Residents on dolphin watch . . .
Western Southland residents are falling in love with dolphins that are regularly gracing locals with their presence near Riverton.
Now, marine mammal researcher Gemma McGrath is interested in forming a shore-based group to keep a watch on the dolphins. Dolphins have been turning up in recent months and McGrath expects more sightings during the summer.
She and Riverton residents have noticed Bottlenose and Hectors in the Riverton harbour, estuary, mouth of the Aparima River and under the main bridge. They have also been spotted in Colac Bay.
McGrath, of Colac Bay, is a consultant for Whale and Dolphin Conservation and operates an app for reporting New Zealand-wide sightings of dolphins and whales. Information gathered is passed on to the Department of Conversation.
Western Southland residents would make up the shore-based group and undertake recordkeeping of sightings for a local data base, McGrath said.
A photo library of dolphins in western Southland would provide valuable information, she added.
‘‘Side on shots [of dolphins] clearly show their nicks and markings and some of the markings can be used for identifying purposes in the future.
‘‘[Forming] the group is a way for local people to get connected with their dolphins.’’
McGrath has been observing whales and dolphins and researching them, New Zealandwide, for nearly 20 years.
Riverton artist Wayne Hill often paddle boards among the dolphins. ‘‘They swim under the board . . . it’s amazing. I feel so elated being in the water with them,’’ he said.
Barbara Lee, a photographer in Riverton, is also among the many dolphin followers in western Southland. ‘‘You can’t predict when you’ll see them but during the summer months you see them a lot,’’ Lee said.
Te Waewae Bay is also a good area for viewing dolphins.
A dolphin stands on its hindquarters in the Riverton harbour recently.