For this nature note...I thought it would be interesting to relate a story that happened to us a few weeks ago.
Paul Gravil and I were sitting in lawn chairs on the Spring Island boat ramp fishing. Paul had agreed to help me with some preliminary field work for a potential bonnethead shark study in Chechessee creek. We are interested in marking individuals to determine if the adult and juvenile sharks caught here exhibit a high degree of site fidelity (in other words do they come back to the same creeks and docks year after year). I realize that this description sounds suspiciously like fishing but hey, somebody has to collect the data.
It was a beautiful quiet evening with a nice cool breeze. The sun was dipping low in the sky giving the marsh banks a pleasant glow and turning the Spartina grass to a wonderful shade of green. Paul and I were sitting on the dock in lawn chairs facing the marsh eating leftover blue crabs that he and Lisa had prepared the night before. Dixie (the Gravil pooch) and Bill Allen's dog "DD" were also in attendance. We noticed a group of dolphins feeding in the mouth of the creek across from the dock. We could also hear the distinctive sounds of the dolphins splashing and breathing. Strand feeding on Spring Island is a pretty common occurrence but it is always a treat to see dolphins sliding up in shallow water and sweeping fish up on to the bank. The dogs got pretty excited about the spectacle and began to whine and pace up and down the dock. Fishing, good food, dogs, dolphins...now this is about as good as it gets!
I took a minute to change the bait on my hook and when I looked up, I noticed that the dolphins had moved much closer, swimming within 20 feet of the dock. One of the animals glanced up at us, did an extreme headfirst dive and disappeared under water. I assumed that the show was over and the dolphins had gone under the dock and up the creek. An instant later, a wall of water erupted up from the waterline and across the dock soaking Paul and narrowly missing me. Paul sprang to his feet just in time to see a dolphin fluke fling another twenty gallons of water across his chest and body. Talk about awesome! The splashing subsided and the dolphins disappeared leaving a wet dock and soaked Paul. For the record, neither me nor the dogs got a drop of water on us. Paul and I proceeded give each other high fives, recounting the adventure and laughing hysterically.
Weeks later, I am still not sure what caused that dolphin or dolphins to splash us. Maybe the dogs were actually the target and they leaped out of the way just in time. I guess there are a lot of possible explanations but I am convinced the dolphins accomplished exactly what they intended to do. I think they were playing with us, splashing water on Paul to see how we would react. Come to think of it, I am pretty sure that I heard the muffled, underwater sounds of dolphin chuckling right after it happened
Check out the video below of dolphins strand feeding off of Hilton Head.