We wrapped up our spring satellite tagging project with Daniel Webster of Cascadia on June 11 and 12. On the first day we had Joel Bell from the Navy along with us and he turned out to be very good luck and an excellent videographer. We had great conditions and managed to deploy six satellite-linked tags: four on pilot whales (including a MK-10 dive recorder) and two on pelagic bottlenose dolphins (one of which was a dive recorder). We also obtained a biopsy sample from one of the pelagic, small-bodied spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis).
The weather did not co-operate with us so much on our second day – with intermittent rain and poor visibility. We tried to dodge the rain for much of the morning without success and as we headed in after deciding to call it a day, Heather spotted a mixed group of common and spotted dolphins and we were able to deploy a satellite tag on one of the common dolphins.
To date this year we have deployed 17 satellite tags on odontocetes off Cape Hatteras – one Cuvier’s beaked whale, 12 short-finned pilot whales, three pelagic bottlenose dolphins and the one common dolphin. We are still getting great data from almost all of the animals, most of which have remained in the vicinity of the shelf break off Cape Hatteras.
After a short break for windy conditions, we were back on the water on June 16 to continue our playback experiments with short-finned pilot whales off Cape Hatteras. In this project, funded by SERDP, we are examining the response of odontocetes with different patterns of social organization to the sounds of predators (mammal-eating killer whales). We tagged a large male pilot whale with a Digital Acoustic Tag on June 16 and conducted a full four-hour playback suite with this animal before obtaining a biopsy and retrieving the tag. We also collected a biopsy from a sperm whale that wandered by and photos of two of our satellite tagged animals. Another great day on the water off Cape Hatteras.