Friday, 7 December 2018

Dolphin Stranding- Tokerau Beach, Far North


Oh hi there, remember me? Once again I have been remiss (though I have a good excuse) in keeping up to date with blogs but so much has happened since my last post, things you'd find hard to believe. Like a flying visit to the Ida Valley. Yes, that Ida Valley, the one in the Maniototo in Central Otago. Can't tell you any more yet but hopefully there'll be a blog in due course. 

But for now, we're still up in the Far North and slowly making our way to the top of the island but I wanted to post this one while it's hot news. 

We're parked at the NZMCA Park at Tokerau Beach on the Karikari Peninsula at the moment. Early this morning a small pod of Common Dolphins stranded on the beach just in front of the park. Quite a few people, locals & DOC rangers managed to refloat them and herd them back out to sea. Apparently a pod of larger Bottle-nosed Dolphins had chased them into the shallows. They are arch enemies.

Unfortunately I missed all the action, I got up at 5:30am to check the sunrise but it was a clear blue sky and not very picturesque so I went back to bed! Bad move. If I'd looked out the otherside of the van I'd have seen quite a number of vehicles at the boat ramp carpark in the corner of the bay and then I'd have wondered why they were there....well I hoped I would have.

Once we learnt that there had been a stranding we headed down to the beach to check it out. The dolphins had all been refloated and all we saw were people milling around vehicles and others with binoculars standing knee deep in the waves, scanning the horizon. The dolphins long gone. Nothing to see there.

We headed off for a day's exploring but thought on our way home about 3pm, we'd drop into the beach and check that there was nothing untoward happening. ominous sigh; a whole group of people and vehicles on the beach...

...and there in the shallows, a small pod of Common Dolphins milling around, swimming along just behind the breakers (small as they were).

Several broke away and headed further along the bay...

 ...others headed straight into the shallows, where people tried shooing them away...

...and herd them back out into deeper water.

The dolphins seemed to be very tired and were not wanting to head back out, those that could swim, swimming up and down the wave line. 

Once they got into the shallows and bellied out on the sand, they started being rolled by the waves as people stepped in to keep them upright and try and get them to head back out into the bay. All the while they kept calling to each other, it was quite sad hearing there whistles and squeaks (see video link at the end of the blog)

Many more people arrived in the water to try and herd them back out. The pod had broken into four or five groups and they were coming into shore over a couple of hundred metres. 

These dolphins were kept upright and pointed out into the bay but they were still reluctant to swim off. It's thought that they were very tired and possibly had a few injuries after being chased by the bottle-nosed dolphins, probably several times during the day.

The pod included a few tiny babies...

 ...and unfortunately, people being people, everyone also wanted to touch and pat the dolphins. A couple of people even lifting one of the babies out of the water! I had something to say about that.

DOC Rangers tried to explain the harm petting them could do- sunscreen, body oils etc- but not too many took notice.

Thankfully, there weren't too many people and to be fair most had good intentions and of course were worried for the dolphins. The local Surf Lifesavers had their IRB which they launched and headed out into the bay, I overheard the DOC guys saying they were off to take the Bottle-nose dolphins away. Apparently they led them across the bay and they were last seen in the Mangonui Estuary.

Then TV One arrived... 

And finally it was a blessing when a rain storm could be seen heading our way across Doubtless Bay...

People headed back to their vehicles, leaving just a few keeping the dolphins afloat. We headed back to the park and when I walked back to the beach just 30 minutes later there wasn't a person or vehicle, and most importantly, a dolphin to be seen. 

Although I wonder what the morning will bring...

Here's the video I took, excuse the quality, I haven't done any editing- Common Dolphin Stranding- Tokerau Beach


Thanks for taking the time to comment, it's much appreciated.