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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dolphins in the surf

For a few years now, I kept missing out on sightings of Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the Bodega Bay area — until tonight!  Thanks to Lewis, we watched a small group of them off Salmon Creek Beach in the early evening.

There were at least 6, possibly 7 or more, individuals.  It was hard to count as different animals dove and surfaced.

Note the relatively large size, slate gray coloration, tall and falcate (sickle-shaped) dorsal fin, and in a few photos, a glimpse of the beak.

We were excited to see at least one calf.  In the next image, compare the larger fin of the adult with the smaller fin of the calf.

These dolphins were fairly distant, so I was taking pictures and just hoping that some of them would come out.  Although I didn't know it at the time, I caught the calf with its head out of the water:

(Calves nurse for 18-20 months, but then stay with their mothers for another 3-6 years.)

Much of the time, the dolphins were swimming parallel to the waves.  Sometimes they would stop and mill around, perhaps to search for food.  A few times they turned and either surfed with the waves or swam (and leaped!) through them.  Here's a selection of my favorite images of the dolphins interacting with the waves.  As this is my first time seeing Bottlenose Dolphins off Bodega Head, I can't help sharing a few!

Bottlenose Dolphins aren't common in this area.  This is at the northern end of their range.  I remember hearing about Darris Nelson's report of them at Doran Beach in 2012, and there have been a few other observations, but if you see them, consider yourself lucky!

One more picture to wrap up.  What do you know, we saw a dolphin in the sky on our walk back!


Leth Benz said...

Very lucky!

Great last picture :D

Darris said...

WOW!! I have to say . . . I'm green with envy ; ) This is exciting news! (Norma Jellison alerted me to your sighting). I'm thrilled you were able to see these beauties and get such amazing images! Isidore Szczepaniak at Golden Gate Cetacean Research would LOVE to hear of your sighting and see the photos as bottlenose are his species of research.

Thank you for the shout out and link too ; )