Watching The Watchers of the East River Dolphin

On Wednesday afternoon, I watched the dolphin swim and dive in New York’s East River. That afternoon, I also enjoyed meeting and watching a wide range other watchers.

But first … Friday’s Dolphin Update from the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation:

After 24 hours of no sightings, we received a report of the bottlenose dolphin in the East River this afternoon. The first report came in at approximately 2 PM. The dolphin does not appear to be in distress and continues to be free swimming and utilizing the east side of the river near the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge. While NOAA encourages you to enjoy the presence of the dolphin, please remember that bottlenose dolphins are federally protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. We are continuing to collect sighting information for monitoring and are ready to respond in the event the animal becomes stranded. Please report any sightings to Riverhead Foundation’s Hotline at 631-369-9829.

(If you are just learning about NYC’s dolphin, you may want to read my earlier posts here and here.)

The first watchers I met were these police officers who had been asked to check out the dolphin. The three of us headed up the 103rd Street pedestrian bridge to get a better look south over the river.


Here’s a more formal portrait.


Soon a photography class from East Harlem’s Renaissance Charter High School for Innovation headed up the bridge, led by teacher Benjamin Caraballo. The class was taking their first outing with cameras.


Students from Innovation High School

Turns out Ben is a wildlife photographer and biologist, who was delighted to learn of the dolphin. He and the class headed back down the ramp to the river walk to try for a closer view of the animal.


Teacher Benjamin Caraballo and a photography student.

On the river walk, a young father and son in matching cammies watched the dolphin.


The gentleman below rushed excitedly to the railing, phone camera at the ready, saying “Where is it?” After I pointed it out to him, he said, “I need a photograph of it.” “And I need a photograph of you,” I said. He gave me a big grin.

Happy dolphin watcher.

Happy dolphin watcher.

I talked a long time with a very nice woman whose grandfather was a New York City tug boat captain, and who knew the area well. I didn’t get a picture of her, but I did get a picture of “her” ducks.


Ruddy duck armada.

She has run along the river for years, and has gotten to know the lovely little ruddy ducks that gather here.


Note the electric blue bill.

These fishermen, according to my new friend, are always out.


“He’s sick. He’s gonna die,” the fishermen declared of the dolphin with great finality, citing the terrible pollution of the East River.


“Then I wouldn’t eat that fish you catch,” muttered my new friend under her breath. Here is a fisherman of another species, that was swimming and diving far below the surface of the river.

I believe this is a Common merganser.

I believe this is a Common merganser.

A little later, I talked with Tara who was taking a friend’s dog for a walk. Like most of the watchers, Tara was thrilled with the presence of the dolphin but concerned for its safety. She told me how much she loves working in the summers at an equestrian center on Randall’s Island that I didn’t even know existed. She said they even give lessons to neighborhood kids who can’t afford to pay.


Tara and her friend’s dog.

After a few hours, it was time to go. Bye bye.

Wave bye-bye.

Wave bye-bye.

Explore posts in the same categories: 2013, In the City, Sea Mammals, Wildlife/Natural History

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11 Comments on “Watching The Watchers of the East River Dolphin”

  1. […] Vlad, who was out on the river himself this weekend, posted the video in a comment on one of my earlier dolphin posts where he also informed me that some boat club members believe it is possible they saw three […]

  2. Great story, Melissa!

    Yesterday (Saturday), there were a number of people, including us, dolphin-watching from boats, lower down in the East River. We did see one big dolphin, and there are reports that there may in fact be at least three in the East River. (We also saw a seal.) Here’s a nice video by a couple of the other dolphin-watchers out on Saturday:

  3. p hoey Says:

    Make that ‘walkin’ the dawg’.

  4. p hoey Says:

    There’s the dolphin, and then there’s the dolphin-watchers, and
    then there’s Melissa walkin’ the dawn! Wonderful!

  5. Margot Truini Says:

    I love the way you engage with fellow new yorkers all sharing the mutual delight this dolphin has brought with its own adventure up the river. Thank you for sharing and bringing delight to me here in Arizona where no dolphins will ever swim up river…:)

  6. Love following this story – thanks Melissa!

  7. Mr. Mantooth Says:

    Equestrian center on Randall’s Island! Who knew?!!

    Watching the people watching the dolphin — marvelous.

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