Birthing season started with a bang this year with five new calves appearing in Area 1 in the span of one week between September 25th and October 1st. An additional 3 calves were born to Area 3 dolphins. We didn't actually witness the births so we don't know their precise birthdays but all of the YOYs (young of year) bore visible fetal fold marks that suggests we observed them within a couple weeks of their entry into the world. So far three of the new calves have been born to experienced mothers with intervals of 3 and 4 years since their previous birth while two calves were born to first time mothers.
Three of the calves were born to experienced mothers:
After a three year interval since her previous calf's birth, Darwina was observed on September 25 , 2011 with a new calf that passengers aboard the Dolphin Explorer named Omni. This the third birth to Darwina we have recorded. In September of 2006 she gave birth to a calf, perhaps her first, named Bouncer; this calf survived only two months. She had better luck the second time around and Gumbo, born December 2008 and now almost three years old has (so far) succesfully made the transition to independence.
Sparkle was observed on September 27, 2011 with a new calf we named Wintriss. This is the third calf we have observed Sparkle caring for since we began the study in 2006. There was a four year interval between the arrival of Wintress and the birth of her previous calf, Hilton. Prior to Hilton's birth she was observed with a calf named Farkle. Hilton is definately still alive and Farkle may be as well but we have lost track of this dolphin.
Tattoo appeared with a new calf on October 3, 2011 and this Dolphin was named Crafton after Crafton Elementary School in Pennsylvania that recently joined our team of naturalists studying the bottlenose dolphins of Southwest Florida. Tattoo has also had three calves since she showed up on our radar. In her first sighting in 2005 she was with a very young calf, Baby Tattoo, but this calf apparently did not survive its first year. She did not give birth again until November 2008 and, like Darwina, this time around there was a happier outcome. Her calf Destiny has graduated to sub-adult status and as of this writing is alive and well.
Tattoo and Crafton
Crafton with fetal fold marks still visible
Birthing season often extend into February so we may yet see more dolphins born in Area 1. Several known mothers are candidates. For example Nibbles last gave birth in 2007 and her calf Jayson has been on his own for much of the past year. Trigger gave birth in 2007 to a calf that did not survive the year and she may yet give birth. KayCee, a dolphin that divides her time between Naples and Marco has also gone four years since she gave birth to Slick Joey. The rest of the 20 or so adult females that regularly appear in Area 1 are still caring for calves that were born in the last two years and are not likely to bring anoter life into the world this year. But, there may well be more surprises in store from those dolphins we have categorized as sub-adults.