On Tuesday, Pam and Liana got the opportunity to experience another side of Bimini’s natural world: we joined Bimini Adventures on a trip to Honeymoon Harbor to see and feed sting rays. It was very cool to be able to feed them, especially since it was the first time either of us had ever been with them in the wild or gotten the opportunity to feed them. It was absolutely incredible -- their backs were slimy and soft, and while they looked intimidating enough to scare a few of the guests, they turned out to be gentle and very friendly. We got quite a few caresses from the rays, and it wasn't just because of the yummy squid we were offering them! Four rays stayed interested in us, one of which was four feet wide! Soon after we returned to shore, it was time for a DCP chat with the Bimini Adventures guests.

BIM12_T40_TtCalfKel talked to the group for an hour, explaining the in's and outs of DCP and the dolphins, and answering any questions the group had. We stayed to answer questions and even got three new dolphin adoptions. Thanks to this group for their interest and support! Next it was time to get ready for our dolphin trip!

We (Pam and Liana) began our last trip of July under clear blue skies and with barely any breeze. It was our first trip aboard Bimini Adventures’ 42’ Hatteras. The day was full of new experiences for us: new boat, new people, new languages, and our second trip with the "Top Dawg" (underwater video camera). We got used to the new boat and began our search. It turned out there were even more firsts in store for us.

At 18:11, we saw a group of about ten dolphins. It was a mixed group of bottlenose and spotted. The passengers got in the water for a short encounter, but we stayed onboard. The group of dolphins then split into two and we followed the smaller group of three spotted dolphins. These dolphins were on the move, so we soon left them and caught up to the others again. There was a lot of splashing and physical contact; the group was very active! We got in the water even though it wasn’t for very long, we got quite a few good photos and some good video data. We definitely observed some sexual behavior involving male bottlenose and a few adult spotted dolphins, but we were unsure of the spotteds’ sexes. This was the first time we saw this behavior in the water even though we’ve seen it in the video tapes. Everything was so fast that we weren't able to confidently identify anyone, but that's what the photos and video are for!

Meanwhile, Kel was with Bimini Undersea, leaving just minutes before us. For this group of humans, the dolphins came early in the day: at least 12 bottlenose dolphins, including two mother/calf pairs, were working a relatively large patch of sand, looking for grub. They watched them from the boat and observed them underwater. We saw them crater feeding, once again seemingly paying no mind the nurse shark in their midst. There were at least two females in the group (the mothers, perhaps?), so Kel is hopeful we’ll be able to match this sex data with an existing dorsal fin ID. Of course, before the underwater observation, Kel collected another slew of dorsal fin photographs. Every photograph we collect, every minute of video we record, means more work ahead of us! But, of course, we couldn’t be happier.

Until next time,
Liana, Pam & Kel

BIM12_T38_SplitJaw22Our Monday started all together, swapping photos for future ID’ing, catching up our data processing to-do list and getting an introduction to o-ring maintenance and DCP’s TopDawg camera system. Soon, Kel was out with Bimini Adventures, whose trip began with an extended snorkel stop at “3 Sisters” and lunch onboard the boat. After our snorkel, and with full bellies, we headed in search of dolphins. Once again it was bottlenose dolphins that greeted us, this time, two mother/calf pairs. This may actually be the first time Kel has even seen this group composition for bottlenose! We got a good look the foursome, but they were not interested in interacting with us under water. Not long after we continued on, we saw the tell-tale, thinner dorsal fins of our Atlantic spotted “friends.” It was a group of ten, including Buster (#04), Split Jaw (#22, pictured here), Speedy (#78) and at least one male juvenile (although there were about six juveniles in the group) – so, a bit of a boys’ club it would seem! The group was on the move and we were able to observe them from the boat for over two hours, including a quick look underwater! It was incredible to watch them go through different behaviors: belly-to-belly swimming, pectoral fin contact, bow riding, fish chasing, rolling over one another and more. At one point, the group split apart and then came back together, seemingly with even more dolphins because suddenly un-named #75 (also a male) was there. All in all, a great (long) day for Kel!

Liana and Pam set off on another trip with Bimini Undersea. All the familiar faces onboard Adventurer were excited to (hopefully!) repeat yesterday’s exciting encounters. Soon, we came across a group of two bottlenose dolphins. We are pretty sure that we saw Tt#31, whose dorsal was fresh in our minds after seeing it a couple days ago. We stayed with this group of two for about fifteen minutes, before continuing on only to come across a larger group of bottlenose. There were about ten of them crater feeding, as well as interacting with each other a lot. We witnessed a lot of pectoral fin contact and even some head butting! Today, we (the interns) were able to use the Top Dawg, an underwater video camera that’s almost as cool as the MVA, to film the dolphins. It is a great skill for us to learn and we are looking forward to being able to use it in the future.

After our time in the water, we continued to observe the dolphins from the boat for another fifteen minutes. The water was calm and clear enough for us to actually be able to see the craters left in the sand from the dolphins feeding. We headed back to Bimini, very satisfied with another amazing day of with the dolphins, especially the elusive bottlenose! We all can’t wait for our next dolphin trip! 

Until then,
Pam, Liana & Kel

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