Dolphin can be hard to spot from shore until they break the surface but this Bonaparte’s Gull served as a great marker for me. You can just make out the young Dolphin below and to the left of the bird.
With an idea where the animal is there is some chance of capturing an image of him above the water, like this:
I had the pleasure of speaking with Lauren Rust, founder of The Lowcountry Marine Mammal Network (www.lmmn.org), while I was watching the Dolphins in the Kiawah River on March 18. She spends a lot of time monitoring the local Dolphin and shared with me that this behavior goes on regularly and she has wondered if it is the same few Gulls who have figured this out. The Dolphin is a two year old who still stays pretty close to its mother, who was feeding nearby.
These two had developed an understanding. and if you zoom in on the next image you’ll see the Gull got a fish just as the Dolphin ducked under the water.
It appeared that the Bonaparte’s Gull was following the Dolphin, which presumably was following fish.
Lastly, a wider view of the unlikely pair, taken on the Kiawah side of the river, looking towards Seabrook Island.
Conditions shaped up nicely on Wednesday to head to Beachwalker Park on Kiawah Island to observe Dolphins feeding. Timing was good, with low tide about 10:30am. Strand feeding, the method peculiar to this area of South Carolina’s coast where Dolphin drive fish to the shore, tends to happen two hours either side of the low tide.
For a couple of hours the light was good and I was pleased to get this sequence, which was much less vigorous than previous times I’ve witnessed this behavior. The Dolphin seemed to be lolling around in the shallow water, not zooming full speed ahead.
Other times I’ve seen this as a cooperative effort but this Dolphin was on her own.
My position and the shape of the sand bank cut off some of the action.
I got a little closer before the Dolphin flipped around and caught a fish.
Once again I was amazed the power of these animals which is evident in the splash of water and waves that rushed to shore.
It turns out that it was a good thing I went Wednesday. As of today all of the area beaches are closed due to Covid-19 concerns.
A family of Raccoons wandered along the edge of the marsh under a pier where I was standing. I got a few shots as they disappeared into the taller grass. It was one of those interesting things to see but a missed photographic opportunity. Or so I thought.
About ten minutes later the masked bandits made a return trip, this time coming towards me.
What could be so interesting up on this dead branch?
They was not be a group shot as they continued weaving in and out of the taller grass and shrubs.
They were cautious, but continued towards the pier.
This one appeared to be the ring leader, maybe a parent although they were all the same size. He stood watch while the others went back into the tall grass before he followed.