Thursday, February 27, 2014

JoJo and Julia

Hi All,
Our last day until April has arrived. I'm so hoping to spend it with JoJo and friends.
We get lucky again and find JoJo and Raggedy Ann at Leeward heading toward Pine Cay. They are traveling at quite a clip which usually means they have a rendezvous with another dolphin or dolphins. They let me swim along with them but I have to swim like mad to keep up. Not only have all the cameras died but my feet have blisters from my flippers! When we get to the end of Pine Cay, they head out toward the reef and two more dolphins show up. This is the best time to swim with them. I get back in the water and JoJo heads for me. He always wants me in on these get togethers. Julia and Frisky have joined them. JoJo is being VERY amorous with Julia while Frisky goes off with Raggedy Ann. There is a lot of flipper footsie and stroking. They are so close to me, most of the time right under me. Julia looks right at me. Apparently she's cool with me watching. JoJo takes off like a shot as a school of Bar Jacks swim by. I hope he got one but I'm not sure. All of them come together again with me right in the middle. They treat me like I'm one of them. I notice they are all turning and I see a boat has come up so they are swimming away. They are keeping me with them. JoJo is going over to the boat. He acts like a decoy, keeping people's attention from the others.  Now, they are speeding up and I can't keep up. Some swimmers have gotten in the water and the dolphins want to distance themselves from them. If only people would either get in and not charge over (they might have a shot to swim with the dolphins) or they could just watch. I have been swimming with JoJo for 15 years and have built up his trust to swim with his friends. These people think if they can just go fast, they too will get to swim with the dolphins. After the boat leaves, they come together again but the moment's lost. Now, its time for us to head back to the marina, pack up and head for home. This has been the most amazing February for cetaceans and I'm thankful for every one of them.



Lemon Lips and JoJo

Hi All,
I'm always hoping to see the calves that have gotten older and left their moms. Lemon Lips was one of my very favorite calves. I called him that because his lips always had a yellow tinge. My second book has lots of encounters with him and his mom, Bo. A few days ago when I watched JoJo, Raggedy Ann and two male dolphins, I thought the smaller male might be Lemon Lips. Now I'm sure.
We found JoJo leaping out of the wake of Kenard's huge motor catamaran. JoJo decided to switch over to our wake. His ultimate goal was to catch a ride to the channel between Fort George and Dellis Cay. When we got there he branched off and started to swim slowly around. We were wondering what would happen next - sleep mode? fish? meet another dolphin?
I decided to see if he wanted company and as I was getting in I noticed another dorsal heading his way. The water was very murky.  I could barely see a foot ahead of me under water so I kept looking up to see where the dorsal's were heading. The new comer was closer to me so, I went in his direction. When I got there I recognized his fluke from the past day. He was the smaller of the sexually aroused dolphins. He had two slight notches out of the right  side of his fluke. He let me come up right beside him as he traveled along to greet JoJo. Clearly JoJo had come to this area to meet him. It was very murky and hard to see what was going on but I could see they were happy to greet each other. As they traveled to a slightly less murky area, I could make out more activity. I think JoJo was giving him some sex education as there was a lot of stroking and showing of male parts. I ended up right in the middle of it all quite a few times but they didn't seem to mind. It's all very natural to them, it's just our society that gets uncomfortable with that behavior. Later, Julia and Frisky showed up but decided to leave the boys and go fishing. Lemon Lips and I got a lot of time to play. He always liked it when I made little tight circles above him. It was quite shallow where we were and I started circling and he circled right below me. JoJo clearly wanted me to hang with him and left us for a while. When JoJo wants me to go to another dolphin he leads me to them then hangs there waiting for me to go to them. Unfortunately a tour boat came and put  swimmers in the water. JoJo and Lemon Lips moved away just out of their reach. I had to wait until they left to resume my fun. JoJo was following me around but Lemon Lips was still way off in the distance. Eventually they came together and started back toward Leeward. I really think that meeting has made me happier than all the others. I love Lemon Lips and wasn't sure I'd see him again. Not only did I see him but, he remembered me and our games.
video
I have mentioned Flipper Footsie as an affection thing dolphins do and I found a clip from a day that shows it. Its at the very end of the clip. It's a bit murky and JoJo comes right in from of me but if you look carefully you'll see two dolphins playing flipper footsie. They are Lemon Lips and Raggedy Ann.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Forgiven

Hi All,
I'm relieved to say Julia seems to have forgiven me. We found Frisky and Julia and one other dolphin maybe one of the horny males from yesterday. The male stayed way away but Julia and Frisky swam right up and let me stay right with them for a very long time. I'm so glad all's well. I am heading home on Friday and would hate to leave wondering if she was still carrying a grudge.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Dolphins, Dolphins and More Dolphins

Hi All,
For my daughter's last day we had a day I couldn't have scripted any better. We came out of Leeward and as I looked toward the reef I saw a long flash in the water and wondered what I was seeing. Moments later two dolphins made high breaches right beside each other. We were then able to watch six dolphins traveling at speed toward Pine Cay breaching and fishing. The formation they were making looked like a large swath. I thought perhaps they were on a large school of fish. As we got almost to Half Moon beach, they all started for the boat. I thought that would be an oportunity to get in with them. JoJo was of course there when I got in however, when I looked down so was a large Nurse Shark that they were probably chasing at that moment. I got back on the boat not wanting the already harrassed Nurse Shark to take it out on me which has happened before. The next time I got in I could see JoJo, Raggedy Ann, a smaller male dolphin and a large male dolphin. They were vying for mating rights with Raggedy Ann. There was a lots of bashing and shoving going on. One of the males who was ready to mate was shoved out of the way. He had his male part out and dragged it through the sand. I couldn't tell whether the other dolphin got his way. It was very exciting and very physical down there! I did have the whole thing on camera but I'm having some real problems with our cameras so I will only put a little up as the rest didn't import correctly.
Once they all settled down, Julia and Frisky showed up. There didn't seem to be any residue from our fishing incident. I thought maybe Kristen could join me because she had now been accepted by Raggedy Ann and JoJo. I also felt the males had one thing on their minds and would be fine. I was right and Kristen got in and swam near JoJo as I went up with the others. They took us all the way to the shallow area in front of Dellis Cay where they spent three hours slowly swimming around. I'm sure from the patterns they were making they were in sleep mode. By this time our scooters were out of battery and all the cameras were out of commission! We stayed with them hoping to see where they would go next. I have always wondered where they went after they got past Pine Cay. There are three channels they could go out or they could go over the reef. Today they moved toward the reef then vanished! I would assume they or some of them did go over the reef. Seeing I didn't actually see the dorsals heading over the reef, I still don't know for sure.
We headed back toward Leeward thinking we had had a great day and were ready to go in. Not twenty minutes had gone by when Kristen spotted a huge splash across the reef. Of course we had to see if it was a whale. When we got past the reef, we started seeing many, many dorsals. There was a huge pod of Bottlenose dolphins heading back toward Pine Cay. Perhaps that was the pod the others were waiting to join??? Kristen and I got in a few times. They were every where. By the last time, we got in they were swimming all around us. Some coming from way down in the blue staring at us the whole way as they came up to get a closer look. Some of the calves circled at speed the way they always do.  Without the scooters running, we could hear so much whistling and of course there were bubble trails from the whistles. As the sun started to set, we got back in the boat and headed for the marina, our heads filled with images of dolphins swimming around us.

Monday, February 24, 2014

JoJo and Raggedy Ann

Hi All,
The wind was still quite strong but luckily coming out of the East so, it helped flatten the waves. We were once again lucky to find JoJo and Raggedy Ann. Raggedy Ann was just great about my swimming right beside her just like how I do with JoJo.  They were also just fine with Kristen, my daughter coming along as well. Kristen has swum with JoJo quite a few times and I'm sure recognized her. She stayed right with JoJo and I went up with Raggedy Ann who usually is in the lead.  Later, we found a young whale close to the reef outside of Pine Cay. Kristen and John got in and watched him slowly swim by. The water was very clear and not too deep because they were so close to the reef.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Interesting Dolphin and Turtle Behavior

Hi All,
I was so happy and relieved to find JoJo and Raggedy Ann. More importantly, JoJo behaved in his usual manner bringing me to Raggedy Ann then staying behind me as I watched her. She let me stay right behind her as she flipped over and swam that way for a long time. In the video it's a little hard to see because she was right at the surface. After she rolled over and started to move off JoJo came by me. I'm not sure what that means but I would assume something! I actually thought maybe this was another male dolphin but after comparing the markings on her fluke it appears they are the same. Later, we went for a snorkel at the reef and had a Loggerhead Turtle come right behind the boat. He looked up into the boat. He was just inches from the swim ladder. He calmly took a breath and slowly swam off! Loggerheads are fairly big turtles; this one was about three feet. We see lots of Hawksbill  
Turtles which are usually quite a bit smaller. Later on we came upon two more dolphins that let me swim with them briefly one of them was White Tip a dolphin that I have seen with JoJo a few times. video

Friday, February 21, 2014

Pod of Spotted Dolphins, Whales and JoJo!! (heaven)

Hi All
We really had a banner cetacean day. The weather was windy but with our new bigger boat, it didn't really matter. As we were making the rounds looking for dolphins, I saw a giant splash out past the reef which could only be a whale. We gunned it out through the cut and found two whales. One of them must have gone in the other direction because we ended up with one. He traveled into an area where we have found mothers and calves. He then hung upside down for at least 15 minutes at a time with his fluke (whale tail) sort of flopped over like the photo shows! He would then surface take a breath and do it again. John was able to get right beside him and see the whole thing up close. He wasn't singing as we thought he might be. I think he would have kept doing this even longer but some tour boats came up and basically herded him away.
We then went back inside the reef and spotted JoJo and another dolphin in some very murky water. I was not able to figure out who he was with because they were traveling fast and I couldn't get close enough to see.  As we were following JoJo and his friend, we heard a radio call that there was another whale right outside Leeward Cut. We were right near there so, we hurried out. Just as we motored to a spout, I saw two dolphins hurtling through the water right beside out boat. My daughter, who has joined us for a week and I got in to find seven or so spotted dolphins. One of them got all excited and kept whizzing around whistling as he went. There were streams of bubbles following him everywhere. He circled then dove deep and came right up to us then circled and circled all as fast as he could go. They eventually moved off and we got back in our boat. We found them again and got back in. This time the wild one was way under us. We could just barely see him he was so deep into the blue. When he saw us he came up and the others appeared under him. So magical looking into the deep blue water and suddenly seeing dolphins emerge. He continued on with his circling games gaining more and more speed as he went. When the others started to move off he followed leaving Kristen and I looking into the deep dark blue wondering what else was down there!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Pod of Five Dolphins near West Caicos

Hi All,
video
I have been wanting to go to West Caicos for a long time. John and I had been there once with Catch Ride but it was a long,wet and bouncy ride even though it was a perfect boating day. We set out with hopes to see dolphins and whales. We saw a few blows on our way out but didn't hang with them. When the Island starts coming into view you can see a cluster of buildings. As you get closer you see it's a beautiful resort. The resort like many others never opened up usually due to a money related problem. After looking at the really nice resort, we explored the harbor they dredged for whatever boats they were hoping would be bringing people over.  We then started cruising the coast where all the great dive locations are. The wall is very near the coast so the dive buoys are right off the shore. What an amazing  place to come for a diver if they ever finish the resort and get it open. We found a pod of five dolphins. They were just fine with me traveling along with them but they were very deep most of the time. One calf did come up to get a closer look at me! I think I recognized one dorsal that I'd seen on the South Side. One dolphin was intent on tugging  at what looked like a piece of Finger coral. You will see him hovering above it. He was pulling  on it, swimming away then coming back to try to pull it free again. On the way home just as the sun was setting, we saw more blows and as we pulled up they dove in tandem showing us two tails side by side.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Julia is Upset with Me will JoJo help smooth it over?

Hi All,
This scenario is quite upsetting for me after taking a long time to build up trust between Julia and me. I am blaming the fish! I had gotten in the water to find Julia chasing after a Bar Jack that was swimming around the bottom then hiding in some coral. The coral looked like a purple tree. Before I knew it, the Bar Jack was swimming as fast as it could toward ME. It thought I would be a good place to hide from Julia who was coming equally fast after it. Once it got to me, I tried to bat it away. Julia however must have thought either I was hiding her fish or I ate it in any case she clearly didn't appreciate my getting in the way of her when she was fishing. You can see in the video her staring at me sometimes with her mouth slightly open. She then swam away a little bit still staring back at me (glaring I think), only to come back again and continue staring. I'm quite sure I was getting a piece of her mind and it wasn't nice. You will also see a few frames of her above the water staring at me! Frisky is swimming around perhaps wondering why his mom is so mad at his human friend that just the other day was babysitting him. Julia eventually swims back to the purple tree and resumes fishing. She does end up with the fish which I hope would sooth the situation.
I was very worried she would carry a grudge and remain angry with me and I was right! The next day   we came upon Frisky and Julia. When I first got in they swam away very fast so I couldn't catch up. Then they swam back toward the boat so, I got in again. Julia swam right over to me and tail slapped and hunched her back. These are all dolphin aggressive warnings. John could see better what was happening from the boat and told me I'd better get out of the water, which I did.  I found this so upsetting to have made an enemy out of Julia. I worried all night about whether JoJo could mend this situation or would side with Julia. After all he has to live with her! 
The next day we found JoJo. He was by swimming himself although I had seen two other dolphins in the area. He was his friendly self but was sonaring to see who was out there. After swimming around me following him, then him following me, Frisky showed up and was swimming at my side. I could see Julia and JoJo in front of us. I then lost sight of everyone and got back in the boat. In the distance Julia and Frisky were way off heading toward Pine Cay.  JoJo was staying in the area. Now what to think??? Normally he would have swum with them. Did he try to diffuse the situation? Did she not display any of her aggressive behavior because he was there? I guess time will tell how this plays out. The good part is JoJo and Frisky seem to have stayed my friends.   video

Friday, February 14, 2014

Manta Ray

Hi All,
Yesterday while traveling along the coast inside of the reef, I saw a dark shape in the water. I got in to investigate and found a Manta Ray. In the video you'll see a quick frame of the shape in the water as I'm approaching it. I had lifted my head out of the water to locate the shape. Then you'll see the manta traveling along as I'm swimming beside it. I needed to get slightly in front so I could see it's mouth. It turned right to me so I got a great view! Mantas are filter feeders so no worries as the large


mouth comes into view!
video
I did see JoJo later in the day and had a nice swim with him. I will catch you up on the dolphins shortly.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Mother and Calf Humpback

Hi All,
It seems there are whales every where right now. If you want to snorkel with them the trick is to find a mother and calf. We got very lucky yesterday and found a mother and calf. The calf looked very small maybe just born. Calves are 10 to 12 feet when they are born. When you look at the video keep that in mind! That will give you an idea how massive mom is.
video
John got in the water first and had the mother come take a look at him but the water was murky so he wasn't able to get any footage. I got in later and they were right  beside the boat. I had to back up a little so as not to disturb them.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Julia Harasses Nurse Sharks

Hi All,
video
Yesterday we got to again witness male whales chasing a female. Maybe it was the same pod chasing another female?? However I promised dolphins so here's what happened the other day! I got in the water with Frisky who was right at the boat. I followed him to where his mother was. As I approached I saw her swimming really fast around a dark shape. As I got closer I saw her harassing three nurse sharks! She seemed more intent on the largest one. I got some footage which shows the battle and Frisky swimming around keeping a safe distance from the activity. At the end you'll see Julia and Frisky swimming off leaving the sharks.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Humpback Males Pursue Female

Hi All,
We had quite a day between dolphins, sharks, and whales.  I will get to the dolphins and sharks at a later date.
video
I'm not sure why anyone would go to Gran Turk or Salt Cay to see whales when there are so many coming through right here! We saw seven today and heard many other reports of other sightings as well. Our most exciting group had one female and two to three males chasing after her. I am speculating on this but it sure looked like males competing for a female. At all times there were either two or three whales chasing after one slightly smaller whale that kept breaching, tail slapping or pec waving. The fourth whale would show up from another direction and join in the chase. He would then leave for a while and return or perhaps it was another whale but I would guess it was the same one. At times they were making large circles following close behind each other. At other times they were bumping into each other (more like crashing) . They acted like a pod of Rowdies (name given to males who travel in pods fighting for breeding rights). There was however the one smaller whale that they were clearly chasing. I have no idea how she had the energy to keep breaching and tail slapping. We were with them for over four hours and they were still chasing her when we had to return to the marina before the sun went down. Apparently no one has ever actually seen Humpbacks mate I wonder if we had stayed to the end if we could have witnessed it.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Baby Sitting Duties

Hi All,
I felt this week that either I earned Julia's trust or Frisky is a little older. I think that feeling was confirmed yesterday when she left me with Frisky for quite sometime. In the video you can see him whizzing around. The water wasn't very clear but you'll get the idea!
When we first found them Big Blue came up to watch. I included a picture of Philip the owner waving. Big Blue is very respectful of the whales and dolphins. Philip's outfit is very knowledgible of all the creatures of the sea.
video
After leaving the dolphins we motored past the reef and found one humpback. We then saw a huge breach quite far from where we were hanging with the first whale. We headed out at breakneck pace which we can now do from Spy Hop!! By the time we found the whale who by this time had settled down, there was a nasty rain storm heading our way. Even with our nifty red bimini top, we decided to head back into the sun.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Those Sexy Dolphins

Hi All,
I know you all want to know how JoJo is first. We found him swimming with the sail boat Ataberya which was off the beach along Pine Cay. he was intent on scratching on their anchor line. He eventually started back toward Leeward and traveled slowly so I could join him. Later he wanted a ride behind our new boat that we have decided to call Spy Hop. Spy Hop is the phrase that describes dolphins and whales poking their heads out of the water to see what's going on above the water. We see it all the time, especially when the calves want to see where we are  or maybe to see what we look like!!
JoJo wanted to go to the beach along Grace Bay to fish. He likes to eat Sand Tile fish which are very small fish that are bottom dwellers. They dig holes in the sand to make their burrows. I saw JoJo grab one that hadn't gotten down his burrow in time! However if they are in their burrows JoJo can echolocate them and plunge his rostrum down their burrow to find them. It must take a lot of these little fish to satisfy this seven foot dolphin!
Two days ago when I was with all four dolphins I caught on film some very interesting behavior that I had only read about.
video
Dolphins are very sexually orientated. They will have sex with either gender and at pretty much any age. I had read that mothers stimulate their calves at a very young age. Now I have this on the video!! You will see Frisky is upside down and Julia has her rostrum on the slit where his male parts are stored. You will also see that Raggedy Ann is right beside them showing a lot of interest.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Come along JoJo is taking me to the Pod

Hi All,
video
video
There were so many great things that happened yesterday, I don't know where to begin! I tried out a new camera that is embedded in my mask. So you can see what I see.
I have said time and time again that JoJo brings me to his family. Now in this clip you can actually see how it works! First, you will see JoJo coming to get me. As he gets to me, he turns back and I follow him. After traveling a little way, the pod comes into sight. You can see Raggedy Ann's fluke with the left side - ragged! Frisky is traveling where calves do; staying under their mom to get the maximum drag affect. Julia has that little bump on her right side. It looks like a puncture of some sort (it's hard to see). You will see that as I get to the other dolphins, JoJo goes off to the side. He's on my right a little way off. Later, he comes up on my left as we move off.
Yesterday, they seemed to want me right with them - a lot. When the tour boats came they let me stay with them unless the captains put people in the water. Then they sped up and moved away. I have known JoJo for 15 years and Raggedy Ann for 4 years and have earned their trust. I guess people think it's a "swim with the dolphins" program! However, these are wild dolphins. I'm hoping that when Kristen my daughter comes, they will let her swim with them because JoJo knows and likes her.
I have noticed over the years that the calves  seem to get to a certain age and become more interactive with me (except Lemon Lips who was always interactive!!)  Apparently Frisky is there!! He was a little wild man yesterday.  At one point, he was swimming all over at speed, up and down and very close to me. I was getting worried that maybe it was too close and he was going to run into me. At that moment, JoJo appeared. I think he too thought things were getting a little rough. JoJo has come to my aid (rescue!) quite a few times. I think of him as my friend and guardian.
The first time I had gotten in with a pod of dolphins who were fishing and JoJo came right up to greet me then went off to fish. Later, a dolphin came right at me along the surface with a menacing look! John told me he was slapping his tail on the water. I was staying still, hoping he'd see I wasn't a threat. JoJo appeared from no where and swam right under me toward the dolphin. The dolphin vanished. Anther time, I was swimming with JoJo and a pod where I knew most everyone. There was however, a dolphin I didn't know that kept coming to look at me. I felt I should have known him or something. In any case, he was quite persistent and again JoJo who, as usual was traveling behind me, came right up to the dolphin. I think he was just making sure all was going ok.
Now back to Frisky! As I mentioned he was having quite a fun filled day so I put in a video of him zooming around and playing.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Shark Encounter With Dolphins

Hi All,
We have just returned from a whirlwind trip home with lots to do in order to spend the whole month of February here in Turks and Caicos.
John and I have been contemplating a bigger boat for sometime as our adventures take us over the reef and out in rough seas. As luck would have it, an owner here at Ocean Club was thinking about selling their Whaler and graciously let us take it for a spin. My biggest concern of course, would JoJo like this boat?? Would JoJo figure out I'm on it????
Don, the boat owner, John and I head out for our test drive. Just as we leave Leeward Cut we see a boat behaving in a dolphin sighting way, turning around, going slowly, people looking over the railing. We motor right over and find JoJo slightly ahead of them. I get in but fairly far away and he doesn't see me. After getting back in the boat, we go over, JoJo gets in our wake and we motor off  with him following. A short time later, he branches off and we find him out by the reef. I get in and he comes right up then continues along at a good clip. I get back in the boat and am quite sure he's looking for another dolphin, because he is swinging his head back and forth which means he's echolocating. We followed him along and a mother and calf show up! I get in and as I figured it was Julia and Frisky. Julia has sustained a new puncture wound which looks like a nip. Frisky looks just fine. I get a little interaction then they speed up.  I get back in the boat and say I think they will meet up with Raggedy Ann. As I predicted, a few minutes later she shows up near the cut at Leeward. We see JoJo and her together. This is the time to get in! I have some nice interaction with all of them. I get to see Raggedy Ann being a good aunt to Frisky. They are very affectionate. Lots of touching and rolling into each other. A tour boat comes up and JoJo starts following me with all the other dolphins right behind! Then more and more tour boats come along until it's a zoo and I loose sight of all the dolphins and fear I'll get run over. The boat captains don't realize it's me because they are used to me being with Catch Ride! Some of the captains put swimmers in the water but the dolphins have moved off.
We decide to test drive Don's boat across the reef and head toward a cut. Yes, a bigger boat is dryer and less bouncy in rougher water! (and yes, probably safer :))
We come in from across the reef at Beaches and travel down the coast back toward Leeward. I'm thinking we may meet up with the dolphins because  they were traveling this direction. As we get to Leeward and are about to bring Don back to the marina, we see lots of dorsals. The best part is there were no tour boats in sight!!! I get in and am having a nice time with first JoJo and Raggedy Ann then Julia and Frisky. The groups are ever changing. Suddenly, they all came together in a line with the bigger dolphins on the outside and start swimming very close together. I was wondering what was going on until I saw swimming right under them a large Black Tip Shark. He was making his way through Leeward Channel toward the reef.
I have seen how dolphins behave with Nurse Sharks but never before with a Black Tip. They either heckle Nurse sharks or ignore them. In the past, JoJo has shown me Nurse sharks. I have seen Nurse sharks swim near calves with no reaction from their Moms.
Great day all in all, got to see new behavior and found out JoJo is fine with the new boat!!