Still, I was able to observe the boys once more this trip. Jake, McGyver, Stormy, Andy, Shawn, Goombay and Salvador (the latter two below) swam all around me, and shared pec fin and body rubs. They also peppered me (so to speak) with buzzes and echolocation. Stormy and Goombay also whistled up a storm (not literally, thank goodness). Goombay also nibbled on my fins again, but to no avail.
The Wind has been blowing at ~30 +mph for 2.5 days. Howling, in fact. We got to DE and could not see the sea floor in the dolphin pools. This did not bode well for underwater visibility. John and I waited all morning – in hopes that the wind and rain would subside. The latter did … the sun even made a guest appearance! Blue sky was peppered by cumulus clouds. Still, the wind blew. (notice the theme in today's report?)So, at 1 pm, we decided to call it a day.
About 6 years ago, my nephews, Ben and Sam, told me they were taking swim lessons so that they could help me with my research on dolphins. I was beyond impressed and flattered. So, I made them a deal: they learned to swim and be comfortable in the water and when they reached 10, if they were still interested, they could come and help me. This Saturday, Ben and Sam were my data collection assistants.
DE was busy today so we only had the morning data collection session. This allowed me to review some of the previous footage and to review the data forms. This session is truly a good one for me … I am able to focus on the social interaction and exchange between the individual dolphins. And, watching the pairs and groups. This morning, before getting in the water, I watched Jake, McGyver and Stormy shift in pair swims and exchange rubs and pec contacts. Jake and Stormy hung out together mostly during this time.
I know it was harder for me to watch the underwater data collection than to be the one collecting it. I kept thinking various directions (which of course John could not hear even if I shouted them to him) like 'point the camera down, follow the dolphin longer, dive down' … and more. But, John did a great job! Of course, the dolphins noticed right away that the regular green camera operator was not present. They swam John repeatedly around each pool and made swift buzzing passes by him.
Still, I had to get in to see if I could see anything. From the surface, it was clear (no pun intended) that the visibility was not great. At about 10 am, the program in Pool #5 was finished and I could get in with five dolphins: Aunty V, Soca, Missy, Nina and Nina's calf, Cacique. They were all over me and quite curious but in a zigzag fast swim fashion for the first 5-8 minutes.I weas able to record some behavioral interaction between Soca and Aunty V and between Nina and Cacique.
I collected about 24 min of underwater video with the seven male dolphins on Monday morning. The visibility was very silty underwater … about 3-4 m distance but cloudy, like fog underwater. Also, the younger males decided to be 'stealth dolphins' on this session. They would swim up behind me without any vocalizations! All of s sudden they were on my side or swimming from underneath me. It is difficult to actually document behavior and interaction when you cannot follow them for periods of time.
I was able to observe McGyver and Jake, Stormy and Andy, and Goombay, Shawn and Salvador in three distinct cliques that would also overlap a bit. That is, Sal would hang out sometimes with Stormy and Andy and sometimes with just McGyver. I also documented much rubbing behavior – pec fin to body rubs and body to body rubs. It seemed to me that the best-friendships were sort of set among these males but that they also liked all of the other males in the group and occasionally hung out with other buddies. So to speak, anyway.
Besides having a good social grouping of bottlenose dolphins to observe, the underwater visibility was fantastic at greater than 5 m. It was clear and so was the sky. Not a ripple on the surface except when the dolphins swam near the surface. Jake and McGyver spent much time together and engaged in their signature upside down swims. Salvador, the youngest in this group, spent a good amount of time next to McGyver in baby position.
John and I greeted human friends while we waited for the staff ferry to arrive to the ferry terminal. Annette and Kim are the directors of education and research and training, respectively. It was fun to see them and get caught up on events of the past 6 months. We also saw Fonzie, a dolphin trainer supervisor, and several other folks. It is becoming more and more like coming home.Our arrival to Blue Lagoon had my eyes peeled and my ears open as I scanned the pools for dolphin dorsal fins.