Thursday, September 10, 2009

Swan River dolphins

I was sitting on the bus heading back to the university when I saw huge flocks of black birds over the Swan River. I got off the bus hoping to take some photos of the black birds. And I was pleasantly surprised to find that actually those black birds, mainly little black cormorants, were hunting together with a group of four or five dolphins in the river!

I wonder if they are members of the 25 or so "resident" bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) that make the Swan River their home. Apparently, dolphin experts can easily tell one dolphin from another simply based on the "distinctive shape" of their dorsal fins or the markings on the dorsal fins (see River dolphins in research spotlight and Bid to trace Swan River dolphin's heritage).

This one is interesting because it has a white mark on its head. I wonder if it's a scar and how the dolphin got it.

The little black cormorants (Phalacrocorax sulcirostris) were busy flying back and forth following the hunting dolphins, joined by a pelican. I saw the pelican fought with a cormorant for fish, with their beaks of course : ) but I was too slow with my camera to capture it.

Most of the black birds were little black cormorants (left), but I also spotted a few pied cormorants (Phalacrocorax varius) (right).

I also saw a male Australasian darter (Anhinga novaehollandiae), which had probably taken part in the hunt for fish.

Watching the dolphins and the huge number of little black cormorants hunting was fun - except for the rain. It was a wet and windy day; but fearing that I might not get a second opportunity to see these animals feeding, I stood there in the drizzle and cold wind watching them for almost an hour. I certainly impressed myself.


glhopman said...

wow, all that i saw riding the bus today were pedestrians. I need to move somewhere that isn't land-locked

ria said...

How wonderful! Dolphins in your river! Stunning photos!

Alas, we have blocked off our river to make it into a reservoir. Sigh. But dolphins still outside in the sea. Sometimes...

Tsun-Thai Chai said...

Hi Gerrit & Ria,

It is nice to live so near to the Swan River. FYI, my uni campus and my flat are both about 5 minutes' walk from the river. The river is a good place to go and chill out or to look for birds and dolphins.

I saw this group of dolphins about 20-30 minutes' walk from the uni. But I have also seen dolphins a few times when I went to the foreshore that is 5 minutes from the uni. Our lab group go there for our lab coffee regularly.

I enjoy taking a walk and cycling along the foreshore. And in summer, the trees in the foreshore reserve provide comfy shady spots for an afternoon nap!


Tsun-Thai Chai said...

By the way, Ria, these photos are the best I could get with my 5x optical zoom camera. It works quite fantastically underwater but out of water, I probably need a megazoom camera : )


Steve Reynolds said...

Hi Chai
I reckon that those photos are great. Well done.

Tsun-Thai Chai said...

Thanks, Steve.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Chai
Great post about the Cormorants and Dolphins.
Interesting collaboration across the Animal kingdom.
Great to see that Dolphins can still stand the water in the Swan River. Long may that continue.

Tsun-Thai Chai said...

Thanks Denis.

I suppose the fact that dolphins can still live in the river means that the water quality isn't bad after all.

AGL said...

Hi Chai,

Thanks for the comment on my blog :-) Hope your Sydney excursion goes well, looking forward to see your pictures. Great blog you got here, fantastic octopus pictures and got source of information if you go snorkeling around Perth - are you still shooting the Olympus underwater camera? I will keep an eye on your blog (if alright?) keep up the good work.

Cheers Allan

Tsun-Thai Chai said...

Hi Allan,

Thanks for popping in. My trip to Sydney was fantastic. I visited a few beaches for snorkeling and saw a number of marine creatures I never before. After losing my Olympus underwater camera to a thief, I bought myself a Pentax underwater camera instead.


rosanna said...

Hi Tsun,

I've just come cross your photos, I work for the Swan River Trust and was wondering if you would mind if we used your photos in our publications. We would credit all your work ofcourse :)

Let me know what you think

Tsun-Thai Chai said...

Dear Rosanna,

No problem :) Just let me know when it's out, would you?