Mikura dolphins were in the mood today IMAGE: Picture 1 is of #404 (Ketsushakure) with her head buried in some Tosaka, looking for fish.
This might just have been the coolest trip ever! Another rainy cloudy morning yada yada yada… you know the story by now. Luckily, the waves were much calmer and the water was nice and warm. We did not see a whale shark, which was unlucky, but we did stumble across a dolphin love-in. A group of around 20 sub-adult and adult males and females were congregated around a massive stretch of Tosaka seaweed just off the coast of Subarune. For whatever reason, they did not mind the passengers in the water at all, and they stuck around this spot for about 30 minutes! We just hung out in the middle of it all, surrounded by dolphins going about their daily lives. I witnessed a few dolphins hunting for fish in the Tosaka, including Ketsushakure, who was the dolphin bouncer from yesterday’s trip. She hung vertical in the water with her melon (forehead) pointed into the Tosaka, echolocating on any fish that might be in there. I watched her catch two fish by doing this, and got it all on video. Of course there was ample circle swimming, but for the most part the dolphins only occasionally bothered dealing with the people. They were clearly intent on some ‘other business’. I’ll put it this way; even someone seeing a dolphin for the first time would have no trouble telling the males from the females today…. if you catch my drift. IMAGE: Picture 2 is of #161 (Koshakure) giving me the dolphin equivalent of Back Off Buster!!
I tried to hang out on the fringe of all this activity, filming behaviors I thought interesting and relevant to our research. But at one point I drifted too close to a swarm of romantic goings-on, and #161 (Koshakure), swam quickly over to me and gave me the jaw! This is generally not a friendly gesture from a dolphin, although sometimes it is used during play. In this case, since there was mating behavior and some aggressive behavior taking place, I took it as a sign that Koshakure was telling me to Back Off! You can see from the above picture of Koshakure that a dolphin giving you this signal can look more than a little menacing. It does not help that Koshakure has a rather deformed lower jaw – a dolphin under-bite as it were. She looks pretty malicious in this picture – not very flattering. But she is a good gal, and I take no offense at the warning. Maybe she even saved me from being accidentally involved in the love-in.
In any event, this was a really great opportunity to film some cool dolphin behavior – a successful day by any standards!