Monday, February 20, 2006

20 Feb Showing off the new calf

The forecast was for 38 deg C (100F) but it didn't seem that way as I made my way out about 200 metres to a group of 5 or so feeding dolphins at about 7 .00 am. The wind was cool and the choppy waves were hitting me in the face.
The Ds were ranging over a fair distance but were checking me out on the way past. It was quiet enough to hear their vigorous exhalations as they prepared to dive in search of breakfast. After about 30 minutes with them I noticed the Mum and tiny calf ( see 14 Feb post ) lurking about 30 metres from me. I didn't try to approach them but concentrated on the others.
Eventually, the feeders moved off and the mum and calf were all that was left. I drifted toward them and the mother would check me out above the surface, move toward me and then twist in the dive to move away to a safe distance. I was happy just watching the antics of the calf but, eventually, mum decided that it was ok to approach. She spent the next 10 minutes showing off her calf to me. I wouldn't be surprised if this is her first calf as she seemed very proud of it. The little guy or girl was very adept in the water now. It had apparently learnt to dive in the 6 days since I had first seen it and was motoring along tucked into mum's side as they repeatedly swam under me. The visibility was excellent and I was able to see that it was about 70 cms long. I had plenty of opportunity to identify mum this time. I recognized her fin from previous swims in bay2 during Nov/ Dec.
Eventually, they too drifted away and the encounter was over.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

14 Feb Happy Valentine's day to me

I left home feeling optimistic which was certainly not based on recent history. It may have been the forecast of a very hot day with light winds. Anyway, I got out of bed really early and drove to the beach.
As I pulled in to the carpark in bay3 there were about 50 or 60 birds enjoying a feed about 300m offshore. The type of bird involved seems to like the same type of fish as dolphins do so I peered into the early morning sunlight to see if there were any fins in amongst the birds. Sure enough, I spotted a couple. 15 minutes later I was in amongst the action and could see at least 6 dolphins appearing from time to time. The water was flat and glassy and I could hear from all around me the sound of the Ds exhaling as they prepared for another dive.
The feeding area was roughly square and about 100m by 100m. I put myself into the midpoint and waited for the Ds to approach. For the next 70 minutes I enjoyed frequent visits from happy Ds who had taken the time off from their hunting to say hello and dive around me.
I had noticed a dolphin with a calf on the edge of the area but she was directly between me and the early morning sun. She seemed to be spending a lot of time on the surface and interacting with the calf. I was having too much fun with the others to take much notice of her but, after I had been with the Ds about 25 minutes, she moved closer and out of the direct sunlight. The calf was close to the smallest that I have ever seen. Mum was pushing the baby's rostrum down by putting her own rostrum above it. It seemed that the baby was having a little difficulty with the concept of diving being a head first kind of thing. I sat on my board and watched the lesson with mum alternately trying to push the calf's head down and then nuzzling it as if to apologize. Each time the baby dived it bobbed up to the surface about as quickly as I do in my wetsuit. After about 5 minutes they moved off. I had been so intent on the lesson that I hadn't checked the mother's fin to see if she was one whom I knew.
I figure that at least a dozen Ds joined the feed while I was there and I was getting a little weary keeping up with them. When I had been in the water about an hour the mother and calf returned with adult dolphins in close attendance. They stayed on the edge but finally all approached me on the surface and then did a slow dive straight underneath me before moving away.
Gradually the numbers dwindled and after about 70 mins I was alone in the ocean. I swam slowly back to shore feeling very satisfied.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

2 Feb - 10 Feb

Except for one brief encounter on Feb 3 the dolphins have not been appearing in my usual haunts. I have seen reasonable size groups at nearby beaches but always moving too fast to be "caught".

Thursday, January 26, 2006

27 Jan - Are you OK?

I spotted a group of 3 or 4 dolphins foaraging about 400 metres out in Bay3. I thought it a forlorn hope that I would reach them before they moved on but thought the exercise wouldn't hurt. I was about 20 metres from them when a good samaritan in a stinkboat pulled up between the Ds and me and yelled out "Are you OK?"
I was really tempted to give him an honest answer but I gritted my teeth, trying to make it look like a smile, and gave him a thumbs up. By the time I'd stopped bouncing around in his wake the Ds had disappeared. One returned briefly to swim straight below me on it's way to somewhere else.
I returned to shore in slightly a worse frame of mind than I had left it.
Oh well, you can't win them all.

26 Jan Australia Day - will the dolphins come out to play


20 & 22 Jan Nothing to report

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Jan 17 - Pretty as a midsummer morn

I arrived at Bay1 about an hour after dawn, in fact. ( A little joke for those who remember the words of Dawn, performed by Tony Orlando ).
The bay was beautiful - a clear blue sky and barely a ripple on the surface. There were 6 or so fins about 400 metres offshore. As the visibility appeared perfect in the water I decided to take my new body board out for a spin. It has a plastic portal in it which allows viewing below the surface.
When I got to about 100m from shore the dolphins were waiting for me. The only sound I could hear was my breathing and the Ds exhaling. It was so tranquil. Two of them left and headed closer to shore but the other 4 decided to inspect me and the portal. They were doing lazy rolls under the board, usually with two of them swimming tightly together, pectorals touching. Sometimes, they would move about 20 metres away and lie on the surface waiting for me to get back to them. They were so relaxed. The whole encounter lasted 45 minutes but it was the last 10 which were a special treat for me.
The 4 Ds had moved off about 40 metres when the young ones started playing boisterous games with each other. One would lift the other out of the water and the one lifted would exaggerate that into a backward swallow dive. I could see them chasing each other and the chase would usually end with one leaping vertically about 2 metres into the air. They were having a ball and I just sat and watched, feeling privileged to have a ringside seat to the show.
When they broke contact with me I decided to swim to shore on my back so that I could keep an eye on them in case they turned around. They didn't, but the two which were shoreside of me passed me one on either side about a metre away. As I was on my back I hadn't seen them coming but I'm sure that they knew exactly where I was.

Monday, January 16, 2006

15 Jan - Haven't we seen you here before?

Through the binoculars I watched about half a dozen dolphins doing some vigorous fishing about 600 metres out. When a couple of fins materialized onlt 100 metres out I decided to go in. By the time I reach them the whole group was there but they made no attempt to come any closer than 15 metres. They were swimming in a tight group so i hung back and waited to see what woulf happen.
Answer: nothing. They left quietly and so did I.
I have been so spoiled during Nov-Dec that the occasional "cold fin" doesn't matter.

14 Jan - A battered girl

There were about 6 dolphins 300 metres out in Bay1 so I donned my gear and set off. About 200 metres out they had gathered in my path. Except for one young one they came no closer. They hung around for about 10 minutes and then swam slowly toward the outer reef. I let them go and went to Bay2.
There was a solitary fin hunting in there and I expected it to be Scratch but it was in fact a female called Blister. She had lots of swirls and marks over most of her body but they appeared to be superficial. She also looked decidedly podgy around the middle. I expect a new youngster is not far away. She was happy to keep me company for a while and then she went about her business and so did I.

13 Jan - Friday

Black Friday dawned looking very black indeed. Leaden skies, the result of a disintegrating cyclone, filled sky.
The wind was dropping so I decided to chance a trip to the ocean. I called at Bay1 and there was a solitary fin doing some foraging. I moved out into the bay and watched the fin disappear and re appear as the hunt was on. Occasionally, the fin would approach and the dolphin ( Scratch ) would show me a dead fish in its mouth. It must have kept returning to this dead fish and grabbing it as it would not have been able to catch and swallow the live fish that it was catching. He was doing nose ( more correctly rostrum ) stands in front of me, all the time playing with the small dead fish. He looked at peace with the world. After about 15 minutes he left and I went over to Bay1 to see if there was any action.
Several dolphins were feeding in small groups between 100 and 200 metres from shore. I swam out to the furthest group and they came over to check me out. They didn't stay long so I moved towards shore. The next group did the same and so did the third. There were 3 of them and they hung around for a while. The water was clear but very dull with the heavy cloud cover so I watched their ghostly shapes gliding beneath me. There was a mother with a fairly young calf. I didn't recognize her fin but she had a small piece of skin trailing from her tail fluke so I'll know her next time.
Soon it was over so I left the beach.

Monday, January 09, 2006

5-7 Jan No action

There were a couple of sightings of distant and/or retreating fins during the three days.
Most years there has been a quiet time during the first three weeks of January. This coincides with the main summer holiday period in Oz but I'm not sure that there is any connection.
It seems more likely that there is a change in the feeding patterns during this time.