Wednesday morning’s breakfast crew slapped (once again, if they do say so themselves). Our class topic was photo-ID. We learned why it’s important, in Bimini, to rely first on dorsal fins and later on other parts of the body when keeping track of individual bottlenose dolphins. We discussed the age classes of the dolphins, particularly the Atlantic spotteds. We went into more details on the spotted dolphin’s spot patterns and how those are used to identify individuals. We spoke a lot of #087 (Tilly) and #064 (Prince William) and their run-ins with sharks. We talked some more about #104 and how his new marking will be used to recognize him.
We used our class break to visit the Straw Market again, both Sarahs and Holly got their hair braided and we continue to try to get Deric to get his beard braided. Soon, we were headed to the boat…
At 15:11, we first spotted spotted (ha) dolphins! There were so many of them! At first there were 13, then 15, then 17, then 24! On the bow, Nicole showed us #110 (Weiloo) and Sam and Haley fell in love! It was too choppy to get in the water, so we watched from the bow. But, we saw a ton! Just two or three feet away from us an older juvenile did an amazing leap, “flippity flip.” Several of us were able to recognize #104’s dorsal fin mark all on our own (pictured here)! Over the course of the sighting, in addition to Weiloo and “Lamda” (#104), Nicole was able to ID: Romeo (#10), Split Jaw (#22), Lil’ Jess (#35), Swoosh (#36), Stefran (#82), Inka (#93), Vee (#101), Sulfur (#102), Poppy (#112) and un-named #107 and #114. Then – lightning bolt, thunder clap – we had to head closer to shore. We didn’t escape the rain, but we cruised until the rain stopped. Soon after, we saw four more spotteds – 2 presumed mother/calf pairs! They did some fun flippity flips too and chased flying fish. We were able to get in the water this time, and got a quick glimpse of one adult and two calves. Even after they were out of view, we could hear their whistles. It was so cool! Back onboard, we followed this group as the calves were really into riding the bow. One calf repeatedly swam belly up, giving us a good chance to confirm it was male. We waited and waited for the second to do the same, and finally – male too! At one point, the calves raced ahead of the bow together, faster than we’d seen them swim before, straight to an adult. Perhaps mama had given a whistle to call them back? At one point, one adult did two big flips right around the calves; unusual behavior for a mother, leaving us wondering what was going on under the water. Later, the group size went from four to eight, and the new dolphins included at least one juvenile.
After this dolphin sighting, we began our way back to shore – and got some more rain. We pulled into the dock and before heading up to our rooms, had a good look at a cushion star, some sea urchins and sergeant majors. Soon, it was dinner time, then some of us stayed up a bit and played cards (yes – physical playing cards – no phones!).
Roll Kerns (EKU 2019)