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Dolphin birth a magical reward for volunteer spotters off Palos Verdes

January 19, 2009 |  8:00 am


Sunday morning began magically for volunteers at the ACS-LA Gray Whale Census and Behavior Project. They watched a bottlenose dolphin give birth not far from the Point Vicente Interpretive Center on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

(Note: The file photo at right was taken at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. I'm using it merely to provide a close-up of a mother dolphin and calf. The photo below was shot Sunday by Hugh Ryono from the interpretive center.)

Ryono, a dedicated volunteer, sent this description Sunday afternoon:

"Early this morning at the gray whale census we had a group of coastal bottlenose dolphins swim along the kelp line. They proceeded to mill around the kelp in front of the Interpretive Center around one particular dolphin that had stopped and logged at the surface for a long time which drew our attention.

"The bottlenose was motionless in the water, just floating at the surface. When it finally submerged, it came up with a floppy dorsal-finned calf alongside it. We could see the mother dolphin push the calf to the surface a couple of times with her rostrum or with her pectoral fins.

"The attached composite image is of the mother dolphin pushing the calf to the surface with her rostrum. It's a fuzzy picture as I didn't have my long lens. In the insert you can just make out the mother dolphin's dorsal fin and in front of her the flopped over dorsal fin of the calf.

"Kind of a nice way to start a morning."

The volunteers see things both mundane and miraculous as they monitor goings-on in the San Pedro Channel daily from sunup to sunset. If you'd like to volunteer, call Alisa Schulman-Janiger at (310) 519-8963 or e-mail janiger@bcf.usc.edu. Or simply show up and ask how you can become involved.

And don't forget the long lens, if you have one.

--Pete Thomas


Photos: Associated Press (top); Hugh Ryono (bottom)