This season we have had the pleasure to greet three new calves into the community of dolphins that inhabit Area One which is centered around the Marco River and the intercoastal waterway north to marker #44.
Sparky Captain Hook Halfway
The New Moms
The most recent mother to give birth and the first of 2011 was Captain Hook. On Saturday February 12, Roger Parcelles, captain of the Marco Princess, alerted us to the presence of a very young dolphin he spotted in Factory Bay. That afternoon James Livicarri and Dave Strickland, conducting a survey aboard the Dolphin Explorer confirmed that Captain Hook was indeed with a newly born calf.
The new arrival was named Sunshine by Roger. Since then we have spotted her on four different occasions. In photos from these sightings it is still possible to see the slowly fading lines from fetal folds which indicate a dolphin less than two weeks old.
This is the second time Captain Hook has given birth during the five years we have been keeping tabs on her. In November of 2008 she had a calf we named Hoppy that did not survive. Hopefully she will have better luck with Sunshine. Studies of coastal bottlenose dolphins suggest that the first year of life is a difficult one for any dolphin but that the survival rate increases with the age (and perhaps size and experience) of the mother. I'll keep you posted on Sunshine's status.
Two other dolphins were born in this latest calving season which seems straddle fall and winter around here (the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program reports that calves tend to be born in the Spring and Summer there.)
In September Sparky and Halfway, both already experienced mothers, gave birth to new calves less than a week apart. For both Mothers this was the third calf we have seen them with since we started the Dolphin Project five years ago.
Sparky had successfully raised Orange who started his career as a sub-adult in September of 2007, shortly before his mother gave birth to Pinta in November of that year. Pinta, alas, was not long for this world and by late December we were recording sightings of Sparky without her calf. She was seen in the presence of several males in the intervening two years, but perhaps most frequently with Oscar and Sharks, a male alliance that followed her for weeks on end at times.
Then when we happened upon her on September 16, 2010, she was again about the task of nurturing and protecting new life. Perhaps it is impossible not to anthropomorphize at an event such as this; it seemed it was not just the twelve of us aboard the Dolphin Explorer excitedly welcoming the new arrival. Orange, who has been on her(?) own for years was there right next to her mom and new sibling as they travelled along.
Three other mothers all with calves under a year old were present and these young calves cavorted around the newborn, anxious, it seemed, to incorporate him into their play - as if to say to the new arrival -"Oh just wait to see the fun we will have!" One of these swam a bit away from the group, playfully tossed a leaf in the air and fell backwards into the water.
Besides Orange, Sparky and the new calf (named Keegan by a passenger), three mothers were in attendance with their calves: Bootstrap Bill with Star, Avery with Aubrey, and Patch's Twin with Cameron. The odd man out at this gathering was C.U. Jimmie an adult male whose current modus operandi seems to be 'whilst Avery goes, there go I'.
The third calf born so far this season was named Kaya (after the daughter of our naturalist James Livicarri). James first spotted Halfway with the yoy (young of year) on September 11, 2010.
When we first met Halfway, a frequent resident of the sea wall near the Twin Dolphin's condo on the Isles of Capri, she was caring for Seymour. In October 2007 she gave birth to Simon and Seymour was on his own. Now three years later it is Simon that is finding his mother's attention devoted to a new sibling. For the first couple months Simon was seen with the two frequently but now seems to be associating more with other sub-adults.