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Bottlenose Dolphin “Holly”

Written by Tursiops. Posted in bottlenose dolphin photo ID, Uncategorized

It’s “Holly”, so it must be summer: Bottlenose dolphin sighting

One of our best known summer bottlenose dolphins in Beaufort is “Holly”.  We identify her by photos that show the 3 very distinct notches on her dorsal fin – a process called “photo-identification”.  She is a mom (likely a great-grandmother by now) who we first identified in Beaufort in July, 1989.  We’ve seen her nearly every summer since then, and her dorsal fin looks very much the same today (27 years later!).  We’ve seen bottlenose dolphin holly approximately 100 times between Beaufort and Cape Lookout over the years, but only between April and October.  Her sightings here peak in August.  We believe Holly spends winters in around Wrightsville Beach – we’re still trying to figure that out.  Holly is a well-known dolphin along our coast among people studying bottlenose dolphins and is featured in the Animatronic Dolphin Discovery exhibit at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher.  We haven’t seen Holly as much as we used to so it was a special treat to see her in the Newport River twice so far this summer.  You can see more photos of Holly and try your photo-ID skills at http://www.capelookoutstudies.org/dolphin-id-game/.

 

bottlenose dolphin holly

 

Lethargic Dolphin Nov. 2015

Written by Tursiops. Posted in bottlenose dolphin photo ID, Cetacean Studies, Uncategorized

In August, 2015, during a routine atlantic bottlenose dolphin photo-ID survey, Keith Rittmaster and Josh Summers of nc maritime museum / cape lookout studies encountered a dolphin intermittently rafting lazily at the surface in Back Sound. It appeared to be an unusual behavior but we could not determine a problem so we photographed the bottlenose dolphin and continued on. It was subsequently reported by boaters in the same area in August because the behavior was conspicuous.

Then in early November, 2015 we received multiple reports of a tursiops truncatus (bottlenose dolphin) “disabled”, “dying”, “with a shredded tail”, and ultimately the last report (as of this writing) on November 5th, 2015 was that it was “dead floating upright” in Beaufort Inlet. Dead dolphins don’t float upright and we found what was reported as “dead” on November 5th very much alive, and its behavior recalled our August encounter in Back Sound. But again, not being able to determine a problem, we took photographs and moved on.

Subsequent examination of photos from the 2 encounters confirmed our suspicion that the dolphin we saw Nov. 5th in Beaufort Inlet was the same individual as the one we saw in Back Sound in August. Also evident in the dolphin identification image above [or below?] is 1) it appeared skinnier in November, 2) the injury on its left side in August has healed, and 3) it had fewer Xenobalanus barnacles on its dorsal fin in November. What was reported as a “shredded tail” was actually barnacles on the trailing edge of its tail (see photo).lethargic-dolphin-web-credit Tt-Xeno-flukes-web-credit

Fin whale, and “Onion” returns, Nov.16, 2015

Written by Tursiops. Posted in bottlenose dolphin photo ID, Cape Lookout Studies Program, Cetacean Studies, Marine Mammal Stranding Network, Sighting Report

IMG_5639-web-credit

Today was an amazing day for the crew of Spyhop. The day started out with 2015’s first sighting of “Onion” here in Beaufort. While out for our regular bottlenose dolphin photo ID survey we encountered him  in the estuary near Phillips Island. He appears to be in good condition, and seems to be in the company of a new companion.

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We continued out to the ocean, as weather conditions were perfect. No other groups of bottlenose dolphins were seen off Shackleford banks. However, several blows from whales were visible in the distance. Heading back into Beaufort inlet we spotted a very unusual sight…A Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) just off of Atlantic Beach! This encounter is highly unusual as Fin whales are rarely sighted south of Hatteras in NC or near the beach in shallow water. While photographing this animal for documentation and possible photo identification we sighted a humpback whale, also very near the beach and a short distance away near the AB circle. Unfortunately we did not have the opportunity to photograph this animal. However, on our way back to the dock we encountered yet another humpback whale only slightly farther offshore of Ft Macon!

fin whalefin whale


Fin whale top left and right, Humpback whale below:
humpback whale

Nov. 11, 2015 Dolphin Photo ID

Written by Tursiops. Posted in bottlenose dolphin photo ID, Cape Lookout Studies Program

 

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Beautiful weather allowed us to go out today on our cape lookout studies program boat “Spyhop” and do our usual bottlenose dolphin survey and photo ID.  Just a few minutes after leaving the Gallant’s channel dock we encountered our first group of approx. 15 animals in the estuary. We recognized a few of our winter “regulars”, among them at least 3-4 mother/calf pairs. The next group was spotted in the ocean off the west end of Shackleford, including freeze brand (FB) #402. Freeze brand animals have been previously captured and marked with numbers to help with dolphin research and identification. A lot can be learned from the sightings of these animals. The third group we saw was fairly large, but due to deteriorating weather conditions we decided not to attempt photos. Inside Cape Lookout Bight we saw a single bottlenose dolphin and surprisingly (for this time of year) several sea turtles, one identified as a large Loggerhead. We had hoped for another sighting of the humpback whale repeatedly seen in the area over the last few weeks, and last photographed by us on Nov. 5, 2015.

Here are today’s “best of” bottlenose dolphin dorsal fin photos:

bottlenose dolphin fin photos

Dolphin Epimelitic Behavior, Nov. 1, 2015

Written by Tursiops. Posted in bottlenose dolphin photo ID, Conservation, Marine Mammal Stranding Network, Sighting Report, Uncategorized

On Sunday, Nov. 1st, Katrina Smith reported a floating dead north carolina dolphin in the Newport River near the ICW at the Morehead Beaufort Yacht Club. Upon arrival, Vicky Thayer (NCDMF and NCSU CMAST) and Keith Rittmaster (NCMM) of the NC Marine Mammal Stranding Network noticed it was being supported and moved by another dolphin, a behavior termed “epimeletic”. After approximately 90 minutes of taking photos and video, and seeking help, they (with volunteer Nelson Owens) brought the dead dolphin carcass onto Lee Sykes’ TowBoat US boat near the Morehead/Beaufort high-rise bridge 5 kilometers from where it was initially sighted. After a brief examine, they put it in the CMAST freezer for future necropsy. The most interesting aspect about this case so far is that the dead dolphin, the one being supported and pushed, was a non-lactating adult female. This is unusual because such epimeletic behavior has often been directed towards dead calves, but not towards an adult dolphin as far as we know.

Both bottlenose dolphins are in the nc maritime museum dorsal fin photo-ID catalog, although neither has been seen often. An upcoming necropsy as part of our ongoing dolphin research will yield more information about the dead dolphin, and hopefully future sightings of the “pusher” will teach us more about that dolphin as well.TBUS-VT-NO-Tt-web-credit

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Meet “Trigger”

Written by Tursiops. Posted in bottlenose dolphin photo ID

Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) acquire cuts and notches on their dorsal fins through normal day-to-day activities.  Some notches are caused by dolphins biting each other.  Others are a result of entanglement or boat strikes.  Photos of these notches allow us to identify individual dolphins, a process known as photo-ID.  Using photo-ID, we study residency patterns, migrations, associations, reproduction, and the impacts of entanglement.

Trigger (#2630) has a very identifiable dorsal fin most likely reflecting damage inflicted by a boat propeller.  Trigger is a winter-time regular in the water of Gallants Channel and Taylor’s Creek in Beaufort, NC.  He (actually we don’t know the gender) spends summers near Manteo.  In the sighting table below the photos, the blue cells represent months in which we have seen Trigger in Beaufort.  As you can see, we have only seen Trigger during the months of October-April, and have seen him every winter since 2000, except 2008.

 

The boys are back in town

Written by Tursiops. Posted in bottlenose dolphin photo ID

            A strong and enduring relationship in wild bottlenose dolphin societies is that between adult males.  They pair up during adolescence in a relationship (often side-by-side) that persists for decades.  “Moe” and “Buddy” are such a pair, seen near Beaufort, NC primarily during winter months.  We first saw them this season in Back Sound by Middle Marsh on October 23, 2012.  Their sighting tables below highlight why we refer to them as “winter” dolphins in Beaufort.

The date on each of the 2 photos at the top of each table indicates when each picture was taken enabling you to see if/how the features we use to identify that dolphin change over time. The red lines associate each fin photo with the month the picture was taken. The table beneath the photos highlights when the featured dolphin was seen – a darkened cell indicates the month and year in which we have photographed that dolphin at least once in Beaufort.


“Rainbow” returns with a new calf

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in bottlenose dolphin photo ID

“Rainbow”, #789 in our dolphin photo-identification catalog, is one of our best known bottlenose dolphins.

First photographed in October, 1989, we’ve see her 62 times since then, most years during the months of October-April. On September 27, 2012 between Radio Island and Pivers Island we spotted her for the first time this season with a new calf. In the photo below, notice the calf has 2 small notches near the base of its dorsal fin’s trailing edge. It is rare that such a young calf acquires notches, and this may provide us with a unique opportunity to track a calf after it leaves a known mom. Just beyond Rainbow’s dorsal fin you can see the open blowhole of a nearby dolphin.

Rainbow & calf, 27Sept2012b

Bottlenose dolphin Rainbow and calf. Photo by Keith Rittmaster, NC Maritime Museum


A dolphin named Butterfly

Written by animaljosh. Posted in bottlenose dolphin photo ID, Marine Mammal Stranding Network

The Story of a  Big Dolphin Named Butterfly

Nan Bowles, 05 September 2012

Butterfly was first photographed by Keith Rittmaster, Natural Science Curator at the North Carolina Maritime Museum, on the 31st of December 1993.  He was seen in our Beaufort, NC waters along the ocean shore of Shackleford Banks. For the next 19 years we almost always saw Butterfly in the presence of his friend Onion.