Lens-Artists Challenge #136 – S for Strand Feeding and Scavengers

dolphins, pelican, strand feeding, Kiawah

An animal perfectly in harmony with its environment is a perfect mechanism.

H.G. Wells

In response to last week’s post, I.J. Khanewala asked a question about an image in my collage of creatures that set me thinking about its subject. It’s one I’d addressed in a post several years ago – Strand feeding dolphins. Since Patti has conveniently asked us to respond to her challenge with the letter S, I’ve taken the opportunity to highlight this unique behavior and its benefit to the scavenging birds.


“For a scavenger, patience is the key to the pantry.”

Delia Owens

Here in coastal South Carolina, bottlenose dolphins form teams in order to herd bait fish up onto the beach for easy access. It’s an amazing thing to watch, and once you’ve learned their patterns it can be fairly easy to anticipate. Either from the shore or even more closely from a kayak, one sees the dolphins gathering into teams of up to a dozen. The group, upon some unheard signal, then swims together in an amazing burst of speed to push schools of fish up onto the shore. They then thrust their 500+ pound bodies onto the shore as well, whereupon a frenzy of activity ensues and the smaller fish become easy pickings.


“It’s a cruel and random world, but the chaos is all so beautiful.”

Hiromu Arakawa

Those of us who have observed the dolphins’ behavior know the best way to anticipate it is to watch the birds, who have an uncanny knack for knowing just where and when the dolphins will strike. This creates an easy meal for the scavenging birds and a wonderful viewing opportunity for us.

dolphins, pelican, strand feeding, ocean

Opportunity does not waste time with those who are unprepared.”

Idowu Koyenikan

Several years ago, the dolphins’ strand feeding behavior was studied and filmed by National Geographic here on Kiawah. It became part of their “Secret Life Of Predators” series because of the unique hunting strategy. Scientists believe it is proof of the animals’ ability to think and plan, and perhaps more importantly, to pass their skills on to their offspring. No dolphins anywhere other than along the southern coast of South Carolina and the northern coast of Georgia have ever been seen to employ the behavior, which several generations of local dolphins have used for over 50 years.

dolphin, fish, ocean, bicycle

“Fish learn from the water and birds learn from the sky.”

Mark Nepo

I’ve learned the hard way that taking one’s camera on a kayak is not a great idea, so these photos are from my archives. They were taken from a boat shooting directly into harsh sunlight, but despite conditions, hopefully you get the idea. It’s quite something to see these powerful, graceful, majestic animals in action, as I have been fortunate to have done many times. Part of the excitement comes from never knowing if it will happen and whether you’ll be in the right place if it does. The good news is although it may be rare, there have been very few times that I’ve been on or in view of our waters that I’ve not seen dolphins at least swimming by, and for a nature lover, that’s something quite special too.

Sincere thanks once again to Sheetal for her wonderful challenge last week, and for those of you who joined us with your as-always creative responses. We look forward to seeing your thoughts on Patti’s S challenge this week. Please remember to use the Lens-Artists tag and to link to her original post here. Finally, we hope you’ll join us next week when Ann-Christine presents us with our next challenge. In the meanwhile, as always please stay safe and be kind.


141 thoughts on “Lens-Artists Challenge #136 – S for Strand Feeding and Scavengers

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  5. Enjoyed these brought back memories of trips with Capt Chad. He greeted each dolphin by the name he had given them. Great photos of a special event. Thank you

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  7. Wonderful shots, and so much fun to watch. I have used a small waterproof point-n’-shoot for years now. Sometimes it is frustrating as it only has seven times zoom, but for some reason I often end up sopping wet or in the water and then it’s worth than a much better camera. I would love to see this from a kayak, what an exciting place you live in!

      • It’s a Nikon Coolpix AW 130 (maybe 5 years old now), both waterproof, sand-proof, cream-cheese-icing proof and shockproof. It doesn’t float so I have a wrist loop that I put on when in any boat in case I end up in the water (I’m an expert at ‘wet entry’ with kayaks, also klutzy with canoes and have managed to have two small sailboats ‘turn turtle’. Also if I’m snorkelling. Now that I look at it I see it only has a 5x optical zoom which means you have to get quite close to the action – in the case of the dolphins that would be very exciting indeed. It’s about $300US.

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  9. Tina, thank you for this! I love these photos! Seeing the dolphins working together to get an easy meal is an amazing thing to see. I was fortunate enough to see it once from a boat years ago. There were several people with us. When we saw what was happening we all were mesmerized and sat there watching until they had their fill of fish and swam off. Unfortunately, I hadn’t gotten really interested in photography at that time and have no photos of it. I’ve always heard it called “mudding” around here.

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  12. The multi-species series deserves a set of “interesting” captions:
    “Get off my lawn!”
    “Yeah? Try flying up here with us, water-breather!”
    And what do the smaller fish even say?! 😅

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