07 July 2017

Shallow reef creatures and dolphins!

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Our Monday began at the Sea Crest with our current ecotour group. Kel led a morning information session about the dolphin population around Bimini and photo-ID techniques to demonstrate how the DCP team identifies each individual. Those who were interested in helping us with the bottlenose ID, that we have been working on for the past few days, stuck around to get a few pointers from Kaiya and Patrick; during this, Tori worked on getting software for her computer to help us all continue to efficiently make progress. Nicole also supplied a birthday pastry to help the DCP team and the group to wish Kel a very happy birthday! After doing some work of our own we headed back home for a quick lunch and to get ready for the boat. It was a 2 pm boat departure, which left us enough time for a snorkel stop at Three Sisters before heading out in search of dolphins. The snorkel trip was full of bright and interesting creatures. We all saw plenty of parrotfish, damselfish, hogfish, blue tangs, a large pufferfish (much to Kel’s delight), the master of camouflage known as the lizardfish (Tori’s new favorite), and many more reef inhabitants. We boarded the boat and set our course due-north in hope for dolphins. Though it took longer for our first sighting, the group was rewarded for their patience. Out of the waves came a group of nearly 20 bottlenose dolphins. We were able to observe them from the boat demonstrating a wide range of behaviors such as crater feeding, socializing, and travelling. When Kel, Patrick, and the ecotour group got in the water, only two of the dolphins decided to hang around while the rest preferred to continue travelling.

After a short encounter with the bottlenose we were on our way in search of spotteds. During our search we did get a surprise loggerhead ‘birthday’ turtle appearance before it quickly swam to the bottom. We finally found a large group of at least 16 spotted dolphins thanks to Nicole’s practiced eye. After a brief observation from the boat we decided to give the encounter a try. The group, Nicole, Tori, and Kel had a total of about 30 minutes of swim time with the dolphins. Many of the dolphins were grouped together and swimming in tandem with a lot of the younger dolphins speeding off and back again. We saw a few noticeable dolphins, such as, Swoosh (#36) and Cerra (#38) and her calf. There were a large number of younger dolphins and a few other cataloged dolphins that we recognized. Kel and Nicole were also able to identify a couple of dolphins originally from the northern Bahamas. Unfortunately we had to leave this great encounter to head home as it was getting late. Once at the dock we returned home to quickly get ready for dinner. We were fortunate to have some delicious lasagna and key lime pie and to celebrate Kel’s birthday. We ended the night at home, slightly exhausted, but with full and happy bellies. We finished up some work for the day and got ready for tomorrow. We’re looking forward to another dolphin-filled exciting day tomorrow!

Trio, singing off,

Kaiya, Patrick, and Tori (& Kel & Nicole, of course)

Kelly Melillo Sweeting

Kel is DCP's Bimini Research Manager, and all around awesome scientist.

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