Dolphin count

The foggy scene at the National Aquarium's dolphin count at Ocean City on Friday, July 11. (Michelle Deal-Zimmerman / The Baltimore Sun / July 10, 2014)

Dozens of volunteers showed up for the National Aquarium's annual dolphin count Friday morning in Ocean City but the sun was a no-show, leading to nearly zero visibility of the mammals from shore.

Chuck Erbe, a 12-year volunteer coordinator from Ocean View, Del., said the foggy haze was keeping counts "beyond slow." He noted that last year's event saw only a couple of hours of sunshine before the arrival of a thunderstorm. Despite that, the volunteers tallied 113 dolphins.

That number was a significantly higher than the 31 dolphins seen in 2012. There were 107 sightings in 2011, an amount that is considered relatively normal.

"Mother Nature sometimes cooperates and sometimes doesn't," said Erbe, who was stationed on the beach at 130th Street.

He said the National Aquarium has a boat a mile offshore using sonar to detect the dolphins during the count. As of about 9:30 a.m., it had sighted nine dolphins.

His wife, Ellen, noted that even if the weather did not improve it gives them a chance to educate people about the dolphins and other marine life.

Volunteers joined the National Aquarium's Animal Rescue team at Assateague State Park Day Use Area (6915 Stephen Decatur Highway, Berlin); and at the beach on 40th Street, 81st Street or 130th Street.

"It helps public awareness. People love dolphins," she said.

The aquarium uses the annual count to learn about dolphin populations, health and feeding.

"But if the fog doesn't lift, we won't see anything," said Ellen Erbe, adding that it would be disappointing for some volunteers.

Dee Halsey, of Bel Air, who works for the National Aquarium, was participating in her first dolphin count.

"I made it my vacation," said Halsey, who recently joined the aquarium's Animal Rescue Team, but was looking forward to seeing the dolphins at the beach.

Halsey has just missed seeing a number of animals in the wild, despite her best efforts.

"It's kind of funny because it's become an ongoing joke. But I'll keep trying," she said. "I'll be back next year."