Since we started our research in January 2016, we have observed a remarkable variety of feeding behaviour by the Peel-Harvey resident dolphins.
Having seen dolphins catch and toss octopus, herd adult salmon in the canal dead ends, toss the estuary catfish up to 30 times, and not to mention the amazing tail whacks when catching mullet in the shallows.
I really thought I had seen all the dolphins eat and how they eat it in the estuary.
But as always with the Peel-Harvey dolphins, once you think you know them they surprise you beyond your imagination.
A few weeks ago we were out in the Harvey estuary and came across three juveniles, one of them named Giggles.
While we were following him to get good photographs of its dorsal fin for identification purposes, suddenly he tossed a fish up in the air.
To me it looked like a cobbler toss.
We investigated further as he was continuously tossing this thing from side to side and up in the air.
It became evident that this was not a cobbler but with its slender and more than a meter long body it more resembled a snake. But it wasn’t a snake either.
Only after downloading our photographs on a computer later were we able to, with the help of fish biologists, identify it as an eel. We are still not sure of the species however.
Globally, several species of dolphins have been reported feeding on eels, especially sand eels and small conger eels.
Observing a dolphin feed on an eel in the Peel-Harvey, however, is not common.
Whether this is because there is only a small number of eels available for consumption, whether eels are hard for the dolphins to catch or whether eels are just not a preferred source of food for the Peel-Harvey dolphins, we don’t know.
Regardless, it was yet another spectacular show put on by an estuary resident dolphin.
Krista Nicholson is a PhD candidate at Murdoch University. Search Mandurah Dolphin Research Project on Facebook for more information.