In the fall, hordes of baitfish begin schooling in the estuaries, and the dolphins seem thrilled. It gives us a chance to see them leaping after food, slamming the water to stun fish and scooping them up, and even rounding them up and pushing them up onto the shore, where they lean over and gobble them with their mouths. This “strandfeeding” behavior is unique to the lowcountry. I was so lucky to get some of the footage below from Julie Hessenthaler, who was standing near the dolphins when they were strandfeeding one day. Follow her on instagram for more great stuff.
We’ve had some incredible experiences lately right around sunset, watching the dolphins (many with babies or juveniles) feeding: once a dolphin swam right under our boat where we had turned off the engine to watch the sunset.
I’m convinced they are more interested in us if we have a dog on board. Our silly dog loves to watch for them from a boat or from land.
The video below shows some of our resident dolphins as seen from the ferry dock. You can see that each one has a relatively unique dorsal fin, which scientists use to identify them: one of ours is even missing most of its dorsal fin. The Lowcountry Marine Mammal Network conducts regular dolphin counts and keeps databases of dolphins seen.