03 September 2011

Best way to wrap-up the month of August

I must confess that every time we do a survey in the area of Kalamos, as we leave from the port of Mytikas, I stare at the island that majestically rises in front of us and I cannot avoid but to get momentarily lost in the memories of the good old days spent in our former field base in the tiny village of Episkopi. However, on wednesday 31st August, just one minute after departure, I was suddenly brought back to the present by our Earthwatch volunteers Yolanda and Eri shouting; dolphins! What a sweet way to wake me up. When I looked at the spot they were pointing at it was immediately clear that it was not going to be a "normal" sighting; more than twenty dolphin silhouettes were smoothly gliding through the glassy waters a few hundred meters ahead of us. The adrenaline shot reached its peak when we realized they were common dolphins. I could not even recall when was the last time I had come across a group of commons that size.

For three hours we followed their zig-zagging movements from Mytikas seafront to Skorpios Island, where we decided to interrupt the sighting due to the increasing density of recreational sailing boats in the area and the risk of our presence attracting their attention towards the dolphins. Our best estimate was that the group included 19 adults, one juvenile, 2 calves and 2 newborns. Exhausted but full of joy and hope we headed back to port with more that 1000 digital images to be processed and abundant behavioural data. Preliminary analysis of the digital images has allowed us to identify, so far, 9 adults, two of them constantly accompanied by their offspring, from our common dolphin catalogue. Four of them had been also seen further south a few days earlier by our colleague Elena Politi; and, according to our historic database, all of them had been firstly identified no later that 1996. Despite the dramatic decline suffered by the species in the area starting on the mid nineties, the fact that we still see some animals occasionally moving into their former wonderland gives us hope and shows the importance of maintaining our present survey effort. One could not ask for a better way to wrap-up the month of August.


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