Kathleen Dudzinski

Kathleen Dudzinski

An abbreviated dolphin trip

Sunday morning began with a heartfelt goodbye to Vicki and Alexis. They are now back in the US, safe and sound. Thank you ladies! As the day progressed, I prepped for a 1500 dolphin trip, but it was pushed back until nearly 1700. This week’s passengers are excited for dolphins (who isn’t?!) and this afternoon they got their feet wet at Bimini’s 3 Sister rocks. The delay did not leave much time to search for dolphins, but here’s to hoping for lots of dolphins as the week goes on!

Until then,

Kel

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Goodbye bottlenose, Goodbye Bimini, Goodbye Interns

Saturday morning started with excitement, but it was far away from dolphins. Twenty contestants from the Miss Universe contest arrived on Bimini. They were greeted by natives, tourists, junkanoo and a marching band. It was a great celebration! The women (Miss Great Britain, Russia, Georgia, El Salvador, Singapore, France, Spain...just to name a few) were presented with Bimini09_Tt_Trip50gifts from the island before their island tour, filled, no-doubt, with photo-ops. I think it was a nice way for Vicki and Alexis to say goodbye to Bimini! 

But, no goodbyes before dolphin trip #50 of 2009! We headed out shortly after 1600, scanning, searching and hoping for dolphins. There it was – a blow. Seeing the blow left us confident we were approaching bottlenose dolphins as it is more unusual to see the blow of spotteds. Sure enough, a group of at least 8 bottlenose dolphins were scattered about. The boat passengers, Alexis and Vicki all had the chance to observe the group under water while I stayed aboard taking surface photographs of the dolphins’ dorsal fins. There are lots of photographs to process; I miss the interns already! 

Back on land, we had a nice final dinner together. I cannot believe how quickly the month has flown by – but I think (hope!) Vicki and Alexis enjoyed their time with DCP. If you are college-aged and interested in a field internship with DCP, stay tuned for application details later this fall. 

Until tomorrow,

Kel

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Two bottlenose mother/calf pairs

Friday’s dolphin trip once again only had one research space available, so Kel headed out solo. We left the dock earlier than usual and everyone was happy to be moving, generating some breeze on yet another very hot day. It was quite sunny out and while we hoped this would help in our search for spotted dolphins, we did not see any spotted dolphins. What we did see was a BIG dolphin leap. Unfortunately, we did not see anything more of that animal. A short time later four bottlenose dolphins surfaced near the boat. It appeared to be two mother/calf pairs. Off the top of my head, this may be the first time I (Kel) have ever seen that group composition here in Bimini. They were not too interested in the boat, but hopefully we can make some IDs from the surface photographs. 

Alexis and Vicki have been busy finishing up their data projects, but also enjoying their last days on Bimini. Stay tuned for their final field report tomorrow! 

-Kel, Vicki & Alexis

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Patience, patience, patience

Bimini 2009 Juliette's calfThis morning was data, email and program development filled. This afternoon, I had to leave the Vicki & Alexis on land as there was only one research space available on the boat. Today’s lesson: patience. We dodged a large rain squall and regularly asked the sun to come out so that we could more easily see the dolphins when they arrived. But, even though that didn’t happen, the dolphins still found us! In the group of four were Juliette (#12), her calf (#93), Tilly (#87) and un-named #91. It was so late in the day that the still camera could not manage too many pictures, but in this silhouette you can see #93’s scarred pectoral fin. 

Tomorrow is hopefully a mostly-day-off with a dolphin to follow on Saturday!

-Kel, Alexis & Vicki

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A hot day, a quick encounter, and a very young calf

Today was a hot one!  We left the harbor right at 1600 and were off to find some dolphins.  The boat ride out was a rather calm one with lots of flying fish to keep us company along the way.  We stopped at 1724 to jump in the water and cool off so we could continue the search.   Sightings in the last few trips have been kind of late so when we hadn’t seen any dolphins by 1800 we weren’t worried.  Then, all of a sudden, right at the bow of the boat a group of 8 dolphins showed up including Tina (#14), Stefran (#82), a dolphin we think could have been Cerra (#38) and un-named #43.  But the most excitement came when a very young calf, which Kel estimates at just a couple months old, was spotted within the group.  We followed them in the boat for about 15 min before attempting an encounter.  The first encounter attempt was at 1824 and without dolphins in view.  So, everybody climbed back on the boat and we went to find the dolphins again.  They were spotted a short time later at 1839 and the guests were put back in the water to try again.  This time they caught a couple fly by glimpses before the dolphins took off again!  This time they were gone for good and so were we.  The boat pulled into the harbor at 2003.  The next trip is scheduled for Saturday. 

Hoping for more underwater time with the dolphins next trip!

Vicki, Alexis, and Kel

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Stingrays AND dolphins?!?!

Bimini2009_StingrayToday began with a nice talk on the R/V Coral Reef II to a group of very inquisitive middle school students from Chicago on DCP, our goals as an organization, and the local population of Bimini dolphins. After a great talk and lots of good questions we were invited to eat lunch with them and talk more about dolphins and how we got to be in this field of research. We returned to our apartment to do more data entry before our dolphin trip in the afternoon, only to find out our dolphin trip was canceled, due to some sick guests. But don’t fret; we got invited to go feed stingrays at honeymoon harbor instead! So of course we agreed to this. At 2:30 we headed out on the boat and swung south to Gun Cay’s honeymoon harbor where we snorkeled to the island and proceeded to hand feed somewhere between 4-5 stingrays including a baby! After about 2 hours of feeding the stingrays, snorkeling around the island, and just enjoying the sun we snorkeled back to the boat and headed home. To our surprise, we spotted a small group of bottlenose dolphins a couple of minutes before entering Bimini’s harbor. (Apparently they just couldn’t wait to see us and were sad we didn’t take a trip out, so they came and found us! Ha!) Of course Kel being the good researcher that she is quickly grabbed her camera and got a couple still photos of their dorsal fins. After a few minutes watching the dolphins and taking some pictures we had to say goodbye and continued our way home. Overall it was a surprising, but wonderful day! 

Hopefully our next dolphin trip (maybe Saturday) will be as wonderful! 

Alexis, Vicki, and Kel

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Data Day!

We won't have a boat trip in Bimini today so we'll spend the afternoon indoors logging video for IDs and pectoral fin contact. Our fingers are crossed for a dolphin trip on Tuesday - don't forget, if you want to visit with Bimini's dolphins, check out our May 2010 eco-tour package!

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Just Kidding!

We’ve been spending our time on land getting lots of data processed, including still photos, general video logging, pec fin contact logging and data entry. After a few days on land, we were ready to be on the boat. It was nice and breezy for today’s dolphin trip.  We pulled out of the harbor and were on our way around 1615.  Thanks to the wind there were decent waves, which made for an interesting boat ride out.  The bottlenose showed up around 1756 and we were able to watch them from the boat for about 15 min before they were on their way.  We continued on course and came across at least six spotteds at 1854, including Finn (#09), Romeo (#10), Tina (#14), possibly Niecey (#48) and un-named #43.  This is where the fun began!  We got in the water at 1903 and they all took off!  So we all got back on the boat and followed them until 1919 when we got in the water again.  They, again, took off almost as soon as we entered the water as if to say “just kidding” and we again got back on the boat. It looked like this time they were gone for good so we continued to go back to the harbor.  We got back around 2014, with two sightings and two encounter attempts to show for the day. Hopefully next time they’ll swim with us! 

More updates after our next trip,

 

Vicki, Alexis and Kel
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Small glimpse of rain, small glimpse of dolphins

Today started out pretty promising seeing bottlenose dolphins early on in our trip. We saw 2 at 1702 not too far off from shore and Kel got to take some shots of their dorsal fins. After seeing the bottlenose our spirits were lifted and we were on a search for more dolphins. We headed further out and after about an hour and a half of no sightings we decided to take a swim break to cool off and regroup. After our little break we turned back around and headed in toward shore a little, hoping we would find some more dolphins. Meanwhile, in search of more dolphins we got to see a water spout (a water tornado) form but (luckily) not make complete contact with the ocean, which helped keep us on our toes when things were looking down. An hour or so after our swim break, with rain looming right in front of us, we were about to give up on finding more dolphins when out of nowhere two spotteds appeared!!! At 1940, we saw Niecey (#48) and her calf (#92) and watched them bow ride with us for almost 15 minutes. The guests hopped in for a short encounter, while we (Kel, Alexis, and Vicki) stayed on the boat. After everyone was back on board we continued in toward shore and the dolphins stayed with us for another 5 minutes. 

Next boat trip isn’t for a couple days, but hopefully we will have nice weather and lots of dolphins! 

Alexis, Vicki, and Kel

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Thank you Dolphins!

Bimini 2009_T44_ID78Saturday’s dolphin trip was cancelled due to a huge thunderstorm that was headed our way.  Luckily, the storm cleared up and we were able to reschedule for today (Sunday).  It was clear skies and the boat pulled out of the harbor around 1620.  We were out for about an hour and a half without any sightings so we decided to stop for a swim break to cool down.  Everybody jumped in and got recharged for the last hour and a half of the trip.  After a few possible sightings (@1843, 1847, & 1858) it was starting to get dark and hopes were dwindling.  But, right around 1924 there they were… spotteds!  The excitement on the boat was immeasurable!  We saw Nemo (#76), unnamed #25, #78 (pictured here), #79, #87 and possibly Vincent (#11) and Tim (#69).  We all got in the water with them and they swam with us for about twenty minutes.  We were racing against sunset, so as soon as they split so did we.  A few spotteds raced to the bow for a sunset bowride, including Split Jaw (#22), Lil Jess (#35) and, we think, Billy (#64).  The boat pulled into the dock about 2035 with very happy people. What a surprising trip! 

Vicki, Alexis, and Kel

 

PS: Are you interested in supporting DCP through our Name-A-Dolphin program? You can give a name to Bimini spotted dolphin #78 - click here for details.

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Beautiful day with lots of dolphins

Our trip today was full of guests and luckily also full of dolphins. We had our first sighting at 1710 in the distance. As we got closer we realized we had at least 8 bottlenose dolphins. They appeared to be sticking around so at 1716 Vicki hopped in and took some pictures while Kel took dorsal shots from the boat and Alexis recorded sighting data. We stayed around until 1728 when we decided to go searching for some Atlantic spotted dolphins. Luckily for us, we found a group at 1730 very close by, including Romeo (#10), Swoosh (#36), and Leslie (#80). This group was very spread out swimming all around the boat. We had at least 8 dolphins all around us, in addition to the bottlenose still visible to the west. We decided to try to swim with the spotteds, hoping they would stick around for us. After we got in it appeared that the dolphins just weren’t ready for us yet, so we jumped back on the boat. At 1755 before we decided to head back to the bottlenose, we saw Finn (#09), in addition to Romeo (#10), Swoosh (#36) with her male calf (pictured here) and another adult and calf. At 1815 2 large bottlenose swam around the boat for 6 minutes before we left them and tried one more time for the spotteds. As we headed back towards the other group of dolphins we caught sight of about 6 spotteds at 1823. Then at 1829 Kel, Vicki, Bimini 2009_T43_Swoosh and calfand Alexis, all jumped back in the ocean. Alexis and Vicki took still photos, while Kel recorded video for about 15 minutes. Kel even got great video of an adult female we didn’t recognize. After this last encounter with the dolphins it was about time to head back home, so we turned the boat around and headed back for shore. It was quite a successful day and now we have a day off before *hopefully* our next boat trip on Saturday.

So, until then, 

Alexis, Vicki, and Kel

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A nice talk, but no dolphins

We started Wednesday aboard the Shedd Aquarium’s boat, R/V Coral Reef II, where Kel gave a talk to Chicagoland school teachers about DCP, what she’s doing here in Bimini and what DCP hopes to accomplish in the future.  They invited us to stay for lunch and all we had to do in return was talk more about dolphins; our favorite subject!  After lunch it was off for another dolphin trip.  The boat left late (1645) due to a thunderstorm passing through the area.  After about an hour of sailing the clouds cleared up and hopes were high!  Unfortunately, after sailing without one sighting we had to head back.   

More dolphins tomorrow, we hope!

Vicki, Alexis and Kel

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Boat full of people, ocean full of dolphins…

So Monday’s trip started with looming rain to the west of us, but don’t worry it broke up throughout the trip and we never felt a drop! We proceeded out for a delightful snorkel swim at a location thought (by some) to be part of the lost city of Atlantis. After a 30 minute exploration of a possible underwater city we headed out to find our dolphins. At 1741 we spotted our first set of dolphins in the distance. As we got closer we realized we saw at least 6 Atlantic spotted dolphins including un-named #43, un-named #94, a young male calf (pictured here), and 3 other adults. At 1750 we hopped in to get a closer look. We swam around with the dolphins taking lots of still photos and video (with Kel in the water with the MVA) for about 10-15 minutes. Today the dolphins seemed a little shy, staBimini 2009_T41 male Sf calfying on the outskirts of our group. After getting back to the boat and regrouping a bit we spotted the same group of dolphins at 1805 with the additional of White Blotch (#29). We hopped back in and swam with the dolphins for a little less than 20 minutes. Then we all got back on the boat and started heading back towards shore with #94 taking a long bow ride with us. Three dolphins from this previous group (including #94) continued to remain within a close distance to us until 1841 when they disappeared from our sight.  

At 1911 we got another sighting, this time of the bottlenose dolphins who stayed around for about 15 minutes. Alexis got in the water to take pictures while Kel was on the boat taking dorsal fin shots and Vicki was recording our sightings. After about 15 minutes we had to leave the dolphins to return to shore as the sun was starting to go down and the day was coming closer to an end. Now we have plenty of work to do with our data. 

Next trip on Wednesday; hopefully the sun will return and the dolphins will be out! 

Alexis, Vicki, and Kel

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Bottlenose, Rain, and More Dolphins in Between!

Bimini 2009_T40_Tt w AlexisWe spent Sunday morning beginning our review of 2008 video data for DCP’s on-going pectoral fin study. The dolphin trip was not scheduled until 1600, but started off with a bang - a bottlenose sighting only 20 min. in!  A group of at least 8 dolphins was sighted and we were so excited when they decided stay.  Kel took lots of surface pictures while we all hopped in the water.   They let us swim with them for about half an hour!  Alexis and Vicki took as many underwater pictures as they could before getting back on the boat to see if we could make it a two for one deal and find some spotteds.  Unfortunately, it seemed the weather had another plan.  Light showers started around 1730 and continued off and on the rest of the trip.  A few more sightings; at 1738 (at least 2 dolphins), 1849(at least 2 dolphins), and 1915 (at least 3 dolphins) kept the wet trip interesting, but we were unable to identify any of these dolphins.  The real rain started around 1930, but fortunately we were pulling into the harbor.  Now we’ve got plenty of work to do with all the pictures and data. 

Hopefully tomorrow’s trip will be full of dolphins and minus the rain! 

Vicki, Alexis, and Kel

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Could there BE any more dolphins?

Bimini 2009_Trip 39 calf_smSaturday’s dolphin trip was quite the adventure! The day began with a nice snorkel swim at “3 Sisters” for about 30 minutes and then it was on to the real show. We got a glimpse of our first group of about 5 Atlantic spotted dolphins at 1737. Then our trip was filled with a very large (at least 30!) group of spotted dolphins, including a number of young calves. Everyone onboard was amazed at how rare a site they were seeing and an even more rare experience in the water with them. The large group was seen at 1742 and by the end of the day we had seen (are you ready? It’s a long list): Buster (#04), Lumpy (#17), White Blotch (#29), Lil’ Jess (#35), Niecey (#48), Billy (#64), Nemo (#76), Leslie (#80), Stefran (#82), un-named #25, #78, #79, #84, #89, #91, #92, #93, #94, possibly Trudy (#57) and Juliette (#12) and several others that we could not immediately identify.  

We swam with a slightly smaller group for about an hour. Alexis filled up one camera and Vicki almost filled hers. Kel joined in the water for about 30 minutes filming the dolphins with the MVA. The water was calm, warm, and perfect for the wonderful day we had! Now we have lots to do with all the data! 

Another trip tomorrow, hopefully we will be as lucky as today! 

Alexis, Vicki, and Kel

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Wow. Bottlenose.

Bim09_interns_day1Sunday’s dolphin trip, Vicki’s and Alexis’ first, was filled with bottlenose. After telling the interns and the passengers how little we know about Bimini’s bottlenose dolphins, how unpredictable and skittish they can be, etc., everyone got to observe them under water for TWO HOURS! It was amazing. Kel filled the memory card of the surface camera. Alexis’ camera battery died. Vicki nearly filled her camera. The MVA recorded 30 minutes of data. And we were all exhausted. What a great way to start their field experience!Bim09_Ttmomandcalf 

We now have a lot of work ahead of us, entering field forms and sorting through today’s still photos – not to mention video logging. But, we can already tell that we will find matches in the DCP photo-ID catalog for some of the bottlenose seen today – will the adult in this possible mother/calf pair be among them? 

Until next time,

Kel, Vicki & Alexis

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A long day, but a great swim

Today began with a guest talk to Shedd Aquarium’s high school marine biology field program. I shared details about DCP, the dolphins and how I came to be in this field. Soon after, I met up with the 2009 summer interns, Alexis and Vicki, who arrived on Bimini this morning. Stay tuned for field reports from them! 

Then, at about 1300 the phone rang with news of a 1600 dolphin swim. I pulled together my gear and headed down to the dock. The afternoon began with a strong east wind, but it wasn’t too bad in the dolphin grounds. At 1540, the dolphins appeared! A group of 5 juveniles – Nemo (#76), Leslie (#80), Tilly (#87) and un-named #88 and #89. After a 30 minutes swim, we headed back toward the island. The seas were calming and before long, White Blotch (#29) and her juvenile calf (#94) were on the bow. We also got a quick glimpse of un-named #43. What a day! 

Another trip tomorrow,

Kel

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Spotteds, bottlenose and spotteds again!

Bimini 2009 Lil Dot ID94What a great final day for this dolphin week! On Thursday, we saw some dolphins just after 1700. It was a group of 4 youngsters, including un-named #84, who were playing with each other and seaweed. In the distance we could see several other dolphins, but they did not approach the boat. We observed the young group under water for over 20 minutes until two older dolphins cruised through and appeared to lead the young dolphins away. Back on the boat we renewed our search and quickly came upon a group of 5 bottlenose dolphins. I recorded a little bit of underwater video, but they didn’t stay close for too long. 

For me, the most exciting part of the day was our final sighting. Swoosh (#36) and her male calf were there, along with another young male, White Blotch (#29) and her previously un-cataloged female calf. We first saw this calf (affectionately called ‘Lil’ Dot’) just a few weeks after her birth in 2004. Until now, this calf has had no re-identifiable markings, so we have not been able to add her to the catalog. That changed today! Everyone, meet 5-year old DCP ID#94 – welcome! I look forward to many more years of observing her! 

Until next time, Kel

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Dolphin sugar-rush?

Wednesday’s trip again included an extended snorkel stop and lunch for the guests. On our way, we were treated to some bottlenose which we observed from the boat. I have yet another folder of pictures to sort through! At one point in our afternoon of searching, we came across a group of adults, including Lumpy (#17) and un-named #75, both adult males. Lil’ Jess (#35) was also on the periphery of this group, with a fresh, but relatively shallow injury to the right side of her peduncle. Since we saw her yesterday, we know the injury occurred in the last 24 hours. The group was traveling quickly so we did not get to see them under water. As our search continued, some had given up hope. But, late in the day we saw a large group of dolphins (over 15). It appeared that there was a group of adults staying further away from the boat, and a group of 9 juveniles who were in a very fast-paced play mode. The passengers enjoyed the high-energy swim and I was able to record over 15 minutes of video. 

Tomorrow is the last trip for this group. So, until then,

Kel

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I think we’re getting spoiled

Tuesday was another fantastic day. It started “early” with a post-lunch dolphin talk with the passengers. They had great questions and stories to share – thank you! By 1530 it was time to leave the dock and although it took some time to find the dolphins, dolphins we found. The overall numbers were large (at least 15?) but as the individuals were scattered it was difficult to get a firm count. We did see Lil’ Jess (#35), Split Jaw (#22), un-named #91 and several calves and adults. But, perhaps the most interesting was the bottlenose dolphins that spent time on the periphery of the group and then became surrounded by adult spotted dolphins as they touched the bottlenose and slowly swam through the human group. I’m hoping once I slow down the video footage I will be able to confirm that the bottlenose was female and get a view of the dorsal fin to see if she is already in our photo-ID catalog. 

Until next time,

Kel

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Calves and seaweed games!

Monday’s dolphin trip began with an extended snorkel stop for boat guests at the Bimini Road (aka Atlantis). I stayed on board, keeping my eyes peeled for the possible passing dolphin group, but saw none. Soon, we headed to “the dolphin grounds” where we came upon a group of what appeared to be 4 mother calf pairs, including un-named #25. As we were getting ready to get in the water, bottlenose joined the group with lots of aerial displays. We did not see them under water, but by the end of the day I filled thBimini 2009 Juliette ID012e MVA’s tape and recorded Juliette (#12, pictured here, photo credit: K. Mueller) and her calf (#93), Lone Star (#56) and her calf, likely Niecey (#48) and her calf (#92), un-named #43 and lots of Finn (#09), Romeo (#10), Tina (#14) and Lil’ Jess (#35). There was lots of seaweed games and at the end of the day the group brought by several young calves, including one with clear fetal folds!! We also saw a school of triggerfish and a large turtle that the dolphins ignored. 

More boat time tomorrow,

Kel

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A great little Sunday

Bimini09_Tt from shoreAs I boarded the boat today, I jokingly asked the captain, “Can we please see dolphins early today?” Well, wouldn’t you know – bottlenose dolphins about 30 minutes into the trip! We observed the group for over an hour and the still camera’s memory card was filled. There will be a lot of photo sorting to do... 

Later in the day, we observed a group of four adult Atlantic spotted dolphins. They weren’t terribly interested in us or the boat (perhaps they had something more pressing on their schedule), but I was able to ID un-named #43. After a very quick underwater glimpse it was back to the boat. It seemed as soon as we dried off there were more dolphins in our sights. This time, we got to see White Blotch (#29) and her un-named calf (nickname: Lil’ Dot). Lil’ Dot is beginning to get her first belly spots and I am hopeful that we will be able to collected underwater video or a still photo before she leaves the security of mom. Today, she gave us a quite the bowride show.... 

Until next time, Kel

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After a windy week, a great final day

Well, our patience paid off. After a windy and nearly dolphin-less week, we had a great day. We saw bottlenose dolphins very early and I was able to collect quite a few dorsal fin photographs.  Later in the afternoon it was a scattered group of at least 16 spotted dolphins. In the mix were: Finn (#09), Romeo (#10), Juliette (#12) and her calf (who will likely be given ID#93), Tina (#14), Swoosh (#36) and her male calf, Lone Star (#56), un-named #25 (and her calf), 84, 91 and 92. Perhaps most exciting, however, was the very young calf who swam quickly through the group. I hope that I can ID the mother when I review the video, but I did note what appeared to be fetal folds on the calf! I have never observed a calf this young, under water, in Bimini before!

 

A couple of days off, then the start of a new “dolphin week” on Sunday,

Kel
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A busy dolphin weekend

Saturday’s dolphin trip was unexpected, but welcomed! We saw dolphins early (17:03) and the group of four became six and then nine. Lumpy (#17) and un-named #75, both adult males, were in the group. I also suspect that un-named #24 was present, but I’ll have to confirm when reviewing video. There was a single male calf in the group that had some shallow scratches and a very small injury to its lower jaw. It was a short swim, but I’ll take what I can get! 

Sunday’s dolphin trip was a bit rocky and with the heavy cloud cover it was a challenge to see the dolphins from the boat. But, luckily, they found us! Rushing to the boat we saw a group of three Atlantic spotted dolphins – two adults and one calf. The MVA and I didn’t get a chance to get in the water, but if we had, we would have seen a quick, close glimpse of the dolphins followed by a hammerhead shark – followed by a passing manta ray – all in under 3 minutes! A short time later, we came upon Nemo (#76) and a young juvenile. There was a bit of aerial behavior and surfing in the swells. Unfortunately, with sunset threatening, it was time to head back to the dock. Fortunately, another dolphin trip is scheduled for tomorrow! 

Until then,

Kel

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Brief bottlenose, lots of spotteds!

Today’s dolphin trip was hot and calm – just the way I like it! Not far from shore, we saw a group of about 7 bottlenose dolphins. They were very uninterested in the boat, so we had our quick glimpse and continued in search of Atlantic spotted dolphins. We had to wait a little while, but then, we saw them... BIM09_female calf w dsl scar

It was a group of four dolphins, but I only recognized one. It is a young female who was first observed on 9 June. Here, in a picture taken on 9 June, you can see the major scarring to her dorsal fin. I’ll tentatively add her to the catalog, but she won’t officially be in until I get a clearer sense of what the final scar will look like. I definitely added to our underwater video and acoustic data for this one though! She was full of whistles.... 

Once we were back on the boat, we quickly came upon a mating ball of Atlantic spotteds. In this group were Romeo (#10) and Billy (#64). We didn’t want to interrupt their activities, so we continued on our way – thinking that we had our dolphin fill for the day. But, no! Soon there was a group including mother calf pairs. Trudy (#57) and un-named #25 were definitely there with their calves, but I also suspect that Juliette (#12) and her calf were there. And, we got a glimpse of Leslie (#80) and Tilly (#87) as they rode the bow. It was a great day! 

Until next time,

Kel

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No more students, but plenty of dolphins!

Wednesday’s boat trip was about as quick and easy as they come. We headed out with Bimini Undersea at about 1600. At 1705, we had our first of two sightings. White Blotch (#29) and un-named #43 were both riding the bow with two other adults and a young juvenile. I’m hoping I got some video footage, albeit it brief, of the juvenile who I suspect is White Blotch’s 2004 calf. She’ll be turning 5 years old later this summer and shouldn’t have too much more time with mom. This group was moving, so we headed to some splashes in the distance. The only ID I was able to make from the boat was Tilly (#87). I recorded some of Tilly under water, but the encounter was dominated by two young, male juveniles. These guys only had a few faint spots, but one had a relatively fresh injury to his peduncle (shark?). It will be very interesting to review this video! 

Tired and happy, we headed back to shore. I’m hoping for another dolphin trip on Saturday! 

Until then,

Kel

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More than just dolphins...

Thursday morning, Kel described this past winter’s Bimini manatee. We learned about the steps that were taken in the community and between the US and the Bahamas. We also watched a video of the capture day. We are having a hard time imagining a 1200 pound animal on the bow of our research bow! During photo-ID we confirmed Split Jaw (#22), Swoosh (#36), Niecey (#48), Nemo (#76), Leslie (#80), un-named #43 and 84.

This afternoon’s boat trip was a break from dolphins. It was our first time on the boat early in the afternoon and the sun is much stronger. The water was still calm and clear and we saw a sea turtle on the way to our snorkel site. Once we arrived at “Triangle Rocks,” there were only a couple of sharks. We were a quite apprehensive at first, but overall it was a great experience observing Caribbean reef sharks. Our captain entered the water to assess their behavior and we threw some small fish heads. Once we entered the water with our snorkel gear, we saw as many as 6 different sharks, ranging from 4 – 6 feet. Kel threw in the last snapper head (away from us) and we were able to watch the fish go after the head and the increase in activity from the sharks. Once we back on board, our captain threw large dolphin (fish) carcasses in the water and we were able to watch as many more sharks came SHU_rays_ASweetinginto the area and went after the fish.

After our shark observations, we had a surprise trip to “Honeymoon Harbor.” The water was so shallow, clear and warm that it felt like we were swimming in a pool. The big draw here is the southern sting rays that are habituated to human presence and feeding. We observed 3-4 different rays, including a large ray (roughly 3 feet long, not including the tail). It was a great day, seeing a different side of Bimini’s marine ecosystem (and eco-tourism).

Tomorrow we wrap up with final photo-ID work and data wrap up. We’re sad to be leaving Bimini, but we’ve all had a good time. A big thank you to everyone who has been keeping tabs on us through our field reports...and of course, thank you to our captain, Al, Kel, Dr. Dudzinski and DCP!

-The SHU Crew

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The thermocline is...intense.

Our morning was photo-ID filled! We had a ton of pictures to work through and by lunch we were able to confirm 7 individuals. Split Jaw (#22), White Blotch (#29), Niecey (#48), Billy (#64), Leslie (#80) and un-named #78 and 84. Niecey was ID’s once we looked at the underwater video data, a twist since we normally start with still photos. We were also able to add another animal to the catalog! That’s two in one week! DCP ID#92 now belongs to an older calf with a serious shark bite scar on and around both sides of the dorsal fin. She made sure that we saw her up close and personal – she was very inquisitive. The scar seemed relatively well healed and she appears to be doing just fine.

We left the dock at 15:25, after Kel had a meeting with some tourists off-site (it was great talking with you!). This was the last dolphin survey for our group and we were greeted by very calm seas and hot, hot sun. We first saw the dolphins from quite a distance as they leapt from the water in pursuit of fish. We’ve seen lots of foraging behavior this week, but today was the closest we got to the action. All of the dolphins were chasing the needlefish and ballywho and some even tossed them. In the boat, we ID’d Swoosh (#36), Leslie (#80), Tilly (#87) – and a male calf. Kel thinks (and hopes) this male calf is Swoosh’s, who was first seen last year. We also saw two bottlenose dolphins interacting with this spotted group, one of which was an older female. Later in the day we saw Split Jaw (#22), Nemo (#76) and un-named #43 and 84.

We had another dockside BBQ, “taking” the picnic tables from the visiting fishermen. We’ll continue to review photos and video during our last two days on Bimini. And, we’ll make time for some sharks...

Until then,

The SHU Crew

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Was that a shark? I think that was a shark...

Our morning class time was spent discussing interspecific interactions, particular between Atlantic spotted and bottlenose dolphins in the northern Bahamas and here in Bimini. It was nice to hear about a specific study that was going on right here at our study site. When reviewing our pictures from Monday’s boat trip, we confirmed a re-sighting of Cleopatra (#41). It took us some time to get the ID right, but by looking at our very recent pictures (instead of the photo-ID catalog) we were able to confirm it. The rest of our photographs were of calves, with no re-identifiable markings.

Our boat began with a second visit to “3 Sisters” and we saw a sea turtle as we approached the rocks. The tide was lower this time, which gave us a closer look at the huge schools of fish. The weather was very calm and we enjoyed our time, even if one of us returned with a battle wound ;-). We saw parrot fish, a blue tang, doctorfish, schoolmaster snappers, a banded butterflyfish and an unidentified purple fish.

We headed out to the “dolphin grounds.” What do we say next? Our sighting began at 17:09 and didn’t end until 19:07 – when we left the dolphins, cold, tired and with memory cards full. We had five different water entries, all with dolphins in view. From the boat we were able to ID Split Jaw (#22), White Blotch (#29), Billy (#64), Leslie (#80), Tilly (#87), un-named # 78, 79, 84 and possibly Tina (#14). We saw lots of object play, especially among the juveniles. They passed seaweed between them and chased the remora! Of course, before we knew the remora was a remora, we were a bit concerned it was a mysterious shark! We also saw lots of active pec rubbing and even heard a jaw clap! As usual, there was sexual play and we were intrigued by a group of younger dolphins investigating the belly of a possibly pregnant adult. One calf/juvenile in particular, with major scars on the dorsal fin, was very curious about us. By the end of the day all of our memory cards were filled up, and were worn out (one sunburned) so we have a lot of pictures to sort and video to watch tomorrow.

Back at the dock, it was time for our Thanksgiving dinner and sleep.

One dolphin to go!

The SHU Crew
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Why dolphins smile and researchers cry....

Monday morning’s discussion was all about eco-tourism – pros, cons and challenges. After experiencing interactions with wild dolphins first hand, for most us, our opinions did not change, but were strengthened. Research in collaboration with eco-tourism is important and should inform the managing bodies. An overall passion for protecting the marine environment was evident and this protection should be the priority with tourism second. The conversation then took a broader turn as we discussed our personal choices and those of our towns, universities, etc. We are now determined to instigate constructive conversations on reduction and recycling with our friends and professors when we return home.Bim09_peccalf

Our photo-ID time resulted in a successful ID of Juliette (#12). The calf in our photos (with the distinctive pec injury, pictured here) may have been her calf. There was a third individual present, but we did not capture a clear image for photo-ID.

Back on “the little boat” we were pleased to have calm sea conditions, although the sun was very strong. We saw a nurse shark as we exited the harbor, but were soon in the “dolphin grounds.” We tried to stay clear of the other 3 eco-tour boats and the groups of dolphins they were observing. As we observed dolphins throughout the afternoon, they were quite dispersed. We were able to ID Lone Star (#56), Trudy (#57), Stefran (#82), Leslie Bim09_SHUsurface_sm(#80) and un-named #25, 75, 91. We saw lots of tactile and aerial behavior and possibly even “scout” behavior as one dolphin appeared to leave the group to investigate the boat. One dolphin group also appeared to be a nursery group with 4 adults (3 confirmed female) and 4 calves. At the end of the day, we were rushing back toward the island to avoid an approaching squall, when dolphins suddenly were sighted leaping toward the boat! It was the fastest our captain had ever seen dolphins approach a fast moving boat, so carefully slowed the boat. These dolphins were scattered, and we were distracted by the squall, so we were unable to get a good count.

After dinner we watched the 2nd, and sadder, half of ““Why dogs smile and chimpanzees cry.” With some of us missing our pets back home, we had a nice discussion before heading to bed.

Two more dolphin trips to go!

The SHU Crew

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The Great Escape

Sunday morning’s discussion covered more on group living in dolphins. We discussed coefficients of associations, the role of kinship and trends among first time dolphin mothers. During our photo-ID lab, we ID’d Tina (#14), Cleopatra (#41), Nemo (#76) and un-named #25 from yesterday’s trip. There are still three animals that need to be identified from our photographs. As we heard the wind howling outside our classroom, we were all concerned that we would not be able to head on our dolphin survey.

But, at boat time, we were greeted by the calmest conditions thus far for the Sacred Heart University course. We definitely felt the strength of the sun, but the glass flat water made it worth it. Our first sighting was of a lone (or what appeared to be) bottlenose dolphin. We got dorsal fin shots, but also an image of a serious peduncle scar. Tomorrow, we’ll work on seeing if we can find a match with an animal already in the catalog. Later, our first signal of more dolphins was a leaping mackerel! We saw foraging behaviors, including fast chasing and leaping. We even saw a couple of the dolphins catch the fish. We saw one animal regurgitate, with its head down and body wiggling and what appeared to be a whole fish. There were some big aerials and fluke slapping and fluke out dives. We saw White Blotch (#29) and a young female juvenile we suspect is her older calf (aka Lil’ Dot). We also saw Romeo (#10) and possibly Cleopatra (#41). Our surveys thus far have been filled with several resightings of dolphins, but different overall group composition.

Our evening was pretty quiet, but we enjoyed another dockside BBQ. Most of us enjoyed the fresh dolphin – even one of us who tried it for the first time!

More tomorrow,

The SHU Crew
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Don’t rock the boat...baby...

Bim09_ASweetingJrSaturday morning’s class discussion on was on DCP’s video/acoustic system, the MVA.  We’d seen Kel with it on the boat, but today we headed to the beach and each of us got a chance to “use” the MVA. On the beach, it was very heavy – and it is wide! It was less intimidating in the water, but challenging. We protected the hydrophones while the other class members pretended to be dolphins (there was even some “pec rubbing” observed!). After a short “free swim” at the beach, it was time for photo-ID. From the photos, we confirmed sightings of un-named #78 and 89 and Leslie (#80). We also confirmed that Leslie (#80) is female and #78 is male. There are still photos from that trip that we will need to review later in the week.

The dolphin survey began with a snorkel stop at the “Bimini Road” (aka Atlantis). The group consensus is that the rock formation is natural and we were all a bit more interested in the fish than the rocks! We saw more barracudas and possibly school master and yellowtail snapper. The boat trip was the choppiest we’d experienced so far, but there were 5 dolphin sightings. We collected some surface video and got a chance to see both species, the spotted and bottlenose dolphins, although they did not appear to interact. From the boat, we saw several aerial displays and lots of bowriding. We had one underwater encounter and although they did not stick around very long, we saw 9 individuals. We followed the safety recommendations of our captain and kept the group sizes small while in the water. We also needed to take extra care getting back on the boat today.

We were back to the dock close to 20:00. After dinner, we watched the first half of the film, “Why do dogs smile and chimpanzees cry?” This allowed our conversations on animal behavior to expand beyond just dolphins and presented the challenges of measuring emotion in non-human animals.

More tomorrow,

The SHU Crew
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Conch Shell Mountain

Friday began with a discussion of group living in cetaceans, including the use of pectoral fin contact in dolphins. We were able to review some of our photographs and made a positive ID of un-named #84. ID #84 has a crescent shape scar on the left side of her body. She also has some white scarring on her right side and now has scattered spots (she is a juvenile).  We were also able to add a new dolphin to DCP’s photo-ID catalog! This animal will be given the ID #91. It is a very young, female juvenile readily recognized by a major notch in her peduncle. We found out that she received this injury last June, but we are not sure from what. The third animal seemed to be a calf when we first looked at our photos, but when reviewing video, it looked like it might be getting its first belly spots.

We were not able to head on our next dolphin survey because of high winds. But, we were able to get into the water anyway! Our boat captain took us across the harbor to a mangrove cluster. We were able to walk completely around this circular patch in about knee deep water. We saw a lot of young fish, including grunts, conch fish, minnows, juvenile foureye butterfly fish and a barracuda, giving us a glimpse into how important mangroves are as a nursery for fish species. We also saw a live conch, blue crab, hermit crab and southern sting rays. Looking at the root systems, we could see how vital mangroves are to absorbing storm surges. We finished up our exploration just in time to walk home in the rain.

We finished the day with chicken tacos, DOLPHINS movie (very entertaining – and educational) and ice cream sundaes! We’re hoping for calmer weather tomorrow!

Until then,

The SHU Crew
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Good things come to those who wait....

Bim09_waterspoutDuring this morning’s discussion (Thursday) on behavioral ethograms, we dispelled misconceptions that an ethogram is a complicated machine...We also watched some of the surface video that was collected on Wednesday.On today’s dolphin survey we saw two patches of rain in the distance, each of which had a developing water spout! For most of us, it was the first we’d ever seen. Early on, we passed an ecotour boat that was observing a group of dolphins. In an attempt not to crowd the dolphins, our boat kept its distance. Then, we had almost given up hope, but at 18:36 we saw a group of Atlantic spotted dolphins. There were 11 animals in this group, including White Blotch (#29) and un-named #84. There was a lot of petting between individuals, bowriding and some possible mating or socio-sexual behavior. We were able to observe a subset of the group from 18:51 to 18:57. This was a group of 2 juveniles (1 was just beginning its spot development) and 1 calf.

In this photo, you can see bubbles coming from #84. We heard a lot of whistles underwater and were amazed at the way sound travels under water. There were times when we could hear the dolphins, but not see them. As the youngsters were playing, there was a lot of chasing, with only a little bit of pectoral fin contact. Shortly after we got back on the boat, it was time to pick up speed and head back to the dock. But, our work was not over and at 19:03 there 10-12 animals, with nearly all riding the bow. Within a few minutes, only White Blotch (#29) and a young juvenile remained. The juvenile may be White Blotch’s 2004 calf and is getting speckled on the belly. The juvenile was much more active than White Blotch, barrel rolling and swimming belly up. The juvenile was surfacing to breath more often than the adult and was the last to leave the bow at 19:16.Back on land, we had a stirfry dinner and were able to venture out for a brief glimpse of local nightlife, including a small local band. There was a keyboardist, a bassists and a third man alternating between playing a saw and the maracas. Some of us even had the opportunity to have a turn playing backup with the maracas. As is local custom, we left our mark and signed the wall.

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“We’re on a boat….”

After our morinng discussions on research methods and photo-ID work, we headed to the boat. We met two British tourists and because of their addition, we completed our dolphin survey on a larger vessel. We saw our first group of spotted dolphins at 16:29. There were 12 animals in this group, including Billy (#64) and Nemo (#76). We were able to get in the water this group and observe some mating behavior! These behaviors were among three juveniles, so is considered socio-sexual play. The dolphins circled us and it was the first time that all of us had the chance to see the dolphins underwater.  At 17:36 the dolphins had lost interest and we headed back to the boat.

Our second sighting was at 17:53 and included 2 spotted dolphins, but it was only a quick glimpse. As we began to lose some of the group to seasickness, we continued our search. Our third sighting was 18:11 and included 6 spotted dolphins, including Finn (#09), Lil’ Jess (#35) and 4 adults. At 18:23, three of us went into the water. It was amazing! We saw vertical hanging from multiple adults – it seemed like they were posing for us! It was a great opportunity for collecting still photos that we will work on ID’ing over the next week. We also observed some bottom-grubbing (aka crater feeding) and what appeared to be play as the dolphins were holding each other down on the sand. Our captain was also in the water and free-diving to the bottom. The dolphins seemed very interested in this and followed him throughout the water column. They stayed with us until 18:43. Once we were back on the boat, we thought we were done for the day. As we headed back to shore we had our fourth sighting at 18:52. This group did a lot of bowriding as we did not have time to stop to observe them. In this group, we saw Swoosh (#36), Nemo (#76) and Leslie (#80). There were two calves in the group so we’re very hopefully that one is Swoosh’s calf – that she had last year. At 19:00 they left us as we continued to head home.

Back at the hotel, we had a nice BBQ on the dock and shared our stories of the day. The best part? It was mosquito free thanks to the east wind. We had worked up an appetite on the boat and made quite a dent in the food – even the giant mound of pasta salad.

More tomorrow,

The SHU Crew
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Sacred Heart University + Bimini

Monday, we arrived safely on Bimini, after a long trip from Connecticut. For some of us, it was our first trip outside the US or on a small prop plane. From the airport, it was a short van ride to the water taxi – the latter was expertly driven by a boy who looked to be about 5 years old (of course, his father was supervising). We were surprised at how quick the water taxi ride is; North and South Bimini are so close you could swim between the two. That afternoon, we had a camera tutorial, but did not go out on the boat because of the squalls surrounding the island. Ah, the joys of field research!  After we settled in, it was time for snorkel practice at the beach. The water was very clear and we were able to see southern sting rays and a barracuda. There were a few “mask malfunctions,” but we got sorted things out.

On day two we had a morning lecture and photo-ID practical before our dolphin survey. First we stopped at the 3 Sisters snorkel site, getting more practice and observing parrot fish and sting rays. Dealing with the currents offshore was a bit of an adjustment. The seas were a bit choppy, but that didn’t stop us from being able to observe both Atlantic spotted and bottlenose dolphins! First, we saw a group of 3 adult spotted dolphins, including un-named #43. This observation ended abruptly, but before the day was over we saw a second group, with both species. Here, we recognized Lone Star (#56) from the boat. Those of us taking underwater photographs, captured images, including bottlenose dolphin ID#23 (pictured above).

Looking forward to tomorrow (and hopefully more dolphins and a little more sunshine),

The SHU Crew
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A few days away from dolphin work

Bimini May 09 vet clinic

I spent the end of last week away from dolphin work and volunteered at the local vet clinic. Bimini has no resident veterinarian, so the pet owning community relies on visiting vets to meet their pet care needs. In addition to wellness visits, the vet team tried to encourage spays and neuters, although many people on Bimini do not yet see the value of this. But, they were up to the challenge and sterilized 14 animals, including the chow pictured here. Everyone on Bimini is grateful for the time taken by the vet to visit, the funds donated (local gov’t, Proud Paws and Palmdale Vet Clinic), local volunteers in organizing and assisting, and the Bimini pet owners for such a positive response.  

Until next time,

Kel

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Thank you UNB! But, I have no thanks to offer the local phone company...

Hello from Bimini! I’m sorry it has been so long since I have written! Unfortunately, the internet has been down for over a week, but thankfully Bimini Undersea has service and is happy to share.... 

The UNB course was a huge success! We had a lot of firsts and I am sure the dolphins spoiled the students. In 5 trips, we saw mixed species groups almost every day! And the mixed groups were large with at least 10 individuals of each species. We saw un-named #25 with calf, un-named #24, Split Jaw (#22), Leslie (#80) and likely Vincent (#11). More ID’s will likely be made once the remaining photos and video are processed. 

The students were also able to see more than just dolphins. They snorkeled at “3 Sisters” and “Bimini Road,” observed two loggerhead turtles mating and experienced southern sting rays at “Honeymoon Harbor.” With lectures and photo-ID labs each morning and films in the evening, our days were very busy! The group departed on Thursday morning and will be missed. Thank you all! 

On Saturday another dolphin trip surfaced, but unfortunately no dolphins did. The weather was absolutely fantastic though, so it was a nice boat ride! It may be a slow couple of weeks for boat time, but I’ll keep you updated. In the meantime, be sure to keep tabs on Kathleen in Roatan! 

Until next time,

Kel

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Welcome UNB!

Tt surfing in BiminiWell, it was a busy week! The weather wasn’t on our side, but we were able to see a second set of bottlenose dolphins on Tuesday’s boat trip. They put on a nice surfing show! 

Mid-week was spent preparing for our first university-level field course. Today (Friday) I was joined by 14 students & their professor from the University of New Brunswick. It was a busy day settling in, getting orientated and then heading out to the dolphin grounds. There was still a chop on the sea, but the conditions were much more favorable. Soon, we were observing a group of 8 Atlantic spotted dolphins, including Split Jaw (#22), Lil’ Jess (#35), Billy (#64) and (I think) newly named Tilly (#87). All in all, a good day! 

More work tomorrow,

Kel

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Well it was a nice enough boat ride anyway...

Today was a dolphin-less boat trip and the strong east winds kept us from “the dolphin grounds” again. But, we did cruise the length of the island hoping for another chance to observe the bottlenose. We were not so lucky today, but it was still great to be out searching.  

Until next time,

Kel

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A windy day with bottlenose

Bimini Tt w smack boat 2009 Today we dealt with 20-25 knot east winds in Bimini, which kept us from exploring “the dolphin grounds.” However, we did brave the seas for some snorkeling on the west side of the island. As the guests paddled about, I kept my eyes peeled – and saw something! A group of approximately 10 bottlenose cruised past! I took some photos and soon the boat was headed in their direction. They were very active/social at the surface, which is not typical of the bottlenose here. We observed them for well over an hour and I filled up the camera’s memory card! Here you can see a bottlenose passing an anchored “smack” boat, a Bahamian commercial fishing vessel.

 

 

Until tomorrow,

Kel
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An Easter dolphin trip

Yesterday’s boat trip was calm and sunny. It was also dolphin filled, although I was not able to capture any underwater video. The dolphins were spread out and behaving in a fashion atypical for our observations in this area. But, it was a great day observing from the boat. It was calm enough that I may even be able to make some IDs from surface photos – a rare occurrence for the spotted dolphins here.

It may be a quiet week, so, until next time,

Kel

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Trip #6 is the charm

Today was great. The dolphin boat was a little late leaving the dock, but there were no complaints as we came upon a scattered group of Atlantic spotted dolphins early. In the mix was White Blotch (#29), but most of the dolphins seemed to be moving west to the deep water. We followed two older calves for a bit in the other direction, but soon they were gone. We were hopeful there would be more dolphins and we were not disappointed. A group of 6 energetic juvenile and young adult spotteds were soon on the bow. In the group were Split Jaw (#22), Lil’ Jess (#35), Billy (#64), Tim (#69), and un-named #78 and #87. After a busy 30+ minute swim, it was back to boat and then home! 

Thanks to the dolphins and the passengers for a great day! 

Until next time,

Kel

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Back on the boat....

The winds finally diminished today, but unfortunately, that did not bring dolphins. It was not for lack of trying though! We had a very enthusiastic group of passengers who kept their spirits high even though the dolphins did not make an appearance. Luckily, we have another opportunity tomorrow! 

If you have just begun tuning into the 2009 Bimini field reports, click on the following links to learn more about this island and research site.

 Until then,

Kel

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Calm seas and old “friends”

 The seas were calm, the sun was shining and the water was clear and blue. It feels like summer is here! We headed to the “dolphin grounds” eager for a big sighting. We had a very brief sighting of a single adult Atlantic spotted dolphin. It is very unusual to see only one; it is possible there were others close by, but this individual didn’t seem keen to stay by the boat, so we were on our way in search of others. We weren’t disappointed as we soon came upon Finn (#09), Romeo (#10) and a young juvenile. Everyone got a quick glimpse of the group under water. Back at the boat, we continued to watch Finn and Romeo who were then joined by Tina (#14). After they swam away, and were headed back toward the island, we came upon a group of 5 bottlenose dolphins. A great day!

 

Until tomorrow,

Kel
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Dolphin trip opens with....sharks?

 Today’s dolphin trip began with a shark swim for the guests. I enjoyed the show from the boat, while scanning the sea for passing dolphins. None came through, but soon we were cruising to “the dolphin grounds.” The seas were calming down, which made it easier to see the two adult Atlantic spotted dolphins of the day. I wasn’t able to recognize the two individuals from the boat, but perhaps I’ll find matches in the catalog. They weren’t too keen on staying by the boat or the swimmers, yet somehow every time we thought they were gone, they would appear again!

 

Shortly after, we saw an active group of bottlenose dolphins. One was swimming circles around 2 swimmers for what seemed like ages. Another was leaping out of the water repeatedly. A great show! Unfortunately, light was low and the sea was still a little choppy, so we’ll see if I was able to get any photo-ID worthy shorts.

Another trip tomorrow,

Kel
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Right whales: "Doing their part"

Unfortunately, the wind has kept me from the dolphin grounds for the past two days. April is a tricky time of year in Bimini; there are flat calm, stunning days and then blowy, windy days like today. I’m optimistic the winds will calm down in time for tomorrow’s trip though. Fingers crossed!

 

Since I was land-bound all day, it was time to catch up on manuscript edits, grant applications and news in the outside world. That’s when I came upon the news of record high births among North Atlantic right whales. Now, don’t get too excited – record births still only means 39 new calves, but it’s a positive sign and positive signs don’t come too often for this highly endangered species. You can check out more on the story by clicking here or here. 

Cheers,

Kel

 

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Back to dolphins

I’m happy to be reporting on the first two dolphin trips of 2009! YAY! On Tuesday, we headed to the “dolphin grounds” in search of our old friends. It took a couple of hours to find them, but we were greeted by a surprising group of youngsters. It isn’t often that we see calves unaccompanied by their mothers – so, although yesterdays group included un-named #84 (independent calf of Trudy), a second very young juvenile (only a spot or two) and 3 calves, we suspect that the mothers weren’t far away. The young group of 5 gave the human group quite the bow riding show, but unfortunately, did not stick around for an underwater encounter. A short time later we came upon a different group of 4 sub-adult Atlantic spotted dolphins, including Split Jaw (#22) and Lil’ Jess (#35). They spent a few minutes riding the bow and then a few more showing off their surfing skills in the boat wake – then they too were off! On the way home we also got a very quick glimpse of 2 bottlenose, but there was not enough time to take any ID pictures.

 

 

Wednesday’s dolphin trip was a bit less exciting. We spent the afternoon looking for dolphins, but they were a no show. Could this have been because we couldn’t see them as well in the rough seas? Tomorrow should be calmer, so hopefully we’ll have better luck. 

Until next time,

Kel

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Another field report about a manatee...

Harold (aka Kodi) the manatee is a free man! After being given a clean bill of health, the logistics of his release were thoughtfully sorted out. On Thursday, 19 March 2009, this manatee was released near Crystal River on the west coast of Florida. He is once again outfitted with a radio/satellite tag, which will allow researchers to track the adventurous animal’s movements. For a short time following the release, his movements were observed by boat. He appeared to be fine and soon met up with another adult manatee. A short time later he joined another, smaller animal. 

Thanks to US Fish & Wildlife, Miami Seaquarium and US Geological Survey (among others?) who were all involved in the successful return of this animal to the wild. I can’t wait to hear where he goes next! 

Cheers,

Kel

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Tuesday brought us the “Fin Game”

Today, my fingers and toes were wrinkled after much time in the water! The morning session was 30 min long but with EXCEPTIONALLY good underwater visibility! It was 5-6 m but very clear. And, there were dolphins greeting me as I entered the water. In fact, they almost barred my entry because they were so close. French loved my fins today and spent ~20 min with one or both fin tips in his mouth! Even after I put my feet in the air, he was back to my fins as soon as they were back into the water. I did my best to ignore him and document other dolphins’ behavior.

 

A few times it seemed like every other dolphin (24 in total) was watching French and me. Otherwise, the dolphins were all social with each other: Ronnie, Dixon and Vin were rolling all over each other. Mrs. Beasley (Vin’s mom) watched the game and intervened only once or twice.

 

After breakfast, the DCP team went on the two morning dives while John and I returned to Bailey’s Key to film record some training sessions with Teri. From under water, we recorded Han & Ritchie and Marge & Bailey as they practiced “together-create”. In short, they had to do the same behavior together and it had to be “new”. Very neat stuff … and it was cool to watch them communicate and decide what to do and who would lead.

 

The afternoon was spent reviewing the video shot in the morning and chatting about dolphin communication. We had a great day!

Tomorrow begins again early … a good thing when the sun rises at about 5:15 AM!

 

Cheers

Kathleen

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Pops, jaw claps and whistles - oh my!

We had a great Monday with two data collection sessions and several dives for our team! The morning session brought much better underwater visibility with me entering the water at about 6:45 AM. The dolphins were very vocal and very social. Ken and Anthony thought my fins were the best toy in the world! They mouthed my fins and poked at my feet. Not something I encouraged but I did my best to ignore them.

The second session had slightly less visibility under water but no less social activity. The males were in smaller subgroups and very tactile and much rubbing and noise ensued during my observation session. Ritchie was with Han and Bill most often and was also making pop sounds while the others sort of squawked. Whistles were everywhere it seemed. Luckily, my fins were less interesting and so I was able to watch the activity a bit more out of range of the prying playful nature of the dolphins.

During each session the 1 and 2 yr old dolphins took several passes and looked into the front port. Paya, the oldest male, even positioned himself directly in front of my lens once and then pressed his body against my left side ...

Our DCP team joined most of the other guests at AKR and visited Maya Key for a picnic from about 10 am to 3:30 pm. They took the dive boat over and did several dives there and back. The winds picked up, as they have been doing each afternoon, and so their ride was a bit bumpy, but still enjoyable.

Tomorrow, we have another early morning session and an afternoon of data review and dolphin sketch drawings.

Until then, cheers

Kathleen and the DCP 2011 RIMS team

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Travel to Roatan – Saturday, April 30

 

Our day began at 01:30 (AM), with a drive to the airport followed by a wait for TSA to open and then check in. Luckily, we slept on the plane. We had a stop in Houston and then a direct flight to Roatan. The flight to Roatan was shorter and we were excited to get to the island. Both flights were full! We cleared immigration and customs and got our bags to the fellow we thought was from Anthony's Key Resort. Turns out he was just an airport representative. So, our bags stayed at the airport for about 3 extra hours! They arrived and both John and I were able to get our housings unpacked and set up.

 

It was also nice to see Bill, Ron, and Madison again. Lisa, Madison's mom, joined the group, too. Bill had two extra days on island while the other three arrived on the earlier flight from us. This trip has been like "coming home" so far. Participants who've been DCP supporters since the mid-1990s and a location (Roatan) where I've been studying dolphins for 9 years!

 

I did not get to Bailey's Key today but plan to head over tomorrow to see the dolphins. There are 24 now! I'll confirm the new rake scars and interactions tomorrow and fill you in on the group. I must admit that I LOVE the warmer temps and weather. John said this winter that there are three things that do not mix for dealing with morning, especially in winter ... cold, dark and early. I doubt we'll have to deal with them tomorrow!

 

Cheers

Kathleen, John, Bill, Ron, Madison & Lisa - the DCP RIMS 2011 team

 

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Thanks to continuing DCP Sponsor - Wildlife Acoustics!

Words are not enough to to express our thanks to the team at Wildlife Acoustics! They have been very supportive of our research studying dolphin calls and noise levels. DCP was honored to beta test the very first SM2M recorder off Bimini (pictured here)SM2M image. This passive acoustic recorder is autonomous: we deployed it for two ~2-week stints off Bimini to record sounds continuously. In other words, we dropped it off in about 35 ft of water and left it … occasionally checking to be sure the dolphins had not swum away with it! We brought it back after the two weeks and looked at the data - and are still looking at the data! Because the SM2M records sounds continuously, it allows us to document dolphin calls during each day and night while the recorder was deployed.  We learned that in August 2011, dolphins were vocal during all hours of the day and night within about a mile of the SM2M! Of course, some hours had more calls than others! We'll continue to look at these data … and SM2M data from our study sites at Dolphin Encounters and RIMS … to better understand dolphin vocal activity. Thank you to Wildlife Acoustics for making acoustic data collection that much simpler for DCP!

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Application for 2011 DRTs Posted!

The application for DCP's 2011 DRT (pronounced "dirt") programs are posted! If you are a 6th, 7th or 8th grader from Pine Point School or the Wallingford, CT school district, download your application today!

Click here for more information.

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HOLIDAY ORDERS

Adoption StuffPlanning to Adopt-A-Dolphin this holiday season?

If you want your adoption kit to arrive before the 25th of December, you must place your order and choose Economy Shipping NO LATER than December 15th or Expedited Shipping NO LATER THAN December 17th. These orders should arrive by December 24th. Any order placed after the 17th might not arrive before the 25th. We will be able to email you a PDF or jpg of your Adoption Certificate if you order after the 17th (which you can print out so you at least have something to put under the tree), but the kit itself might arrive after the 25th. Note also that the DCP office will be closed from December 24th through December 27th.

Click here to learn more about adopting a wild dolphin!

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Holiday Bonus!

DCPCalendar2011This holiday season, all individuals who make a purchase from DCP will receive DCP ’s 2011 calendar. Our 2011 calendar is filled with photographs of dolphins from DCP ’s field sites. In addition, purchases over $50 will also receive an aluminum DCP water bottle - free! Purchases from DCP include Adopt-A-Wild-Dolphin packets, CafePress gear (holiday, dolphin and DCP), trading cards, memberships - anything found through our website.

Qualifying purchases must be made on or before 1 January 2011. Note: If you make a purchase from Cafe Press, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to confirm your order and receive your holiday bonus(es)!

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Dolphin Facebook Competition!

Did you know that all 26 Adopt-A-Dolphins have their own Facebook pages?

Did you know that DCP researchers post updates on the dolphins when they are seen off the island of Bimini?

Are you already a fan?

Well, the dolphins are gearing up for a fan competition. There is lots of chatter over which dolphin will get the most "Likes" before 1 January 2010. Some are saying it will be the adventurous Lil' Jess, while others are rooting for fun-loving Addie. Maybe it will be social butterfly Split Jaw or spunky Nemo. You can help decide which dolphin will have the most "Likes" before the New Year. So log on and "Like" today!

 

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Introducing.....JOANNE!

Joanne Bubble LowResDCP is pleased to announce the newest dolphin available for adoption: Joanne! Joanne (ID#86) was first documented by researchers in 2004, but they had a hard time keeping her straight! This adult female's distinct pattern behind her blowhole is easy to see from the boat; the pattern below her eye is easy to see under water. 

If you are interested in adopting Joanne, please click here to learn all about our adopt-a-wild-dolphin program. But, since Joanne's own webpage isn't up and running yet, please email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to adopt Joanne. Please include the following information:

Purchaser's Name, Purchaser's Email, Name on Certificate, Is this a gift?, Recipient's email, if different (so he or she can receive our quarterly newsletter!), Shipping Address

We'll send you payment instructions upon receipt!

You can also support DCP by purchasing products with Joanne's image at www.cafepress.com/dolphinjoanne.

Joanne was named by Pierre-Yves Binz for Joanne von Beust.

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NEW Dolphin Gazette!

Gazette144It's that time of year folks - the last issue for the year of The Dolphin Gazette is here!

Just in time for the holiday season, this issue is jam-packed with updates from the field, education programs and ways that you can support DCP. Updates include that from Kathleen's work at Dolphin Encounters; and let's just say dolphins aren't the only marine mammals making an appearance!

Click here to download (6.2MB).

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DCP in The Day

DCP's Dolphin Research Trainee program got the attention from local newspaper, The Day. A video showcasing DRT participants' experiences at our Bimini, Bahamas field site will be premiered on 9 October from 11:30 - 1:30 p.m. at Mystic Cinema in Old Mistick Village. The event is free and open to the public. Check out The Day article by clicking here.

(Note: Dolphin Communication Project, a 501(c)3 organization, is no longer affiliated with Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration.)

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Contact Us

Write to us via snail-mail at:

Dolphin Communication Project
P.O. Box 7485
Port St. Lucie, FL, 34985
USA

Email us:

info {at} dcpmail {dot} org

THE DOLPHIN COMMUNICATION PROJECT CHARITABLE SOLICITATION NUMBER CH42894, MEETS ALL REQUIREMENTS SPECIFIED BY THE FLORIDA SOLICITATION OF CONTRIBUTIONS ACT.  A COPY OF THE OFFICIAL REGISTRATION AND FINANCIAL INFORMATION MAY BE OBTAINED FROM THE DIVISION OF CONSUMER SERVICES BY CALLING TOLL-FREE (800-435-7352) WITHIN THE STATE OF FLORIDA, OR 850-410-3800 WHEN CALLING OUTSIDE THE STATE.  REGISTRATION DOES NOT IMPLY ENDORSEMENT, APPROVAL, OR RECOMMENDATION BY THE STATE.

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