The number of commercial shrimpers here is smaller each year. Still a walk around the area is a photographers dream. These images were taken during a morning visit, which of course brought us into a lunch on the water.
Brown Pelican nest on ‘Crab Bank’ just off shore and a free meal keeps them here. Commercial boats always have fish going overboard.
Above are shrimpers in dock. It’s surprising how colorful they are. The netting themselves are multi colored.
Wholesalers here provide the Charleston restaurants feeding all the out of towners, and sell to locals who come by. It doesn’t get any fresher.
Piers lining the water have more pelicans than anything else.
Dolphins are usually around to compete with the Pelicans for scraps of fish when the boats return to shore. The above was two adults and a juvenile.
These photographs were taken at different times, but they show the same Dolphin behavior/thoughts when pushing fish to shore.
They know there are dangers to themselves when sliding on the sand, out of the water, to grab the fish.
They check shallows and shore before herding the fish. And they found me, looked at me, and determined I wasn’t a threat.
Above a Dolphin circles a few meters off shore checking for danger. It’s impressive to share a look with these beautiful animals.
Below is always the most exciting meeting.
This is the last minute check. A single Dolphin will swim the length of the shore to be used for stranding fish. They swim, and sound, like a freight train moving almost right in front of you.
You should never be this close, it’s bad for the photographer and Dolphin. However, you never know when they will sail by.
Above the lead Dolphin came by just below the surface, staring at me as he sailed by. I quickly stepped back since I knew what could happen if they charged this spot.
This Dolphin pod still hunt along the Charleston area shores, however they have changed locations where the will ‘strand feed’. The sands and depth are always shifting, and too many people seem to have begun to watch them from shore.
note; similar images have previously been published along with articles on Dolphin strand feeding here.
I came across a file of photographs in an online account I have. They were from a project of providing stills for a Marine Mammal Network video. The MMN provides support, education, and even protection for a special few pods of Dolphin.
These Dolphin have taught themselves how to hunt by pushing and stranding fish on the shoreline. There are only a hand full in the wild most, if not all, live along the Lowcountry coastline.
Click any image to view full size.
Above this Bottlenose Dolphin pushed a school of fish onto the shore. Then followed right behind grabbing them off the sand.
The next images above show a group from the pod working together. The Dolphin actually cause waves as the work the shore.
I have published other articles in the past about this rare method. Having seen photographs Ellen posted the other day, then finding these, I though it was time to revisit for readers who have not seen this before.
This is a topic that is always of interest and recently I read a few articles that were ‘a little off’ in the details.
So I thought a another simple series with plenty of action shots was over due.
Above is a Bottlenose Dolphin hunting by pushing and stranding fish on shore. The work together as a group, or individually. However, this is a rare hunting skill known only by a few pods of Dolphin of the Lowcountry coast. Basically the taught themselves a new way to fish.
To start the tide and shoreline must be right and safe for a Dolphin to strand themselves on shore. The must be able to roll back into the ocean.
At first a Dolphin swims right along the shore, looking up at the beach (and here me also).
If the feel safe they next herd schools of fish by either swimming around them in circles, splashing and causing confusion, or charging right at them.
Ultimately the fish a driven into the shallows, or on shore. Right behind them are Dolphins catching the trapped fish.
When a 1,000 lb, 11 foot, group of Dolphin hit the shore it’s a loud tidal wave. The entire attack is no more than a few seconds and you never see it coming until the last moment. Always stand away from the shoreline when they are feeding. You will get hurt or scare away the feeding pod.
After the catch a Dolphin will always roll back into the water. They only push to land on their right side. If you ever get to see a dorsal fin of a strand feeder it’s very obvious. One side of their fin is always scraped.
There are groups trying to protect this small group and I don’t think anyone knows how many there actually are that have learned this technique. A guess is maybe 100… in the world since this is the only place it’s been documented.
This article is a little longer than most, but this is a fascinating topic and important to remember as our climate and world change.