Sunday 7 February 2010

Welcome to summer season 2010! After a long drive/bus trip from our starting points of Johannesburg and Cape Town, we started the season off in Lüderitz to pick up and dust off Nanuuq. After 2 days of howling wind we took advantage of a lull in the weather to get in one good sea day. Lüderitz is after all, the “Heaviside’s capital of the world”. The dolphins in Guano Bay started the day being somewhat evasive, preferring the company of the kelp to that of the boat. However, they became a lot more amenable as the day wore on and we had many boat friendly groups, including a mother calf pair (will try to put up a video link when we get a better internet connection). This was out first ‘photo ID’ day in Lüderitz and it was great to see so many well marked animals – we’ll begin developing a catalogue for the area in the near future, which will start to feed into future abundance estimates for the region. Alas, high winds and a dropping tide put an early end to our day, although we did get a chance to check on the C-POD in Shearwater Bay and it hasn’t moved an inch since it was deployed by Ruth in December!

Two days of tar road driving later (we didn’t want to chance the boat and trailer on the dirt roads in this rainy summer season) we arrived back in Walvis Bay. During our first day out at sea we didn’t get too many good photos with the dolphins being evasive and the weather cloudy. However, we were excited to discover that two of the marked animals we photographed were Heaviside’s known from the 2008 catalogue! This was a great way to kick off the season and our first confirmed evidence on long term residency of Heaviside's dolphins in Namibia (the general behaviour of the animals at Walvis Bay is so different to those in South Africa that there was no certainty of this characteristic either). Later in the week, “Dave” the bottlenose joined us with three of his friends for a romp around the shipping channels. “Dave” is probably the most boat friendly and photogenic of the bottlenose dolphins in Walvis Bay and does his best to hog the limelight during encounters with him.

Neels Dreyer informed us of a stranded Heaviside’s dolphin in Donkey Bay (on the outside of the Point) and we were able to collect it the next day. It was a small, juvenile male only just over a metre long – the plates in the skull weren’t even fused yet. It was unfortunately too desiccated after a few days on the beach in the Namibian sun to allow for the collection of many samples, but we kept the skull which will be passed on to the museum in due course and got a few basic measurements.

The days have been characteristically cool with bright sunshine on the dunes but clouds over the sea. With any luck, we’ll run into the rumored humpback whale sometime soon…

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