What a surprise — a beautiful sunrise over the ocean
Social Dolphin Behavior

The day started with a beautiful sunrise, but the weather soon turned and we were out of the action all day as a southerly blew up. No tracking from the boat or the cliff was possible. It must get really frustrating for Amy and Cindy when we have these days but I guess they get a chance to get some of the data gathered onto computer and we had a chance to do more fin ID work too.

After a late start to the day, because it was too dark to check the state of the water before 7 A.M., we headed out to get the boat onto the water. It was too rough for the Whalewatch boats to go out but was reasonable in the bay. A storm was forecast for later in the morning so we needed to keep a close watch to the south. Cindy decided that tracking from shore was going to be too hazy.

We found a few small groups of dolphins quite quickly but this soon grew to a large traveling group. Dusky dolphins are very social animals, they move in a wide range of group sizes from less than 20 to more than 500. Sometimes calves are within the big groups, sometimes they are with a small group of females and calves. This group showed lots of social behaviors. The group stopped traveling and then started a milling behavior. There was lots of social behaviour with the dolphins rubbing together and swimming happily alongside the boat.

Two dolphins mating
We even saw some of the dolphins mating during this highly social behaviour.

There were several common dolphins swimming in with the Duskies but they are quite difficult to photograph, as they don't leap as high.

The Dolphin boats then arrived so we moved away. There are not allowed more than three boats within 300 metres of the dolphins at any one time to reduce the strss levels on them. Also no boats are allowed near the dolphins between 11:30 and 1:30 each day to give them rest time.

See the swimmers marked with a white arrow?
Here is a Dolphin Encounter boat and a Whalewatch boat close to the dolphins. You can just see some swimmers in the water behind the boat.

The Dusky dolphins do not seem to mind the contact with people and boats. Several times we observed them swimming towards the boats and swimmers in the water and swimming with the people quite happily.

My observations from the boats showed me that the dolphins will come towards the boat and are quite happy to swim alongside the boat, under and around too, often leaping and slapping the water very close by.

They did not appear to deliberately turn away from the boat at all. If they were traveling they just keep on going regardless of the boat.

T this point, the storm was beginning to get closer. Looking south we can see the storm clouds getting closer. Ten minutes later, we would barely see the land in the distance so we went back to shore. Washing the boat and refueling was done in the freezing cold wind and the start of the rain. We were lucky to have been out at all.