Bimini2010_T12_TtmomandcalfOn Wednesday, Tara arrived in Bimini. She’ll be helping out at the field site for the next month or so. We spent the day completing orientation – where to go, what to do and testing out snorkeling equipment. We’re so glad to have her! 

Thursday was hot, but quite windy in Bimini. But, we were lucky enough to join an unexpected dolphin trip (www.biminiadventures.com). Thankfully the wind did not seem to bother the dolphins at all! Not too far from shore, we spotted a couple of bottlenose dolphins. After disappearing for a couple minutes, a whole group of them appeared! Most of them were seen surfing, and some put on an entertaining aerial show. One mother was also seen swimming with her calf (pictured here) and passengers reported seeing as many as three calves underwater while we stayed on the boat collecting surface photographs and observations. Later in the trip, we saw a group of offshore (aka oceanic) bottlenose dolphins, which are larger and darker than their coastal counterpart. Unfortunately, these dolphins did not surface very often, so we’ll need to review our photos to see if we caught any on “film.” Overall, the trip was filled with dolphins, and everyone enjoyed their trip! 

Until next time,

Kel & Tara

Bimini2010_T11_056Wow. Saturday was HOT. But hot in Bimini usually means calm seas and today it was definitely calm! It felt like we could see forever... 

The dolphins, unfortunately were nowhere to be seen. We looked and we looked. And we looked some more. Then – splashes. Big splashes. Lots of splashes. Sure enough, it was dolphins! The group of Atlantic spotted dolphins was scattered, but relatively large with at least 15 individuals in the area. There were lots of bait fish and sea birds, but the dolphins did not seem interested in the small fish. We did see them chasing a couple of mackerel though! From the boat, we were able to see Buster (#04), Cerra (#38) Lone Star (#56 – pictured here), Tim (#69), un-named #75 and quite a few calves. What a fantastic day! Thanks to everyone onboard for their enthusiasm! 

Until next time,

Kel

Bimini2010_T10_TtLPGFriday morning began with a farewell to the UNB Squad. So, everyone reading is stuck with me again! It was a great week with the students – I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did! 

It was a quick turnaround as I joined another dolphin trip (www.biminiadventures.com). The sun was shining and the heat was up, but everyone was excited to see some dolphins! We were not disappointed and saw several different groups throughout the afternoon. When all was said and done, we saw Romeo (#10), Split Jaw (#22), Cerra (#38) – with male calf? - Billy (#64), Stefran (#82), Juliette’s un-named calf, #93, un-named #84 and #91 as well as several other dolphins I was not able to ID from the boat. The passengers all got a good look under water too! 

 

 

 

As we got ready to head back toward Bimini, a small group of bottlenose dolphins passed through. They gave us quite the aerial show (pictured here) as we drove off! 

Another trip tomorrow,

Kel

Bimini2010_6MayUNBWe departed the dock on Thursday at 930 to head to “Honeymoon Harbor” to feed and observe some southern stingrays. Immediately out of the harbor, we saw bottlenose dolphins! There appeared to be at least 36 in the group – very large for Bimini. We’ll work toward confirming this number when we look at the photographs. They were traveling north so we observed them as they passed by. We observed two fluke slaps and some porpoising. It was cool to see the other Bimini species!  

When we reached honeymoon harbor, we saw a group of at least 10 eagle rays. They stuck around the general area the whole time we were there. Then, it was time to feed the stingrays squid. We stood shallow water right off the beach and the rays came right towards us, rubbing up against us – some more than others. There were at least six stingrays in the area, possibly more; the sizes ranged, but one was very large and two were quite small. We also saw a barracuda and bonefish.  

We returned to North Bimini at 1347 to discover we had no electricity. We prepared ourselves for a hot afternoon and then, luckily, it returned. This afternoon we’ll work a bit more on photo-ID before our final group BBQ. 

Thanks for following!

UNB Squad

Bimini2010_T9_87We began our Wednesday discussing eco-tourism – the meaning of it as well as the pros and cons. We then did some more photo-ID on the previous day’s adventure. We confirmed the presence of Finn (#09), Romeo (#10), Lil’ Jess (#35), Tim (#69) and ID#92, as well as one other un-catalogued calf. After lunch we reviewed our video data from 2 and 4 May that involved lots of water – and dolphins. We identified Leslie (#80) from the video, which was not captured in any of the still photographs.  

We left the dock at 15:29. We saw our first 3 dolphins at 17:11. Tilly (# 87), un-named #84 and a young juvenile male. The three dolphins were continuously bowriding and had some synchronized breathing. The first group of people went into the water at 1721. They observed pec fin rubbing, chasing, barrel rolls, slight vocalizations and belly-up swimming. At 1730 the remainder of the students joined the swim as it was our last day to observe the dolphins under water. The encounter ended at 1745. We followed the dolphins into a larger group – totaling 6 dolphins – at 1755. Everyone who wanted a final swim with the dolphins entered the water at 1803. We saw Tim (#69), Swoosh (#36), un-named #84, Tilly (#87), the young juvenile and an un-ID individual. We were able to confirm that the young dolphin with the major injury to the dorsal fin is in fact Tilly (pictured here). The injury is very severe, but it appears to be healing very well. Based on the size of the bite, we suspected a tiger shark. However, closer examination of the teeth marks suggests a bull shark. We witnessed the similar behaviors as previous observations as well as bubble bursts, crater feeding and playing with seaweed. The encountered ended at 1812 and we returned to the dock at 2006.  

We finished the day with part 2 of last night’s movie. This section continued the discussion of emotions in humans and non-human animals. We’re done with dolphin trips for the week, but we are looking forward to our final day on Bimini tomorrow! 

Until tomorrow,

UNB Squad

Bimini2010_T8_ID035We began Tuesday with a discussion of last night’s movie and the concept of “play.” We moved onto a talk about the senses of dolphin senses. Some videos were shown illustrating different behaviors of several dolphin species. Our long lost, fellow classmate arrived just in time for some more photo-ID. We were able to confirm that Tim (ID#69) was present during Sunday’s observations.   

We left the dock at 1529. On our way out of the harbor, some of us spotted an eagle ray cruising north. At 1704 we had our first sighting of six Atlantic spotted dolphins. The group size gradually increased to 12. The first group of students (+Kel) entered the water at 1713. The dolphins were in a playful mood engaging in different behaviors such as chasing, pec rubbing, leaping and corkscrewing. A nurse shark was spotted moving along the bottom. The encounter ended at 1729. The group got in the water at 1739, but the dolphins were not in sight so the group returned to the boat without any observations. The same group of humans re-entered the water at 1752 when another group of dolphins (including 2 older calves/young juvenile and adults) were coming and going. The 2 youngsters were practicing making a bait ball in which they consistently surrounding the school of fish and took turns diving into the ball. With the dolphins not actually feeding on the fish, this behavior could be taking as a “practice round” in an attempt to develop better foraging abilities. The humans returned to the boat at 1814.  

More students entered the water 1825 with a different group of dolphins (more spotteds). There was synchronized movement, surfing, fluke slapping, sand rubbing, crater feeding and more – including quite a bit of defecation. Also to note, there was a lot of vocalization and echolocation. This encountered ended at 1846. Back on the boat, the dolphins were still close by, bowriding. While observing this, we noticed one of the younger dolphins had a serious injury in which the top of the dorsal fin was, well, missing. The sighting ended at 1853. At the end of the sightings, Finn (#09), Romeo (#10), Lil' Jess (#35) and White Blotch (#29) were positively ID’s. We returned to the dock at 2017, some of us with “war wounds” from the various stinging organisms! 

Until tomorrow,

UNB Squad

Bimini2010_T6_029We began Monday learning about sampling methods for observing behavior and discussed how dolphins use sound to communicate in their ocean environment. We learned the role of their melon and air sacks for making sound and using echolocation. We then moved onto photo-ID of the photographs we took yesterday. We were able to confirm the following IDs: Romeo (#10), White Blotch (#29), Lil'Jess (#35), Nemo (#76), Speedy (#78), un-named #92 (#48’s calf) and possibly ID#71. White Blotch is pictured here with 2 young dolphins in the background.

 We departed the dock at 1527. At 1604, our captain saw another turtle! We covered our entire study area, heading as far north as our survey area goes. Unfortunately we did not see any dolphins. Our captain did saw a big splash at 1658, but it was far in the distance. By the time we reached the area, there were no dolphins to be found.

We returned to the dock at 1955. After our BBQ dinner, we watched half of the film, “Why dogs smile and chimpanzees cry.” It focused on the importance of the mother-offspring bond and play behavior. We are optimistic about seeing more dolphins on our next survey! Especially because our final student (who was delayed) will join us! 

Until then,

UNB Squad

Bimini 2010_mantaWe kicked butt (over last year’s group!) during our morning Photo-ID practice session. We left the dock at 1411, heading out to the same snorkeling site as yesterday. Leaving the harbor we saw a mystery shark (bull?) and a manta ray! It was a dark manta, lacking the light coloration on its ventral side. These types are not generally seen around Bimini. While we were snorkeling, we found a stingray buried beneath the sand. We left the area to go look for dolphins and our captain saw a turtle – but it dove down before we had a chance to see it.  

At 1644, we saw our first two spotted dolphins. More joined the group until there were 12 in total. In this group there were at least three calves.  The following individuals were observed: Romeo (#10), Lil’ Jess (#35), Tim (#69), un-named #75, Nemo (#76), Speedy (#78), un-named #91, and un-named #92 (Neicey - #48’s calf) – and perhaps we will ID even more when we review photographs. The dolphins were bowriding and a big scattered. We saw something larger in the water, but it was not a bottlenose dolphin – it was a tiger shark! The shark was at least 10 feet long and was swimming slowly at the surface. Once we lost sight of the shark, we turned our attention once again to the dolphins – which were still in the area. 

We saw pectoral fin rubbing, belly to belly swimming/rubbing, synchronized breathing, breaching, corkscrewing, leaping – and even some successive fluke slapping from one calves. The first team entered the water with still cameras and got a quick, but close view of one of the calves. The second team observed the dolphins at the sea floor – it looked like they were crater feeding, but we did not see what type of fish they were after. During the third water entry, 4 students + Kel entered, but another 4 were able to join as the dolphins stayed in view a bit longer. We could hear their clicks under water and some were rubbing their bodies in the sand. There was more crater feeding and pec fin rubbing. We think that Romeo (#10) is pregnant (!) and we noticed lots of small nicks in different dorsal fins, pec fins and flukes. At the very end of our encounter, we saw a nurse shark at the bottom...then we were back on the boat. We returned to the dock at 1944.  

Until tomorrow,

UNB Squad

Saturday was Day 1 of the 2010 Field Course with University of New Brunswick! Half of the group arrived around 900, as they only had to travel from the “Shark Lab” on South Bimini, having just completed a course there. The rest of the group arrived later in the morning from Florida. We’re all looking forward to a great week! 

We left the dock shortly after 1400 with a boatload of enthusiastic Canadian students with various skin tones, ranging from pale white to bright pink – or a combination of both! After a 40 minute boat ride, we stopped to snorkel at “Atlantis” (aka the Bimini Road). The general consensus is that the formation is a rock formation...and likely nothing more (our boat captain is holding out for the alien hypothesis). The current was strong, but everyone (even the first timers) did well. We saw barracuda, parrot fish, puffer fish, trumpet fish and a sting ray. As we continued into the “dolphin grounds,” the sea conditions became a bit rougher. At 1637 we saw our first dolphins. It was a group of 2 adult (class 5) Atlantic spotted dolphins. We think that ID#75 may have been there, but the dolphins did not come close enough confirm. One adult had many white spots; the other was fully fused, but was darker. We saw pectoral fin rubbing (reciprocal!), synchronized breathing, barrel rolls and a little bit of surfing. From the boat we watched as they went all the way to the bottom, disturbing the sand and creating a big dust cloud – could they have been crater feeding? At first they approached the boat, but afterwards they showed no interest in our presence. When we lost sight of them for good (at 1658), we went in search for others. Unfortunately we did not see any other dolphins for the remainder of the trip, but we did see flying fish (counted 23)! 

We returned to the dock at 1938. After cleaning up we met for dinner. Following dinner, we watched the movie, DOLPHINS. We learned a bit more about their communication, their intelligence and some feeding behavior. Then it was off to bed – we have another busy day ahead of us. 

Until next time,

UNB Squad

Bimini2010_T4_SfGroupFriday’s dolphin trip was filled with enthusiastic passengers. We left the harbor shortly before 1600 with Bill & Nowdla Keefe. This winter has been particularly windy, so we were eager to be on the boat in calm seas! Our first sighting was of 3 – 4 bottlenose dolphins. The group was traveling and showed no interest in the boat. So, after a quick glimpse, we continued in search of more dolphins. We were not disappointed as only minutes later there was a group of Atlantic spotted dolphins! At first there were 7 adult dolphins and they were soon joined by a large bottlenose dolphin. We were able to get a quick glimpse of the group underwater, but they were more interested in themselves than us! We continued to enjoy the show from the boat as the group size grew to ten animals – all adults who were involved in a busy mating ball. Un-named ID#24 was in the group, and I suspect Lumpy (#17) was there too. The passengers got another underwater look while I stayed aboard the boat for surface photographs – like this one here! 

We’re gearing up for the busy dolphin trip season, so field reports will be coming through more regularly! 

Until then,

Kel

I was very excited to head out on Saturday’s dolphin trip with Nowdla Keefe as it had been quite awhile since I’d been out. It was a bit windier than the forecast had called for, but the boat was full of guests eager to see dolphins. The harbor was very busy because of Easter weekend and we were soon headed to the “dolphin grounds.” As often happens, the guests were beginning to lose hope and then....there were dolphins! At first we saw 2 adult Atlantic spotted dolphins. Because of the swells I was unable to identify them, but one may have been Buster (#04). The two were not interacting with each other very much and had little interest in us humans. So, we decided to look for more dolphins. We were not disappointed...

Soon we were watching 4 different spotted dolphins – two adults (including Stefran #82) and two calves. They were surfing the swells and the bow, and gave everyone a good look once the passengers were in the water. The group grew to at least 10 animals, including Lil' Jess (#35) and there appeared to be some mating behavior, which distracted the dolphins from us. But, everyone had a good time! We weren’t done with dolphins yet though. Back on the boat we continued to watch the dolphins and suddenly a single bottlenose dolphin passed through! It was great to show the guests the difference between the two species commonly found off Bimini. We got a quick glimpse of two more spotted dolphins on the way home....

As summer approaches, we’ll have many more “dolphin trips” here at our Bimini, Bahamas field site. So, be sure to stay tuned!

Cheers,
Kel

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