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Dolphin Communication Project
Can’t say we didn’t try…
Bimini 2014
Written by Kelly Melillo Sweeting   
Thursday, 04 September 2014 20:03

 

On Wednesday, I joined what may have been DCP’s final boat trip of the year. Of course, I hope that other trips pop up throughout the fall and early winter, but this was the last trip on the calendar. And, it was a windy one! We departed with high hopes, but realistic expectations as the wind had picked up throughout the day. Sure enough, the seas had some guests snuggled inside, while others laughed at the sea spray in their faces. We diligently searched, but even when we found some (at least two) spotted dolphins, the rough and dark seas made it too difficult to keep tabs on them. Although the conditions were safe enough to continue looking, the guests opted to return to shore and save their efforts for their final dolphin trip, tomorrow.

Thanks to this group of Bimini Adventures passengers for being so welcoming. I thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon on the water with you as well as my visit earlier in the day. During my visit you asked fantastic questions and it was a highlight to share my stories of Bimini’s dolphins with you.

Cheers,
Kel

 
Land-based days still mean dolphins!
Bimini 2014
Written by Kelly Melillo Sweeting   
Monday, 25 August 2014 18:27

 

There is so much data processing to continue to catch up on, not to mention helping to finalize the next issue of The Dolphin Gazette, but I took a break on Monday to visit with the second round of students from Chicago City Day School aboard the Coral Reef II. This group was surprisingly perky given the not-so-calm Gulfstream crossing they had just completed. But, I suppose it is all part of their big adventure! It was blast sharing the details of DCP’s work and the importance of photo-identification with these budding scientists. Thank you all for your great questions and I hope you have an amazing week!

Now, back to work,
Kel

 
No, this doesn’t get old
Bimini 2014
Written by Kelly Melillo Sweeting   
Monday, 25 August 2014 18:07

 

Thursday was my last chance to join this year’s Hunter College crew and we certainly made it count. Departing shortly after 1500, it wasn’t until 17:32 that we first saw dolphins. We could see the splashing in the distance and when we finally reached, there were a dozen spotteds. This number grew to 26, including at least 3 calves. Under water I am sure I saw Lil’ Jess (#35) and her calf, Tina (#14), Leslie (#80), Inka (#93) and “the boys,” Split Jaw (#22), Prince William (#64) and Speedy (#78). But, I am confident that we will be able to ID even more once we review the video and still photos. The juveniles of the group were active, possibly play fighting, but by the time they swam away, we could not follow them as we were quite far from home. Everyone was pleased with the day though, so we spent the ride home chatting on the bow and reflecting on our experiences!

Until next time,
Kel

 
No misses for this crew!
Bimini 2014
Written by Kelly Melillo Sweeting   
Monday, 25 August 2014 17:56

 

Wednesday was another busy day of dolphin observations for the Bimini Adventures guests. Before we were even completely clear of the harbor, we could see bottlenose dolphins in the perfectly blue Bimini water. This trio was headed south and although my quest for dorsal fin ID shots was interrupted by a passing yacht, it was very cool to watch the dolphins surf the wake – and make impressive leaps – toward the shore of South Bimini. Since these animals were on the move, we continued our search, and soon discovering a larger group of bottlenose dolphins. This group of 12 cruised under the boat and passed us, but the insanely clear water meant it was a very cool sight. As we continued once again, we saw another bottlenose dolphin on the move…

Over an hour later, the guests needed a wake up and a quick swim break did the trick. Then, at 16:30, we saw our first spotted dolphins of the day. The group was keen on bowriding and under water we got glimpses of an unfamiliar adult with a distinct right jaw and several calves. During our second underwater session, we saw familiar moms, including Tina (#14) and Lil’ Jess (#35). At 17:46 it was time to head home!

Until next time,
Kel

PS: Photo to follow!

 
Interns, my interns, where did you go?
Bimini 2014
Written by Kelly Melillo Sweeting   
Thursday, 21 August 2014 14:51

 

On Monday I had to say goodbye (well, hopefully see you later) to Alexis. As I dropped her at the water taxi, I was wishing this year’s interns were staying forever! But alas, it was time for me to get readjusted to being the solo researcher on Bimini…

On Tuesday, I joined Hunter College’s dolphin trip with Bimini Adventures. The sun was hot, but the seas were flat, so we had high hopes of seeing every dolphin possible. Fairly early on we saw two bottlenose dolphins. The water was so clear we could see their every move from the boat. It appeared that they might have been searching for tasty, buried prey, but weren’t finding anything. Still, we hopped in to see if we could observe the search. With only a single dolphin in view, fairly far away and getting farther, we returned to the boat and our own search. It was a group nine bottlenose that next appeared and they were checking out the bow and swimming in a tight group. Soon, there were more bottlenose behind us and the groups appeared to combine. This time when we entered the water we saw a group of several in the distance as three dolphins approached us and slowly swam past. I’m hopeful that they were close enough, water visibility was good enough and their pass was perpendicular enough that we will be able to match catalogued dorsal fins to marks on their bodies.

Back on the boat, there was talk of the trip staying spotted-less, but Lil’ Jess (#35) and her older calf disagreed. Although they came to the boat and road the bow for quite some time, they had no interest in staying close once we were in the water. As we moved on, again, a second (presumed) mother-calf pair joined the bow as we found ourselves headed toward home. With everyone’s guard down, just outside the Bimini harbor, a group of at least 11 bottlenose dolphins gave us all one last chance for surface observations and DCP lots of images to be sorted!

Until next time,
Kel

PS: Photo to follow!

 
A fitting goodbye!
Bimini 2014
Written by Kelly Melillo Sweeting   
Sunday, 17 August 2014 14:44

 

BIM14_T48_SfsSaturday’s boat trip with Bimini Adventures was the last boat trip for Alexis before she leaves on Monday. We set off around 14:00 to make sure we could get our snorkel swim in and yet again, it seemed as though the dolphins had other plans for us. Like yesterday, in route to the snorkel stop (this time along the beaches of South Bimini) we ran into a widely dispersed group of 10-15 bottlenose. Alexis recognized a few fins matching the group we had seen the previous day. We hung around these guys for roughly 15 minutes (while Alexis took surface photos of their dorsal fins), but we did not jump in with them as we were in a high traffic area for boaters, since it was Saturday! Nonetheless, after everyone felt they got their fill we continued to our snorkel stop. The group enjoyed a leisurely swim and saw some really exciting fish and coral, as well as a sting ray and a barracuda! We all re-boarded the boat and headed in pursuit of more dolphins!  We had our next sighting just over an hour later. We spotted a group of 16 spotted dolphins, including many young individuals Alexis quickly recognized unnamed #102 in the bunch. We decided to try a swim and once in the water we also saw unnamed #70 among the group. We ended up having 6 separate encounters with this group and as time went on more and more dolphins showed up. Toward the end we had 25-30 spotteds and then were joined by two large bottlenose dolphins! Among the spotteds, unnamed #99, Prince William (#64), Tim (#69), Tina (#14), Leslie (#80) and an individual we fondly call Speedy’s-look-a-like (as this animal has yet to be given a number in the catalog) were all seen. During these encounters we observed large social groups, jawing, squawks, and chasing. It was an exciting group to be with and one that originally started mostly with calves and juveniles and ended mostly with adults, though a few youngsters stuck around! After almost 2 hours with this group we decided we needed to head back towards home. Everyone climbed back into the boat and settled up for the journey home. Once close to the shoreline we saw a pair of bottlenose traveling northeast. A few moments later we saw another group of about 10 individuals, but separated into 2 sub-groups also heading in that same direction. It was a nice treat to have additional sightings on our way back home!
 
All in all today was a great day full of snorkeling, bottlenose, and spotteds! It was a proper send off from the dolphins and Alexis couldn't have been happier!!!
 
So long,
Alexis & Kel

 
A long swim on a short boat day
Bimini 2014
Written by Kelly Melillo Sweeting   
Saturday, 16 August 2014 15:03

BIM14_T47_TtFriday’s boat trip with Bimini Adventures started out with an early departure at 14:00 with the intention of snorkeling at Bimini Road. However, in route we stumbled upon 6 bottlenose dolphins crater feeding and no one wanted to pass up this observation session. Alexis got numerous surface photos while the group watched them from the boat. The passengers rotated in the water and Alexis joined them once confidence set in that each individual’s dorsal fin had been captured. Before we knew it we had been in the water with this group for almost an hour and a half! The dolphins spent most of their time crater feeding, but every time they came up to surface for air they were constantly buzzing and checking out the group! Alexis was able to recognize 2 of the bottlenose Tt20 (who is missing almost all of his right pectoral fin and whom we saw swimming with the many spotteds yesterday), as well as Tt15! It was exciting to have such a long encounter with this curious and yet focused group of dolphins. There were certainly times during the swim where I wondered who was observing whom, as I would often turn around to have a dolphin right behind me echolocating and checking me out! Eventually, as the visibility was dropping* and a storm with high winds was approaching, we decided it would be best to get back on board and head home. Luckily with such a good swim no one was disappointed!
 
Cheers,
Alexis & Kel

 

*The new cruise ship was hovering in the area all afternoon. We wonder if the boat’s constant maneuvering is what affected the visibility so dramatically. Hmmmm…

 
A once in a lifetime kind of day!
Bimini 2014
Written by Kelly Melillo Sweeting   
Friday, 15 August 2014 20:01

 

BIM14_T46_LPGTimThursday did not start out like any other, nor did it end like one. Kel and Alexis said goodbye to Lauren as she headed back to the States. We were sad to see her go, but had to refocus for our boat trip in the afternoon. We left at 15:00 with our, literal, boatload of Hunter College students. Fairly early on we ran into 3 bottlenose dolphins traveling north. We stayed with the bottlenose for a bit, but then continued in hopes of more dolphins! About an hour later we spotted a small group of roughly 6 spotted dolphins, including a young sub-adult that we have been trying to get images of all summer. They hoped on our bow and started quickly travelling northeast. We kept following and following them as they never seemed to slow their pace. Off in the distance we started to notice what looked to be like a lot of splashing – there was so much activity at the surface, it almost looked like an active boat wake, with no boat. The closer we got, we realized there were TONS of dolphins ahead of us and our 6 bow riders were leading us straight to them! Soon enough we had dolphins everywhere; so many in fact that we couldn’t keep count! At one point there were probably anywhere from 50-75 dolphins scattered about leaping out of the water (including Tim, #69, pictured here), porpoising along the surface, and chasing (and catching) fish in every direction! Even a bottlenose (or more?) joined the group! There were so many dolphins and so much excitement in the water you didn’t even know where to look! Because these large groups are so unusual for this area, we do not have a tested method for estimating group size. But, Kel and our captains agreed it was the largest, most active group they’d ever seen. Eventually Kel slid into the water, with the guests, to try to get underwater video and still photos. They had 3 encounters with varying individuals. The number of dolphins had lessened but there were still many scattered about. From the boat, Alexis recognized Romeo (#10) with a group of about 5 other spotteds. It started getting pretty late, and we were a ways from the island, not to mention the very dark cloud with lightening was looming in the distance and moving our way, so we got everyone back on the boat and headed toward home. Quickly dolphins came back to our bow and stayed with us for some of the ride home. Leslie (#80) and her calf (unnamed #99) and Inka (#93) were among them. After about 10 minutes they left us and we continued on, full steam ahead, to Bimini.
 
Today was an amazing day; one that was filled so many dolphins, behaving in a way that is very unusual around here. Although we came home with more questions than answers about which dolphins were present, what brought them together and what exactly they were doing, it was beyond exciting for us to be able to have witnessed something so rare!
 
All the best,
Alexis & Kel

 
Worth the wait
Bimini 2014
Written by Kelly Melillo Sweeting   
Thursday, 14 August 2014 14:40

 

BIM14_T45_TinaWednesday’s trip was not only Lauren’s last trip for the year but we also had Kel on board so we were hoping for a day full of dolphins! We were off to a good start seeing at least 3 spotted eagle rays as we were leaving the channel between North and South Bimini. A bit over an hour later we then had a turtle sighting, as it just cruised past our boat. But when almost 3 full hours had passed and we hadn’t seen a single dolphin yet, some folks were starting to get a bit bummed out. Finally though (patience in this kind of work is key) we saw a big splash and headed in that direction. As we got closer glimmering dorsal fins began to appear and everyone’s spirits lifted. We approached a group of 3 dolphins, including 2 male calves, one of which was very tiny and an adult female, Juliette (#12)! Kel and Lauren geared up with some of the Hunter College students to hop in the water for an encounter while Alexis stayed on the bow to help keep track of the animals. Juliette seemed to “let” the two youngsters push her to the sea floor with their rostrums, before a bout of socio-sexual interactions. As the encounter progressed all of a sudden Tina (#14, pictured here) appeared in the group. It seemed we had two mother/calf pairs and from the boat, Alexis observed the energetic calves bow riding and tail slapping. Lauren and Kel had an awesome encounter and were able to record (through underwater video and stills) some really fun and interesting behaviors, including possible nursing by one calf from Tina. Eventually we left the group, but we were all happy Lauren had a good farewell from the dolphins! As we were heading home we saw a few dolphins leaping out of the water in the distance. As it was getting late, we continued on home with high spirits and happy hearts!
 
Catch you later,
Lauren, Alexis & Kel

 
Spotteds here, spotteds there
Bimini 2014
Written by Kelly Melillo Sweeting   
Wednesday, 13 August 2014 03:42

 

BIM14_T44_SfTuesday’s boat trip started with great weather and a very optimistic group! After learning about DCP, photo-ID and the Bimini dolphins in the morning, the Hunter College students were all ready to get out and practice their newly learned photo-ID skills. The group was very excited to see two bottlenose dolphins early in the trip, but they were moving very quickly and we decided it would be better to not interrupt their travel. Finally, we saw our first group of spotted dolphins! There were five dolphins originally when we saw them, but only three stuck around for two short encounters with our group, and Alexis was able to get some video of the 2 C4’s and 1 C5. Then we ran into two more spotted dolphins on the way home, one of which was unnamed #99! The students were very eager and helpful in trying to point out features on the pair as they were bow riding. We were also able to have a short encounter with the pair and Lauren got to use the MVA for the first time in the water! It was a great day after having no encounters yesterday, so we are sure that tomorrow will be even better!
  
Ciao!
Lauren, Alexis, and Kel

 
A day full of bottlenose!
Bimini 2014
Written by Kelly Melillo Sweeting   
Tuesday, 12 August 2014 18:00

 

BIM14_T43_TtMonday began with a morning of data analysis before greeting the participants of Hunter College’s annual field course, who will be in Bimini for the next two weeks. We gave them a quick introduction to DCP’s still cameras and tips on how to take pictures underwater, and then Alexis and Lauren were off the boat trip with them! We spotted an eagle ray while leaving the harbor which made everyone excited to see dolphins. We stopped for a swim break early, and after an hour and a half from leaving the dock we found two bottlenose dolphins! They were very aloof compared to usual, Alexis wasn’t even able to get surface pictures of them! We quickly decided to move on and not long after ran into another group of about seven bottlenose dolphins who were leaping out of the water and scattered themselves around the boat. The students were all very excited to see wild dolphins and get a chance to write down data from the boat! We did not get into the water with the bottlenose; however we are hopeful that tomorrow will be an interactive day!
 
Sayonara,
Alexis, Lauren, and Kel

 
Better late than never
Bimini 2014
Written by Kelly Melillo Sweeting   
Saturday, 09 August 2014 19:08

 

BIM14_T42_SfOn Friday Lauren and Alexis went on another dolphin trip with Bimini Adventures. On our way out to the dolphin grounds the guests decided they wanted a quick snorkel swim along Bimini Road (also thought to be the famous city of Atlantis). This was Lauren’s first time at Bimini Road so she joined the guests for a quick glimpse to see what all the hype was about. Meanwhile Alexis stayed on the boat and happened to see a turtle swimming not too far from the snorkelers. The turtle hung out around the boat until everyone was back on board and once on board we continued our way to find some dolphins. With over 2 hours passing and not even a glimmer of a dolphin we were tempted to think our luck had run out. Then all of a sudden a group of 7 spotted dolphins appeared in the distance, reminding us that sometimes the search just takes time. Within this group were 2 adults and 5 juveniles and a few playing with seagrass. The highlight of the surface observations was, however…drum roll…a sailfish swimming among them! Even Captain Al had never seen this mixed species grouping before. The dolphins quickly took interest in the boat and began to bow ride. With all seven dolphins riding the bow, we decided to try to join them in the water. The dolphins were swimming too quickly at first but eventually they slowed down enough for us. At this point there were only 2 of the juveniles left, but, nonetheless, we got in and were able to record underwater video, acoustics and stills. The two dolphins included a young female with an interesting spot pattern (possibly not yet catalogued), as well as a male that we believe might have been unnamed #104 (Swoosh’s independent calf). It was getting late so it was hard to be positive about their ID’s, but hopefully we’ll be able to confirm this once we review the data. After a while, the dolphins seemed to have moved on, so we jumped back on the boat and hoped the dolphins might continue to join us on the bow. To everyone’s delight, they did and four dolphins including our 2 juveniles from the encounter rode the bow for almost 10 minutes. Eventually they swam off and we all assumed that was it. But to our surprise 3 different juvenile spotted dolphins joined us for another quick bow ride. Eventually, all the bow riding ended and we resumed our course home, pleased to have spent the day observing these fun and playful dolphins!
 
Catch you later,
Lauren, Alexis, & Kel

 
Two interns…two separate dolphin trips!
Bimini 2014
Written by Kelly Melillo Sweeting   
Friday, 08 August 2014 15:16

 

BIM14_T40_youngSfsThursday the interns split up for 2 dolphin trips. Lauren joined Bimini Adventures and quickly ran into a group of bottlenose dolphins. They were crater feeding, which is quite common, but this time we even saw some mating attempts; a rare sight among bottlenose-only groups. After a short stop to observe this group we moved on to find different dolphins. Hours passed with nothing in sight and we were all starting to lose hope. Then three spotted dolphins greeted us and we followed them for almost an hour hoping they would lead us to a larger group, but unfortunately that was not the case. We turned around and as we were heading back toward the island we finally found a group of 8 spotted dolphins! The group was mostly younger animals, including Inka (#93) who has proven to be very playful! We also saw Prince William (#64) and unnamed #102! The day ended on a positive note with two separate groups of spotted dolphins coming to ride the bow as we headed back home.
 
Meanwhile, Alexis jumped on Bimini Undersea’s boat to join their dolphin trip! After a little over an hour we stumbled upon a group of 4 bottlenose dolphins swimming at the surface. We decided to hop in for a swim, and found the bottlenose focused on feeding. We eventually got back on the boat, re-positioned ourselves and tried one more time for a swim with them to get another glimpse of them feeding. We started heading back for shore after our 2 swims and on the way, took a stop at 3 Sisters rocks to go for a quick snorkel swim. It was nice for Alexis to revisit a familiar snorkeling spot she hadn’t seen in almost 3 full years.
 
Lauren and Alexis are back with Bimini Adventures tomorrow for another trip so wish us luck!
 
So Long,
Lauren, Alexis, & Kel

 
The dolphins are back!
Bimini 2014
Written by Kelly Melillo Sweeting   
Thursday, 07 August 2014 19:16

BIM14_T39_Sfs With rain and preoccupied dolphins dominating recent days, Lauren and Alexis were hoping for a great day on Wednesday and they got it! In the morning Kel and the interns did a talk with Bimini Adventures' guests and they were very interactive and asked a lot of great questions! Thank you again for having us! In the afternoon Lauren and Alexis went on the boat trip and after searching for an hour and a half a group of 5 bottlenose dolphins appeared. We hopped into the water to see if they would interact with us and like always the bottlenose were much more interested in crater feeding than us! Everyone enjoyed watching them as they fed and after a while we decided to move on and look for another group. Almost immediately after we left them we came upon a group of about 25 spotted dolphins! We quickly geared back up and got into the water, and the group diminished down to only about 8 dolphins that were interested in us. The swim ended up being almost an hour! Unfortunately we did not see any dolphins that we immediately recognized, but Alexis thinks she may have seen Romeo (#10) very briefly from the surface. We are hoping that with further review of our underwater photos we may be able to ID a few from our group, including one of the juveniles pictured here who is so far nicknamed, “Speedy’s look-a-like”! On our way back to the island 3 very young spotted dolphins greeted our boat with jumps and leaps and then continued to bow ride for a few minutes, and we recognized #99! All in all it was a great day, although Lauren and Alexis do wish they had put on more sunscreen!
 
Adios,
Lauren, Alexis, and Kel

 
Rain, Rain…went away!
Bimini 2014
Written by Kelly Melillo Sweeting   
Wednesday, 06 August 2014 16:29

 

BIM_T3x_C5Sunday and Monday brought several thunderstorms and rough seas, which in turn meant canceled boat trips. So, by Tuesday we were ready to get back on the boat and find some dolphins! The afternoon seemed to be turning out unsuccessful again, and we all were thinking the curse of Kel was back! Finally we ran into a group of about 8 spotted dolphins which included Stefran (#82, pictured here), Niecey (#48), Swoosh (#36), and Inka (#93)! Inka and the other young dolphins were jumping out of the water and we even saw them play with some seaweed! The group was moving very quickly, but with light fading it was our only opportunity to try to observe the dolphins underwater. The passengers got in first, and got to see the dolphins passing by. When Kel got in the water it was the juveniles who gave her camera a quick swim-by. Even after an enticing bow ride, it was clear that they were not interested in us!  Immediately after everyone was safely onboard and we were headed home, a group of 6 spotteds were riding the bow. At first we were prepared to discover the same dolphins, but then it was clear these were different! We recognized Speedy (#78) and a dolphin whose left pectoral fin was shrunken (well, likely injured, but it healed well!). It was too late into the day to try an encounter, but we were all happy to be back on the boat and see dolphins that we knew!
 
All for now,
Lauren, Alexis, & Kel

 
Dolphins, even ashore
Bimini 2014
Written by Kelly Melillo Sweeting   
Monday, 04 August 2014 12:40

 

BIM14_2Aug_CRII_CCDSSaturday began relatively early for us as we boarded the Coral Reef II to talk to students from the Chicago City Day School. The group was a bit tired as they had just made their passing to Bimini during the night, but once Kel started talking about DCP's interesting research and the amazing facts about Bimini's dolphins, you could see the students perk up! Lauren and Alexis chimed in with facts about lifespan, age class, and focal follow methodology, as well as answering some of the students’ pertinent questions, especially in regards to volunteer and internship opportunities. Soon enough our time was up and we thanked the students, teachers, and crew and hopped of the boat to head towards home. Back home Lauren and Alexis spent the rest of the day doing data processing, specifically working on videologs, IDing spotted dolphins from still photographs taken on our boat trips last week, as well as entering our sightings data.

Although we were not out on the water for a dolphin trip it was still a dolphin filled day!

Cheerio,
Lauren, Alexis, & Kel

 
Better than yesterday!
Bimini 2014
Written by Kelly Melillo Sweeting   
Friday, 01 August 2014 12:49

 

BIMT37_SfsThursday began on a low note as Amy left to return home, and we were all sad to see the intern trio go down to two. Our boat trip started off looking very similar to Wednesday, with around three hours passing before seeing any sign of life out on the water. Finally around 18:00 we ran into 3 bottlenose dolphins, who were moving about inconsistently and showing no interest in the boat. After watching them for ten minutes, we decided to move on, hopeful that we would find a more playful group. We finally saw a small group of spotted dolphins approximately 30 minutes later, and were able to recognize Stefran (#82), Romeo (#10), and Swoosh (#36)! Unfortunately they were on the move and so not overly interested in interacting with us, but we were all happy to have a short encounter and rest well knowing that Kel is not cursed. Although these two days were slow, it was a great week and we’re sure next week will be too!
 
Ta-ta for now,
Lauren, Alexis, and Kel

 
No such luck
Bimini 2014
Written by Kelly Melillo Sweeting   
Friday, 01 August 2014 03:37

 

Wednesday’s trip was a big trip for us. We were fortunate enough to have Kel join all three interns on the boat and it was also Amy’s very last boat trip for the season, as she was heading back to the States to finish the office portion of the internship. So we headed out with high hopes. It was a hot day, so after we had been out for about an hour everyone agreed a swim break was completely and utterly necessary. Everyone hopped in to cool off and regain their mental strength in this body breaking warmth! We all got back on board and continued our search. Unfortunately, we came up short with absolutely no dolphins. Even though it was a bummer, this is what happens sometimes and we were at least happy to have been on the boat, searching for dolphins. Kel is beginning to feel cursed though, since her last three “big boat” trips with Bimini Adventures have been dolphin-less! In all fairness, the weather was rough on the previous two trips, but still, let’s hope that the curse is not true since she’s coming with us again tomorrow!!!
 
Toodles,
Amy, Lauren, Alexis & Kel

 
Choppy seas and playful dolphins
Bimini 2014
Written by Kelly Melillo Sweeting   
Thursday, 31 July 2014 12:54

 

BIM14_T35_C3Tuesday began with a beach cleanup for the Bimini team! We collected 10 garbage bags and 2 recycling bags worth of trash around the south tip of North Bimini. It was a great way for us to give back to the island by means of leaving it cleaner than when we found it!
 
In the afternoon the interns went out on another boat trip with Bimini Adventures (again thanks to the donations of those supporting DCP). The trip started out with a very small shark swimming super-fast along the surface! Roughly an hour later we came across a group of 4 small spotted dolphins. The group consisted of 2 tiny calves, one sub-adult, and one juvenile. They were very playful, riding the bow and zigging and zagging across the water surface. Soon after, 3 more dolphins, specifically 2 calves and Inka (#93) joined the group. At this point we decided to hop in the water and see if the dolphins would stick around. Our first encounter was fairly brief as the dolphins stayed on the periphery of our group and the water chop made it a bit more of a challenge to keep up. We got back on the boat and decided to try again. Everyone geared up, while captain Audley positioned the boat better for us. Everyone slid back in one more time hoping the dolphins might be a bit more interactive, and to our delight they were! We observed the young dolphins for just over 30 minutes and during this time were able to see an attempted nursing event, object play (with some garbage, which we eventually balled up and threw away) and to our surprise, more dolphins which join us in the end. By the end, we had at least 10 young (mostly calf and juvenile) dolphins, as well as 2 bottlenose in the mix. In this larger group we also saw Speedy (#78), Juliette (#12), Niecey (#48), and unnamed #99. After all that fun it seemed like the dolphins were done with us so we climbed back on the boat and headed toward shore. On our way in we were greeted by 4 more spotteds who sneakily snuck up to the bow of the boat undetected. Only once they started bow riding did we even realize they were there. They took a quick ride with us and then left us behind as we continued home.
 
All in all it was an amazing day; one we were lucky to be a part of!! Thank you all and hopefully our week will continue with such luck!
 
Happy trails,
Lauren, Amy, Alexis, & Kel

 
Surrounded by Spotteds
Bimini 2014
Written by Kelly Melillo Sweeting   
Tuesday, 29 July 2014 14:58

 

BIM14_T34_SfsMonday was another perfect day on the water for the interns; we secured research spaces with Bimini Adventures thanks to the generous donations of DCP supporters! Much like yesterday, we sighted a group of crater feeding bottlenose dolphins not long after leaving the dock. They seemed very busy at work, so we passed by with the hope of finding a more interactive group. At 16:15 we were victorious, meeting up with at least 20 very playful Atlantic spotted dolphins. There were many males in the group, including Prince William (#64), Split Jaw (#22), Speedy (#78) and #104 (Swoosh's unnamed, now-independent calf). Leslie (#80) and her calf (unnamed #99) were also in the mix. We slid into the water for an encounter, which turned into five separate encounters because the current kept carrying us away from the dolphins. Although we repeatedly had to leave the water to catch up with them, the dolphins did not mind our presence, and altogether we stayed with the same group for two hours! We were delighted by this group's antics, as we observed a variety of interesting behaviors, including pectoral fin contact, body rubbing, leaps, "object play" with seaweed and even jaw claps and tail slaps,. At one point a group of five dolphins settled themselves onto the sand, resting still on the sea floor as if lying in a bed. In another instance, Alexis was filming one dolphin who stopped swimming to hang vertically in front of her camera, as if it was having a staring contest with her! As you can probably tell, it's so much fun swimming with a large group of interactive spotteds, but it also gives us the chance to document tons of dolphin communication and general behavior! After we eventually left this group to head home, we had one more happy moment of sighting another group of spotted dolphins. There was a very tiny calf among them who leaped clear out of the water as if putting on a show for us! Needless to say, we are all feeling ecstatic after such a fabulous day; thanks again for getting us on the boat DCP supporters!

In-a-while-crocodile,
Amy, Alexis, Lauren, and Kel

PS: Not sure what we’re talking about with these “thank you supporters” references? Kel did a mad-dash fundraiser this week to help ensure research space on the boat. You can continue to support our research efforts by making a donation today!

 
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