Dolphin sightings in the Bay

Every sighting counts!


We were amazed by how many sightings we had in our first 2 years of this research.

Over 2,000 sightings were reported because since Chesapeake Dolphin Watch was launched in late June 2017. Bottlenose dolphins occurred throughout the Bay, including in many rivers and creeks. In both 2017 and 2018, total reported sightings peaked in the month of July.

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Chesapeake DolphinWatch keeps growing. The number of new user registrations climbed steadily with a total of 1,811 users by the end of 2017 and 3,791 users by the end of 2018. 

We found dolphins in most of Chesapeake Bay

In 2017 and 2018 dolphin sightings were seasonally stratified in Chesapeake Bay, meaning that dolphins were seen in different portions of the bay in different months.

Dolphins were reported in the Lower Bay nearly year-round. The Lower Bay is considered to be the portion of Chesapeake Bay from the mouth at the Atlantic Ocean to the Maryland-Virginia state line, including in the Rappahannock, Piankatank, York, Poquoson, James, Nansemond, Elizabeth, and Lynnhaven Rivers.

Middle Bay sightings were centralized in the warm months from May to September. Middle Bay is the portion of Chesapeake Bay from the Maryland-Virginia state line northwards to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge (near Annapolis. Middle Bay includes Patuxent, Potomac, Choptank, and Wye Rivers as well as Eastern Bay.

Upper Bay sightings were primarily June to July. The Upper Bay is the portion of Chesapeake Bay north of the Bay Bridge (near Annapolis) including the Chester and Patapsco Rivers. In 2018 we were surprised to see a large number of sightings in the Chester River and near the Bay Bridge. 

2017 map of verified dolphin sightings

Dr. Helen Bailey and her Chesapeake DolphinWatch team compiled the results of all your sightings in 2017 of dolphins in Chesapeake Bay. Watch the results.

Citizen Scientist Portfolio: Your photos & videos

Photo by David Sites taken on 18th July 2018 near the Bay Bridge
Photos by Jeff Gagliano taken on 28th July 2018 off Drum Point
Photo by Henry Meiser taken on 28th July 2018 in the Miles River
Dana Scanlon captured this video as dolphins surrounded her boat in Chesapeake Bay.
Citizen scientist Robin Smith got a surprise when out of a pod of dolphins, one jumps out of the water.
Nicholas Wiskerchen captured a video of a pod of dolphins swimming alongside his boat in Chesapeake Bay.
Photo by Carolyn Wilson
Photo by Kevin MacDonald
Trevor Strand captured a unique point of view of dolphins in Chesapeake Bay.
Dolphins join Ken Vinson for a quiet moment on the water in Chesapeake Bay.
Photo By Dennis DePriest
Photo by Chris Bache
Photo by Philip Yunger
Photo by Tania Richardson Remaly
Photo by Chris Moe