Florida Dolphin Watching Pictures!

I recently got back from a more than 1,000-mile wild dolphin watching road trip in Central Florida! I was researching some potential dolphin viewing spots in preparation for publishing my second Dolphin Watcher’s Guide. All of these spots are within a 2 hour drive from Disney. There are incredible wildlife viewing locations close to the theme parks. I found some wonderful new places!

Here are some dolphin pictures I took on this research trip. I am a terrible photographer and had a not so great digital camera but was still able to get these shots — that’s how close you can get to wild dolphins without doing harm. No reason to keep them in captivity! Wild dolphins are so curious and playful. They will seek you out!

Dolphin in wake close up picture

Two dolphins in boat wake

Up close dolphin picture

Dolphins off pier picture

Up close pier dolphin picture

Dolphin and Pelican

Dolphin spyhopping picture

This last dolphin photo was taken with an iPhone!

This was one of my best dolphin watching trips in all my years travelling to see them. Imagine if I actually knew how to take good photographs. 🙂 I’ll upload some more dolphin pictures from this trip soon!

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Dolphin Sounds – How Do They Learn to Whistle?

Every dolphin learns to whistle shortly after they are born. These whistles are thought to be used as a sort of greeting or way for dolphins to introduce themselves to and communicate with others in a pod. They are also used so the mother can find her young calf when they are separated. For this reason, the calf needs to learn this whistle as soon as possible after birth. These dolphin sounds are critically important for survival.

By Richard Wheeler (Zephyris) 2007.

By Richard Wheeler (Zephyris) 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ever wonder how dolphins learn to make their “signature whistles”? I always though each whistle was unique, but it seems I was wrong.

Recently, I was reading a fun book called “Dolphins: What They Can Teach Us”. This is a book for children with some very interesting facts about dolphins. I learned something new. The author explains how calves learn different whistles from their mothers depending on whether they are male or female.

The female calf creates a whistle which is a slight variation of her mother’s. The male calf’s whistle is the exact same as his mother’s. Researchers believe there are very good reasons for this distinction.

The female calf eventually comes back to her mother’s pod when she has calves of her own. This pod helps her raise her young. Since she comes back to live with the pod, her whistle must be different from her mother’s to avoid confusion.

The male offspring, on the other hand, leaves his mother and may not encounter his mother again for many years, if ever. In this case, it is important that his whistle mimic his mother’s so they can recognize each other as family and not as possible mates! This whistle mimicry would also help him recognize his brothers too.

In my opinion, dolphin researchers have the best job on the planet.  I can only imagine how exciting it would be to unlock some of these dolphin mysteries. I should have studied marine biology…

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Where to Watch Bottlenose Dolphins in Florida

The Dolphin Watcher's GuideI am excited to announce my new ebook: The Dolphin Watcher’s Guide to Southwest Florida.

I’ve been visiting Florida’s wild bottlenose dolphins for many years. During that time, I have found some wonderful spots and had some incredible encounters. I finally decided to publish this book and share some of these special places with others.

Many people believe they must sign up for captive swim-with-dolphins programs in order to get themselves (or their children) close to these amazing animals. Those dolphins are usually kept in pools or large tanks. I’ve been watching wild dolphins with my family for more than 20 years, and I can tell you that is certainly not the case. Wild dolphin watching is easy — if you know where to look!

The Dolphin Watcher’s Guide to Southwest Florida covers dozens of specific dolphin watching sites along the Florida Gulf Coast from Casey Key to Marco Island.  There are both land-based and water-based locations included. The book also emphasizes how to watch dolphins safely and without doing harm. If you’ve always dreamed of spending time with free and wild dolphins, you will enjoy this guide.

This new ebook is available on Amazon.com. It can be read on the Kindle e-reader and through the free Kindle App for the iPad, iPhone, PC, Mac, and other devices.

Feel free to spread the word to any of your dolphin or Florida loving friends. Thanks!

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Beach Cams – Watch for Wild Dolphins!

Did you know there are beach cams in Florida where wild dolphins like to hang out? Some of these cams are in prime dolphin watching spots. Yes, you can go wild dolphin watching from your computer!

Fort Myers Beach, as seen from the terrace of ...

Fort Myers Beach (Wikipedia)

This is an incredibly fun time-waster that becomes addictive for the true dolphin lover. It is also very relaxing and a great stress reliever.

Here are some beach cams you might want to check out:

Marco Island Beach Cam – If you only check out one dolphin watching cam, try this one. This is a nice panning camera at the Snook Inn. It shows the Marco River. I have had good luck with this one. Good dolphin watching here! Note: It works in Internet Explorer. It does not seem to work with my other browsers.

Naples Bay Beach Cam– This is a great beach cam because you can control the view. Naples Bay is a great dolphin spot! The birds and boats are fun too.

Fort Myers Beach Cam – This one is set up at the DiamondHead Resort right on Fort Myers Beach in Florida. I have seen dolphins swim by close to shore while watching this web cam. It is like sitting on the balcony at your beachfront hotel.

Panama City Beach Cam – This one is located at the Sandpiper Beacon Beach Resort right on the main beach. This cam is also located in a prime dolphin area.

Sarasota Bay Beach Cam and Bird Key Cam – The last two are great live beach cams in the Sarasota area. The Sarasota waters are absolutely teeming with dolphins. Check these two out when you have time to kill.

Now don’t blame me when your work doesn’t get done! Enjoy the Florida beach cams and happy dolphin hunting!

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Where to Watch Dolphins in Pine Island, Florida

All About Pine Island

Pine Island is the largest island on the west coast of Florida and it boasts some of the best fishing and boating in the state. Dolphins and manatees are right at home in the neighboring waters. The island is also home to several bald eagles so you have an opportunity to see this majestic creature while visiting. You can access Pine Island from the mainland by crossing the Matlacha Bridge from Cape Coral (a neighbor of Fort Myers).

Where Are The Dolphins?

Matlacha Pass separates Pine Island from the mainland. The dolphin rich waters of Pine Island Sound separate Pine Island from Sanibel and Captiva. Dolphins travel around the tips of these islands, as well as along nearby Cayo Costa island. They frequently use the passes (e.g., Matlacha Pass) to travel into and out of the surrounding waterways. Boat operators will take you out to the less inhabited areas such as Cayo Costa. Boats, canoes, and kayaks can be rented throughout the area and are one of the best ways to search for dolphins in harder to access areas.

Great Pine Island Area Dolphin Watching Spots

Cayo Costa State Park – Cayo Costa is an island located just west of Pine Island with 9-1/2 miles of beach. It is accessible only by boat. From Pine Island, you can take the Tropic Star ferry to this gorgeous and secluded island. The waters around Cayo Costa itself, and the water between Captiva and Cayo Costa are teeming with dolphins!

Bridgewater Inn  – This is a floating motel! Located right on Pine Island Sound in Matlacha on Pine Island, the Bridgewater Inn is built on a dock so each room has the ocean literally right outside its door.  The location of the inn is perfect for dolphin watching. In fact the dolphins (and manatees) visit just about every day and sometimes several times a day.

Matlacha Pass & Bridge – Just after the Bridgewater Inn on Pine Island is the Matlacha Bridge. Nicknamed the “World’s Most Fishingest Bridge” this is also a great dolphin watching spot. Where there are fish, there are usually dolphins too! So, if you are not staying at the Bridgewater Inn you can watch for dolphins from this spot too.

Nearby is Bert’s Bar and Grill with its “million dollar view” of the pass. Another choice in Matlacha is the Sandy Hook Fish and Rib House which also has an incredible view. Both restaurants offer great vantage points of the dolphin playground.

Jug Creek Basin – Jug Creek, a river in Bookelia on the northern portion of Pine Island, attracts the playful dolphins. For a great view of this area you could stay at the Bocilla Island Club, eat at the Lazy Flamingo, take a cruise or rent a boat from Jug Creek Marina, or rent a boat or stay in a condo at the Four Winds Marina complex. Each of these Bookelia establishments has a prime location on Jug Creek itself.

Know of any other great dolphin watching spots in Pine Island? Let me know!

For more info on visiting Pine Island, check out http://www.pineislandfl.com/

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Should Wild Dolphin Feeding Be Allowed?

A recent story caught my attention. In a little community on Australia’s east coast, thousands of people have had the opportunity to meet and feed a family of Indo-Pacific Humpback dolphins. Yes, these are the same dolphins that over time can take on a pink color. They are a rare breed of dolphin and to be able to interact with them is quite amazing.

It all started in the 1950s when an injured dolphin named Old Scarry beached himself in Tin Can Bay. Tin Can Bay is located about three hours north of Brisbane. The locals started caring for and feeding Old Scarry. After some time he became well enough to return to deeper waters. He continued to visit for many years, much to the delight of the locals.

Later, another dolphin (a female named Scarry) began visiting the shoreline and receiving handouts. Her son Mystique, his female companion, and a juvenile dolphin now visit daily between 7:00 and 8:00 a.m. Volunteers keep control of what is fed and how much fish is given. Thousands of people visit this area each year just to see this dolphin family up close.

The problem is not everyone agrees with the feeding program. The government would like to end it and is currently making moves to do just that. Apparently, a marina is being proposed in the exact same area which would completely displace the dolphins.

My understanding is this area is a rough place for dolphins to live. The two dolphins described above were named “Scarry” due to the numerous scars and injuries on their bodies. The other visiting dolphins have signs of injuries as well. The marks are most likely due to shark attacks and boats.

I worry for them if these changes happen. Clearly now three generations have been taught to come to this area for supplemental food. This has been going on for more than 50 years. What will happen to the dolphins when they lose this opportunity? Won’t an abrupt stop be detrimental? If they do decide to stop the feeding, isn’t there a more humane way? Couldn’t they taper back the food over time and give the dolphins a chance to compensate for the change? I am sure many locals will be sad to see them go.

If you would like to learn more about the dolphins and their plight, visit http://www.barnaclesdolphins.com.au/index.html or http://www.tincanbaydolphins.com.au/

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What Do Dolphins Eat? Fish They Catch With Mud!

Wow! I have never seen this before. I know dolphins are incredibly smart and have come up with all types of innovative ways to catch fish. They will strand feed (herd fish into shore and feed on the trapped fish in the shallows), cooperatively circle and hunt for fish with other members of their pod, fish-whack (stun fish by whacking them into the air with their tails), and use “tools” such as sponges to protect their snouts when digging for buried or hiding fish.

I didn’t know they had the intelligence to create mud-rings to confuse and disorient fish. Dolphins do this type of behavior in shallow waters. Using their tails, they stir up the sandy bottom and create a tight circle of murky water. The then confused fish leap out of the circle into the waiting dolphins’ mouths. So incredible!

Take a look at this video from the BBC.

Imagine how highly evolved this creature is to dream up this hunting method. Just when you think you know just about all there is to know about dolphins! So, what do dolphins eat? Fish that they outsmart!

I’ll have to keep my eye out for this unique feeding behavior during my next dolphin watching trip.

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