07 August 2017

Happy Birthday Patrick!

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After a rough, short, dolphin-less day yesterday, we were very excited to get back out on the boat on Wednesday. We were even more excited because it was Patrick's birthday! Although, unfortunately, it was also his last day. After a celebratory lunch at the Bimini Big Game Club and a quick swim, we gathered our gear and headed to the boat for our 2pm departure. The sun was shining brightly and the ecotour guests were all excited that the clear weather also brought smaller swells, offering both a smoother ride and better visibility of dorsal fins.

Our boat trip began with a snorkel stop at Three Sisters, where we were able to see a plethora of life including parrot fish, angelfish, squirrelfish, a very large barracuda, and some schools gently drifting along the sea floor. Back on the boat and headed towards dolphin territory, all eyes were scanning the horizon. As we searched we kept spirits up by eating birthday brownie bites and taking lots of swim breaks to cool down. Fortunately, our patience paid off. A few minutes after 5:30, we saw a dorsal approaching the bow. We were soon surrounded by three juvenile spotted dolphins playfully circling the boat. Patrick was quickly able to recognize Paul (#99) by the distinct notch pattern in his peduncle and unnamed #108 by her damaged fluke. (Back in the office we were able to ID the third dolphin as unnamed #109.) As Kaiya and Patrick geared up with the guests to take video footage and still photos, Tori helped Captains Al and Audley keep the dolphins in sight.

The three dolphins were just as playful from the water as they seemed from the boat. They explored the swimmers by swimming circles around them, exchanged lots of tactile contact with each other, and picked up clumps of seaweed on their fins and in their mouths. Paul (#99) was observed twirling with a large piece of seaweed, causing it to encircle him and flow gracefully around him as he spun. It was a wonderful, light hearted encounter that the guests described as "magnificent." We had another brief sighting on the way back to the dock as three more spotteds joined us for a brief bowride.

Overall, it was a wonderful trip, especially for Patrick's birthday/last day.  (Thank you dolphins!) As The Trio, we have been so fortunate to have this internship opportunity with DCP. We have truly enjoyed working with Kathleen, Kel, Nicole, and each other on this adventure of learning!

For the last time (until we're together again!),

The Trio (Tori, Patrick, & Kaiya)

Kelly Melillo Sweeting

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

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