Kathleen Dudzinski

Kathleen Dudzinski

Choppy Seas but High Spirits for our 50th Trip this Season!

Bimini2010_T50_InternsThursday we set out with our fingers crossed for cooperative weather since there were some squalls in the area. As we set out around 15:30, the wind began to pick up which made for an exciting ride! Everyone held on tight and kept a sharp eye out for dolphins. After the bumpy cruise north, we turned around and slowly headed back towards the island. Seemingly out of nowhere, spotted dolphin calves appeared around 17:45, leaping toward the boat. A group of at least eight spotted dolphins came and went for about 40 minutes, including three calves, two juveniles, Trudy (#57) and two other adults. All the dolphins, especially the youngsters, seemed to be enjoying the larger waves. Eventually the dolphins gave us the slip and we headed in, with a quick swim break for everyone to cool off! Thanks to everyone for a great week of dolphin trips! 

Until Next Time,

Janan, Cat & Kel

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Squalls didn’t stop us!

Bimini2010_T48_youngSfsOn Wednesday, we had the luxury of not only one dolphin trip, but two to choose from! Kel and Cat set off with Bill & Nowdla Keefe while Janan stuck with Bimini Adventures. Although there were some squalls passing through, the Hatteras was able to head out at 13:40 towards the Bimini Road for a nice snorkel stop. After a leisurely snorkel, swim, lunch break, we continued on at 16:20 to look for dolphins. We didn’t want to get too far from Bimini in case there were storms, but luckily the dolphins seemed to have the same idea! At 16:45 we had our first sighting of a group of 10 spotteds, including White Blotch (#29), Swoosh (#36) and maybe Cleopatra (#41). We hopped in the water, but the dolphins were more interested in bowriding than sticking with us. We continued our search, and were rewarded at about 18:00 with another group spotteds, including some active, tail-slapping calves. About an hour later, the group grew to over 10 individuals, including White Blotch (#29), Swoosh (#36), Billy (#64), Tim (#69), Tilly (#87) and un-named #91 and 92. At one point some of the young dolphins were jawing at and nudging the body of their young conspecific (see picture). It was very interesting play (?) bout! We had a great swim with them, and finally headed home stuffed full of dolphin interactions!  

Meanwhile on Bill & Nowdla’s boat, Cat and Kel set off at about 16:30. Some dolphins showed up nice and early at 17:20, including two bottlenose dolphins and two spotteds. The spotteds appeared to be a mother/calf pair; was the mother ID#43? We continued on, hoping to find another group, and around 18:00 came upon a group of over 12 dolphins including Tina (#14), Lumpy (#17), Lone Star (#56), un-named #s24, 78 and 93. We had one underwater observation and then at around 18:40 people hopped into the water and held onto a rope while the boat towed them behind.  Apparently the dolphins were interested in this funny sight as they tagged along very closely! During a second tow at 19:00, even more dolphins joined in, including Freckles (#15) and Swoosh (#36). At last we had to head home, but more dolphins joined the boat for a bow ride at 19:30, including Finn (#09), Split Jaw (#22), White Blotch (#29) and Lil' Jess (#35). Such an awesome day for both boats!  

Until next time,

Janan, Cat & Kel

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Welcome 2010 Summer Interns!

Bimini2010_T47_OffshoreTtOn Monday, Cat and Janan (DCP’s 2010 summer interns) arrived in Bimini for the first time! We made it safely (albeit on the tiniest plane either of us had flown in) and were excited to get started on a dolphin trip. Unfortunately, we got a taste of “island life” when there was literally no fuel on the island. Obviously with no fuel, there could be no dolphin trip!

With our spirits high for another chance at our first dolphin trip, we set out on Tuesday at about 15:30. Early on, we saw a group of 5 bottlenose dolphins not far from shore. We watched them for about ten minutes, and then continued on to search for spotteds. However the spotteds appeared to have other plans because we didn’t see any for a long time. At last at 17:30 we saw 5 spotted dolphins, but they didn’t come close enough for us to get good IDs. We did observe some good tail slaps on the water (was this to dislodge a remora?). Everyone got in the water and tried the swim, but the dolphins swam off. We returned to the boat much cooler, and headed towards home.  

At 19:05 we were surprised by a much larger group of dolphins! At first, there Tina (#14), Speedy (#78) and un-named #84 were riding the bow. Soon, there were at least 12 dolphins, including 2 offshore (aka oceanic) bottlenose dolphins! Kel has never observed these in a group with Atlantic spotteds before! In this photo, you can see the light color pattern on the offshore’s peduncle. Their bodies are also much darker and they are larger than their inshore (aka coastal) counterparts. The main group peeled off from the boat, but Kel and the passengers had a nice, short swim with 2 adults and 2 calves. What a fantastic sunset surprise!  

Looking forward to our next dolphin encounter,

Janan, Cat & Kel

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Dolphins, dolphins, everywhere…

Bimini2010_T46_029_094I began Sunday with a talk aboard the Coral Reef II. The high school marine biology students were very engaging and full of great questions – thank you! The afternoon was the start to another “dolphin week” with www.biminiadventures.com. As excited passengers boarded the boat, the crew and I were just thrilled to have clear skies and calm seas. We did not have to go far before we saw of about six bottlenose dolphins. We observed the group long enough for me to (hopefully) get some dorsal fin ID shots, but the group opted to continue in search of spotteds. They were not disappointed! Very soon afterward we saw Tilly (#87), un-named #84 and a very young juvenile in quite the playful mood. At one point, Tilly was holding a jack (fish) in her mouth. It was difficult to tell if this was a play toy or something she actually wanted to eat as the other youngsters chased her about! Shortly after we observed another group of three – all were borderline calves/juveniles, but we did not see any adults in the area. Normally three dolphin sightings would be plenty of the day. But, today was busier! Soon, we were watching Finn (#09), Split Jaw (#22), White Blotch (#29) and her calf, un-named #94 (both pictured here). And happy birthday to #94, who turns six sometime this month (a long time for a calf of this species to stay with mom). Soon, Billy (#64) was also in the group. With such a great start to the week, I can’t wait to see what the rest holds (including the interns’ arrival tomorrow)! 

Until then,

Kel

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Independence Day!

While everyone on Bimini was celebrating their country’s independence, we were headed in search of dolphins. The seas were calm and we were optimistic about finding dolphins. We searched. We waited. We searched some more. And we waited some more…then, we saw it! A big splash in the distance… and it was dolphins! We watched Tina (#14), Lone Star (#56) and a calf (like Lone Star’s) for a few minutes before observing them underwater. The dolphins were very interactive with each other as well as the human swimmers! We had a blast! Thanks to all of today’s passengers! 

Until next time,

Kel

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Wow. Wow. Wow.

Bimini2010_T44_Swoosh036On Thursday, we departed the dock early for an extended snorkel stop at “The Bimini Road.” We had some rain to contend with, but soon we were under sunny skies in search of dolphins. We did not have to wait long and were soon observing a group of 15 Atlantic spotted dolphins, including Buster (#04), White Blotch (#29 – and 6 year old calf #94?), Trudy (#57), Tim (#69), Speedy (#78) and un-named #75 .These dolphins began to show less and less interest in us, so we went in search of others. What seemed like moments later, there were more! This time, we were able to watch four bottlenose dolphins both from the boat and in the water. After observing this group (including one youngster) for over 40 minutes we again opted to look for even more dolphins. Although we would have been thrilled with all the dolphins thus far, we were lucky enough to see – that’s right – even more dolphins! This time, there were two groups of Atlantic spotted dolphins, each with eight individuals. We observed some individuals under water and by the time the observation ended, we had seen Juliette (#12 – with her calf, #93), Tina (#14), Split Jaw (#22), Swoosh (#36 – pictured here – and possibly her male calf), Prince William (#64), Nemo (#76), Leslie (#80), Lone Star (#56), and possibly Cleopatra (#41) and Niecey (#48). It was a fantastic day! 

Until next time,

Kel

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Clear-ish skies, murky water – and dolphins, dolphins, dolphins!

Bimini2010_T42_MaleC2BreachAfter squalls cancelled Monday’s boat trip, we were ready for dolphins and sunshine on Tuesday. We didn’t get too much sunshine, but at least we didn’t get rain or thunderstorms. We headed out at 1530 and saw over 20 dolphins at 1722. From the surface we saw Juliette (#12) and her calf, un-named #93, Tina (#14), Lumpy (#15), Lone Star (#56), Trudy (#57), Stefran (#82), un-named #24 and I think Freckles (#15). There was some chasing and playing, especially by the youngsters and some mating by the whole group. At some points, they were on the move, but we did get to see them under water, although the visibility was poor. The biggest show of the day was a young male who seemed focused on practicing his breaching (see picture). We did not see any visible injury (sometimes we see more than usual leaping/breaching behavior when a dolphin has a cut or a remora attached to its skin) so we are not sure what was motivating this little guy. But, all the activity made for a very pink belly! A big thanks to www.biminiadventures.com! 

Until next time,

Kel

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Good dolphins come to those who wait

Bimini2010_T41_Leslie080After saying goodbye to the 2010 DCP DRTs, Friday was spent cleaning up and reorganizing. Saturday’s dolphin trip with Nowdla Keefe was a patience tester. By 19:00, we still had not seen any dolphins and many on the boat were giving up hope. But, the crew and I knew better; sometimes the dolphins make us wait and wait and just when we’re ready to give up, there they are! In that spirit, we first saw the dolphins at 19:16. At first, we observed a group of 5 adults, including Buster (#04) and Lumpy (#17). We were able to have a 15 minute swim with four dolphins: Nemo (#76), Leslie (#80, pictured here), and an un-ID’d adult and calf. Leslie and the calf stayed very close to one another and the people! Back on the boat, we saw many more dolphins, including Romeo (#10), Lil’ Jess (#35), Lone Star (#56), Trudy (#57), Tilly (#87), un-named #75 and 84 and several calves. Two un-ID’d adults rode the bow until 20:07! It was a great day! 

Until next time,

Kel

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A clean beach, souvenirs and DOLPHINS!

Bimini2010_DRT2010_BeachCleanUpHappy July! We had a great Thursday that began with a beach clean-up: we filled 3 trash bags in 20 min! In total, we filled 9.5 bags of trash and while we all felt good about removing the trash from the beach, we were also all a bit distressed by the need to have a beach trash clean-up. We'll try to add a photo to this post soon!  

Liam: We saw a lot of spotted dolphins today and they had a lot of young dolphins like calves and they were jumping a lot in the air. Bill: Today we swam with spotted dolphins and one of the younger calves swam underneath me and broke off about 3 feet below me. Today at the 3 Sisters snorkel site, I saw fish eating a lobster. Ben: Today we saw spotted dolphins and one of the calves was very energetic and was jumping out of the water a lot.  Athan: Today was a great last day because we saw lots of spotted dolphins with their calves and we also saw a barracuda and a remora. Sam: Today we went to a snorkel site called the 3 Sisters and under the water there was a coral reef with lots of colorful fish and moray eels. E: In the morning, we got to clean up the beach and I thought that was neat and I had a great time. And we got to see this nighthawk which was hiding inside the bushes. And it was grouchy that we almost stepped on it. Then we went to the straw market to get souvenirs. Then we visited a reef called 3 Sisters. It was not rainbow colorful like the ads but I took a lot of pictures. Then we got to swim with some spotted dolphins and they were really energetic and liked bow-riding. I can’t believe we are leaving tomorrow. Emily: In the morning, we went to the straw market and I bought some gifts for my family. And on the boat later, I watched a baby spotted dolphin jump out of the water and when I was in the water I heard their chirps and whistles. Gabrielle: Today I saw Tina who is the dolphin I was studying in class. It was interesting to see her in real life.  Jack: Today when we went to clean up the beach we saw a wet suit that was abandoned and we picked up 9.5 bags of trash.  Stephanie: Today we went to the straw market and there was a dog there that I shared my water with and I would also like to say Happy Birthday to my dog at home, Passion.  Sarah: During the beach clean-up today I realized that we should all take part and do something good for the environment.  Porter: Today we went to the straw market and I bought one thing for each person in my family.  Becca: Today we went to the 3 Sisters dive spot and I saw lots of fish that I knew – a gray and a French angel fish. We also went swimming with spotted dolphins today and they were very active. I saw Swoosh from the boat and was excited to see her. Gary: There is a scene in close encounters when a half dozen alien craft zipped past people on the ground. That’s what it felt like when we were in the water with the spotted dolphins. They came out of nowhere and zipped around us, over us and under us and then they were gone. And, Happy Birthday, Jean. I love you! Alexis: I think today was a wonderful last day because we got to clean up the beaches and offset our carbon footprint. And we finally got to swim with our spotted dolphins. However, we are all a little sad to leave, but still excited to go home. John: I enjoyed watching heat lightning this evening. And it was good to see the spotteds again.  

After the beach clean-up, we cleaned up ourselves and then visited the local straw market to buy souvenirs. Our last boat was this afternoon and we had the best reason for making the day longer and getting back a bit late … dolphins! We saw a group of spotted dolphins that had their own agenda, but took time out to spend a few minutes with us. We saw Juliette (#12), Tina (#14), Swoosh (#36 – and her male calf?), Lone Star (#56), Prince William (#64), Nemo (#76), Leslie (#80) and un-named ID#93 (#12’s calf). They were surfing the waves and spending time at the boat and in our stern wake. It was a great way to finish a very jam-packed week! Tomorrow, we return to the USA and then to CT. We’ll stay-tuned to Kel’s field reports to keep track of the dolphins throughout the summer.

Cheers

Kel, Kathleen & the DRTs

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Sharks, Snakes & Sea Creatures!

Bimini2010_DRTs_TtWe had a very full Wednesday! We visited the Shark Lab and the Nature Trail on South Bimini in the morning and then went dolphin-researching/searching in the afternoon. 

Liam: Today we saw bottlenose dolphins instead of spotted dolphins and we got to go swimming with them. One had a baby with her and another one had no right pec fin and looked like Nemo, the spotted dolphin.  Ben: It was pretty amazing swimming with animals that were bigger than us and being that close to them. Bill: When I first got in the water there were 2 large bottlenose dolphins and they both looked at me and clicked and then swam off.  Sam: Today we went to the Shark Lab and saw an juvenile lemon shark and we all got to touch it. It felt rough at a part and then smooth going the other way.  Stephanie: We went on a nature trail walk and they had a Bimini Boa and it was really cute. It was a female and reminded me of my snakes at home. Becca: We swam with bottlenose dolphins and one of them swam close to me and one swam below me near the bottom. It was crater feeding. Emily: We went to the Shark Lab and I learned how to tell the difference between female and male lemon sharks. And also when we swam with the bottlenose dolphins and one of them came close to me and was really big. E: This morning we got to see some sharks at the Shark Lab. I think they are pretty cool and cute. In the late morning, we got to see a whole lot of spiders on the nature trail and some anoles doing push-ups with their dewlap extended. At the end of the day we got to see some bottlenose dolphins but they seemed more interested in finding food.  Porter: I thought it was really neat that we found bottlenose dolphins instead of spotted dolphins and I was really surprised by how close they came by us. Jack: At the Shark Lab we got to feel a lemon juvenile shark and it felt like sand paper. On the ferry back to North Bimini there were three police men and two had big shotguns. (They were armored vehicle guards visiting the bank.) Athan: Today we swam with bottlenose dolphins and watched them crater feeding. And at the end of the day for dessert, we got candy!  Gabrielle: When we got into the water with the dolphins you could hear them echolocating – it was very cool. Sarah: I loved spending half the morning on the nature trail and seeing spiders including the banana spider.  Alexis: It was really nice to get back in the water with the Bimini dolphins. And, it was pretty cool to see the “nemo-looking” bottlenose because I did not see that one last year.  Gary: I thought that swimming with dolphins the second time was not going to be as exciting as the first time, but I was very wrong. I thought dolphin calves would stay with their moms and then I saw one darting off by itself. And, I learned that both male sharks and male snakes have grasper claspers. John: It was a good overall day – a good cross-section of Bimini. 

The group of dolphins we swam with was 5 or 6 bottlenose dolphins. Several adults, a calf and a few juveniles were all crater feeding. All DRTs entered to swim and get their first taste of data collection. They did well remembering the marks and nicks and cuts on the individual dolphins. Our last dolphin trip is tomorrow afternoon but before that we have a beach cleanup program in the morning. 

Cheers

Kel, Kathleen & the DRTs

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Bimini Museum, Snorkeling and Sting Rays!

Bimini2010_DRT_Day4Our morning began a bit earlier than previous days with breakfast followed by an historic-themed scavenger hunt. We visited the Bimini Museum to learn about Bimini’s history and to find information about the island. It was educational but quite fun. Our afternoon trip was shifted to the south and a voyage to Honeymoon Harbor to swim with sting rays. The sea was a bit rough for a dolphin survey.  

Bill: Today, we went swimming with sting rays and we could feed them and it felt like a vacuum on your fingers.  Stephanie: today we watched the DOLPHINS IMAX movie and I got to see Freckles, my favorite dolphin.  Sam: We went to honeymoon harbor and since I couldn’t get the sting rays to feed out of my hand, I threw the squid into the air to the seagulls who caught the piece of squid. E: It was amazing to see what other animals wanted the squid. When I let go of the squid, everyone was going for it – minnows, seagulls and lots of other fish. We also saw some very colorful wrasses on the way to the boat. Sarah: Today we sat on the bow of the boat and got soaking wet on our way to see stingrays.  Porter: At Honeymoon harbor, I saw a few flounder and it was very funny to see seagulls grab a rock when you offered it up and then they dropped it.  Emily: We went to see the sting rays and there were two really really little ones and I named one sting and one Little Bass. Little Bass would freak out every time I tried to touch him and would swim away.  Liam: I learned that sting rays don’t whip their tails at people and we also found a pair of sunglasses and goggles at the bottom.  Athan: It was really fun to feed to rays and they felt really leathery. And, I found a flamingo’s tongue in its shell.  Becca: We went to honeymoon harbor and got to feed the sting rays and it felt like a big vacuum trying to swallow my hand and there was a giant sting ray and I liked it and it climbed against my legs.  Gabrielle: When we were with the sting rays and if you stood still, they would swim against or through your legs and that was cool. Jack: it was fun to feed the sting rays even though they never actually took any of the food I offered. And I tried to catch some very fat fish and seemed easier to catch than the minnows.  Ben: the sting rays – their eyes looked mean or angry the way their eyes were positioned on their head. I also found a dead sea urchin shell that did not yet get broken.  Alexis: today was a very fun day but the most eventful part of my day was getting in and out of the rocky shoreline behind Kel’s house while wearing flippers and having the surging waves crash against us.  Gary: Lots of scientific documentaries talk about animals that haven’t evolved since millions of years ago, and that’s what I’ll always think of when I see sting rays. They look like prehistoric creatures.  John: I enjoyed seeing the stingrays again!  

The seas flattened out nicely on our return trip from snorkeling with sting rays. And, hopefully the weather will continue to cooperate for tomorrow afternoon’s trip to search for dolphins. After we returned to the dock, we decided to catch a group portrait on the bow of our boat. 

Until tomorrow,

Kel, Kathleen & the DRTs

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Barracuda, sharks and dolphins, oh my!

WE SAW DOLPHINS!!! But first, Monday morning included a mangrove tour that lasted about 2.5 hours. We saw many critters and really enjoyed the animals. The afternoon boat trip brought us dolphins! We spent about 1.5 hours watching the dolphins from the boat. We saw 3 dolphins first (Nemo (#78), Leslie (#80) and an un-ID adult) and then our group size grew to 10 individuals. We did not get to swim with the dolphins as they really just wanted to play with the boat. Below are some comments from the DRTs and chaperones: 

Bill: We went on the mangrove tour and saw a lot of sharks and sting rays. 

Porter: We saw dolphins but we weren’t able to swim with them because they were not interested in us in the water. 

Becca: We saw two giant “spiky starfish” and dolphins. 

Stephanie: While we were sitting on the boat, the water splashed up and got us wet – the boat was passing through choppy waves. 

E: We finally got to see some dolphins and they were a lot smaller than I thought they’d be. And I had a great time in the mangroves seeing the variety of sharks and the sting rays. 

Emily: I saw a dolphin jumping out of the water and lots of fins. 

Ben: We stopped in the middle of the mangroves to swim and the water was really clear – it seemed like you could see forever. 

Sam: We went snorkeling near the mangroves and saw three big starfish and two nurse sharks.

Liam: It was really fun weaving through the mangroves and seeing all the nurse sharks. It was sort of easy to spot Trudy because of her hooked dorsal fin, just because all the dolphins were surfacing near the boat and we saw mostly their fins. 

Jack: On the mangrove tour we saw a barracuda and a pelican flying overhead. We also saw two nurse sharks mating. Even though it was only a few seconds, it was cool to try to identify my dolphin from scars and marks. 

Athan: Today we spotted some spotted dolphins and we saw about 9 at one time. And my favorite was Nemo because of her lucky fin.  

Gabby: We ate dinner on the docks and sort of watched the sun set over the ocean. It was really pretty. It was also really neat to see real dolphins and not just the pictures that we had been studying. We actually got to apply what we had been learning about dolphin IDs and recognize some dolphins.  

Sarah: I was really surprised to see my dolphin, Romeo, for the first time in real life. It was neat also to see this dolphin I had on the trading card – in reality. 

Alexis: It was really nice to get back into the research swing of things and do a lot of the stuff that I got to do last year on the boat like recording data.  

Gary: Our mangrove guide, Strata, is really proud of his three-year old daughter, Marina Sophie, and he told us all about the healing hole in the mangroves. It is kind of a hidden 30ft in diameter deep hole with fresh water and salt water and a smell like rotten eggs. And it’s supposed to have healing properties.  

John: after speeding through the little mangrove rivers, which is like speeding through a tunnel in spots, I got to see my first Ibis, a tropical bird with a big hooked bill.  

We were greeted variously through the dolphin sighting by Romeo (#10), Nemo (#76), White Blotch (#29), Lil Jess (#35), Trudy (#56), Leslie (#80), and un-ID #75 and several others which we could not identify from the surface. Nemo and another adult were exchanging many pec fin rubs! It was a good day and we are all tired and mildly sun-filled!

Until tomorrow,

Kel, Kathleen & the DRTs

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Sun & Surf!

Sunday was a day filled in the water – lots and lots of water. We learned about the boat this morning and how to safely climb to the bow from the stern. We learned how to slip into the water from the boat and then how to pull ourselves back onto the boat. We did lots of snorkeling – from shore and from the boat. 

Jack: Liam, Sam, Athan, E and I all made a song about Bimini on the boat while we were searching for dolphins. (Once we get video, we’ll post to the DCP web site for all to see). 

Emily: when I went snorkeling at Atlantis I saw a “Dori” fish – blue tang.  

Porter: I liked looking around the Atlantis Road while snorkeling. 

Stephanie: although we did not see any dolphins, I still had fun snorkeling from the boat.  

Gabrielle: we saw a ton of tropical fish that we normally see in aquariums.  

Athan: while looking for dolphins we saw a flying fish, and a swimming crab at the surface.  

Becca: we saw lots of fish and some I did not know what they were. We saw sting rays while snorkeling and from the boat. 

Ben: I got sick for part of the ride, but other than that is was good! 

Sarah: while practicing snorkeling we found sea glass and also little fish swam around my feet. 

Liam: there were no dolphins but it looked like there were dolphins because of the white caps in the water. 

Sam: we saw lots of colorful fish when we went snorkeling at the thought to be site of Altantis city 

E: I enjoyed seeing the very big variety of animals – fish – under water. We didn’t see any dolphins but I had lots of fun on the boat. 

Bill: The currents were very strong and harder to swim in than a pool. And I had lots of fun. 

Gary: We started a beautiful day in paradise with a delicious pot of coffee and a beautiful sunrise. And, ended it with an amazing afternoon in water almost bluer than Paul Newman’s eyes. 

Alexis: As a swimmer I was very, very impressed today with how well all the DCP DRTs did with some underwater current and a bit of chop.  

John (chaperone/filmmaker): we were entertained by the foredeck barbershop quintet practicing their new song on the bow of our boat for the DCP DRTs.  

Our afternoon boat trip was a long survey that took us roughly 8 miles from Bimini. We searched but the dolphins had other plans today … Tomorrow brings to us a mangrove tour and another dolphin trip. Our fingers are crossed in hopes that we will see and swim with dolphins. Then we can help with the research! 

Till tomorrow,

Kel, Kathleen & the DCP DRTs

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DRTs Arrive to Bimini!

Bimini2010_DRT2010_Day1Our day began at 3:30 am in Newark, NJ! By 10:45 am, we were waiting to clear Immigration and Customs on Bimini, The Bahamas! The following comments are from our DRT team: 

Ben: it’s a strange place – they do a lot of things differently than us. For example, the main mode of transportation on land is golf carts!  Sarah: We tried conch salad from a conch shack on the beach and the flavors were very good and spicy and tasted really good.  Becca: We swam in the ocean and saw lots of fish and there was an angel fish that seemed to be biting our feet. E: The airplane ride from Ft. Lauderdale to Bimini was like a roller coaster – the only thing he forgot to do was a barrel roll. Athan: At the end of our beach time today, we started a treasure hunt for Bimini silver … and we found some! Liam: The water is really warm but was a bit cloudy today because of the wind that was here the last few days.Jack: We saw Ghana score a goal against the USA on the TV while we ate the conch salad. Porter: I was really surprised at how pleasant the heat was here. (It didn’t feel hot to me.) Sam: The island is beautiful in general and the beach water is so clear you can see to the bottom.Stephanie: I love how the water is so blue and clear. Bill: At the conch salad stand, there were conch shell mountains in the water – all the conch shells from the salad making. Gabrielle: There are lots of little green geckos here inside and out. Emily: I went swimming and we saw lots of baby fish.  

Alexis (Chaperone): In our tour today, it was really interesting to hear a Biminite’s perspective of the history of his island and to see all of the things that have changed since my last visit. Gary (Chaperone): This is the only hotel I have been to where I can see the ocean from my front door and from my back door!  

We finished our day with a tram tour to learn about all the different spots on Bimini, including the location of Hemingway’s cottages, the older buildings and history of the various different spots on the island. Tomorrow will have us snorkeling from the boat and maybe searching for dolphins. Here is a picture of our group on the hotel balcony! 

Stay tuned for more exciting adventures with the DCP DRTs!

Kel, Kathleen & the DRTs

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Another windy day – with dolphins!

Wednesday’s boat trip began with another round of windy weather. The guests opted to have a nice snorkel stop off the beach, where the waters were calm. As headed toward the “dolphin grounds”, we wondered if we would be lucky enough to see dolphins early, yet again…. 

Then, there they were! Another large group was surfing the swells. We counted at least 20 dolphins, but the sea conditions made getting an accurate count difficult. There were many calves in the group and at one point, all the calves were suddenly synchrozing porpoising. It was quite a sight! We weren’t sure if they were “running” from something, but soon they were again by the boat. We confirmed Trudy (#57), Tilly (#87) and un-named #75 and #84 were in the group. 

A big thank you to all of this week’s passengers! Thursday I will prepare for the DRTs Saturday arrival. Stay tuned for daily field reports from the group! 

Until then,

Kel

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Hello Winds!

Bimini2010_T35_sunsetMonday greeted us with a bit of wind, but that didn’t stop us from heading in search of dolphins. We had to stay close to shore and partway through the afternoon, we took a break and the passengers were able to snorkel “The Bimini Road” (aka “Atlantis”). Afterwards, we were able to make one more loop to look for dolphins – and they found us! We got a great show of bowriding and saw Tina (#14) and Tilly (#87), among others, including a very young calf. 

Tuesday morning I spent about 90 minutes talking with this week’s passengers. Although most of the guests speak mainly French, the bilingual participants helped in translation (thank you!). There were lots of great questions and enthusiasm! In the afternoon we headed out again in search of dolphins. The winds were again too strong for a swim, but the dolphins were conveniently close to the island, so we got a great sighting. There were at least 27 individuals in the group and they were busy surfing the swells. Over the course of the day, we saw Romeo (#10), White Blotch (#29), Lil’ Jess (#35), Lone Star (#56), Trudy (#57), Tim (#69), Nemo (#76), un-named #91, #92 (Niecey’s calf) and, I think, #94 (White Blotch’s soon-to-be six year old calf).  The final dolphin trip of the week is tomorrow!

Until then,

Kel

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A strange, squall-y Father’s Day

Bimini2010_T32_WaterSpoutToday’s boat trip was scheduled to depart at 1300; however, the squalls were also apparently scheduled for this time. As we waited for the bad weather to pass, I caught up on brainstorming and document editing. By 1600, we were finally given the go ahead to depart. We headed up the coast of Bimini, curious as to whether or not we would see dolphins before being driven home by the nasty weather.  

We were in luck! We saw dolphins quickly and the group size was well over a dozen. Initially the dolphins were all together, but they abruptly scattered and it seemed they may have been feeding. Over the course of the afternoon, passengers got two swims – one with a quick glimpse of dolphins and one with a bit longer viewing. We saw many calves, a very old, white spotted adult, Tina (#14), un-named #24 and 92 and possibly un-named #89. We also got a good view of a well formed water spout (pictured here). Luckily, there was plenty of room between us and this spectacle! 

Until next time,

Kel

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And a new “dolphin week” begins!

Today marked rare Saturday start for a dolphin week with www.biminiadventures.com. Despite some challenges with delayed luggage, this week’s group was ready for dolphins when we departed the dock shortly before 1600. As we looked out into the distance, searching and searching for dolphins, I suddenly shouted out, seeing dolphins right on our bow! They snuck up on us, but then proceeded to give everyone a great view of themselves as they rode the bow and surfed in the boat’s wake. It was a group of six young dolphins, including Tilly (#87) and un-named #84 and #91. We can’t wait for more dolphins throughout the week! 

Until then,

Kel

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A great end of the week!

Bimini2010_T31_CalfInAirWednesday’s dolphin trip began with a snorkel stop at The Bimini Road (aka Atlantis) – this time, folks explored the section of the stones where fish like to congregate.  Soon we were in the prime zone for seeing Atlantic spotted dolphins. We first saw dolphins at 1630 and watched them for a few minutes before losing sight of them. We had to be patient, but at 1823, we saw more! In this group, we saw Billy (#64), un-named #75 and 6 other adults. Everyone got a quick glimpse under water and we were all pleased have seen the dolphins once again. 

Thursday’s dolphin trip was jam packed! It was the final day of Bill & Nowdla Keefe’s weeklong dolphin trip and it concluded with a bang! We saw at least 16 spotteds, including Romeo (#10), Tina (#14), Lone Star (#56), Trudy (#57), Tim (#69), Nemo (#76), Stefran (#82), un-named #93 (that’s Juliette’s calf) and, I think, Juliette (#12). There were several calves in the group, including this one hurrying to the boat! Everyone got great views under water and we were all smiles back to the dock! A big thanks to everyone who was on the boat this week. I really enjoyed getting to know you all! 

Until next time,

Kel

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Busy day!

Bimini2010_T29_022Tuesday morning began with research for an upcoming DolphinPod episode. Unfortunately, I continually request to reschedule the taping because we’ve had so many dolphin trips! I’ve never been more pleased with an excuse…But, hopefully we’ll have the new episode for you all very soon. 

Next, it was time to have a dolphin chat with a group of dolphin boat passengers. Since I am not joining their daily dolphin trips, it was great to share some of DCP’s work with them – and hear all about their experiences, concerns and appreciation for dolphins and their ocean home. Thank you!

By mid-afternoon it was time to head to the dock and out in search of dolphins. It had been two days since we had seen Bimini’s Atlantic spotteds, so we were all definitely ready for a sighting…We did not have to wait long until we saw a scattered group of bottlenose dolphins. Because of how scattered they were, we observed them from the surface for a bit and then continued in search of others. Soon, there was the tell-tale splash. We headed over and found four spotted dolphins including Tilly (#87) and un-named #91. They were very interested in riding the bow and all of the passengers got a good look. Next, we saw some big splashing in the deep water and wondering if it could be dolphins feeding. We headed that way and realized there were dolphins as far as the eye could see! A conservative estimate is that there were at least 40 dolphins scattered throughout the general area. We had some underwater observations, including one over the wall (aka in very deep water), but then we chose to observe from the boat to be sure that we were not interrupting their feeding. Once the dolphins were done feeding, they ventured into shallower water and we were able to again see them under water! Over the course of the day, we saw Buster (#04), Romeo (#10), Lumpy (#14), Split Jaw (#22, pictured here), White Blotch (#29), Lil’ Jess (#35), Swoosh (#36 – and calf?), Billy (#64), Tim (#69), un-named #24 and 75 and possibly Freckles (#15), un-named #85 and White Blotch’s 2004 calf, #94. I’ll need to review photos to be sure. As you can see, it was a busy day! 

Another dolphin trip tomorrow!

Kel

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Oh, hello bottlenose

Bimini2010_T28_Tt14Monday began with sunshine, flat seas and hot temperatures. We headed to “The Bimini Road” (aka “Atlantis”) for a quick snorkel stop. The boat passengers were mixed in their opinions – is the formation natural? Were the stones placed there by humans? Are these stones part of the lost city of Atlantis? Come to Bimini and decide for yourself! 

Soon after our snorkel stop, we saw two bottlenose dolphins, including Tt#14, pictured here. The dolphins were on the move and not interested in the boat, so after we all got a good look, we continued on our way. Although not all of today’s passengers will be with us for the rest of the week, we’re looking forward to the trips! So, stay tuned! 

Until next time,

Kel

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Slightly choppy seas, but great dolphins

Bimini2010_T25_CalfSilThe wind had picked up slightly for Saturday’s dolphin trip, but it still great conditions for finding dolphins. I departed for the trip without the MVA, but was then invited to observe the dolphins under water while the film crew was working. So, it turned into a rare opportunity for me to personally collect some still photographs. Video and acoustic data are the priority, but still photographs can go a long way to supplementing our digital photo-ID catalog. There are quite a few photographs of adults that I will have to try to match to a catalogued animal. In total, there were 10 dolphins, including Buster (#04) and Trudy (#57). There were also two calves in the group, pictured here.  

A new “dolphin week” with Bill & Nowdla starts tomorrow. Can’t wait to meet the new passengers! 

Until then,

Kel

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Oh, where or where did the dolphins go?

On Friday, we left the dock at our usual time and went to our usual spots, but unfortunately, it was one of those days when we did not see dolphins. This was not for lack of trying! Our curiosity is always peaked on these days, wondering where the dolphins are and what they are doing. Thankfully the family on the boat, although disappointed, had a great attitude. Thank you for your great conversation during what turned out to be a nice boat ride! 

Until tomorrow,

Kel

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Just in time for a dolphin trip!

Bimini2010_T24_SfC3I returned to Bimini early Thursday afternoon just in time for a dolphin trip. This was a private charter with Nowdla Keefe by an Animal Planet (Discovery Channel) film crew. It meant that I would not be able to record video and acoustic data with DCP’s MVA, but it was still a chance to see which dolphins, how many were observed as well as where, when and for how long. We first saw a skittish group of five Atlantic spotteds, including Juliette’s calf, un-named #93. Although #93 was interested in riding the bow of the boat, the others repeatedly changed direction and seemed quite unsettled. We decided to leave this group and go in search of others.

Just moments later there were between three and five bottlenose dolphins. The film crew actually observed them “fishing” out a trumpet fish from within a gorgonian! It appeared to be playing with it, but we’re not sure if it ate it. Very cool! After the bottlenose dolphins left, we continued on as well. We were lucky enough to see even more spotted dolphins – this time a group of at least 30 individuals! That is about on par with the largest group size ever observed here, although we try to be conservative in our count estimates. The majority of the dolphins did not stay near the boat, but we were able to see Romeo (#10), Tina (#14), Lil’ Jess (#35), Swoosh (#36), Trudy (#57), Nemo (#76), Tilly (#87), un-named #75 and 84. Tilly’s injuries continue to heal nicely and the film crew got lots of footage. The dolphins were quite active at the surface, including this young juvenile who decided to get some air! 

If the weather cooperates, Thursday’s boat trip marks the first in a series of 8 dolphin trips in a row. So, stayed tuned for lots of field reports! 

Until next time,

Kel

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Bottlenose, spotteds and….squalls

Bimini2010_T23_TtWe left the dock today at 1540 with high hopes of finding dolphins. Soon we were in the “dolphin grounds” and there they were….a group of at least 5 bottlenose dolphins. Included in the group is the dolphin pictured here – we need to compare the shape of and nicks in the dorsal fin, but at first glance we suspect this is a “new” animal! It is possible, of course, that it is an already cataloged individual who has new nicks. We were unfortunately dealing with some added boat traffic in the area. Rather than crowd the dolphins, we headed in search of others.  

As we kept our eyes on the developing squalls, we saw splashes. And the splashes were not dolphins. Sigh. But, soon there were dolphins! Six young Atlantic spotted dolphins were soon near the boat, including Tilly (#87), un-named #91 and four other young dolphins. They were briefly interested in the boat, but then became too scattered to observe the group under water. Although we tried to find another group of dolphins, the approaching squalls meant it was time to get back to shore. A big thanks to www.biminiadventures.com for another great day in search of dolphins! 

More tomorrow,

Kel & Tara

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Dolphins, dolphins, where are you?....Oh, there you are!

Bimini2010_T22_ID084On Monday’s trip we had high hopes of seeing the dolphins, but unfortunately they didn’t seem to want to be found! On Wednesday we were certain that we would see them. We left the dock around 1530 and looked and looked for them. We saw a few fake-out splashes, but finally we found them! At first we only saw one Atlantic spotted dolphin, which is very unusual, so we were confident there were more in the area. Sure enough, once we starting searching, we saw scattered dolphins all around! It looked like they were feeding and we were not close enough to identify individuals. But, then a group of three calves came by the boat. They were soon joined by un-named #84 and Tilly #87. The calves put on quite a show with their leaping! Then we were able to have a 10 minute swim with them. In this picture, you can see un-named #84 taking a breath. All in all, it was a great day! 

Until tomorrow,

Kel & Tara

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Mixed Species Day!

Bimini 2010_T20_ID69On Wednesday, the conditions were perfect in Bimini for an unexpected dolphin trip. The water was so calm and glassy; we could see cushion stars on the sea floor as we passed by! We searched for the dolphins for awhile and finally we saw them! At first we saw a handful of bottlenose dolphins, but they were clearly just passing through. The next group, however, was made up of 13 dolphins and there was a mix of bottlenose and spotted with the majority of them being males (or should we say, all those we were able to confirm were male). The dolphins, particularly the spotteds, appeared to be very interested in the SCUBA divers and their cameras, and the SCUBA divers seemed pleased with the footage they were able to record. So far, we have been able to confirm that bottlenose ID#06 was there, along with spotted dolphins Split Jaw (#22), Prince William (aka Billy, #64), Tim (#69, pictured here) and Speedy (#78). Overall it was a great day!  

Memorial Day weekend is a big weekend here in Bimini for US tourists. We’ll see if that equals dolphin trips for us! 

Until then,

Kel & Tara

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More dolphins!

Bimini2010_T19At 1500 it was time for another unexpected dolphin trip – no complaints here! Today’s trip was with two filmmakers, so it was set up to be my first observation of the dolphins with SCUBA divers. The seas were very calm, but we still couldn’t help but wonder if the dolphins would be a no show. Then…we saw them. Then…we didn’t. We waited for a few minutes and sure enough, there they were. It was a large group with at least 6 spotteds and 4 bottlenose. They were definitely more into each other than us or the boat though, so we headed in search of others. Closer the island we saw a leaping calf and distant (presumed) mother. We followed them for a bit and soon we could see at least 10 dolphins, including un-named #43 (and calf) and #91. The dolphins gave a nice show to the videographers and even I was able to get some nice photos! Many were of calves though, so the photo-ID use will be limited. All in all, another great day! 

Until next time,

Kel

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Office Morning, Boat Afternoon

Today began with emails and website and manuscript reviews. It was very productive, but was interrupted by a surprise dolphin trip – oh, darn! We left the harbor soon after 1600 and kept our eyes on the sea, looking for that telltale splash or dorsal fin breaking the surface. We were not disappointed and saw several different groups of dolphins. They were fairly scattered and some appeared to be playing while others were feeding. We had a very nice 15 minute swim with three youngsters, including Niecey’s calf (#92). It is looking more and more like #92 is independent from mom! From the boat, we think we saw Niecey (#48), but we definitely saw Romeo (#10), Lil’ Jess (#35), Tilly (#87) and un-named #84. There were two very young calves that gave all the boat passengers a great show, swimming and leaping all about! It was a great afternoon! 

Until next time,

Kel

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Final Day

Bimini2010_T17_Tt06Thursday was the final full day of the 2010 Bimini Eco-Tour. We began with our usual morning meeting, reviewing photos and videos from the day before, discussing hot dolphin topics and chatting about all types of other things – including the great new bakery in Alice Town! Everyone had a few hours free to eat lunch, explore, swim at the beach, anything. Around 1515, our dolphin boat arrived (thank you Bill, Nowdla & the rest of the Wild Dolphin Adventures crew!) and we were headed out. We stopped for a snorkel at the “Bimini Road” (aka “Atlantis”) and enjoyed a swim after Bill’s great background information. Soon, it was time to search for dolphins… 

The dolphins seemed to have spoiled us during the previous two dolphin trips, and at 1800, we found ourselves wondering where they were! Of course, it is quite normal to not see dolphins until the later part of the trip so we stayed patient. And, we were again delighted to see them! Initially we saw what appeared to be another mother/calf group, with some juveniles mixed in. Later we saw a large group that appeared to be mating and we got a glimpse at bottlenose dolphins in the mix! Bottlenose ID#06 was one of those present (pictured here); this marks the fourth year we have seen this dolphin off Bimini (’06, ’07, ’08, ’10). Although our underwater observation was shorter today, it was great seeing so many dolphins. Included in the group were: Tina (#14), Lone Star (#56), Trudy (#57) and un-named#75 and #93. ID#93 is Juliette’s (#12) baby, so it was quite likely that Juliette was in there as well. Kel also thinks she saw Lil’ Jess (#35) and un-named #86. ID#86 is currently waiting for a name! Click here for details. 

We said goodbye to the boat crew and passengers once we were back to the dock. Then we met for a nice farewell dinner. A big, big, big thanks to our 2010 eco-tour participants. Your enthusiasm, interest and support of DCP’s work are greatly appreciated! 

Until next trip,

Kel, Tara & the eco-tour guests

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Rain? Who cares, we have dolphins!

Wednesday morning we reviewed photos and videos from yesterday’s trip and chatted about dolphins. Two of us opted to take a mangrove tour, which included a visit to Bimini’s “Healing Hole,” a natural sulfur spring located within the mangroves. It was nice to see the “other” side of Bimini! On the boat, we headed straight in search of dolphins. We were not disappointed as we found a mother/calf group very quickly! Some of the same dolphins were there as we saw on Tuesday, including Niecey (#48 – with calf?) and un-ID #91. We observed some great bow riding (7 dolphins at once!) before hopping in the water for an underwater encounter. The dolphins seemed slightly calmer than yesterday, but still full of energy. The young juveniles and calves were most interested in checking out the silly humans and enjoyed the interaction. Once we were back onboard, the crew determined that we needed to head back to the island, as there were a good number of thunderstorms in the area. A big thanks to the dolphins for visiting us so early! 

Tomorrow will be the last dolphin trip of the week! 

Until then,

Kel, Tara & the eco-tour guests

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Dolphins, Dolphins, Everywhere!

Bimini2010_T15_057Unfortunately, we experienced the disappointment of no dolphins on Monday’s dolphin trip. The seas were much calmer, however, so at least it made for a nice boat ride! With optomistic spirits, we headed out into even calmer seas on Tuesday… 

After a nice snorkel stop at “3 Sisters”, we continued our search. We were not disappointed as we found a mother/calf group very early! At first, there were 4 mother/calf pairs (all Atlantic spotted dolphins), but the group size grew to at least 14 individuals! Plus, we could see even more dolphins in the distance. We had a few great swims with very energetic young dolphins. There was lots of fast circle swimming, synchronized ascents and descents, sand rubbing and surfing. Everyone got a great view and some people were even able to try “towing” whereby passengers hang onto a rope behind the boat – which is only going 1-2 knots. But, this extra speed seems to interest the dolphins and folks got some very close eyeball-to-eyeball action! 

By the end of the day we had seen Romeo (#10), Lil’ Jess (#35), Niecey (#48 – with a new calf?) Trudy (pictured here,#57 – also with a calf?), Nemo (#76), Leslie (#80) and un-named #91 and #92. We have two more dolphin trips this week; we hope we are as lucky as we were today! 

Until then,

Kel, Tara & the eco-tour group

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Welcome Eco-Tour Participants!

Bimini2010_T13_029Sunday was Day 1 of DCP’s 2010 Bimini eco-tour! Our three participants arrived safely and after orientation, we were headed in search of dolphins with Bill & Nowdla Keefe! Unfortunately, the seas were on the rough side, but we have high hopes that things will calm down over the course of the week. Our first stop was “Rainbow Reef” and a chance for everyone to practice with their snorkel gear and getting on and off the boat. Everyone did fantastically! 

We ventured into the “dolphin grounds” although we knew we might not be able to stray too far. We got a glimpse of a single bottlenose dolphin to warm up and before long, we were watching White Blotch (#29), Trudy (#57), a young juvenile and a calf surfing the waves! After observing the group from the boat, it was time for folks to try the water! Everyone got a great view of the dolphin group as they continued to surf and check out all the humans. We look forward to seeing the photographs! 

Another trip tomorrow!

Kel, Tara & the eco-tour group!

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Welcome Tara & Hello Bottlenose!

Bimini2010_T12_TtmomandcalfOn Wednesday, Tara arrived in Bimini. She’ll be helping out at the field site for the next month or so. We spent the day completing orientation – where to go, what to do and testing out snorkeling equipment. We’re so glad to have her! 

Thursday was hot, but quite windy in Bimini. But, we were lucky enough to join an unexpected dolphin trip (www.biminiadventures.com). Thankfully the wind did not seem to bother the dolphins at all! Not too far from shore, we spotted a couple of bottlenose dolphins. After disappearing for a couple minutes, a whole group of them appeared! Most of them were seen surfing, and some put on an entertaining aerial show. One mother was also seen swimming with her calf (pictured here) and passengers reported seeing as many as three calves underwater while we stayed on the boat collecting surface photographs and observations. Later in the trip, we saw a group of offshore (aka oceanic) bottlenose dolphins, which are larger and darker than their coastal counterpart. Unfortunately, these dolphins did not surface very often, so we’ll need to review our photos to see if we caught any on “film.” Overall, the trip was filled with dolphins, and everyone enjoyed their trip! 

Until next time,

Kel & Tara

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Flat seas!

Bimini2010_T11_056Wow. Saturday was HOT. But hot in Bimini usually means calm seas and today it was definitely calm! It felt like we could see forever... 

The dolphins, unfortunately were nowhere to be seen. We looked and we looked. And we looked some more. Then – splashes. Big splashes. Lots of splashes. Sure enough, it was dolphins! The group of Atlantic spotted dolphins was scattered, but relatively large with at least 15 individuals in the area. There were lots of bait fish and sea birds, but the dolphins did not seem interested in the small fish. We did see them chasing a couple of mackerel though! From the boat, we were able to see Buster (#04), Cerra (#38) Lone Star (#56 – pictured here), Tim (#69), un-named #75 and quite a few calves. What a fantastic day! Thanks to everyone onboard for their enthusiasm! 

Until next time,

Kel

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Goodbye UNB ;-(

Bimini2010_T10_TtLPGFriday morning began with a farewell to the UNB Squad. So, everyone reading is stuck with me again! It was a great week with the students – I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did! 

It was a quick turnaround as I joined another dolphin trip (www.biminiadventures.com). The sun was shining and the heat was up, but everyone was excited to see some dolphins! We were not disappointed and saw several different groups throughout the afternoon. When all was said and done, we saw Romeo (#10), Split Jaw (#22), Cerra (#38) – with male calf? - Billy (#64), Stefran (#82), Juliette’s un-named calf, #93, un-named #84 and #91 as well as several other dolphins I was not able to ID from the boat. The passengers all got a good look under water too! 

 

 

 

As we got ready to head back toward Bimini, a small group of bottlenose dolphins passed through. They gave us quite the aerial show (pictured here) as we drove off! 

Another trip tomorrow,

Kel

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Bonus Bottlenose

Bimini2010_6MayUNBWe departed the dock on Thursday at 930 to head to “Honeymoon Harbor” to feed and observe some southern stingrays. Immediately out of the harbor, we saw bottlenose dolphins! There appeared to be at least 36 in the group – very large for Bimini. We’ll work toward confirming this number when we look at the photographs. They were traveling north so we observed them as they passed by. We observed two fluke slaps and some porpoising. It was cool to see the other Bimini species!  

When we reached honeymoon harbor, we saw a group of at least 10 eagle rays. They stuck around the general area the whole time we were there. Then, it was time to feed the stingrays squid. We stood shallow water right off the beach and the rays came right towards us, rubbing up against us – some more than others. There were at least six stingrays in the area, possibly more; the sizes ranged, but one was very large and two were quite small. We also saw a barracuda and bonefish.  

We returned to North Bimini at 1347 to discover we had no electricity. We prepared ourselves for a hot afternoon and then, luckily, it returned. This afternoon we’ll work a bit more on photo-ID before our final group BBQ. 

Thanks for following!

UNB Squad

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Final Farewell, Eh?

Bimini2010_T9_87We began our Wednesday discussing eco-tourism – the meaning of it as well as the pros and cons. We then did some more photo-ID on the previous day’s adventure. We confirmed the presence of Finn (#09), Romeo (#10), Lil’ Jess (#35), Tim (#69) and ID#92, as well as one other un-catalogued calf. After lunch we reviewed our video data from 2 and 4 May that involved lots of water – and dolphins. We identified Leslie (#80) from the video, which was not captured in any of the still photographs.  

We left the dock at 15:29. We saw our first 3 dolphins at 17:11. Tilly (# 87), un-named #84 and a young juvenile male. The three dolphins were continuously bowriding and had some synchronized breathing. The first group of people went into the water at 1721. They observed pec fin rubbing, chasing, barrel rolls, slight vocalizations and belly-up swimming. At 1730 the remainder of the students joined the swim as it was our last day to observe the dolphins under water. The encounter ended at 1745. We followed the dolphins into a larger group – totaling 6 dolphins – at 1755. Everyone who wanted a final swim with the dolphins entered the water at 1803. We saw Tim (#69), Swoosh (#36), un-named #84, Tilly (#87), the young juvenile and an un-ID individual. We were able to confirm that the young dolphin with the major injury to the dorsal fin is in fact Tilly (pictured here). The injury is very severe, but it appears to be healing very well. Based on the size of the bite, we suspected a tiger shark. However, closer examination of the teeth marks suggests a bull shark. We witnessed the similar behaviors as previous observations as well as bubble bursts, crater feeding and playing with seaweed. The encountered ended at 1812 and we returned to the dock at 2006.  

We finished the day with part 2 of last night’s movie. This section continued the discussion of emotions in humans and non-human animals. We’re done with dolphin trips for the week, but we are looking forward to our final day on Bimini tomorrow! 

Until tomorrow,

UNB Squad

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An eventful day!

Bimini2010_T8_ID035We began Tuesday with a discussion of last night’s movie and the concept of “play.” We moved onto a talk about the senses of dolphin senses. Some videos were shown illustrating different behaviors of several dolphin species. Our long lost, fellow classmate arrived just in time for some more photo-ID. We were able to confirm that Tim (ID#69) was present during Sunday’s observations.   

We left the dock at 1529. On our way out of the harbor, some of us spotted an eagle ray cruising north. At 1704 we had our first sighting of six Atlantic spotted dolphins. The group size gradually increased to 12. The first group of students (+Kel) entered the water at 1713. The dolphins were in a playful mood engaging in different behaviors such as chasing, pec rubbing, leaping and corkscrewing. A nurse shark was spotted moving along the bottom. The encounter ended at 1729. The group got in the water at 1739, but the dolphins were not in sight so the group returned to the boat without any observations. The same group of humans re-entered the water at 1752 when another group of dolphins (including 2 older calves/young juvenile and adults) were coming and going. The 2 youngsters were practicing making a bait ball in which they consistently surrounding the school of fish and took turns diving into the ball. With the dolphins not actually feeding on the fish, this behavior could be taking as a “practice round” in an attempt to develop better foraging abilities. The humans returned to the boat at 1814.  

More students entered the water 1825 with a different group of dolphins (more spotteds). There was synchronized movement, surfing, fluke slapping, sand rubbing, crater feeding and more – including quite a bit of defecation. Also to note, there was a lot of vocalization and echolocation. This encountered ended at 1846. Back on the boat, the dolphins were still close by, bowriding. While observing this, we noticed one of the younger dolphins had a serious injury in which the top of the dorsal fin was, well, missing. The sighting ended at 1853. At the end of the sightings, Finn (#09), Romeo (#10), Lil' Jess (#35) and White Blotch (#29) were positively ID’s. We returned to the dock at 2017, some of us with “war wounds” from the various stinging organisms! 

Until tomorrow,

UNB Squad

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Dolphins Wanted

Bimini2010_T6_029We began Monday learning about sampling methods for observing behavior and discussed how dolphins use sound to communicate in their ocean environment. We learned the role of their melon and air sacks for making sound and using echolocation. We then moved onto photo-ID of the photographs we took yesterday. We were able to confirm the following IDs: Romeo (#10), White Blotch (#29), Lil'Jess (#35), Nemo (#76), Speedy (#78), un-named #92 (#48’s calf) and possibly ID#71. White Blotch is pictured here with 2 young dolphins in the background.

 We departed the dock at 1527. At 1604, our captain saw another turtle! We covered our entire study area, heading as far north as our survey area goes. Unfortunately we did not see any dolphins. Our captain did saw a big splash at 1658, but it was far in the distance. By the time we reached the area, there were no dolphins to be found.

We returned to the dock at 1955. After our BBQ dinner, we watched half of the film, “Why dogs smile and chimpanzees cry.” It focused on the importance of the mother-offspring bond and play behavior. We are optimistic about seeing more dolphins on our next survey! Especially because our final student (who was delayed) will join us! 

Until then,

UNB Squad

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An awesome day!

Bimini 2010_mantaWe kicked butt (over last year’s group!) during our morning Photo-ID practice session. We left the dock at 1411, heading out to the same snorkeling site as yesterday. Leaving the harbor we saw a mystery shark (bull?) and a manta ray! It was a dark manta, lacking the light coloration on its ventral side. These types are not generally seen around Bimini. While we were snorkeling, we found a stingray buried beneath the sand. We left the area to go look for dolphins and our captain saw a turtle – but it dove down before we had a chance to see it.  

At 1644, we saw our first two spotted dolphins. More joined the group until there were 12 in total. In this group there were at least three calves.  The following individuals were observed: Romeo (#10), Lil’ Jess (#35), Tim (#69), un-named #75, Nemo (#76), Speedy (#78), un-named #91, and un-named #92 (Neicey - #48’s calf) – and perhaps we will ID even more when we review photographs. The dolphins were bowriding and a big scattered. We saw something larger in the water, but it was not a bottlenose dolphin – it was a tiger shark! The shark was at least 10 feet long and was swimming slowly at the surface. Once we lost sight of the shark, we turned our attention once again to the dolphins – which were still in the area. 

We saw pectoral fin rubbing, belly to belly swimming/rubbing, synchronized breathing, breaching, corkscrewing, leaping – and even some successive fluke slapping from one calves. The first team entered the water with still cameras and got a quick, but close view of one of the calves. The second team observed the dolphins at the sea floor – it looked like they were crater feeding, but we did not see what type of fish they were after. During the third water entry, 4 students + Kel entered, but another 4 were able to join as the dolphins stayed in view a bit longer. We could hear their clicks under water and some were rubbing their bodies in the sand. There was more crater feeding and pec fin rubbing. We think that Romeo (#10) is pregnant (!) and we noticed lots of small nicks in different dorsal fins, pec fins and flukes. At the very end of our encounter, we saw a nurse shark at the bottom...then we were back on the boat. We returned to the dock at 1944.  

Until tomorrow,

UNB Squad

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First dolphin sighting of the week!

Saturday was Day 1 of the 2010 Field Course with University of New Brunswick! Half of the group arrived around 900, as they only had to travel from the “Shark Lab” on South Bimini, having just completed a course there. The rest of the group arrived later in the morning from Florida. We’re all looking forward to a great week! 

We left the dock shortly after 1400 with a boatload of enthusiastic Canadian students with various skin tones, ranging from pale white to bright pink – or a combination of both! After a 40 minute boat ride, we stopped to snorkel at “Atlantis” (aka the Bimini Road). The general consensus is that the formation is a rock formation...and likely nothing more (our boat captain is holding out for the alien hypothesis). The current was strong, but everyone (even the first timers) did well. We saw barracuda, parrot fish, puffer fish, trumpet fish and a sting ray. As we continued into the “dolphin grounds,” the sea conditions became a bit rougher. At 1637 we saw our first dolphins. It was a group of 2 adult (class 5) Atlantic spotted dolphins. We think that ID#75 may have been there, but the dolphins did not come close enough confirm. One adult had many white spots; the other was fully fused, but was darker. We saw pectoral fin rubbing (reciprocal!), synchronized breathing, barrel rolls and a little bit of surfing. From the boat we watched as they went all the way to the bottom, disturbing the sand and creating a big dust cloud – could they have been crater feeding? At first they approached the boat, but afterwards they showed no interest in our presence. When we lost sight of them for good (at 1658), we went in search for others. Unfortunately we did not see any other dolphins for the remainder of the trip, but we did see flying fish (counted 23)! 

We returned to the dock at 1938. After cleaning up we met for dinner. Following dinner, we watched the movie, DOLPHINS. We learned a bit more about their communication, their intelligence and some feeding behavior. Then it was off to bed – we have another busy day ahead of us. 

Until next time,

UNB Squad

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Well, hello adult spotted dolphins...

Bimini2010_T4_SfGroupFriday’s dolphin trip was filled with enthusiastic passengers. We left the harbor shortly before 1600 with Bill & Nowdla Keefe. This winter has been particularly windy, so we were eager to be on the boat in calm seas! Our first sighting was of 3 – 4 bottlenose dolphins. The group was traveling and showed no interest in the boat. So, after a quick glimpse, we continued in search of more dolphins. We were not disappointed as only minutes later there was a group of Atlantic spotted dolphins! At first there were 7 adult dolphins and they were soon joined by a large bottlenose dolphin. We were able to get a quick glimpse of the group underwater, but they were more interested in themselves than us! We continued to enjoy the show from the boat as the group size grew to ten animals – all adults who were involved in a busy mating ball. Un-named ID#24 was in the group, and I suspect Lumpy (#17) was there too. The passengers got another underwater look while I stayed aboard the boat for surface photographs – like this one here! 

We’re gearing up for the busy dolphin trip season, so field reports will be coming through more regularly! 

Until then,

Kel

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A spring dolphin trip

I was very excited to head out on Saturday’s dolphin trip with Nowdla Keefe as it had been quite awhile since I’d been out. It was a bit windier than the forecast had called for, but the boat was full of guests eager to see dolphins. The harbor was very busy because of Easter weekend and we were soon headed to the “dolphin grounds.” As often happens, the guests were beginning to lose hope and then....there were dolphins! At first we saw 2 adult Atlantic spotted dolphins. Because of the swells I was unable to identify them, but one may have been Buster (#04). The two were not interacting with each other very much and had little interest in us humans. So, we decided to look for more dolphins. We were not disappointed...

Soon we were watching 4 different spotted dolphins – two adults (including Stefran #82) and two calves. They were surfing the swells and the bow, and gave everyone a good look once the passengers were in the water. The group grew to at least 10 animals, including Lil' Jess (#35) and there appeared to be some mating behavior, which distracted the dolphins from us. But, everyone had a good time! We weren’t done with dolphins yet though. Back on the boat we continued to watch the dolphins and suddenly a single bottlenose dolphin passed through! It was great to show the guests the difference between the two species commonly found off Bimini. We got a quick glimpse of two more spotted dolphins on the way home....

As summer approaches, we’ll have many more “dolphin trips” here at our Bimini, Bahamas field site. So, be sure to stay tuned!

Cheers,
Kel

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Spotted, bottlenose and a shark – oh, my!

BIM2010_TrudyandcalfToday’s winter dolphin trip was spectacular. Nowdla Keefe had small group of passengers and everyone was thrilled that the sun was shining and the seas were calm. On the way out of the harbor we passed a shark, but our thoughts were on dolphins. We were busy early as a small group of bottlenose dolphins appeared to be feeding. They had no interest in the boat, so after everyone got a good look (and I got some ID shots) we headed in search of spotteds. We were not disappointed! It was a special day as we were able to observe a group of eight dolphins – 4 moms and 4 calves. Trudy (#57, pictured here) and Stefran (#82) appeared to have the older two calves, while Lone Star (#56) and a mystery adult had particularly young babies. We watched them from the boat and eased our way into the water. At first the calves seemed quite eager to check us out and then we got to see the moms. During our second water entry, they had paired up and were slowly swimming toward the sea floor. 

On the way home we got to check out a good sized shark (tiger?) from the safety of the boat and a bonus look at bottlenose dolphins again. We couldn’t have asked for a better day! 

Until next time,

Kel

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A beautiful winter day in Bimini!

Bimini2010_T1Today was the first dolphin trip of 2010 and it was a fantastic day. Bill & Nowdla had a small, but excited group of passengers and we were all ready to see the dolphins. The seas were flat, the sun was shining and it wasn’t long before Nowdla spotted them – the spotted dolphins, that is! The boat headed toward them and we soon saw Lil’ Jess (#35), White Blotch (#29) and White Blotch’s calf, ID#94. The length of their bond is definitely on the long side of average; #94 is now 5 ½ years old and still hanging close with mom! White Blotch did not show any signs of being pregnant again yet either. There was a fourth adult spotted in the group, but even though I got a close look at it, I couldn’t readily identify it. Hopefully I’ll know once I review the video. During the trip we had two great underwater encounters – the dolphins came very close, especially Lil’ Jess and #94, who are pictured here (Lil' Jess is closest to the camera). In between our swims everyone also got a great show while the dolphins rode the bow of the boat. What a day! 

Until next time,

Kel

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Welcome bottlenose ID#38!

Bimini09_T66_Tt38New Year’s Day was spent sorting through photographs from the past week’s dolphin trips. I am thrilled to start the new year with a new bottlenose dolphin! Welcome Tt38! The Tt in the ID code stands for Tursiops truncatus, the Latin (aka scientific) name for bottlenose dolphins. This allows us to immediately reference the species – so we don’t confuse Tt38 with Atlantic spotted dolphin #38 (“Cerra”). Tt38 was seen in a spotted dolphin group, however there did not appear to be too much direct interaction. 

 

I hope we see more of Tt38 in 2010! -Kel

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Surprise New Year’s Eve Dolphins!

Bimini 2009 Trip66 SfThe wind forecast was no-good for a dolphin trip, so I really did think that yesterday’s trip was the last of 2009. But, Mother Nature surprised us and we had a New Year’s Eve dolphin trip! The seas were calm and the passengers excited (especially those with birthdays!). We headed out, keeping our eyes open. Then, we saw it. Well, we saw them. Bottlenose dolphins coming right at us! We soon realized that the dolphins were scattered all about. While this made it difficult to focus on any one group, it made the trip very exciting! The dolphins weren’t overly interested in the boat, so we decided to investigate a big splash just to the north. It turned out to be a spotted dolphin adult, juvenile and calf – and a bottlenose dolphin. After observing them from the boat, everyone put on their wetsuits and hopped in the water. I can’t wait to review the video. I really hope that visibility is good enough for me to identify the older juvenile spotted because I really did not recognize who it was! Could it be a new Bimini 2009 NYeve blue moondolphin or, more likely, one who developed new spots this fall and I didn’t recognize at first? 

The rest of the day included observing more bottlenose from the boat and a second group of 5 spotteds. One of these spotted dolphins had so many white spots it may have been the oldest spotted dolphin I have ever seen! I have lots of photographs of both species to sort through, including the adult spotted dolphin pictured above. Our trip went past sunset, which is not normal, but it meant we got to watch the New Year’s Eve blue moon rise! 

I hope that 2010 is as good as 2009. Happy New Year to everyone!  

Thanks for following,

Kel

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Final bottlenose sighting of 2009?

BiminiDec09_Tt18It was a slightly choppy day in the dolphin grounds, but the sun was shining! We didn’t get a chance to see any spotted dolphins, but we did four bottlenose dolphins! They were surfing the swells and it even looked like they might have been pursuing some small fish. If that was the case, it may be the first time I have ever seen bottlenose dolphins feeding in any way other than bottom grubbing (aka crater feeding).

 

I think I’ll be able to ID at least three of the four individuals, including Tt#18, seen here. 

The winds are forecasted to pick up from tomorrow and stay up into the weekend. So, it looks like today may have been the final dolphin trip of 2009. Thank you to everyone who made 2009 a great year! 

Until next year,

Kel

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Merry Christmas, No Dolphins

I was thrilled to see calm seas for today’s dolphin trip! Too many weeks passed without a dolphin trip! Bill & Nowdla had a great boat full of excited passengers and all eyes were scanning the sea. Unfortunately, there were no dolphins to be found. We did enjoy a close-up of a large loggerhead turtle as “he” rested at the surface though. Our fingers are crossed for more calm weather this – and hopes are high for more dolphin trips. 

Until next time,

Kel

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Bottlenose Neonate? Check!

Bimini 2009 5 Oct Tt Neonate 

I spent my day off on the boat. I didn’t mean to see dolphins, but there they were! It was a large group of bottlenose dolphins. They were fairly scattered and traveling slowing. We quickly noticed that there was a tight smaller group. As I began capturing ID photographs, I noticed not just a bottlenose calf, but a neonate (right, photo)! A neonate is a newborn dolphin. They are recognized by “fetal folds,” which are basically wrinkles from having been folded up in utero. This is the first time I have seen a neonate bottlenose dolphin in the wild! The wrinkles will stretch out as the calf grows in the first few weeks of life. The youngster was closely flanked by two different adults, so I cannot tell who the mother is, but it was an exciting day in Bimini!

 -Kel
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Back to Bimini....Back on the Boat

Bimini 2009 T62_C5 seaweedAfter some time away, I returned to Bimini just in time for a dolphin trip. Unfortunately, there wasn’t time to prepare the MVA, but I took advantage of the chance to take some still photographs for our ID catalog. A group of 7-8 Atlantic spotted dolphins were soon seen just off the bow! In this group were Swoosh (#36), un-named #25 and this as-of-yet un-ID’d adult, all with what appeared to be their own calves. Un-named #91 was also in the group and all of the dolphins were playing each other and the plentiful seaweed.  

 

 

On the way home we also got a chance to watch White Blotch (#29), her older calf (#94) and an un-ID’d adult ride the bow for 6 minutes. There is another trip tomorrow; I can’t wait! 

Until then,

Kel

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Wow.

Bimini2009 ID078 T61Sunday’s dolphin trip was, well, incredible. The seas were flat clam and the water was crystal clear – well, except for what looked like jellyfish post-blender. We headed out on the early side (14:21) and by 14:58 we had at least 25 dolphins in our sights. They were on the move, but I was able to ID Romeo (#10), White Blotch (#29), Lil’ Jess (#35), Lone Star (#56), Billy (#64), and un-named #78. Here, you can see #78 making sure he’s noticed! We were in and out of the water throughout the day, but during the longest underwater encounter I recorded lots of un-named #84 and two other very young juveniles, all female. Back on the boat, I also saw Finn (#09, once again with Romeo) and un-named #17, 24 and 75. Soon there were bottlenose in the group and I spotted Nemo (#76) playfully biting at a bottlenose dolphin’s peduncle! A group about 10 spotted dolphin broke away from the mixed-species group, including Niecey (#48), her calf (#92) and again, un-named #24 and 75. 

With the busy season basically over, this trip was a great way to end the main research season. Now I’ll catch up on data processing, prepare for the October Biennial Conference on Marine Mammalogy and hope for sporadic dolphin trips to learn more about what the animals are doing in DCP’s off-season. 

If you are looking for a way to support DCP, check out our name-a-dolphin program – un-named #78 (pictured here) needs a name! Looking for something more hands-on? Join me in Bimini in May 2010! Click here for more details.  

Thanks to everyone who has been following our research in Bimini! And, as always, a HUGE thank you to the boat operators in Bimini, without whom we would not be able to complete our research. Thank you to Bill & Nowdla Keefe's Bimini Undersea and Al Sweeting Jr.

Until next time,

Kel

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Dolphin Trip #60!

Today’s surprise dolphin trip was the 60th of 2009! At first glance, I thought the sea conditions were going to result in a bumpy ride, but I was pleasantly surprised. We had to be patient today as we waited for the dolphins. First, we saw two spotteds and I believe Tina (#14) was one of them. They were surfing the small swells though and did not show any interest in the dolphin boat. Shortly after that we saw another group of dolphins. This time it was two bottlenose dolphins, but soon we realized that there were several spotteds with them. I think that un-named #79 may have been there, but am sure that Lone Star (#56) was. It was great to see her! Unfortunately, the underwater visibility was uncharacteristically poor and the dolphins were on the move, so we did not get any underwater observations. I’ll be waiting until next time! 

Until then,

Kel

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Atypical days...

While the seas have not been completely flat, they have been much more enjoyable than earlier this week. So, we thought for sure we would see some of Bimini’s spotted dolphins. On Thursday we had a part exciting, part frustrating day (at least it was for me). We did see a group of 6 spotted dolphins and although guests (and myself) did not get a good look at the dolphins underwater, we did enjoy the show from the boat. But, here’s the exciting part: I am suspicious of these dolphins. By that I mean that I suspect they may not have been “Bimini” dolphins at all. There was an atypical coloration pattern on a young individual and distinct markings on two of the adults that I was not familiar with. The frustrating part? They didn’t come close enough for me to document their markings with photo or video. So, I’ll have to wait to see them again – and hope my memory doesn’t let me down. 

Bimini2009_T59_TtOn Friday, we had a rare morning dolphin trip. Because we do not have very many in the early part of the day, I never know what to expect. The water was a beautiful Bimini blue at high tide and late in the trip we saw a group of at least 18 bottlenose dolphins! It was amazing to see such a large group and exciting to see an older calf among them. I have plenty of dorsal fin photographs to sort now! This week will be quiet in terms of boat time. Although I will miss being on the water, I will appreciate some much needed down time – and time to catch up preliminary data analysis and entry. 

Until next time,

Kel

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Calmer seas, but no dolphins

The strong east winds finally quieted this afternoon. It was much appreciated! The boat guests first enjoyed a snorkel at the “3 Sisters” before we headed into the “dolphin grounds.” It was a much more comfortable boat ride, but unfortunately, we did not see any dolphins. Hopes are high for tomorrow though – and the weather forecast is even better! 

Until then,

Kel

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A bumpy ride with a glimpse of bottlenose

As the boat prepared to depart the harbor, squalls were looming on the horizon. Luckily, we didn’t get anything more than a sprinkle. We were soon snorkeling at the Bimini Road (aka Atlantis) and the winds calmed to almost a whisper. Unfortunately, the calm seas did not last long and things got a bit bumpy as we tried to search for dolphins. Our commitment was rewarded with a view of at least 3 (possibly 5) bottlenose dolphins. Although this sighting was short, I suspect that TtID28 was there! There are more dolphin trips scheduled throughout the week – I hope the winds die down! 

Until then,

Kel

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Some data, some time off and some searching

Bimini 2009_Talk to Chicago City Day SchoolFriday began with a presentation to a group of students from Chicago City Day School aboard the Coral Reef II. The group was filled with enthusiasm for both dolphins and the days of exploring the marine biology of the Bimini area that lie ahead of them. Thank you for your great questions and I hope your trip is going great!

 

 I spent the rest of Friday working on data entry before enjoying a much needed day off on Saturday. Today I’m keeping a close eye on the tropics as Tropical Storm Ana and Bill are now out there. The forecast for the week is a bit windy, but hopefully it will calm down enough to continue to search for dolphins. Today’s trip was a bit short and a bit bumpy, and even though we did not see dolphins, this week’s passengers are hopeful for the remainder of the week! 

Until next time,

Kel

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Thank you spotted dolphins!

Today’s trip did not disappoint. The boat passengers enjoyed another snorkel at the Bimini Road. But, soon, it was time to search for dolphins. We were lucky enough to come upon a group of Atlantic spotted dolphins at 1803. There were at least 4 individuals; I think that Freckles (#15) and Cleopatra (#41) were in the group with two youngsters, but I’ll need to confirm when reviewing video. After approximately 15 minutes observing the group under water, off they went. As we traveled back toward Bimini, we kept our eyes open, hoping for more dolphins (not to be greedy ;-). And guess what?! We saw another, larger group at 19:05. Included in this group were Lone Star (#56), Stefran (#82), un-named #92 (believed to be the calf of Niecey #48). It is possible that Cerra (#38) was in the group along with several calves. What a great week! 

More trips soon,

Kel

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No dolphins? No! Dolphins!

Bimini09_Sf_Trip53On Monday the group headed out and began their dolphin trip with a snorkel at Bimini Road, aka Atlantis. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, but they were most excited for dolphins. We searched and searched, but unfortunately, we did not see any dolphins....Although disappointed, we all agreed that it was a beautiful boat ride and looked forward to another trip.

So, on Tuesday the boat headed out a slightly earlier. And – we were not disappointed! We saw scattered spotted dolphins early and were thrilled to watch as they leapt through the air in pursuit of prey. We didn’t see exactly what kind of fish they were, but soon, the feast was over and it was time to observe the group underwater. All of the people had a nice interaction with the dolphins, which included Lumpy (#17), Lone Star (#56) and un-named (#91). For my part, I was able to confirm that ID#91 is in fact female! We also got a quick glimpse of Lil' Jess (#35) on the bow of the boat.

 Until next time,

Kel

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Write to us via snail-mail at:

Dolphin Communication Project
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