We took a walk out to the beach last Friday to watch the dolphins.   They were actively feeding on both sides of the bank at low tide between 10:30 AM and Noon.   We saw the new mother with her calf, and Hook, and at least one other unidentified dolphin.


One dolphin would swim along the bank scouting and then when some fish were discovered the others would join him/her in the hunt.   There were at least three “cycles” of this in a counter clockwise direction between the Seabrook side and the Kiawah side.   The dolphins spent more time and were more active in the Seabrook side where there were fewer people, 6 – 8 scattered along the beach.   At least one complete “out of water” strand feeding was observed and 3 – 4 very close in feedings were observed on the Seabrook side.

On the Kiawah side there were 14 – 20 people mostly grouped together and moving quickly right up to the shore when the dolphins would appear on our side. A couple of times the scout would move up near the shore and the other dolphins would begin to follow only to turn away about 6 – 10 feet out from the waterline.   This was not really a large crowd of people compared to the numbers visiting during the summer season.Dolphin watching crowd


It would be difficult to prove to a scientific certainty  that people so close to the shore are affecting the dolphin’s feeding.   For example, were there just more fish on the Seabrook side?   What is the slope on each side?   Did the dolphins on the Kiawah side grab enough fish 10 feet out that they did not need to rush them on shore?   Nevertheless, it would seem intuitively obvious that people standing right up at the water’s edge would inhibit these very perceptive animals from feeding there.


One other interesting feature of the strand feeding phenomenon is the presence of birds right at the feeding site, often as in this case a blue heron.

Many people have observed this over the years and assume the heron is taking advantage of the opportunity to grab a bite.   In this case it appeared sometimes as if the heron got to the feeding site first.   Is the heron following the dolphins?  Or are the dolphins following the heron?   Or do they both know coincidently where the fish are?   The presence of the crowd also seemed to inhibit the heron.   Twice it flew over to the Kiawah side when the dolphins appeared there only to circle back without landing.