Friday was a busy day. Nicole & Salma began their final day on Bimini with the sunrise, and continued to make the most of their final hours on-island BIM13_T39_Tilly87_Romeo10by exploring and picking up last minute treats (can you say Mr. Charlie’s Bimini bread and guava jam?!). Sadly, all too soon, the water taxi was calling them, figuratively speaking, and they headed to South Bimini for their flights back to the US. I remember how it felt each summer when I was an intern, and then a Master’s student, getting on that water taxi for the final time, wondering, “Is this really the final time?” My own internship experience fundamentally changed the course of my life. I cannot expect that for every intern, but I certainly hope that both Nicole & Salma had at least a small fraction of the positive internship experience I had. Or should I say that I hope their experience was as great for them as their help to DCP was! It was a pleasure to have you both!

For me, it was quick dockside goodbyes as a dolphin trip was calling my name. Armed with the DCP clipboard once again, the day’s trip was unlike Thursday’s. We searched. And searched. And searched some more. When folks got antsy, everyone jumped in the water to cool off. When folks got dizzy from staring at the ocean, it was snack time. Then, finally, on the last leg of our dolphin search, there they were. Two, three, four Atlantic spotted dolphins. Romeo (#10) and Tilly (#87) made themselves very obvious as did two adults, although I did not readily recognize them. We did not know what to expect from the underwater encounter, but with fading sunlight, it was now or never. The encounter turned out to be very interesting. The two adults did not readily interact with Romeo & Tilly, but Romeo & Tilly were extremely interactive with each other (like in this photo!). There was a fair bit of whistling and both dolphins played with sargassum, occasionally interrupting their object play to investigate the humans quite closely. At least one of the adults (male) did come by DCP’s camera, so hopefully we will be able to ID this guy when we review the video…I wonder who he is…

We arrived back at the dock as the sun was setting and everyone from this week was using words like “lucky” and “grateful.” It really was a fantastic week.

Just one day off the boat before the final two boat trips of the main summer field season. Fingers crossed the weather (and dolphins) cooperate!

Until next time,

Kel

BIM13_T38_InkaID93Thursday was our (Salma’s and Nicole's) last full day on Bimini. Though we are sad to go, we wanted to make the most of the time we had left. Our day began with a visit to the Shark Lab on South Bimini. There we learned about the different species of sharks found around the islands and were able to "meet" some lemon and nurse sharks. We also had the chance to hear all about the incredible things the scientists at the Shark Lab have been doing.

After a quick lunch, we set off on the boat with Bimini Adventures. The trip started with a stop at Three Sisters for a bit of snorkeling. We enjoyed the calm water and the bit of sun that was peeking through the cloud cover for a little while. Then we set off on our dolphin quest. Less than half an hour after beginning our search we came upon a group of 14 spotted dolphins! We saw Inka (#93, pictured here), Tina (#14), Leslie (#80) with her calf, Lil' Jess (#35) with hers and un-named #70 with hers! After a short time, we were able to get in the water. This large group of dolphins was very inquisitive! They swam around, seemingly investigating the humans. We were able to get quite a bit of underwater video and still photos! Afterwards, the dolphins had stayed by the boat so we were able to get right back in the water. The group of spotted dolphins was so large that all of the snorkelers were able to really experience how curious and playful they are. It was incredible! After quite a lengthy encounter, we were able to get back in almost right away! This encounter was even longer than the last and we got some amazing data. Ten minutes later, we were able to get in the water again! This was such a lucky day and we are so happy to have met up with this group of curious dolphins!

Just as everyone piled back on board, we heard thunder in the distance. It was still early and we did not want to head back to the harbor yet so we moved a bit away from the incoming storm and took in the view. We enjoyed some lovely snacks, including an amazing batch of brownies, which was the perfect icing on the cake of an unbelievably good day.

We are so sad to be leaving this dolphin paradise but are so thankful to have been able to have this experience. And we could not have ended it any better! Thank you for sticking with us and sharing our experiences with us!

Until next time,

Nicole, Salma & Kel

BIM13_T36_leslie_Tina_CalvesTuesday was a busy day beginning with a presentation on the importance of, and skills required for, photo identification. The Hunter College students were very engaged, asking many good questions, and Salma and Nicole learned a lot as well!

After a break for lunch and a bit of computer work, we headed out with Bimini Adventures. A few hours after heading out, Captain Al spotted some splashing in the distance. We headed towards it and came across quite a few spotted dolphins. We caught the attention of two mother-calf pairs who started swimming alongside the boat. From our vantage point on the bow we were able to identify Leslie (#80) with her calf (#99) and Tina (#14) with hers! While they were riding on the bow, Leslie's calf decided to swim belly-up, giving everyone a good view of what we now know is his belly! After a while, it was time to try underwater observations. The four dolphins stuck around to investigate the humans for a while so we got collect lots of data, including this photo! Once everyone was back on board we set off again towards splashing in the distance. This time it was a group of at least six spotted dolphins. From the boat we were able to confirm Stefran (#82) and Swoosh (#36)! After about a half hour with us, these dolphins decided to continue on their way. But we weren't worried at all because less than five minutes later, there were three more spotted dolphins riding on the bow and in the stern wake. This group was leaping and playing and doing flips in our wake for a few minutes before they, too, went on their way. Then, only ten minutes later, we found another group of spotted dolphins!! This time there were up to thirteen individuals including Tilly (#87), Romeo (#10), Split Jaw (#22), Billy (#64), Tim (#69), Speedy (#78), Inka (#93) and Lil' Jess (#35) with her calf! We can't wait to review the video and photos!

Once everyone was back on board we realized that it had gotten quite late! The sun was setting, painting our way back to the harbor. We are so happy with our luck today and cannot wait to go back out soon!

Until then,

Nicole, Salma & Kel

Wednesday morning began with a beach clean-up here on the island. We did a loop that extended out to the water and into the trees. It wasBIM13_T37_RomeoID10 astounding to find so much trash hidden and buried beneath sand, soil, trees, and even more garbage! It was really eye opening to see all the forms of trash that will never integrate into and benefit the ecosystems in which they have been put. We may have made a small impression on an older local gentleman - he saw us picking up trash and decided to help by putting together a huge pile of trash that he collected! Our thanks goes out to DCP Conservation Member, Christa, for sponsoring our clean-up and supporting DCP.

After this chance to give back to Bimini we got ready to go out onto the boat. Barely an hour into the boat trip we had spotted some dolphins! This was a group of about 7 dolphins, including two mother calf pairs. We identified Leslie (#80) and her calf (#99) from the boat, and suspect that Freckles (#15) was also there her calf. The dolphins stuck around for quite a while and we were able to get a great underwater observation of the dolphins! Just as we were getting back on board, the dolphins decided to turn around swim super close past the stern! Since Kel was among the folks who still had their fins on, Salma quickly passed the camera back to her and recording continued. After this two part encounter, we finally boarded the boat (for real) and continued our search for another group of dolphins! A little while later we spotted a large group of dolphins that included the very playful Tilly (#87). We also thought we glimpsed Romeo (#10); when we reviewed still photos we laughed: judging from the photo included here, we’d say Romeo was definitely there!

We were able to get another encounter, although this group of dolphins was more interested in surfing the bow wake than observing humans. No matter, we hopped back on board, observing the dolphins for a while longer before they swam off. A short while later we saw one adult dolphin come up to the bow for a bit and then swim off followed by a calf that remained with the boat for quite some time. Eventually there were a total of 7 dolphins, including a mother (likely un-named #70), her calf and possibly un-named #75, an adult male. We got in for the quickest moment, but the dolphins did not stick around. So, that meant observing the dolphins from the bow until they swam off.

We can't believe our luck this week! It's as if the dolphins look for the boat and we don't have to look so hard for them! We are so grateful that this week of lucky dolphin sightings was the final week for the DCP interns. We CAN wait until our last dolphin trip tomorrow afternoon – neither Salma nor Nicole is really ready to leave behind this beautiful island and the dolphins.

Until next time,
Salma, Nicole & Kel

 

We spent Friday through Sunday off the water. Our time was spent doing as much office work as we could squeeze in with some last minute island activities. Monday started off like any other day, with some work before we would head off to various DCP engagements. First we had a talk with middle school students from the Chicago City Day School onboard the Coral Reef II (CRII). The kids were very eager to listen and to participate in the talk. They answered all of the questions that Kel asked during the presentation without delay! We were all impressed by the kids and their ability to connect different marine issues (such as overfishing) to dolphins and vice versa. The kids' minds and answers were limitless and it was quite refreshing to be able to interact with people that were under the age of 15. After the talk we stayed aboard for lunch and mingled with teachers and crew. We really enjoyed the enthusiasm of the kids (and the crew) and greatly appreciated their hospitality. It was such a great experience and we met so many wonderful people!

After the CRII, we headed back home for briefly to collect our gear for the boat and to get ready to go out on a dolphin trip. Before the dolphin trip, we stopped at the Sea Crest Hotel to meet the group from Hunter College that will be aboard this whole week. We briefly introduced ourselves and Kel gave a quick tutorial on how to use the underwater cameras. After that we headed over to the docks, organized our gear on deck, and headed out to find dolphins!

The water was a bit choppy, but we've learned to handle ourselves well with wind and current. It did not take us long before we saw a group of spotted dolphins! This was a group of 5 subadults/adults. We identified Buster (#04) and we think we may have seen Lil' Jess (#35) and her distinctive underbite! We followed this group of dolphins for over an hour! However, when we tried to get into the water for an underwater observation, they just zipped past us without so much as a second glance. These dolphins were on the move and didn't really care to stick around with us. Just as we were contemplating leaving this group, we saw a calf leap out of the water as if excitedly swimming toward the boat with its mother in tow!


Sure enough, a group of about 6 spotted dolphins had spotted us and were coming to investigate! We observed 3 juveniles in the group that were really enjoying riding the bow wake. Soon we were able to gear up for a second attempt at an underwater observation. This encounter was much better than the first try; the dolphins really approached us and were investigating and displaying all kinds of social behaviors. We were fortunate enough to have more than 20 minutes in the water with this group! After the dolphins swam away we hopped back on board. Everyone was keeping an eye on the squalls to our south. While we prepped to go back in the water, the dolphins were suddenly nowhere to be seen. We suddenly spotted them again, but the squall was close and we needed to head home. On the way, we ran into a bit of rain and more dolphins! Captain Al had spotted at least three more dolphins in the bow wake. However, by that point, it was time to continue home.

We had a great start to the week and all the students of Hunter College were happy that their first day on the island turned to be quite successful! We can't wait to continue interacting with the students and to see more dolphins!

Until next time,
Salma, Nicole & Kel

 

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Dolphin Communication Project
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