Wednesday 29 October 2008
Sunday 28 September 2008
The report from our first season is nearly ready and I'll be sending it out to all IAP's hopefully by the end of Sept, early Oct latest. If you were at our end of season talks in Walvis you've already seen the majority of it, this will just be a more formal version. If you don't get a copy by mid Oct and would like one, please contact me (leave a comment blog on this or email me s_elwen AT yahoo DOT com).
Unfortunately, we missed the "Moving Sushi" expedition when they passed through Namibia - please take a look at Michael and Linda's great website and blog about their phenomenal trip around Africa and Europe to film and promote marine conservation. Best of luck to you both!
Other than that - the quest for funding continues, in between everything else, and we've been submitting a few more grants and requests to both conservation and corporate bodies. In addition to our core goals in the Walvis Bay area, we're hoping to extend the work down to Luderitz next season and that comes at a cost, more PODs, more fuel, a need for a 4x4 to get us there... we'll let you know how it develops.
Monday 11 August 2008
Updates on the blog will slow down from now on but I'll keep it updated with news of funding and requests etc. For now - we're looking for a boat for next year and hope to raise funds to buy one and we're also looking for a 4x4 which we need for beach surveys for stranded animals and towing the boat etc. Ideally we'd like to get a vehicle sponsored or loaned for the project.
Once again - thank you to everyone in Namibia who helped us out this year. We feel that we had a great and very successful season and we couldn't have done it without all the help and support we received from everyone there - too many to mention here!
Saturday 2 August 2008
Had nearly 100 pelicans fly over the house this afternoon - a really striking sight, and their wings make a surprising amount of noise too as they fly along.
Wednesday 30 July 2008
We had our last day out at sea on Monday, and had a great day out (it's always nice to end on a high note), spotting the bottlenose dolphins, a group of 5 humpback whales well north of town, including a tiny calf probably only days to weeks old and ending with a great few hours with the Heaviside's at the Point, where they were being quite active and boat friendly and I managed snap this photo of them jumping in front of of the the Mola Mola tour boats.
Stranded cetaceans are fairly rare and Namibia has a very large empty coastline, so to be able to effectively find out what animals are stranding and be able to collect data (species, size, age, genetics, stomach contents etc) from them , there needs to be a system in place for reporting their occurrence. This workshop was a first step in getting people interested and letting them know why strandings are important, what kind of data to collect (location, photographs and length) and who to tell so that there is an opportunity for more in depth sampling and that all the data gets centralised.
We'll put up more data on this in a few days.
Thursday 24 July 2008
The weather has been good and the dolphins are still around. Although the Heaviside's seem to be less active and harder to get to around the full moon, we've kept the data collection ticking over. Today, we eventually managed to get the C-POD (the new proto-type version of the moored hydrophone we have at the Point) into the water and hopefully working this time! New technology is always a challenge, but hopefully it gives us a few good days of data. We had bottlenose and Heaviside's swimming right past it this morning just a few hours after we put it in the water, so that gives us some great visual verification of the data it's collecting.
And lastly - we noticed that the guano platform was getting scraped clean when we passed it the other day. This platform was built in the early 19th century for birds to roost on i the hope that they would generate large amounts of guano in an easy to access location that was safe from predators. There are a few of these platforms scattered along the Namibian coastline, but only the one here in Walvis Bay (you can see it on Google-earth on the north east side of the bay very close to shore if you look). They scrape the guano off and then send it across to shore on a wire pulley system. Quite a job!
Friday 18 July 2008
Keith has been an active force in conservation here in Walvis Bay for long time, and was especially involved with the birds and RAMSAR site. He was one of our central contacts here in Namibia and was fantastically welcoming to me when I arrived, showing me around and introducing me to all the relevant people and has recently been helping us by letting us use his computer for downloading hydrophone data, and lending us books from his personal library.
We'd like to pass our condolences to Gail and their sons on their loss. Although we didn't know Keith for very long, we'll all miss him.
Wednesday 16 July 2008
Monday 28th July
At the "Anchor's" (Mola Mola's coffee shop at the jetty next to the Yacht basin)
17h30 - 19h00.
Get in touch with us, if you have any questions.
The PODs have gone back in and come back out as we're still having some teething problems with the newer C-POD's hardware, but the older T-POD is collecting some good data out there.
Ruth and Joaquina setting up the PODs ready for deployment.
One of Jeanne Meintjies customers having a great paddle in a very aptly named boat.
Tuesday 8 July 2008
The big difference between the two species is that we keep seeing more or less the same bottlenose dolphins and have identified very few new animals since mid-June. Whereas, the Heaviside's dolphin catalogue continues to grow. They're much harder to photograph and not nearly as well marked.
I've put up pictures below of our two "star performers": T-029 a bottlenose that we've see a grand total of 8 out of the 13 days that we've seen bottlenose so far and C-022, a very boat friendly and photogenic Heaviside's dolphin that we've now seen on 6 different days!
Unfortunately, C-022's distinctive scarring pattern is already starting to fade so we can only use these scars for a short period. The deeper notches found in the trailing edge of some dolphins are much more stable and can be used over several years to identify animals.
The difference in how "boat friendly" individual dolphins are is a problem for the mark-recapture analysis we're trying to do as, unless we can account for it, we will be severely biasing the resulting abundance estimate (downwards) because we are oversampling some members of the population and undersampling others which are less boat friendly. The best way around this is try to 'capture' the entire population. So...we're back out tomorrow.
Highlights: Despite being a little more choppy than usual due to a northerly wind, the 5th was a nice day out with lots of activity - we had another encounter with a humpback whale off the Point; there several seals were feeding on some large fish out there as well as a few white chinned petrels in the area which we haven't seen too often.
Although the bottlenose dolphins seem a little harder to find this week, we managed an encounter off the Point today (8th) with 5 of them and Mike Lloyd of Mola Mola got a great shot from the beach of us following them down the coast. We were being patient and slowly following them in the hope that they would move out of the surf zone so we could photograph their other side!
Sunday 6 July 2008
The T-POD (www.chelonia.co.uk) is a self-contained, submersible hydrophone and computer which recognises and logs the high-frequency clicks made by dolphins. These "echolocation" clicks are used by dolphins (and porpoises) to explore their environment, find prey and communicate.
This screenshot from the programme TPOD.exe shows a 4-second period in the early morning of June 30th. These clicks were recorded in the frequency range between 90 and 130 kHz, indicating that they are clicks from Heaviside's dolphins. Time is shown on the x-axis and the y-axis shows Pulse Repetition Frequency, or click rate. The red and yellow lines probably represent clicks from at least 2 dolphins, since one series of clicks appears to be increasing in speed, whilst another series (the yellow and red line on the bottom right of the screen) is slower.
This is the first use of T-PODs to acoustically monitor Heaviside's dolphins! Watch this space for developments and more detailed findings......
Many thanks to Dr Simon Northridge at the University of St. Andrews for the loan of this equipment.
Tuesday 1 July 2008
We're taking most of this week off to take care of a few logistic issues but will be back on the water on Friday
Wednesday 25 June 2008
The Heaviside's were almost absent from the point today for the first time, with only a handful sighted. But the big excitement of the day was that killer whales were seen by one of the tour boats. After all the boats had had a look at them, we managed to grab a few ID shots as they were moving offshore. I've cropped in a few and posted them below, along with a shot of a Caspian tern which was feeding alongside the bottlenose dolphins.
Monday 23 June 2008
Unfortunately, we've been held up slightly by having some engine problems with the boat, which Ingo has been great about getting sorted out - thanks so much for that. We've used the opportunity to get on some of the tour boats to collect some opportunistic photographs. Thanks to Levo Tours and Mola Mola for hosting us. While on Levo's Antie, Ruth and Joaquina came across these 2 humpback whales near Pelican Point, which were rather popular with the tour boats.
Tuesday 17 June 2008
We're trying to stay on top of the data processing by grading our images for quality and picking out the distinctive animals as we go. Only good quality photographs of well marked animals will be used in the mark-recapture calculations. This means fins need to be well focused, close up, and perpendicular to the camera to minimise the chances of mis-identifying any animals. I've put a few example photographs below of the types of natural-marks we use to identify animals. The bits of missing fin are mainly the result of interactions with other animals, they never heal and can be used to identify individuals for many years (if they don't get disguised by the addition of too many more marks!). These images are not all of a good enough quality for abundance estimates - but I've included a few of the very well marked ones we've seen in the last week, just to show that they're out there. As you can see, the Heaviside's (left column) are not nearly as well marked as some of the bottlenose fins (right column). (For scale - the Heaviside's fins are actually much smaller than those of the bottlenose).
Wednesday 11 June 2008
Marko on Silverwind spotted a young humpback whale just off the point and after the tour boats left for home we followed it for a while and got a few ID shots for our colleagues working on the species in Angola, Gabon and South Africa.
The majority of the time, the dolphins were in very close to shore and appeared to be feeding, with lots of chasing up and down the shore line with occasional small fish jumping. The seals were also getting in on the act and there were always a few with or very close to the dolphins chasing things about just under the surface.
Interestingly, there were frequently Heaviside's dolphins nearby - they didn't exhibit anything that was obvious feeding behaviour, and the two species just seemed to ignore each other.
The dolphins were amazingly close to the shore - I kept expecting them to strand themselves on the beach chasing the fish, but they never did. Apparently this is quite common behaviour for them around here in the areas were there is little wave action.
Monday 9 June 2008
Ingo, of Pelican Charters has generously offered us the use of his ex-tour boat Pedro, which is fairly large and very safe and a great option for us at the moment. Sunday we took Pedro for our first full working day as a team and spent several hours with the Heaviside's at the Point. Unfortunately, they were being rather shy and the misty weather didn't help with photography, but that's the nature of the work. We narrowly missed finding the bottlenose dolphins but hope to get them next trip. All in all, it was great being out there and tomorrow we're out again. The only downside of working on Pedro is that the seals kept jumping aboard expecting to be fed. It's a strange feeling trying to work with a 350kg bull fur seal standing behind you watching you work. We're hoping they'll eventually dehabituate to this particular boat as they seem pretty well tuned as to the difference between the tour boats.
We're still going out on the tour boats in between research trips to gather data on their movements in the area and interactions with animals in the bay. Thanks to Marko of Catamaran Charters who took out Ruth and Joaquina today while I spent the day standing in queues at the Traffic department dealing with the necessary bureaucracy involved with buying an old Golf to run us around town. Ruth managed to get some nice photos of Heaviside's bowriding Silverwind today.
First team photo: Ruth, Joaquina and Simon
Wednesday 4 June 2008
For more photos, look at : http://picasaweb.google.com/simonelwenwork/Namibia2008
Tuesday 3 June 2008
Another big thank you to Alan Louw, Flossie Janse van Rensburg and Andries Prinsloo of Namib Diving and Marine for their help in getting us a boat.
Ran up the coast away and then out to the point where we encountered some Heaviside's dolphins and a group of bottlenose.
Unfortunately, the bottlenose were bow riding a tour boat away from us and I didn't want to chase them. Working around the tour boats is going to be a real challenge for us in the coming months.
Saturday 31 May 2008
A black backed jackal that we saw on the way out to Pelican Point on Monday.
Tuesday 27 May 2008
The paddle passes a small seal colony where the juvenile seals are extremely playful and very interested in the kayaks and paddles .
Although we saw a scattered group of Heaviside's at the point where I've seen them on the previous two outings, they weren't particularly 'friendly' towards the kayaks and I wasn't prepared to risk my camera this early in the season for a few poor quality ID shots.
In the afternoon Keith Wearne took me across the lagoon and salt pans by car to to look around, check up on the local bird populations (which Keith is involve in counting) and to look at the skeleton of a pygmy right whale which had stranded in the shallows. Someone had wanted the bones, so Niels Dreyer (Mola Mola) had put fencing around the carcass to allow it to rot clean without washing away. Unfortunately no body has looked at it since and the bones have pretty much rotted away. We did get to see some nice birds on the way there and back including some baby flamingos which are beginning to arrive from further north.