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Dolphins on Parade

Chesapeake Bay gets a summer show

Go out on the Bay this summer and you’re likely to see dolphins. Not just two or three but huge pods of the big aquatic mammals, arcing out of the roiled water.
    Dolphins are familiar sights on ocean horizons. Not so much in the Chesapeake, though they are seasonal visitors.
    “Dolphins migrate every summer and are often seen throughout midsummer,” says Amanda Weschler, Department of Natural Resources marine mammal and sea turtle stranding coordinator. Rising water temperatures bring more frequent sightings as dolphins come farther up the Bay, often following fishing boats.
    This year they’ve come early.
    In late May, pods off Herring Bay startled Bay Weekly cofounder Bill Lambrecht.
    “Off Herring Bay in about 35 feet of water, I saw groupings that ranged from several to a dozen, spread out in an area approximately 100 yards wide, perhaps 100 or more dolphins altogether,” he reports.
    Dolphins can grow up to 12 feet long and weigh almost 400 pounds. They’re also speedy, swimming over 18 miles per hour. They form large groups because they’re protective of their own kind, and they won’t leave a member of the family behind. They communicate through a complex system of clicks and whistles, making up to 1,000 sounds per minute. If you’re lucky enough to be swimming near dolphins, dunking underwater will give a firsthand experience of their sounds.
    Sightings continued through this month — and thoughout the Bay.
    Fisherman Bryan Garner of Deale saw a field of them at the mouth of the West River “doing dolphin stuff.”
    On a Schooner Woodwind sunset cruise near the Bay Bridge, crew-woman Charlotte Faraci captured them on video:
    Weschler also warns us that bottle­nose dolphins are protected by law:     “Enjoy the dolphins from afar, but be sure not to touch or feed them because it is considered abuse.”