WHALE & DOLPHIN RESEARCH, PHOTOS & SIGHTINGS REPORT


WHALE & DOLPHIN RESEARCH, PHOTOS & SIGHTINGS REPORT

The Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation (BMMRO) has recently been involved in a major tagging and monitoring program  around Andros, in particular using sonar to test the responses of beaked whales. Being all at sea for a few weeks meant that many other marine mammals were encountered. Thanks to Charlotte and Diane for permission to use some of their photographs taken during the research trip – and also in Abaco waters – to illustrate the amazing diversity of cetacean life in the waters of the northern Bahamas.

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RESEARCH VESSEL “SLUMBER VENTURE”'Slumber Venture' survey vessel

WHALES

A Sperm Whale with unusual pigmentation

SPERM WHALES OFF ANDROSSperm WhalesSPERM WHALE TAILINGSperm Whale tailingTHAT GULL SURELY CAN’T BE CRAZY ENOUGH TO…Gull landing on Sperm WhaleWELL, IT JUST DID!Gull landed on Sperm Whale

MELON-HEADED WHALES – MOTHER & NEW-BORN CALF

Melon-headed Whale mother with new calf

THE FIN OF A MALE BEAKED WHALEBeaked whales - the fin of a male

DOLPHINS

BOTTLENOSE DOPHIN & CALFBottlenose Dolphin & Calf, Abaco

BOTTLENOSE DOLPHINBottlenose Dolphin near Gorda Cay

DOLPHINS BOW-RIDINGDolphins bow-riding

SPOTTED DOLPHINSSpotted Dolphins Spotted Dolphins x 4

ROUGH-TOOTHED DOLPHINS

The research, tagging and monitoring programs pay dividends in conservation and species preservation terms… but then along comes a brutal reminder, way out in the pristine ocean, of the far-reaching extent of man’s reckless damage of the planet and the creatures in it. This poor animal has become swathed in plastic.  The likelihood is that its stomach will have dozens of pieces of plastic in it, from microscopic to potentially damaging – or fatal. We made it all, and we chucked it away.Marine Mammals & plastic

Moving into less contentious areas, here is the BMMRO sightings list for the last month, with a great deal of activity recorded. For once there is even a sighting included of my very own, of 3 bottlenose dolphins in Hope Town harbour one lunchtime in mid-June. See HERE

BMMRO June Sightings

Finally, the latest news from the BMMRO is that Dr Diane Claridge, besides being awarded her PhD earlier this year for her research on beaked whales, has graduated from the ancient scottish university of St Andrews, founded in  1413. It is the third-oldest university in the english-speaking world (and the oldest in the scottish-speaking world…).Dr Diane Claridge, St Andrews Uni

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Credit: savethemanatee.org

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)

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BMMRO WHALE & DOLPHIN SIGHTINGS ABACO JUNE 2012


BMMRO WHALE & DOLPHIN SIGHTINGS ABACO JUNE 2012

Actually, I say ‘Abaco’ but the most activity - and the most varied, species-wise – is off the southern coast of Grand Bahama. Abaco sightings are also confined to the south, with shows from a PIGMY SPERM WHALE and a BLAINVILLE’S BEAKED WHALE  and dolphins in the arc between Rocky Point and Hole-in-the-Wall. To see recent aerial photos of this section of coast CLICK===>>> HERE

The manatees of the Berry Is. are no longer shown on this map. Their happy story (and their fame) has spread and they now have their own entries on the BMMRO FACEBOOK PAGE, like any self-respecting stars. You can reach it anytime direct from the Sidebar if you you want to keep track of the story of Rita and her calf Georgie’s rehabilitation – and the other manatees they have encountered as they get used to their freedom. 

ADDED The latest BMMRO quarterly newsletter has just been published – highly recommended for anyone with an interest in active whale / dolphin research, or in the latest news of the manatees of Berry Is. To see it CLICK===>>> BMMRO NEWSLETTER JULY 2012

BLAINVILLE’S BEAKED WHALES’ FEEDING GROUND ON ABACO / BMMRO MAY 2012 REPORT


BMMRO MAY 2012 REPORT / THE BEAKED WHALES’ FEEDING GROUND

The BMMRO report for May 2012 has just been published. It’s quite short so I am posting it ‘as is’. While I am about it, Charlotte Dunn has just emailed me about an aerial shot we took on a flight from MH to Nassau of the southern stretch of Abaco coast between Hole-in-the-Wall and Rocky Point. She writes “that stretch of dark water is the North West Providence channel and where we often see our infamous beaked whales. They dive down to get their food, diving to 2000m in some cases!” In the top photo, the plane is roughly over Hole-in-the-Wall. Sandy Point Airport is just visible (top centre). The second close-up photo clearly shows how the shallow coastal water quickly gives way to the deeper water of the channel.

BMMRO Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation Banner
BMMRO NEWS MAY 2012
May fieldworkProject: Monitoring beaked whale responses to sonar tests at the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Centre (AUTEC)
A collaborative effort to deploy satellite tags on odontocete cetaceans on and around the US Navy’s Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) in the northern Bahamas took place for the seventh time during April – May 2012. This project aims to monitor the movements of beaked whales and other odontocetes in relation to active sonar exercises, and particularly tests around multi-ship sonar exercises, on the AUTEC weapons range. This is a collaboration between the Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation, the Protected Resources Division of the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center (http://swfsc.noaa.gov/prd.aspx) and the US Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC, http://www.nuwc.navy.mil/), with funding provided by the Chief of Naval Operations Energy and Environmental Readiness Division – N45. Secondary objectives include obtaining photo-identification data and biopsy samples.Below a picture is showing a satellite LIMPET tag being deployed on a Blainville’s beaked whale at AUTEC. These small low-profile tags are attached using a crossbow to deploy the tag on a projectile bolt; on contact with whale this bolt falls away (as shown), leaving only the transmitter tag attached to the animal. Two of these tags were deployed in early May 2012, transmitting dive depth data and location signals for 18 and 28 days.

tag placement on Blainville's beaked whale

The field team worked in co-ordination with NUWC’s Marine Mammal Monitoring on Navy Ranges (M3R) team based at Site 1, AUTEC. M3R vectored the vessel to acoustic detections of cetaceans on the range.

Sightings were made of 3 species: Blainville’s beaked whales (Mesoplodon densirostris), sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus), and melon-headed whales (Peponocephala electra). There were 7 satellite tag deployments, 4 on sperm whales, 1 on a melon-headed whale and 2 on beaked whales. Both of the tags deployed on the beaked whales have provided movement and depth data prior to, during and after the multi-ship sonar exercise at AUTEC.

To read more about this project, go to the NOAA website to see their report.
Project: Assessing beaked whale reproduciton and stress response relative to sonar activity at the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Centre (AUTEC)
Fieldwork took place in south Abaco with the field team based at BMMRO’s research centre in Sandy Point. The effort lasted two weeks and 22 biopsy samples were collected from 23 of the Blainville’s beaked whales sighted during the period, the 23rd animal was a calf and too small to biopsy.

These samples will be used to look at reproductive and stress hormone levels, and will be compared to samples taken from whales residing on the AUTEC range in Andros, during a project scheduled to take place in July this year. This project is funded with a research grant from the Office of Naval Research.