While our work in the Marianas is focused on marine mammals, we do appreciate the bird life on the water as well. Some seabirds feed on the same prey species as marine mammals, so paying attention to birds often leads us to whales and dolphins. Bird flocks are also much easier to see from a distance, so they’re always worth a closer look just in case there might be some fins hiding underneath. Over the years, our investigations of bird flocks have led us to spotted dolphins, false killer whales, Bryde’s whales, and more.
On August 28, 2018, we were surveying the waters off the west side of Saipan. In the distance, I noticed a flock of boobies and shearwaters with suspicious splashes underneath. These splashes could be the birds diving or fish jumping, but they could also be dolphins. We changed course to investigate.