Killer whales in Dyer Island area

September 14, 2012 by dyertrust

What is that? Is it splashes from a boat? Is it the wind coming in? NO! It is hundreds of common dolphins swimming into the bay!!!

From the top of the water tower we can see up to 15km on a good day with clear visibility. On this unique day in August we spotted a pod of common dolphins 11 km away. The pod stretched more than 1 km. We alerted the whale watching boat and directed them to the sighting. They called us back shortly afterwards and reported that besides the dolphins they saw 7-8 killer whales hunting the dolphins. This is a known behaviour along South African coasts, but has never been observed in our Dyer Island area. In fact this is only the second time that killer whales have been sighted from the whale watching boat since we started in 2000. So the excitement level was high and the DVD was watched over and over again in the offices in the afternoon.

The killer whales did not catch any dolphins while the boat was there, and the pod only stayed in the area for 40 minutes. Our research boat Lwazi did try to catch up with the pod, but the dolphins had left the area and the tracking team on the tower had lost sight of them before the boat was even close to the area the pod were sighted by the whale whisperer.

killer whalesOnly 4 days after, a similar (or most likely the same) large pod of common dolphins returned to the area this time the dolphins were feeding on sardines together with at least 3 Brydes whales. It was a spectacular sight to see these huge baleen whales shooting out of the water - in a powerful launch feed, surrounded by diving gannets and jumping common dolphins. A local sardine run! These events are rare in our area!

Southern right whales are a common sight here in August, and it has been the month where the surface active groups (SAG) returned and increased in numbers. At the beginning of the month we had 4 to 5 groups with max 3 individuals - reaching 5 to 6 groups with up to 7 individuals at the end of the month. So more and more animals are moving in. SAG are normally related to courtship and mating behaviour.

Gradually, as we reached the end of August, we saw fewer and fewer humpback whales; by now most of them should have reached the shoreline of the Eastern Cape and Mozambique.

Anna Skinnars and Emma Fitzmaurice Vestergaard are still the backbones of the volunteer team and they make an amazing difference conducting the theodolite tracking, entering data, analysing data, and basically pitching in whenever a helping hand is needed. They ROCK!

They also have special tasks, and Emma has been converting and filtering out all the effort data from the whale watching boat. Anna has prepared the data for the MammalMap and based on the whale watching boat data and the work of the whale research team - DICT are the first organization in Africa so submit observation data of marine mammals. See www.mammalmap.adu.org.za

A new backbone of the project is Sir. Humphrey. He is very reliable, adventurous, and safe addition to the team our Landrover Discovery TDI is making the drive to the theodolite tracking station smooth and future strandings of marine mammals will become easy accessible.

At the beginning of the month I went to Denmark for 10 days to work at her cooperation organisation Statens Serum Institut. Lots of hours were put into fundraising, writing articles, and testing the two new underwater sound stations. Doctor Michael Christiansen is an extraordinary support and help thank you Michael.

Back in Kleinbaai the listening stations are now about to be moored at the sea floor, but with the harsh winter weather and never ending cold fronts pushing in, it has not been feasible to complete the mission yet. September is the month of the revolutionary addition of underwater sound recordings!
-Katja Vinding Petersen