Today’s Dolphin Sighting, Bigfoot, and Mitch Hedberg

“I think Bigfoot is blurry. That’s the problem. It’s not the photographers fault.” – Mitch Hedberg.

Varying degrees of blur

The bottom two dolphins exhibit the "blurry" phenotype.

This was a tough one – wind, rain, big chop and waves. On a tiny boat with no deck. With a telephoto lens that doesn’t autofocus.  I imagined myself using the logic of Mitch Hedberg to explain to my colleagues why my photos were so out-of-focus…

The main purpose of my boat surveys here in Negros Occ. (and in Guimaras) is to document and describe human activity in important Irrawaddy dolphin habitat. Mark, a colleague, focused his master’s thesis on surveying the dolphins here, so our research at this site is nicely complementary (and congrats to Mark, who just received his degree from Silliman University!).

However, we always have dolphin observers during these surveys, because any opportunistic data on where and when we see them is useful (as are opportunistic photos).  Also, it’s nice to see the animal that this research project is structured around.  Who doesn’t want to see dolphins?

My main motivation for going out today was so that all of my field assistants could see the dolphins (ok, I also really wanted to see them again).  I’d already gotten enough human activity survey days for this site, and had a dolphin sighting earlier this month with part of my team.  I almost called today’s survey off, because it was a rainy, gloomy, windy morning, and it just seemed silly to try to find Irrawaddy dolphins.  But…with only two days left at this site, we had to try.  So, we boarded our two tiny wooden pumpboats, operated by our wonderful boatman, Jojo, and one of his friends.

I was shocked when, maybe an hour into surveying, I caught a glimpse of three stubby waddy heads popping out of the chop about 300 meters away.

As the waves tossed our boat around, I gave Julius, the assistant nearest me, clear instructions: “If you see me start to fall, save the camera first. Camera. First.”

This is not the easiest species to photograph, and these weren’t the best conditions. And I am pretty inexperienced with photo-ID. So, I am not horribly displeased that I managed to get some photos (actually, I’m a little surprised).  See the link before for some more of them.

Queasy for Waddies