Kata here again! We trekked all the way back to David today to meet two new interns
- Conor and Megan, and to do some boat maintenance. On our way we got to travel
through the "estero" (estuary) and admire wildlife we don’t normally get to see. The highlight of our trip was passing through a bay just west of Boca Chica where we saw a group of around twenty bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) feeding! The dolphins were extremely curious and friendly. One dolphin rode along with us under our bow for a long time. We believed the dolphin to be an older calf. These individuals characteristically will stay close to an adult, presumably the mother, and are smaller than full grown adults. The dolphin is also easily identifiable; you can see two distinct dark spots under the left
eye. We use markings like this to monitor individuals and note when we encounter them repeatedly. We plan to be back out on the water tomorrow to do more work with our whales. Let’s hope that the weather stays nice for us!
Hello everyone! This is Kata, one of Panacetacea’s interns this year. We just had two
of our busiest days yet! Yesterday we saw over thirty whales out on the water in just five hours of surveying. This is one of the highest numbers ever seen in one day in the history of this project! The abundance of whales in the area was exciting but also very overwhelming. We all had a difficult time keeping track of the action! Luckily we were able to get nine unique photo IDs, a skin sample from an active whale, and some interesting vocalizations from nearby whales before we had to go in because of bad weather. Today, sadly, we said goodbye to our colleague José Julio in Boca Chica after six days of working together. On our way back to the Secas we came across the largest competitive group we have ever seen in the area! (A competitive group is when males compete to mate with a female). We won’t be able to give an exact number until we carefully go over the video footage and photos from our encounter, but a
preliminary estimate puts the group somewhere between nine and twelve individuals. In addition to witnessing this we were also able to collect a skin sample from a breaching whale and listen to the vocalizations of the competitive group using our hydrophone. It has been a tremendously successful field season so far. We can only hope that it gets better from here!
Today we were surveying along and Kata, our intern, noted that it had been an hour since we had seen a whale (we have been seeing them so often, this seemed like a long time). No less than 30 seconds later an adult breached (leapt out of the water) a few hundred meters ahead of our bow! Seeing a full grown adult leap out of the water is always an impressive sight. Soon we saw that it was a mom and her calf, and we spent an hour watching the two breach, slap their pectoral fins on the water, and roll around. As scientists, we try not to anthropomorphize, but it’s hard not to think that these two weren’t having lots of fun!
Today was our second day of field work. The first few days are always challenging and
I feel a little disoriented trying to remember where I put everything and how things work all while getting used to bobbing around in a small boat. This year we have a new GPS, camera, and hydrophone recorder to complicate matters. The whales have been helping us ease into field work by being fantastic so far! In two days we have already seen competitive behavior (when males fight to mate with a female), a mother with her small calf, an adult breaching in the distance, a singer directly beneath our boat, and tail lobbing! Here is a
picture of the whale we saw this afternoon, lobbing its tail repeatedly.
We are getting ready for our field season and hoping to be on the water tomorrow. Today we went to three different grocery stores to get our food and other supplies. Tomorrow we will get up early, put the boat in the water and make sure the engines are running well. We also have to install some new electronics (VHF radio and a new GPS). If all systems are go, we will leave for the Islas Secas by noon. We have been getting consistent reports of whales, and we can't wait to get out there! Last year was our best field season ever, so let's hope this year also goes well!
I great first day! We surveyed the inner part of the Archipelago from Drago all the way to Zapatilla and found 3 groups two of which had calves displaying social behaviors. It was also pleasing to see two of the operators complying with the Panamanian guidelines for dolphin watching. Good job!