28 August 2018

Less wind, more dolphins!

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The group started with breakfast nice and early on Monday, so a couple of people would be able to go for a morning dive. The rest of us chatted for a bit before the first session of the day, an introduction to DCP and the research we do. Nicole presented the slideshow describing DCP’s origins, our field sites, the dolphins studied here off Bimini, and our research methods. The guests had some really interesting questions. Kel and Nicole had a great time sharing their knowledge with the group.

After lunch, the boat departed a bit earlier, at 1400, because we would be stopping for a bit of snorkeling before our search for dolphins. The dolphins clearly didn’t know our plans, though—only a few minutes into our trip we came across a group of foraging bottlenose dolphins! This group of at least five was surfacing pretty regularly so we were able to get lots of surface photos, but they were spread pretty far apart, so we decided not to try underwater observations. Instead, we headed to Three Sister Rocks for our snorkel stop.

The true search for dolphins started as we left Three Sisters…and continued….and continued…for two hours! Fortunately, the wind was much calmer than yesterday, making the survey much more enjoyable. Finally, we came across a group of 22 Atlantic spotted dolphins! From the boat we were able to identify Romeo (#10) with her calf, Tina (#14) with her calf, Lil’ Jess (#35) who we only saw briefly, and Stefran (#82). This group was splitting apart and coming together, riding the waves and socializing. The captains thought we might give an encounter a try and after one failed attempt (the dolphins are just so unpredictable) we were able to observe Tina with three juveniles. They followed Kel for a bit so DCP was able to collect some good video data of their interactions. Eventually, they swam off more quickly than we could keep up, so we got back on the boat. A few minutes later, we caught up to a larger group and tried another encounter. This time we saw Tina again, but we also identified Niecey (#48) and un-named #75 and #114. Hopefully we will be able to identify more of the group once we review stills and video.

As it was still relatively early, we kept our eyes peeled for more dolphins on our way home, and we were not disappointed! We came across another group of foraging bottlenose dolphins—possibly even some of the same individuals from earlier in the day (we’ll have to check our surface photos!) This time, they appeared to be a bit more cohesive, surfacing in a group and spending some time at the surface, so Kel got in the water to test it out. The dolphins appeared to return to about the same spot, so a few guests joined Kel for an encounter. They did get a pretty good view of the group of bottlenose as they came up for a breath. After a few minutes of observations, everyone was back on board and we were heading back to the dock.

After dinner and some more captivating conversation, most everyone headed to bed early. Tomorrow is another adventure-packed day, so we need to get some rest in order to be ready for whatever comes our way.

Until next time,

Kel & Nicole

Kelly Melillo Sweeting

Kel is DCP's Bimini Research Manager, and all around awesome scientist.

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