With our last team of Earthwatch volunteers we spent the first two days surveying the waters surrounding the beautiful island of Kalamos (Inner Ionian Sea Archipelago). The spirits were high after the short-beaked common dolphin sighting we had on our last day with the previous team. This time we did not find common dolphins, but we had an incredible encounter with a group of six botllenose dolphins that were socializing very intensively just a few metres away from our boat. We stayed with them for more than two hours collecting valuable data on their different behaviours while carrying out continuous photoidentification effort and taking back home over 200 photos. Josh, Jet and Ioannis (my brand-new Greek research assistant) did a great job, once back at Vonitsa’s field station, and identified all six group members based on natural marks on their dorsal fins. Four of them were well-know individuals that have been repetitively seen in the area for more than a decade. Particularly active during the sighting was “Similmoon”; a female constantly accompanied by her young, which was first seen as a newborn back in 2008. Last but not least, special mention must be made to the sixth group member, which had never been seen before in the area and has been a new addition to our photo-Id catalogue.
Of about 100 bottlenose dolphins photoidentified in the Inner Ionian Sea Archipelago during the last two decades, about one quarter have shown high levels of site fidelity, while other are transients. The situation is quite different in the Amvrakikos Gulf, our main study area, where about 150 dolphins inhabiting its waters show a high degree of residency despite the increasing degradation of this semi-enclosed ecosystem.