Island life has left me behind on blog posts once again! Last Thursday, I was able to join the Bimini Adventures’ group on one more dolphin trip – and it was a wild one! There was searching, there was a big squall and of course, there were dolphins! Later that night, I joined the group for dinner (yum – the group chef does such tasty meals for us!) and chatting. Thanks to everyone for their support this week.
Following this group was a mid-season break, filled with family time. It was great – but since our air conditioner at home broke, it meant my laptop could only handle short running times. Inside temperature was a mere 96°F and the ol’ computer wasn’t impressed. Thank goodness electricity on the island is pretty stable again, so at least the ceiling fans could cool us down enough for snoozing…
I’ll spend the coming week catching up on emails, data and maybe, just maybe, convincing a few more folks to join us on our August 11 – 16, 2019 ecotour. Are our updates from Bimini calling to you?! Email us (info[at]dcpmail.org) or Facebook message us if you are interested!
On Wednesday (Happy Independence Day, Bahamas!), the day began with a light breakfast for Nat & Taylor at my house. There was just enough time to touch base before helping them get their suitcases to the ferry dock – they headed back to Florida today. It’s been a pleasure working with these interns and DCP got more done this summer thanks to them. And, they were even able to squeeze in a quick beach clean-up this morning; how great are they?!
After they headed out, I got myself back into solo researcher-mode as the dolphin trip was leaving at 1400. Though I’d met this week’s guests earlier, during the camera and photo-ID intros I led, it was my first time joining them for a dolphin search. They were alert and eager, but first: a snorkel stop at 3 Sisters. We didn’t have to wait long after the snorkel to find dolphins; they made themselves known with lots of splashing at the surface. It was a large group and they were on the move. They were somewhat spread out, so a group count was challenging, but there were at least 32 Atlantic spotted dolphins. Throughout the afternoon we had several opportunities to watch the surface activity and bow riding as well as observe them underwater. We made note of Cerra (#38), Niecey (#48) and Stefran (#82), all with calves, Split Jaw (#22), Prince William (#64), Speedy (#78), Paul (#99), Sulfur (#102), “Lamda” (#104, pictured here. He has some new scratches on his other side, but he’ll be just fine)
Back on land, it was camera rinsing, battery charging and emails. We’ll see what tomorrow brings!
Tuesday was our last full day on Bimini. We began by met Kel for early pickup by the Coral Reef II’s dingy. We bounced our way out of the harbor and soon were climbing aboard the Shedd Aquarium’s research vessel to chat with their first round of Teen Science Expedition students. It was a whole new take on Kel’s presentation – a large flat screen TV, cool A/C….and a gently rolling boat! It was great for Nat and me to share our recent paths through undergrad with these high schoolers.
Soon, we were back on land, prepping for our last boat trip aboard Renegade. We hoped it would be filled with dolphins, and encounters under water. Although it was our last boat trip, being aboard Renegade and searching for dolphins was a feeling of true bliss. It was another hot day and it was a bit rough providing us with tricky conditions to look for splashes or dorsal fins breaching the surface. Early during our trip, Captain Al spotted dorsal fins in the distance and we were met with 10 or 12 dolphins. This encounter was special for us because Nat and I were able to enter the water together!
Nat quickly grabbed the GoPro, and I grabbed my camera to take still photos of the dolphins. Nat was second in the water after the fearless group leader, and quickly caught up to dolphins to record video data. I entered the water last and made my way to the dolphins. At first, I couldn’t see anything because the visibility under the water’s surface wasn’t the best. Suddenly, I saw a big group of dolphins right under the surface. Dolphins seemed to be everywhere, and dolphins from various directions were joining the big group. I observed the dolphins for a moment, and then they went out of my view. They came back weaving their way through all the people in the water. Perhaps they were checking the unfamiliar objects (humans) that were in their environment. When I thought the encounter was over, I saw the massive group of dolphins along the bottom. They were too far for me to take still photos of them, but in unison they came up to the surface and took a big breath of air. I was able to swim with them for a little bit before they went out of view once more. Renegade picked us up, and we continued our search before our next sighting of dolphins came along.
This time Nat got in the water with the guests and a group of 12 spotted dolphins. Nat told me that during this encounter the dolphins did not seem to care about personal space. A couple of dolphins seemed to beg for her attention while she was trying to record the focal animal in the focal follow technique. Nat also told me this was the closest the dolphins had ever gotten to her. I was excited that Nat had a great last encounter with the dolphins before we said our final goodbyes, just as I had a great last encounter with these beautiful creatures.
Our last adventure on Renegade was nothing short of amazing. It was a combination of playful dolphins, glassy water, and great encounters that made the last day one to remember. It was a period of reflection as well, thinking about our time on the island and how much it would be missed when rejoining life in the States. Our flippered friends gave us a good send off. Tomorrow is our travel day back to Port. St. Lucie for the second half of our office portion of the internship. This is my last entry; I would like to thank all the readers out there for taking time the time to read The Daily Dolphin and following the adventures of the interns. “Life is not about the destination, It’s about the journey”.
Taylor and Nat
On Monday, Taylor and I woke up and made breakfast as we usually do and then headed to the Sea Crest for a DCP talk for the Sea Crest guests. Kel talked all about why photo identification is important for research and how to tell the spotted dolphins apart based on their spot pattern! It was a fun talk and Taylor and I always enjoy listening to the lectures. We also helped to outfit some of our cool DCP swag to the guests who wanted to rock a DCP shirt on the boat. After, Taylor and I went back to have lunch at CJ’s Deli right along the beach. Then we decided to have some fun at the beach and cool of in the water. After we went to the beach, we grabbed the sighting sheets and GoPro and headed to Renegade for our boat adventure.
We started looking for dorsal fins at 3:00 amongst some fairly rough seas and rocky waves. It was definitely one of the rockiest days we’ve been out, so the boat was swaying back and forth. We stopped for a swim break and sure enough there was also a strong current in the water. It was like a water treadmill as we swam against the current and got almost nowhere! After the swim break we continued searching for a long time. Eventually, after hours of searching, Taylor spotted the spotteds! There was a group of eight spotted dolphins riding the three foot waves of the rough seas all around us. It was so much fun to see them surf the waves. Among this group was Romeo (#10) and Swoosh (#36) – again! – as well as Inka (#93) and an inquisitive adult male who we’ll need to ID later. Taylor and the guests got in the water for a nice long encounter as the dolphins swam around in the waves. They also put on a show for the people remaining on the boat as they made huge jumps in the air. I got to see Romeo jump fully out of the water and body slam right into a wave. It was so awesome to watch! Then the encounter was over and we began the journey home.
But, the dolphins weren’t done with us: on our way back home we came upon 20 more spotted dolphins! It was just a little too rough to try another encounter, so we just made some surface observations. It was harder to ID the dolphins in these sea conditions, but Taylor and I were able to make out Sulfur’s (#102) distinct dorsal fin! Although we didn’t get in the water, the dolphins still put on a show as they leaped out of the water and played in the waves. Who knew rough seas could be so fun! Soon it was getting late, so Captain Al turned the boat around so we could head back to shore. We docked and then Taylor and I went right back to our cottage for a quick lights out! We had to get up early the next day for a talk aboard the Coral Reef II. More on that to come in the next blog!
Until next time, cheers!
-Nat and Taylor
On Sunday, Renegade embarked on the usual to look for our flippered friends with some unexpected delays due to weather. We stopped along the way to do a gear check, or for the interns, an excuse to jump in the water and cool off from the scorching sun. During the gear check one of the guests referred to us as mermaids, which I though was very funny. After the gear check we resumed our search…
Soon, we saw some dolphins in the distance. Everyone on board concluded that they were common bottlenose dolphins (T. truncatus) visiting us. Nat quickly unpacked the surface camera to try to capture their dorsal fins (pictured here). These dolphins were not into our agenda. They were moving fast and staying underwater for long increments of time, so after some time we left them in search of other dolphins.
After many hours of searching, and the sun was about to set over the horizon Renegade was making its way back to the dock. Suddenly, Nat and Captain Al saw some dolphins in the distance. This time they were spotted dolphins. The vessel sped up a little to catch up with the dolphins. As soon as we were close to them, Captain Al gave us the order to get our gear on. I was second in the water this time with the GoPro to take some video footage of the dolphins. This was classified as an encounter attempt because we didn’t actually see any dolphins underwater.
Later that evening, we came upon another boat and dolphins, but we weren’t able to collect anymore underwater data. Still – considering the rain delay, it was a nice first day on the boat for this week’s Bimini Adventures group. Stay tuned to find out how the rest of the week goes!
Taylor and Nat
Thursday wasn’t just the fourth of July but also the DCP eco-tour’s last boat trip! The boat departed at 2:00 pm so we could go to the Three Sisters for a nice snorkel stop. Taylor and I had fun rocking our new DCP rash guards while we went and checked out the huge schools of fish under the crooks and crevices of the Big Sister rock. I love free diving down into the big school of fish because it makes me feel like I am one with the school. We also saw a huge barracuda swim by and scare some of the smaller fish around the rocks. Soon we were back on board Renegade and searching for dolphins. It was a rocky and windy day out on the sea. It was definitely the rockiest Taylor and I have experienced so far out here in Bimini. The waves made it hard to see any dorsal fins out in the distance because of the frequent white caps, but Kel reminded us that it was still both safe and worth the search – sometimes Renegade is out in even rougher seas! I think I imagined a dolphin jumping about a hundred times because the white caps often look like splashes.
After a while of looking, three bottlenose dolphins appeared out of nowhere right at the bow of the boat. I quickly took out the surface camera and snapped a couple pictures of their dorsal fins. They were slowly on the move, so we didn’t try to have any encounter with the bottlenose dolphins. Soon they were out of sight and we continued our search for some spotted dolphins. After we looked for as long as possible, we had to start heading back home because it was getting pretty late. Unfortunately, we didn’t run into any spotted dolphins, but sometimes these dolphins need a break from us too. We came back to the docks and quickly showered for a late dinner. Taylor and I were able to join the guests during their last dinner and then we said good-bye to everyone Friday morning before they headed to the airport. We had a lot of fun with the DCP eco-tour group this past week and hope to see them again one day on future DCP trips and tours!
Until next time, cheers!
-Nat and Taylor
PS: A huge, giant, enormous thank you to Bimini Adventures and the Sea Crest teams for making our first ecotour of 2019 a great success. We’re so proud of this collaboration and look forward to many more – including our August 11 – 16, 2019 program! Snag a spot now – time is running out to meet the minimum of 10 which is required for delicious meals included.
Wednesday was one of the hotter days aboard Renegade. We boarded Renegade with all the gear including the GoPro, the surface camera, and the data collection sheet. I was ready to help guests board the vessel to start our journey to look for our daily dolphins. It looked like a cloudy day to be on water, but the sun was still shining strong making it hot on board. As we searched, we thought we saw a splash. As we continued on, we received a radio message from another dolphin-seeking boat that they had just left some dolphins. The captain followed our course to head in the direction where the dolphins could still be. The dolphins were still in that spot and were just cruising along. We waited to start our first encounter because yet another ecotour boat was also interested in watching the dolphins before they headed back home. We joined the DCP passengers for a well-deserved swim break before we tried to start an encounter with the dolphins.
Soon, we pulled up to them and the captain lined up Renegade for a drop. Nat went down the ladder to get her snorkel gear on and grabbed a camera to take still photos of the dolphins. I monitored everything from the surface and practiced taking some pictures of dorsal fins with the surface camera. It’s a skill that still needs some work, but it was a good attempt. Captain Al gave the all clear for the passengers to enter the water, but the dolphins didn’t seem to stick around for long. So, the captain asked the passengers to come aboard but to stay ready in preparation for another drop in the water. Being a new sighting of dolphins, this time the dolphins seemed to be more relaxed than before. Nat, Kel and the guests were able to have a good encounter: Kel is pretty sure she saw Cerra (#38) with a male calf, and Niecey (#48). At several points in the day, Stefran (#82) was also present with her calf – we’ve seen so much of them this week! After some time in the water, Kel called for a switch of teams. I was able to enter the water with team 2.
I was last to enter the water, and it seemed like the other guests in the water were following the dolphins in a different direction. As soon as I entered the water, there was a group of dolphins right under the platform. Naturally, I followed this group away from all the people to try to get some good still photos of these beautiful creatures.
The sight of dolphins on Renegade is always a good day. Having the opportunity to observe the dolphins in their natural environment was a breathtaking sight. Nat and I joined the guests for a delicious dinner because the power still had not returned by the time our journey was over. We have about a week left at DCP’s Bimini field site, which is a touchy subject because we both don’t want to leave the island. Thankfully, we still have more adventures to come before that time arrives. Adventure is out there!
Taylor and Nat
Tuesday was another great day out at sea! In the morning, Taylor and I continued our office work with some photo sorting, then right after lunch we met Kel at the Sea Crest to inventory the highly fashionable DCP shirts, tanks and rashguards. I couldn’t help myself and bought a bright green rash guard shirt with the DCP logo on the front. I wear it in the water whenever we snorkel with the dolphins and I absolutely love it. Taylor couldn’t resist either and got same one in bright yellow! We love representing DCP onboard Renegade!
After the inventory we set out around 2:00 to search for dolphins. We made a snorkel stop at Bimini Road so everyone could see the famed “road to Atlantis.” It is a great spot, but Taylor and I had already snorkeled there before, so we decided to skip the real snorkel site and have our own fun swimming around the boat (It doesn’t sound as much fun, but to us it was nice!). Everyone was soon back aboard the boat, and we continued our expedition to look for those dorsal fins. It wasn’t too long until we came across three spotted dolphins. Romeo (#10), Swoosh (#36) and Vee (#101) (yes! Romeo & Swoosh were together again) hung around the boat for a while until we were ready to try an encounter. Everyone was able to swim with these three for a little while, but then they seemed to move away. We decided to have some snacks on the boat while we looked for other dolphins. It wasn’t long until Romeo, Vee, and Swoosh led us to another group of spotted dolphins! Now there were about eight dolphins around the boat. Leslie (#80), Tina’s calf #121, and #114 was among the new dolphins we saw that afternoon. Kel thinks Tina is starting to give her calf some space because although we saw Tina’s calf, we didn’t see Tina (though, maybe we’ll notice her on video or in still photos). Time for the little calf to start learning on his own! We had another encounter with these dolphins, during which Tina’s calf was very active. He was swimming all around us! Soon it was time to say goodbye to the dolphins and head back home. It was then leftovers for dinner, wait for the power to come back on, and a quick lights out for Taylor and me so we can do it all again the next day!
Until next time, cheers!
-Nat and Taylor
PS: Remember – time is running out to grab a spot on our August 2019 ecotour. Click here for more info! We it’s short notice, but…..oh, it’s going to be amazing!
Monday was our second boat trip with DCP’s eco-tour group, with Bimini Adventures. The day started with our normal routine of waking up with the sun, getting caught up on our office work, and then having a lunch break. It was an exciting day because we finished the office work that was assigned to us upon our first arrival on the island. We really felt a sense of accomplishment when we finished our last video log. We decided to celebrate a little bit and headed to the beach after lunch to cool off in the crystal-clear water. As soon as we were done with our beach trip, we were met with a power outage. Luckily, we were getting ready to head to the dock, with hopes that the power will return when we were at sea.
We boarded Renegade, put all our equipment in the proper place, and helped all the guests board before we were ready to search for our daily dolphins. It was a hot day to be on a boat, and there was no ocean breeze to cool us down (the wind was ~5 kts). It didn’t take us long before we spotted some splashes up ahead. The captain headed straight for the splashes, and we were met with a big group of juveniles, including Paul (#99), and mother-calf pairs. Nat was excited to see them swimming in infant position! The final count was 13 spotted dolphins that seemed to surround the boat. The tricky thing about this group was that they were moving too fast and didn’t seem interested in slowing down for us. There were also several other boats in the area, all trying to swim with the same group of dolphins – not an ideal situation for the dolphins or the boat operators. After waiting patiently for our turn, the group plus Nat geared up and entered the water. Kel had the MVA to record the dolphins, and Nat had my camera to take some new stills of the dolphins. The dolphins split up into two different groups, and soon they were moving too fast for the swimmers to keep up. I was watching everything from a bird’s eye trying to give signals to the people in the water of the location of the dolphins. The swimmers boarded Renegade and stayed ready for another drop.
After the second encounter, it was my turn to head into the water to take pictures for DCP’s photo-ID catalog. By now the original 13 dolphins joined up with another group making one massive group of dolphins. Kel entered the water with the MVA and I entered the glassy water soon after with my camera. As we were heading toward the dolphins all I saw was this massive ball of juvenile dolphins just beneath the surface. They were more interested in socializing with each other than playing with us humans – which from a research perspective, is exactly what we want. After we observed the dolphins for a little bit they went out of our view and so we did not pursue them. I thought the encounter was over, but the big group of dolphins headed toward us. As we approached the group, I saw Stefran (#082) and her calf swim by. Kel was able to confirm that the sex of the calf was female, so Stefran has a little baby girl with her. Upon further observation Kel suspects that Swoosh (#036) and Romeo (#010) (both pictured here) could be pregnant – that would explain why we haven’t seen them with calves this year and, perhaps, why we’re seeing them together so much. I love the thought of new dolphin calves, soon swimming around in the ocean. After this encounter, Captain Al tried to put people in the water twice more before heading home.
Today was a great day with the dolphins on the perfect glassy water. Though the dolphins weren’t always interested in the humans, we still had a total of 5 encounters yesterday, which was more than I have witnessed thus far. I think we got some good footage of the dolphins, and some still photos that will be useful when updating the catalog. Despite the heat of the scorching sun it was a beautiful day to be on the water – and our guests are absolutely wonderful! Can’t wait for our next adventure!
Taylor and Nat
PS: Curious about Romeo, Swoosh, Stefran & Paul? You learn more about them and the other dolphins through our Adopt-A-Wild-Dolphin program. Or, join our 11 – 16 August 2019 ecotour program. It’s last minute, but it’s going to be awesome!!
Sunday marked the end to our boat trip hiatus! It has been a long 11 days of island life filled with photo sorting, video logs, and power outages. Taylor and I were super excited to meet the guests for the DCP eco-tour, done in collaboration with Bimini Adventures, for their orientation at the Sea Crest. I was so excited to see Bill, Ron, and John, all of whom I had the pleasure of knowing and meeting on the Roatan eco-tour trip this past October. It is always nice to see familiar faces!
After the Sea Crest visit, Taylor and I went straight to the docks to prepare for the dolphin expedition ahead. Soon we were on our way searching the horizon for dorsal fins. It was the prettiest day for a boat trip yet! The water was glossy smooth and you could see right to the sandy bottom. It would be easy to spot any dorsal fins today, and it wasn’t long until we came across something floating in the water, but it wasn’t a dolphin, it was a loggerhead sea turtle! Only something was very peculiar about this loggerhead. The turtle wasn’t able to dive down. Captain Audley turned the boat around and we investigated. It was clear that this turtle was in some kind of trouble because it would have definitely swum away by then if it could. Captain Al got in contact with Kel on shore to see if any action could or should be taken. After giving the GPS coordinates to Kel, we unfortunately had to leave the loggerhead on the surface where it would hopefully be picked up by help later.
As we continued our search, it wasn’t long until we came across a large group of spotted dolphins! They were scattered all over the place, probably because they were feeding. We tried a couple of encounters, but it seemed like the dolphins’ minds were not in the mood to play with our guests, and they generally ignored us and swam away. There were other boats in the area trying to do dolphin swims as well, so we decided to wait in the area until things settled down and hopefully the dolphins would be in a different mood to play. It was a pleasant wait on the boat though. There were dolphins all around us! There were dolphins to the left and dolphins to the right, out in front of the bow and in the back by the stern (hence the title, thanks Bill!). So at least we got to wait with dolphins instead of by ourselves. I was still able to ID Romeo (#10), Swoosh (#36), Tina (#14), and Stefran (#82) from the surface. Later we were able to try some more encounters and I was able to see Inka (#93) in the water. Soon it was time to start heading home, but it wasn’t without dolphins! We still had dolphins all around us on our way in! They weren’t quite bow riding, but they would sometimes come for a quick bow ride for a few seconds then swim off.
Soon we were back and Taylor and I were invited to have dinner with the eco-tour group! Luckily we accepted because we were welcomed back to our cottage with no power! Surprise, surprise. But thankfully, we were still able to go to the Sea Crest and eat some mushroom risotto, so we didn’t have to wait for the power to come back in our cottage to eat dinner. After dinner, the power was still off, but at this point I think Taylor and I are used to the island heat! Luckily the power returned right in time for bed at 11:00 so we able to have some cool air before bed!
Until next time, cheers!
-Nat and Taylor