BIM13_T34_SunsetThursday began as a beautiful and sunny, though quite breezy, day. We put in a few hours of work and then set off on our dolphin quest as usual. By this time, some clouds had set in and we knew it might mean rain for us out on the water. Sure enough, just an hour after setting out we encountered our first rain storm. After scrambling to protect the equipment that is not waterproof, the rain stopped. We had just resettled with our clipboard and not-waterproof equipment when it began to rain again! The weather certainly is as unpredictable as the dolphins we set out to find! Fortunately, this was the last rain storm that found us on the boat. From our position on the water, however, we could see three other storms that were raining on other parts of the ocean.

About an hour and a half after the rain left us, we came across a group of at least five spotted dolphins! There was at least one mother-calf pair in this group and the youngster certainly seemed to enjoy swimming in the bow. It would swim with the boat for a short time, swim back to the group of older dolphins and then return to the bow. The group seemed tolerant of the boat idling near them so Captain Al gave us the go-ahead to put on our gear. Just when we were all ready to get in the water, we lost sight of the dolphins. A few minutes later, we were able to relocate the group and again got geared up. This time, the guests were able to get in the water for a brief encounter before the dolphins disappeared once again. We set off once more and after a few minutes a calf suddenly leaped out of the water. It was the same little one who had been swimming in the bow! We quickly lost sight of the calf but about ten minutes later we came across a group of twelve spotted dolphins! We geared up for the third time and were able to briefly observe a mother-calf pair in the water before the dolphins swam out of view. It seems that extended underwater observations were not meant to happen today. We are still so happy that we were able to see a playful calf and perhaps gain some identification details from our observations from the boat! Any day that includes dolphins is a good day, even with a bit of rain and wind! And all observations, whether from the boat or in the water, are useful. We are so excited to head out again soon!

Until then,

Nicole, Salma & Kel

Wednesday was another great day on the water for DCP! We started our boat trip by stopping at “The Bimini Road”, a popular snorkeling site, to exploreBIM13_T33_Leslie80_calf99 for a bit. We saw plenty of colorful fish and even some fish that blended in almost perfectly with the sandy seafloor! We also learned why the alternate name for this site is "Atlantis" – the rock placement under the water is so purposeful, you couldn't help but think if they really were the remnants of a lost underwater city! After our snorkel stop we hopped back on board to continue our search for dolphins.

After quite some time we happened upon a group of spotted dolphins! The group was comprised mostly of mother-calf pairs and so we had to be extra mindful of maintaining a respectful distance. Prior to observing the dolphins under water, we watched them from the bow. We were able to identify quite a few dolphins! We saw Leslie (#80) and her calf (#99), as well as Tina (#14), possibly Cerra (#38), and another adult female (could it have been Niecey, #48?). There were two more calves taking turns swimming in the bow wake; one is very likely Tina’s, but we are not sure if the last one belongs to Cerra or the other adult. After observing from the bow for a little while, Captains Al and Audley gave us the okay to swim. After carefully getting into the water, we started swimming to get a better look. This swim had a busy feel about it, but it turned out wonderfully and everyone came back on board, amazed with the experience we were all so fortunate to have.

The dolphins all went on their way, and we had noticed that it was getting late. As we were heading back for home, a guest had noticed a dolphin swimming near the bow! Soon that dolphin was joined by another, and another, until we had six dolphins riding the bow wake! This was a different group of dolphins than the one we had seen earlier in the trip. This group was comprised of only sub-adult and adult dolphins. Because it was getting late, Captain Al told us all to quickly get ready while Captain Audley tried to position the boat so that we would be able to get a glimpse of the dolphins underwater. However, these dolphins were probably just bidding us a good night, and had departed just as quickly as they had arrived. It was still a mesmerizing experience to watch them swim so elegantly with the bow - it's a sight that will never grow old! We continued home and we all arrived back on shore with huge smiles.

We can't wait to see which dolphins we'll see next time!

Until then,
Salma, Nicole & Kel

Monday was a long, full day out at sea for DCP! We started off by hopping aboard with Bimini Adventures and the international guests for a snorkel tripBIM13_T31_SpeedyLookALike and lunch on the ocean. The sun was shining and the water was a refreshing relief from the heat and so everyone took advantage of our stop and cooled off near the reef. After our water time, we were all back on board for some lunch before we began our search for dolphins.

Our search for dolphins was quite a long one. We were even heading for home right before we saw a young spotted dolphin jump right in front of our bow! Everyone's sun-worn spirits were instantly lifted! From the boat we observed a group of 9 individuals. While Nicole & Salma took notes, Kel headed to the bow to see which dolphins were present. Kel didn’t recognize many, which surprised her; but, it’s possible that one was hard to recognize because it was Finn (#09)! Unfortunately, the sighting of Finn cannot be confirmed, but we’ll be extra diligent about keeping our eyes for her now. Finn has not been seen in several years, which means a re-sight would be very exciting, but difficult because she will have developed many new spots since she was last seen. Surface notes completed, it was time to try for underwater observations. As soon as we entered the water we saw a couple of playful dolphins under the bow. The dolphins zipped in and out from the area in which we were swimming. The captains did a slow, steady loop around us and the guests and sure enough they had two dolphins riding the bow! It was a mesmerizing sight to see underwater! The dolphins already make swimming look effortless, however when they were zig-zagging with the bow, it was as if they were flying! Once the dolphins saw us, they came swimming over to investigate us and swam in and out of the group. We even saw a young dolphin, pictured here, that had a spot on his belly that looked a lot like Speedy's mark! Tricky dolphins trying to confuse us!

After the young dolphins had their fill of looking at us, they swam off a bit and began playing with each other. One dolphin was on its back and was enjoying a belly rub from one of its friends! After we
couldn't see dolphins underwater anymore, we jumped back on board. We were still able to observe a few more dolphins on the bow. Soon after, we continued our course back home.

Monday was a great, sunny day! The interns are really enjoying their time here in Bimini and love seeing the dolphins whenever they are able!

Until next time,
Salma, Nicole & Kel

BIM13_T32_TtTrioTuesday was a full day for the DCP Bimini team. The group of international guests had enjoyed our presentation and interactive discussion so much last week that they asked for us to return. We met with them at the Sea Crest Hotel in the morning and answered a variety of questions about dolphins, DCP and a few of the research questions at which the DCP has looked. It was a great discussion and it gave the interns another opportunity to take the lead during an interactive presentation.

After a few hours of work and a lunch break, we set off on our quest for dolphins once again. About an hour and a half after our departure, we spotted some dorsal fins a short distance away. It turned out to be a group of bottlenose dolphins who were crater feeding! We were able to get lots of surface photos of dorsal fins that we will add to our bottlenose dolphin catalog. We may even be able to identify some individuals by comparing the photos we took to those that are already in the catalog! We were all also able to get in the water to make underwater observations, both with the video and still cameras. We are thrilled to have so much new data to go through!

Salma and Nicole are so happy they were fortunate enough to see bottlenose dolphins crater feeding again! We are all excited to find out what more we will see!

Until next time,

Nicole, Salma & Kel

BIM13_T30_C3spottedsFriday and Saturday were days off the boat for DCP so we filled them with social quality video analysis, data entry and laundry. Nicole's family also came for a quick visit and she gave them the full Bimini experience, including delicious Bahamian cuisine and a tour of the island. On Sunday morning they went paddle boarding around the mangroves with Katie from Bimini Sands and they saw sting rays, lemon sharks, sea stars, lots of fish, and even an eagle ray!

Sunday afternoon was another boat trip for the DCP team. We headed out on the extraordinarily calm water and directed ourselves on our search as usual. A few hours later, we were still looking with no luck. Suddenly, Captain Audley shifted our course and took the guests and the interns by surprise. Captain Al and his crew had spotted dolphins far in the distance and we were heading over to check them out. They turned out to be bottlenose dolphins that were crater feeding! There were at least 15 of them and we were able to get in the water and observe their feeding techniques and social behavior for quite a long time! Fully satisfied with our time spent watching the bottlenose dolphins, we began to head for home. Almost immediately, the guests on the bow noticed a small group of spotted dolphins zipping over to swim with the boat. It was a group of three; a mother and presumed calf and Tilly (#87)! Tilly mostly swam upside down below the other two dolphins as the three rode the bow. Captain Al thought this might be a great opportunity to get in the water with some spotted dolphins so everyone geared up again. While we were at the stern, we noticed two more dolphins behind the boat. In the end we were able to get extensive underwater observations of these two juvenile spotted dolphins, at least one of which was female, as they circled and investigated our group for a good while. They eventually swam away so we hopped back on the boat and headed for home once again. Out of nowhere, the two juveniles returned to the boat rode our bow for a few minutes before disappearing from view.

We had a great day on the water and feel so lucky to have seen both bottlenose and spotted dolphins! We look forward to going out to collect more data and observations soon!

Until then,

Nicole, Salma & Kel

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Dolphin Communication Project
P.O. Box 7485
Port St. Lucie, FL, 34985
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