin calves appeared around 17:45, leaping toward the boat. A group of at least eight spotted dolphins came and went for about 40 minutes, including three calves, two juveniles, Trudy (#57) and two other adults. All the dolphins, especially the youngsters, seemed to be enjoying the larger waves. Eventually the dolphins gave us the slip and we headed in, with a quick swim break for everyone to cool off! Thanks to everyone for a great week of dolphin trips! 

Until Next Time,

Janan, Cat & Kel

Bimini2010_T48_youngSfsOn Wednesday, we had the luxury of not only one dolphin trip, but two to choose from! Kel and Cat set off with Bill & Nowdla Keefe while Janan stuck with Bimini Adventures. Although there were some squalls passing through, the Hatteras was able to head out at 13:40 towards the Bimini Road for a nice snorkel stop. After a leisurely snorkel, swim, lunch break, we continued on at 16:20 to look for dolphins. We didn’t want to get too far from Bimini in case there were storms, but luckily the dolphins seemed to have the same idea! At 16:45 we had our first sighting of a group of 10 spotteds, including White Blotch (#29), Swoosh (#36) and maybe Cleopatra (#41). We hopped in the water, but the dolphins were more interested in bowriding than sticking with us. We continued our search, and were rewarded at about 18:00 with another group spotteds, including some active, tail-slapping calves. About an hour later, the group grew to over 10 individuals, including White Blotch (#29), Swoosh (#36), Billy (#64), Tim (#69), Tilly (#87) and un-named #91 and 92. At one point some of the young dolphins were jawing at and nudging the body of their young conspecific (see picture). It was very interesting play (?) bout! We had a great swim with them, and finally headed home stuffed full of dolphin interactions!  

Meanwhile on Bill & Nowdla’s boat, Cat and Kel set off at about 16:30. Some dolphins showed up nice and early at 17:20, including two bottlenose dolphins and two spotteds. The spotteds appeared to be a mother/calf pair; was the mother ID#43? We continued on, hoping to find another group, and around 18:00 came upon a group of over 12 dolphins including Tina (#14), Lumpy (#17), Lone Star (#56), un-named #s24, 78 and 93. We had one underwater observation and then at around 18:40 people hopped into the water and held onto a rope while the boat towed them behind.  Apparently the dolphins were interested in this funny sight as they tagged along very closely! During a second tow at 19:00, even more dolphins joined in, including Freckles (#15) and Swoosh (#36). At last we had to head home, but more dolphins joined the boat for a bow ride at 19:30, including Finn (#09), Split Jaw (#22), White Blotch (#29) and Lil' Jess (#35). Such an awesome day for both boats!  

Until next time,

Janan, Cat & Kel

Bimini2010_T47_OffshoreTtOn Monday, Cat and Janan (DCP’s 2010 summer interns) arrived in Bimini for the first time! We made it safely (albeit on the tiniest plane either of us had flown in) and were excited to get started on a dolphin trip. Unfortunately, we got a taste of “island life” when there was literally no fuel on the island. Obviously with no fuel, there could be no dolphin trip!

With our spirits high for another chance at our first dolphin trip, we set out on Tuesday at about 15:30. Early on, we saw a group of 5 bottlenose dolphins not far from shore. We watched them for about ten minutes, and then continued on to search for spotteds. However the spotteds appeared to have other plans because we didn’t see any for a long time. At last at 17:30 we saw 5 spotted dolphins, but they didn’t come close enough for us to get good IDs. We did observe some good tail slaps on the water (was this to dislodge a remora?). Everyone got in the water and tried the swim, but the dolphins swam off. We returned to the boat much cooler, and headed towards home.  

At 19:05 we were surprised by a much larger group of dolphins! At first, there Tina (#14), Speedy (#78) and un-named #84 were riding the bow. Soon, there were at least 12 dolphins, including 2 offshore (aka oceanic) bottlenose dolphins! Kel has never observed these in a group with Atlantic spotteds before! In this photo, you can see the light color pattern on the offshore’s peduncle. Their bodies are also much darker and they are larger than their inshore (aka coastal) counterparts. The main group peeled off from the boat, but Kel and the passengers had a nice, short swim with 2 adults and 2 calves. What a fantastic sunset surprise!  

Looking forward to our next dolphin encounter,

Janan, Cat & Kel

Bimini2010_T46_029_094I began Sunday with a talk aboard the Coral Reef II. The high school marine biology students were very engaging and full of great questions – thank you! The afternoon was the start to another “dolphin week” with www.biminiadventures.com. As excited passengers boarded the boat, the crew and I were just thrilled to have clear skies and calm seas. We did not have to go far before we saw of about six bottlenose dolphins. We observed the group long enough for me to (hopefully) get some dorsal fin ID shots, but the group opted to continue in search of spotteds. They were not disappointed! Very soon afterward we saw Tilly (#87), un-named #84 and a very young juvenile in quite the playful mood. At one point, Tilly was holding a jack (fish) in her mouth. It was difficult to tell if this was a play toy or something she actually wanted to eat as the other youngsters chased her about! Shortly after we observed another group of three – all were borderline calves/juveniles, but we did not see any adults in the area. Normally three dolphin sightings would be plenty of the day. But, today was busier! Soon, we were watching Finn (#09), Split Jaw (#22), White Blotch (#29) and her calf, un-named #94 (both pictured here). And happy birthday to #94, who turns six sometime this month (a long time for a calf of this species to stay with mom). Soon, Billy (#64) was also in the group. With such a great start to the week, I can’t wait to see what the rest holds (including the interns’ arrival tomorrow)! 

Until then,

Kel

While everyone on Bimini was celebrating their country’s independence, we were headed in search of dolphins. The seas were calm and we were optimistic about finding dolphins. We searched. We waited. We searched some more. And we waited some more…then, we saw it! A big splash in the distance… and it was dolphins! We watched Tina (#14), Lone Star (#56) and a calf (like Lone Star’s) for a few minutes before observing them underwater. The dolphins were very interactive with each other as well as the human swimmers! We had a blast! Thanks to all of today’s passengers! 

Until next time,

Kel

Bimini2010_T44_Swoosh036On Thursday, we departed the dock early for an extended snorkel stop at “The Bimini Road.” We had some rain to contend with, but soon we were under sunny skies in search of dolphins. We did not have to wait long and were soon observing a group of 15 Atlantic spotted dolphins, including Buster (#04), White Blotch (#29 – and 6 year old calf #94?), Trudy (#57), Tim (#69), Speedy (#78) and un-named #75 .These dolphins began to show less and less interest in us, so we went in search of others. What seemed like moments later, there were more! This time, we were able to watch four bottlenose dolphins both from the boat and in the water. After observing this group (including one youngster) for over 40 minutes we again opted to look for even more dolphins. Although we would have been thrilled with all the dolphins thus far, we were lucky enough to see – that’s right – even more dolphins! This time, there were two groups of Atlantic spotted dolphins, each with eight individuals. We observed some individuals under water and by the time the observation ended, we had seen Juliette (#12 – with her calf, #93), Tina (#14), Split Jaw (#22), Swoosh (#36 – pictured here – and possibly her male calf), Prince William (#64), Nemo (#76), Leslie (#80), Lone Star (#56), and possibly Cleopatra (#41) and Niecey (#48). It was a fantastic day! 

Until next time,

Kel

Bimini2010_T42_MaleC2BreachAfter squalls cancelled Monday’s boat trip, we were ready for dolphins and sunshine on Tuesday. We didn’t get too much sunshine, but at least we didn’t get rain or thunderstorms. We headed out at 1530 and saw over 20 dolphins at 1722. From the surface we saw Juliette (#12) and her calf, un-named #93, Tina (#14), Lumpy (#15), Lone Star (#56), Trudy (#57), Stefran (#82), un-named #24 and I think Freckles (#15). There was some chasing and playing, especially by the youngsters and some mating by the whole group. At some points, they were on the move, but we did get to see them under water, although the visibility was poor. The biggest show of the day was a young male who seemed focused on practicing his breaching (see picture). We did not see any visible injury (sometimes we see more than usual leaping/breaching behavior when a dolphin has a cut or a remora attached to its skin) so we are not sure what was motivating this little guy. But, all the activity made for a very pink belly! A big thanks to www.biminiadventures.com! 

Until next time,

Kel

Bimini2010_T41_Leslie080After saying goodbye to the 2010 DCP DRTs, Friday was spent cleaning up and reorganizing. Saturday’s dolphin trip with Nowdla Keefe was a patience tester. By 19:00, we still had not seen any dolphins and many on the boat were giving up hope. But, the crew and I knew better; sometimes the dolphins make us wait and wait and just when we’re ready to give up, there they are! In that spirit, we first saw the dolphins at 19:16. At first, we observed a group of 5 adults, including Buster (#04) and Lumpy (#17). We were able to have a 15 minute swim with four dolphins: Nemo (#76), Leslie (#80, pictured here), and an un-ID’d adult and calf. Leslie and the calf stayed very close to one another and the people! Back on the boat, we saw many more dolphins, including Romeo (#10), Lil’ Jess (#35), Lone Star (#56), Trudy (#57), Tilly (#87), un-named #75 and 84 and several calves. Two un-ID’d adults rode the bow until 20:07! It was a great day! 

Until next time,

Kel

Bimini2010_DRT2010_BeachCleanUpHappy July! We had a great Thursday that began with a beach clean-up: we filled 3 trash bags in 20 min! In total, we filled 9.5 bags of trash and while we all felt good about removing the trash from the beach, we were also all a bit distressed by the need to have a beach trash clean-up. We'll try to add a photo to this post soon!  

Liam: We saw a lot of spotted dolphins today and they had a lot of young dolphins like calves and they were jumping a lot in the air. Bill: Today we swam with spotted dolphins and one of the younger calves swam underneath me and broke off about 3 feet below me. Today at the 3 Sisters snorkel site, I saw fish eating a lobster. Ben: Today we saw spotted dolphins and one of the calves was very energetic and was jumping out of the water a lot.  Athan: Today was a great last day because we saw lots of spotted dolphins with their calves and we also saw a barracuda and a remora. Sam: Today we went to a snorkel site called the 3 Sisters and under the water there was a coral reef with lots of colorful fish and moray eels. E: In the morning, we got to clean up the beach and I thought that was neat and I had a great time. And we got to see this nighthawk which was hiding inside the bushes. And it was grouchy that we almost stepped on it. Then we went to the straw market to get souvenirs. Then we visited a reef called 3 Sisters. It was not rainbow colorful like the ads but I took a lot of pictures. Then we got to swim with some spotted dolphins and they were really energetic and liked bow-riding. I can’t believe we are leaving tomorrow. Emily: In the morning, we went to the straw market and I bought some gifts for my family. And on the boat later, I watched a baby spotted dolphin jump out of the water and when I was in the water I heard their chirps and whistles. Gabrielle: Today I saw Tina who is the dolphin I was studying in class. It was interesting to see her in real life.  Jack: Today when we went to clean up the beach we saw a wet suit that was abandoned and we picked up 9.5 bags of trash.  Stephanie: Today we went to the straw market and there was a dog there that I shared my water with and I would also like to say Happy Birthday to my dog at home, Passion.  Sarah: During the beach clean-up today I realized that we should all take part and do something good for the environment.  Porter: Today we went to the straw market and I bought one thing for each person in my family.  Becca: Today we went to the 3 Sisters dive spot and I saw lots of fish that I knew – a gray and a French angel fish. We also went swimming with spotted dolphins today and they were very active. I saw Swoosh from the boat and was excited to see her. Gary: There is a scene in close encounters when a half dozen alien craft zipped past people on the ground. That’s what it felt like when we were in the water with the spotted dolphins. They came out of nowhere and zipped around us, over us and under us and then they were gone. And, Happy Birthday, Jean. I love you! Alexis: I think today was a wonderful last day because we got to clean up the beaches and offset our carbon footprint. And we finally got to swim with our spotted dolphins. However, we are all a little sad to leave, but still excited to go home. John: I enjoyed watching heat lightning this evening. And it was good to see the spotteds again.  

After the beach clean-up, we cleaned up ourselves and then visited the local straw market to buy souvenirs. Our last boat was this afternoon and we had the best reason for making the day longer and getting back a bit late … dolphins! We saw a group of spotted dolphins that had their own agenda, but took time out to spend a few minutes with us. We saw Juliette (#12), Tina (#14), Swoosh (#36 – and her male calf?), Lone Star (#56), Prince William (#64), Nemo (#76), Leslie (#80) and un-named ID#93 (#12’s calf). They were surfing the waves and spending time at the boat and in our stern wake. It was a great way to finish a very jam-packed week! Tomorrow, we return to the USA and then to CT. We’ll stay-tuned to Kel’s field reports to keep track of the dolphins throughout the summer.

Cheers

Kel, Kathleen & the DRTs

Bimini2010_DRTs_TtWe had a very full Wednesday! We visited the Shark Lab and the Nature Trail on South Bimini in the morning and then went dolphin-researching/searching in the afternoon. 

Liam: Today we saw bottlenose dolphins instead of spotted dolphins and we got to go swimming with them. One had a baby with her and another one had no right pec fin and looked like Nemo, the spotted dolphin.  Ben: It was pretty amazing swimming with animals that were bigger than us and being that close to them. Bill: When I first got in the water there were 2 large bottlenose dolphins and they both looked at me and clicked and then swam off.  Sam: Today we went to the Shark Lab and saw an juvenile lemon shark and we all got to touch it. It felt rough at a part and then smooth going the other way.  Stephanie: We went on a nature trail walk and they had a Bimini Boa and it was really cute. It was a female and reminded me of my snakes at home. Becca: We swam with bottlenose dolphins and one of them swam close to me and one swam below me near the bottom. It was crater feeding. Emily: We went to the Shark Lab and I learned how to tell the difference between female and male lemon sharks. And also when we swam with the bottlenose dolphins and one of them came close to me and was really big. E: This morning we got to see some sharks at the Shark Lab. I think they are pretty cool and cute. In the late morning, we got to see a whole lot of spiders on the nature trail and some anoles doing push-ups with their dewlap extended. At the end of the day we got to see some bottlenose dolphins but they seemed more interested in finding food.  Porter: I thought it was really neat that we found bottlenose dolphins instead of spotted dolphins and I was really surprised by how close they came by us. Jack: At the Shark Lab we got to feel a lemon juvenile shark and it felt like sand paper. On the ferry back to North Bimini there were three police men and two had big shotguns. (They were armored vehicle guards visiting the bank.) Athan: Today we swam with bottlenose dolphins and watched them crater feeding. And at the end of the day for dessert, we got candy!  Gabrielle: When we got into the water with the dolphins you could hear them echolocating – it was very cool. Sarah: I loved spending half the morning on the nature trail and seeing spiders including the banana spider.  Alexis: It was really nice to get back in the water with the Bimini dolphins. And, it was pretty cool to see the “nemo-looking” bottlenose because I did not see that one last year.  Gary: I thought that swimming with dolphins the second time was not going to be as exciting as the first time, but I was very wrong. I thought dolphin calves would stay with their moms and then I saw one darting off by itself. And, I learned that both male sharks and male snakes have grasper claspers. John: It was a good overall day – a good cross-section of Bimini. 

The group of dolphins we swam with was 5 or 6 bottlenose dolphins. Several adults, a calf and a few juveniles were all crater feeding. All DRTs entered to swim and get their first taste of data collection. They did well remembering the marks and nicks and cuts on the individual dolphins. Our last dolphin trip is tomorrow afternoon but before that we have a beach cleanup program in the morning. 

Cheers

Kel, Kathleen & the DRTs

Bimini2010_DRT_Day4Our morning began a bit earlier than previous days with breakfast followed by an historic-themed scavenger hunt. We visited the Bimini Museum to learn about Bimini’s history and to find information about the island. It was educational but quite fun. Our afternoon trip was shifted to the south and a voyage to Honeymoon Harbor to swim with sting rays. The sea was a bit rough for a dolphin survey.  

Bill: Today, we went swimming with sting rays and we could feed them and it felt like a vacuum on your fingers.  Stephanie: today we watched the DOLPHINS IMAX movie and I got to see Freckles, my favorite dolphin.  Sam: We went to honeymoon harbor and since I couldn’t get the sting rays to feed out of my hand, I threw the squid into the air to the seagulls who caught the piece of squid. E: It was amazing to see what other animals wanted the squid. When I let go of the squid, everyone was going for it – minnows, seagulls and lots of other fish. We also saw some very colorful wrasses on the way to the boat. Sarah: Today we sat on the bow of the boat and got soaking wet on our way to see stingrays.  Porter: At Honeymoon harbor, I saw a few flounder and it was very funny to see seagulls grab a rock when you offered it up and then they dropped it.  Emily: We went to see the sting rays and there were two really really little ones and I named one sting and one Little Bass. Little Bass would freak out every time I tried to touch him and would swim away.  Liam: I learned that sting rays don’t whip their tails at people and we also found a pair of sunglasses and goggles at the bottom.  Athan: It was really fun to feed to rays and they felt really leathery. And, I found a flamingo’s tongue in its shell.  Becca: We went to honeymoon harbor and got to feed the sting rays and it felt like a big vacuum trying to swallow my hand and there was a giant sting ray and I liked it and it climbed against my legs.  Gabrielle: When we were with the sting rays and if you stood still, they would swim against or through your legs and that was cool. Jack: it was fun to feed the sting rays even though they never actually took any of the food I offered. And I tried to catch some very fat fish and seemed easier to catch than the minnows.  Ben: the sting rays – their eyes looked mean or angry the way their eyes were positioned on their head. I also found a dead sea urchin shell that did not yet get broken.  Alexis: today was a very fun day but the most eventful part of my day was getting in and out of the rocky shoreline behind Kel’s house while wearing flippers and having the surging waves crash against us.  Gary: Lots of scientific documentaries talk about animals that haven’t evolved since millions of years ago, and that’s what I’ll always think of when I see sting rays. They look like prehistoric creatures.  John: I enjoyed seeing the stingrays again!  

The seas flattened out nicely on our return trip from snorkeling with sting rays. And, hopefully the weather will continue to cooperate for tomorrow afternoon’s trip to search for dolphins. After we returned to the dock, we decided to catch a group portrait on the bow of our boat. 

Until tomorrow,

Kel, Kathleen & the DRTs

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Dolphin Communication Project
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