IMMRAC News

Early Thursday morning, November 11th, Aviad and several other IMMRAC volunteers went on a dolphin survey with The Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) from Ashkelon Marina, as part of the project to monitor the Avtach Marine Reserve.

After the morning fog started to fade, the volunteers spotted four common bottlenose dolphins near the trawler 'Nachshol'. 10 minutes later, the dolphins left the trawler's trail and unfortunately vanished very quickly in the fog which was still quite thick.

Not losing hope, the survey kept going and the crew checked a few other nearby trawlers. Near the last trawler, just before deciding to return to the marina, the same 4 dolphins reappeared. Three of them were recognized: Adi – veteran dolphin, first spotted in 2000, near Michmoret, and again in 2006 in the south, Suki – first spotted near Tel Aviv in 2005 with a little calf, and re-sighted a few times since near Herzliya, and now at the south without a calf and Miki – first spotted near Michmoret in 2001, and seen since near Tel Aviv. Last august, Miki too was seen with a little calf, as part of large group. The calf was not seen this time. It may have died, or the one that was seen previously was that of another female dolphin that Miki was babysitting while its mother was foraging. The fourth dolphin, with a lot of nicks on his dorsal fin, was one we couldn't recognize.

Just before turning back, the dolphin Stumpi joined the group – also a veteran, first spotted in 2002, near Michmoret, and seen since off the centre and south of the Israeli shoreline.

We would like to thank Uri Pro and Livnat from INPA, and Patrick and Aviad, IMMRAC volunteers.

This was the path of the voyage, and these are the dolphins we encountered.

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On Saturday November 26th, 2010 Aviad led a dolphin survey from Herzliya Marina and the sailing route took south to Rishon Le'zion, there the crew met a 5-dolphin pod – 3 adults and 2 calves, all common bottlenose dolphins. Two adults were familiar, the females Bun & Chucha.

The observation was about 2.5 mile west of Rishon Le'zion shore, at a water depth of 36 m, behind the trawler 'Gal-Oz', where they stayed for the entire period of the observation.

A short video of the observation was screened the same day on the "Channel 10" evening news, just before the weather forecast.

At sea, Aviad noticed that one of the calves had a skin condition, which proved to be correct after analyzing the photos later that day and seemed even worse than he had originally thought. It seemed that calf has a fungal or other infection, and Aviad also noticed signs for an infection or injury in the other calf. This information received many responses in our organization, and from veterinarians abroad whom we asked for their opinion. The media also responded to the event with an article in Ha'aretz web page, and in the news paper 'Israel Today'. Aviad was also interviewed to poular morning broadcast of 'Nachon Le'Hayom' in Galey Zahal.

The most unique reference was in 'Shai & Dror' on the Radio.

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At the end of 2010, on December 30th, Aviad led a dolphin's survey and took with him some of the students from the 'Marine Mammal's Research Methods' course that he teaches at the University of Haifa. He was accompanied by new and veteran IMMRAC volunteers, who participated in 'Survey Data Gathering Training' a week and a half before, and by a trained ornithologist.

The survey took place from the Herzeliya Marina on board a 'SEA-GAL yacht club' yacht. The east wind that day limited the survey to sailing up to only 3 miles off shore, and after an hour and 20 minutes, Yig’al (the hawk eyed ornithologist) spotted via binoculars a pod of dolphins about 300 meters from the yacht – 3.2 mile west off the Herzeliya Marina.

The turbulent sea conditions and the dolphin's behavior made the counting the dolphins a hard task, but later it was settled that the pod included 9 common bottlenose dolphins. The observers spotted 5 adults, 2 juveniles and 2 calves. Among the adults they met was the dolphin ZIGGI and her calve ZIGMOND, which a lot of you are familiar with, the dolphin ARIK and her calf, the dolphin GEVA and TWIGGY (the dolphin with the protruding ribs – that gave her her name). Most of those dolphins were seen before in this area – ZIGGY is known since 2005, ARIK was sighted in 2003, GEVA in 2005 & TWIGGY in 2003. The crew stayed with the pod for about two and half hours, during which time some of the dolphins left the pod, which shrank to five dolphins.

This was the path of the voyage.

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On January, 24th 2011 Aviad took out another survey with a 'Sea-Gal’ yacht club's catamaran from the Herzeliya Marina, accompanied by several IMMRAC volunteers – Liora, Shai, Ori & Attar, and again- Yig’al the ornithologist. Another participant was Yaron – the 'Palm-computer software man' and excellent surveyer, and Aviad's very own good-luck-charm & daughter - Bat-Hayam.

The sea was great that day, just 12 minutes after leaving the Marina, Yig’al reported that he spots a dolphin jumping under a pod of seagulls through his binoculars. Aviad estimated the distance as 2 Km, and sure enough, after 10 minutes they arrived near a pod of dolphins that were hunting close to the sea surface. They were feeding on flying-fish and so were the seagulls. The survey crew continued observing the dolphins for 3 hours and 20 minutes, during which the dolphin were widely scattered, about 15-20 individuals, and most of the time were hunting at the surface. In addition the crew noted social, traveling and resting behaviors. After reviewing the photos, two of the dolphins were identified as our own STUMPY & MIKKI that were seen in August near Ashkelon.

This was the path of the voyage.

Here are the photos taken by Aviad:

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On February 9th, 2011 Mia also got the chance to go to sea with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority boat skippered by Eyal Miller.

Though the sea conditions were rough, an hour and a half after departure the survey crew managed to find 3 common bottlenose dolphins, about 4.5 miles off the shore of Rosh-Hanikra, above Achziv Canyon (bottom depth of 512 Meters). The dolphins were a mother and a young calve that swam close one to the other, companied by another adult.

They stayed close to the boat and were very relaxed as they came up from the water. A few minutes later 2 other dolphins arrived, and the pod’s diving periods lengthened until it was hard to keep sight of then and they disappeared. The boat sailed back to the first sighting point and waited there. The wait proved fruitful and 3 dolphins were spotted from afar (depth of 575 Meter). Upon being approached, one of them rode the bow wave for 2-3 breaths, before all 3 disappeared.

The boat kept going until re-sighting in the distance the mother and calf that quickly swam away.

This was the path of the voyage.

We would like to thank the 2 Eyals & Yotam – from INPA, Noa Nakar & Ori Galili, IMMRAC volunteers.

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Observations are not exclusive to our volunteers; in many occasions we received information on sighting from citizens all along the country's west coast. This time, included were sightings of the Mediterranean monk seal which we have not seen for a few months. Just as we began to despair, we received a report on a spotting the seal in the Rosh Hanikra Caverns site on the morning of November 19th, 2010. A cleaner spotted the seal briefly at 08:30, on the exterior route (on the white rock) of the caves.

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The seal was spotted again by Zachi Ashkenazi in Rosh-Hanikra area from the reef on December 12nd 2010 at around 10:00. Zachi spotted it from very close – around 15 meters, and the seal came out of the water few times, so he started filming him – a short film was attached to the email, that although being of low quality, confirmed the identification of a seal.

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On January, 12th 2011 we received several reports regarding a large pod of dolphins that were spotted over the last two days. The pod, according to the reports, was observed from the shore, and consisted of around 100 dolphins including calves. One of the reports came from the lifeguard Amos that described beautiful black dolphins with yellow stomach. It seems that the dolphins were short-beaked common dolphin or a mixed pod of common dolphins with bottlenose common dolphins, although we haven't seen any photos.

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A filmed report was received from Koby of the Sea-Gal Yacht Club when he went out to sea on Friday, January 14th 2011. As the day was without a sign of wind, they sailed deep in to the sea, and spotted a 'family' of 6 dolphins – including what seems like a couple and a young calf. The dolphins played with the yacht for over an hour and were very friendly – here is the video on YouTube:

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