BMMRO: WHALE ETC SIGHTINGS; BLAINVILLE’S BEAKED WHALES; WINTER NEWSLETTER


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Blainville’s Beaked Whale, Abaco, Bahamas

SIGHTINGS REPORT OCT – DEC 2012

The last quarter of 2012 produced relatively few open-ocean CETACEAN sightings, not least because of a reduction in spotting trips during the period, with some members of the team elsewhere in the world completing their research. SIRENIAN activity is thankfully on the increase, with reporting opportunities increased by the manatees’ preference for sticking close inshore, usually in harbour areas. Georgie has gained her first yellow spot as Abaco’s only resident manatee following her long trip over from the Berry Is. (and away from mother Rita) last summer. She has  taken up residence in Cherokee. She performed a worrying vanishing trick during Hurricane Sandy, holing up (presumably) in seagrass off-shore, and (definitely) in an inshore channel for some of the time. She went AWOL again before Christmas, but has returned to Cherokee in good condition after a short vacation. Having shed her tag (several times) it was not possible to track her. The big plus is that she has proved capable of independent living, and has not become reliant on proximity to humans and their offerings of cabbage leaves etc… This photo was taken at Cherokee a few days ago.

Manatee Georgie, Abaco, Bahamas

The other notable new entry is a manatee sighting in the Freeport area of Grand Bahama. A single photo exists – a head shot – but it hasn’t been possible to identify the creature as a known one. (S)he may be a new visitor to the Bahamas. People in the area are asked to report any further sightings in the area to the BMMRO – and if possible to get a picture!
BMMRO CETACEAN SIGHTINGS OCT:DEC 12

BLAINVILLE’S BEAKED WHALES

RANGE MAP                                                         IUCN RATING “DATA DEFICIENT”

        

Mid-frequency broadband sounds of Blainville’s beaked whales

Recent research has been carried out on the sound variations of this relatively little-understood species of whale. “Recordings from acoustic tags show that five Blainville’s beaked whales produced mid-frequency broadband sounds on all of their deep dives, with each sex producing two different sound types. These broadband sounds are atypical of the regular echolocation sounds previously described for this species. One male produced a total of 75 sounds over four dives, between the depths of 109 and 524 meters, and four females produced a total of 71 sounds over 18 dives, between the depths of 305 and 1289 meters. Ninety-six percent of the male sounds and 42 percent of the female sounds were produced before the onset of foraging echolocation sounds, and all were produced before the deepest point of the dives. These sounds may be candidate communication signals, with their production timed to mitigate the risk of both predation and hypoxia (oxygen deprivation).”

The report includes sample sounds from the 3 BBWs shown below, and the one heading the page. I haven’t found a way to embed the sounds, but I am working on it (there’s a time -consuming method involving conversion to MP3, but maybe another day…)

Blainville’s Beaked Whales, Abaco, Bahamas Blainville's Beaked Whale AbacoDA

Thanks to the prolific DEAR KITTY for a cross-reference to this topic on her website, featuring a fine video of  BBW in French Polynesia

Finally, the action-packed, information-filled, image-laden 4 page winter newsletter. Click below to open.

BMMRO WINTER NEWSLETTER 2012 (Jan13)

Georgie Manatee BMMRO SUPPORT LOGO

mantsw~1

ABACO: WHALES, DOLPHINS & MANATEES – BMMRO POST-SANDY REPORT


HURRICANE SANDY – AND AFTER

A report by Kendria Ferguson on the impact of Hurricanes Sandy for the BMMRO

After all the exciting but unexpected events of October, slowly life is returning to normal. As the whimsical but intimidating winds of Hurricane Sandy encompassed the research center, we felt a few limited blockbuster hits. Without power for four days and no contact with the world outside of Sandy Point, we felt like we were in a twilight zone! Hurricane force winds crept up on Abaco during the wee hours on Thursday, October 25th; predicted to be a Category 1, Hurricane Sandy surely made her presence felt! Luckily, we only had a few minor leaks at the research center but the community of Sandy Point and other parts of Abaco had severe flooding and extensive damage. 

Trapped in a house for four days with a hurricane that refused to leave, our concern for Georgie (the Christopher Columbus of our Bahamian manatees) began to grow. Georgie recently separated from her mother (Rita) in June of this year, and shortly thereafter decided to take a detour to Abaco, over 70 miles from the Berry Islands, Northern Bahamas, where she previously resided with a small population of manatees. Having travelled a tremendous distance around Abaco, she finally settled in at a small community called Cherokee Sound, located on the eastern side of Abaco. During Hurricane Irene, October 2011, Georgie and her mother swam from Spanish Wells, Eleuthera to Nassau. Whether this shift in locations was entirely due to the passing of a hurricane is unknown but scientists feared that Georgie could possibly get confused during the storm and take off to an unknown location.

Last sighted on the 24th of October, Georgie wasn’t seen again until November 4th, almost a week after Sandy had passed the community of Cherokee. She returned with a back covered in moss, an outstandingly healthy looking figure and thankfully no visible injuries/wounds as a result of the storm (these photos were taken on November 5th).

After hurricanes, an increase in shark bites has been documented amongst the dolphin population that inhabit the Little Bahama Bank (Fearnbach et al. 2012). Scientists believe that hurricanes may be the driving force for the relocation of dolphins to waters deeper than their preferred habitat which therefore makes them more accessible to predators such as oceanic sharks. Increase in wave height, storm surge, sediment erosion and deposition can make these once tranquil shallow habitats confusing for dolphins and manatees to navigate.

Photograph of a juvenile dolphin with a fresh and severe shark-bite wound on its flank

In the 1980’s and 1990’s, a decline in adult survival rate after the passing of major hurricanes (Category 3 and higher) among manatee populations in Florida were attributed to possible injury from debris, strandings and displacement of animals as a result of habitat loss and strong water currents (Langtimm et al. 2003).

As we hoped, Georgie appeared to have tucked herself into the nearby mangroves and returned within eyesight when she felt it was safe enough to leave the shelter she sought out during hurricane Sandy. Now that the storm has passed, falling debris has been cleared and our shallow water habitats have returned to the calm and often crystal clear waters we remembered them to be. We can all now let out a huge sigh of relief! We all survived Super-Storm-Sandy!

Fearnbach, H. D. (2012). Seasonality of calving and predation risk in bottlenose dolphins on Little Bahama Bank. . Marine Mammal Science, 28(2), 402-411. 
Langtimm, C. A. (2003). Lower survival probabilities for adult Florida manatees in years with intense coastal storms. Ecological Applications, 13:257-268.

Story by Kedria Ferguson, BMMRO’s education officer and manatee expert

The End

GEORGIE THE ABACO MANATEE: IS SHE RELATED TO AN ELEPHANT?


GEORGIE THE ABACO MANATEE: IS SHE RELATED TO AN ELEPHANT?

Georgie, having returned to Cherokee after Hurricane Sandy, is still around there and seems to have made it her home. While she was missing, it was thought she had headed off instinctively for the protection of the mangroves. However a number of sighting reports made since Sandy suggest that she had sensibly swum up the canal at Casuarina, where she was able to keep her head down until the storm had safely cleared northwards, and she was able to return to base. Because she had shed her tag, we’ll never know the full story… 

Georgie safely back at Cherokee after Hurricane Sandy

Recently an interesting article by BEACH CHAIR SCIENTIST considered the relationship between sirenians and pachyderms, and added some handy comparative facts (you can seen more manatee facts on this blog HERE). Thanks, BCS, for use permission (the relevant credits are contained in the article).

Are manatees and elephants related?

by Beach Chair Scientist

It might be very difficult to imagine, but manatees (also known as ‘sea cows’) share a common ancestor with elephants which might come as a surprise if you thought manatees shared a common ancestor with other marine mammals such as dolphins, whales, or sea lions. Here are 10 facts that link manatees and elephants are long-lost relatives.

1. Scientifically, manatees and elephants are classified as subungulates. Other mammals in the Subungulata superorder are hyraxes and aardvarks.
2.Manatees and elephants have an uncommon-shaped heart that is spherical. To compare, most mammals have a single-pointed tip at the base (i.e., “heart”—shaped).
3. The West Indian and West African manatee have three or four fingernail-like structures on the tip of their flippers, just like that of the toenails on the feet of elephants.
4. Manatees and elephants both have a thick, gray skin with very sparse hair.
5. Manatees and elephants have molars which move toward the front of the mouth, eventually break off, and are restored by those at the rear. Elephants have a limited number while manatees are never-ending.
6. Manatees have two incisors that bear a resemblance to elephant tusks.
7. Manatees use their large, flexible muscular lips to break apart vegetation in the water and skillfully steer food to their mouths. This is very similar to the action of the elephant eating with his trunk.
8. Manatees and elephants are herbivores. Manatees tend to feast on sea grass and freshwater plants and consume up to 100-150 pounds a day. Elephants tend to feast on small plants, bushes, fruit, twigs, tree bark, and roots and consume up to 330-375 pounds a day.
9. Male manatees and elephants are known as bulls. Female manatee and elephants are known as cows. Young manatee and elephants are known as calves.
10. Manatees and elephants are both endangered. Their numbers have dropped due in a large part to human activities.

Manatee image (c) cruisenaplesflorida.com, elephant image (c) gallery.hd.org

Here is a fantastic TEACHING RESOURCE from the University of Florida and Se Grant extension I uncovered while pulling this post together.

Credit: SavetheManatee.org

To whom thanks also for this: WHAT DO MANATEES SOUND LIKE? 

 

“MANATEE MANIA IN THE ABACOS” BMMRO FALL 2012 NEWSLETTER


“MANATEE MANIA IN THE ABACOS” – BMMRO FALL 2012 NEWSLETTER

The BMMRO has just published the Fall 2012 newsletter, and it’s no surprise to find that the front page news is the arrival of young manatee Georgie on Abaco. After nosing and indeed grazing her way around Abaco and the Cays, she still appears to be contentedly moored in Cherokee after the best part of a month. Here’s the official map of her wanderings 

Besides the manatee there’s plenty more to read and look at including 

  • Charlotte Dunn’s ‘President’s Update’
  • Articles on whales, and a friendly bottlenose dolphin’s visit to Hope Town
  • Fall ‘cetacean sightings’ map
  • Students at ‘Whale Camp’
  • A quiz to make sure you have taken it all in…

To read the four-page document –  and admire the photos - CLICK BMMRO FALL 2012 NEWSLETTER

GEORGIE THE ABACO MANATEE – CHEROKEE’S SIRENIAN VISITOR STAYS ON…


GEORGIE THE ABACO MANATEE – CHEROKEE’S SIRENIAN VISITOR  STAYS ON…

There must be something special about Cherokee on Abaco. Georgie the Manatee, having travelled over from the Berry Is. early last month, spent 4 weeks or so on the move. She was tracked on the west side of Abaco in the Marls, moving north and rounding Little Abaco, then travelling south visiting various Cays along the way, ending up in Hope Town harbour. After a few days she moved across from Elbow Cay to the Little Harbour area, before settling down in Cherokee. That was nearly 3 weeks ago. She’s still there, by far the longest she has stayed in one place

Maybe the sea grass is especially good there. Or maybe she has found a tasty freshwater spring. Or it could be that she is enjoying the company there, and the welcome from the community – though she of course has been a very popular visitor in all her ports of call. Whatever the reason, she seems to be happy and in good health. Kendria Ferguson (BMMRO) has just sent me 3 photos from her visit to Cherokee today. Georgie has managed to shed her tag – again – but since everyone knows where she is, it doesn’t matter for now…

The image below is also posted on the BMMRO’s FACEBOOK PAGE and maybe gives a clue to why Georgie is so content – calm, friendly interest and attention. The next one is of a young boy inspecting Georgie, also in Cherokee. Equally peaceful.

Let’s compare and contrast those serene pictures with another taken recently – the woman below who was detained in Florida for her ‘manatee riding’ antics…

“GEORGIE” THE MANATEE MOVIE: ON LOCATION AT CHEROKEE, ABACO


UPDATE 17 OCT I gather that Georgie is so pleased with her new home at Cherokee, she’s still there. Not sure if she is with or without her tag, but I suppose if she has decided to stay put in one area, tracking her is not a priority. Maybe the sea grass there is a particularly good kind – or perhaps she has found natural springs to her liking. Maybe it’s the folk who live there… yes, I think it must be that. I’m hoping to get some more specific news soon, and some more photos.

UPDATE 7 OCT Kendria says that Georgie has managed to lose her tag yet again. She’s still at Cherokee, but if she decides to make a move, she can now be tracked only from reported sightings. Maybe she just doesn’t like to accessorise…

UPDATE 6 OCT Georgie has taken to life in Cherokee. She is still there – the longest she has stayed on one place during her epic journey. She’s a very popular guest, of course, and  has generated a lot of local interest and affection. Here’s a BMMRO photo taken yesterday of Georgie enjoying some quality algae browsing on the pilings in the dock

“GEORGIE” THE MANATEE MOVIE: ON LOCATION AT CHEROKEE, ABACO

The story of Georgie, the young female manatee currently undertaking a round trip of Abaco, has further raised the profile of these unusual and fascinating creatures in the northern Bahamas. Like many others who have been enthused by this important conservation and research project, I’ve been following her story since her release with her mother Rita in the Berry Is. earlier this year. In June she was weaned. In September she decided to set off to sea grass pastures new –  see GEORGIE for details

Yesterday she was still in the Cherokee area, but had lost her tag. The task was to locate her, find the tag and reattach it, and check her wellbeing. All were accomplished in the course of the day and the BMMRO posted: “Today was another day in Georgie’s ‘world according to Georgie’!!! A special BMMRO thank you and Manatee high five to Andrew Lowe, Cindy & Buddy, and the community of Cherokee! Georgie is lucky to have such caring people around! She is still parked at Cherokee and BMMRO will do their best to continue to monitor her health and habitat use in the area!”

Things have moved on a bit since then, and I am really grateful to Kendria Ferguson for finding the time to email me; and to Cindy James Pinder  for permission to use her excellent photographic material from her time spent with Georgie. Her latest news is that Georgie is moving south towards Casuarina. There are blue holes in the area where she can find fresh water. Cindy adds “She may show up in the canal in Casuarina today. If you see her please offer her fresh water from a hose.”

It’s time to showcase a short video taken by Cindy at Cherokee yesterday. In order to post it here I have had to make a derivative movie from the original. It’s like an uncontentious bootleg, i.e. made with the artist’s approval (for which many thanks!). The quality isn’t as good of course, but you will clearly see what is endearing about these inquisitive, gentle and trusting creatures – and why this makes them so vulnerable and in need of protection. Only today, a woman has been detained in Florida for riding a manatee – a strictly unlawful act that has been strongly condemned.

Here are some stills also taken by Cindy yesterday, who says “…in case you are wondering . . . a manatee feels like leather!”. They depend on having some fresh water, and these great pictures show various methods of supplying it. The top one is my favourite.

HELP NEEDED If you would like to support manatee research and conservation in The Bahamas, please email info@bahamaswhales.org or rollingharbour.delphi@gmail.com 
This is the perfect place and time to post the BMMRO September 2012 Whale, Dolphin and Manatee sightings map. Last month the cetacean count was very low – no whales at all, a solitary dolphin. However, manatees are starting to feature much more, and the Abaco sightings – presumably of Georgie as she progresses round the Islands  – are the first ones recorded there (I think) since manatee sightings began to be included towards the end of last year. A cause for breaking out the fresh water to celebrate.
*  *  *  *  *  *  *
MUSICAL AFTERNOTES The video music is Rizraklaru by Ralph McTell (before he arguably spoilt it all with the mawkish ‘Streets of London’) from ‘Spiral Staircase’ (credit / plug for RM). He wrote it in 1967 while living in an old caravan in deepest Cornwall. He and his mates had only mother nature’s ‘Rural Karzi’ to use, and the song title is an anagram. It’s a long story that ends, in RM’s words, “After he’d stopped laughing, Henry and I explained the title’s origin [to him] and he suggested an anagram, so we put the first letter last and spelt the whole thing backwards, and there you have it ! RIZRAKLARU !” 

MANATEES: CONSERVATION, AWARENESS PROGRAMS & DISTRIBUTION MAP


MANATEES: CONSERVATION, AWARENESS PROGRAMS & DISTRIBUTION MAP

The “SAVE THE MANATEE CLUB” is a very active organisation that I have mentioned in previous manatee posts. These gentle creatures are in need of protection, and much effective conservation work is in progress. The BMMRO‘s wonderful work for the MANATEES OF THE BERRY ISLES is featured in this blog because of the proximity to Abaco (might those manatees visit one day?) – and of course because BMMRO HQ is at Sandy Point.

[ADDED 25 SEPT]…and lo, just as I pressed the ‘publish’ button, the BMMRO posted this news:

Georgie is currently exploring the Abacos. Help us monitor her movement patterns by reporting sightings!! 

“Earlier this year we tagged & released 2 West Indian manatees in Great Harbour Cay, Berry Islands. These were the same manatees from Spanish Wells that were captured after they swam to Nassau when hurricane Irene passed in late August 2011. After release at Great Harbour Cay in May 2012, they explored most of the Berry Islands but centered their use around Great Harbour. In September one of these manatees, a young female named Georgie, swam from the Berrys to Abaco, has traveled within The Marls, north towards Little Abaco & is now traveling south on the eastern side of Abaco. We received a sighting of her on 23 September at the Green Turtle Cay Ferry landing, just north of Treasure Cay. We anticipate she will continue to travel south and may venture into marinas and harbours along the way. We would like to make the public aware of her presence in the area. Although we believe she is in good health and is exploring new areas, the tag is not functioning properly now so sightings from the public will help us locate and monitor her progress. If possible, please share with anyone in the Abaco area or make an announcement encouraging people that see her to report any sightings”

[ORIGINAL POST CONTINUES] The SMC is a Florida-based organisation and it recently posted a new cheerful cover picture by Natalie Prayor on its FACEBOOK PAGE. I have recently noticed some searches on the blog such as ‘Manatees facts for Kids’, so this post might be helpful. You could  even (I can’t believe I even thought of checking this out!) knit one… Want a pattern? Click HERE In fact, I might even…

To see more of Natalie’s artwork, just search ‘Natalie Prayor in Facebook. She can be contacted at dracodawnstar@gmail.com

The SMC also posts Manatee facts and advice, from which I have selected the examples shown below

This map shows the world distribution of the 4 extant sirenian branches as well as the extinct STELLER’S SEA COW of the north Pacific. It is a melancholy fact that by 1768, a mere 27 years after its discovery by Europeans, this slow-moving, tame and easily-captured sea cow was hunted to extinction. 250 years on, the world’s sirenian population remains vulnerable and, as with whales and dolphins, in need of active monitoring and protection measures

Finally, I liked this manatee cartoon from Rachel Arnow, with its incongruous and enjoyably unfeasible suggestion of manatees in Loch Ness. Rachel has a great sirenian-centric website  http://mvsm.omnomzom.com/ featuring her excellent and charming cartoon series “MAN VERSUS MANATEE”. 

Credit: savethemanatee.org