28 May 2009

Narrow Bay Hotel

Yesterday there had been no dolphin sightings and although the overall team spirit was high, on our way back from the supermarket Silvia and I decided to search for bottlenose dolphins from the coastal road, stopping our car from time to time to explore portions of sea.

The surface of the Gulf of Corinth was flat but we couldn't manage to spot any dorsal fin. As a last attempt, we parked on a cliff overlooking a coastal fish farm. It only took a second for Silvia to spot a minuscule dorsal fin in between the fish cages, about one km away.

Although the late afternoon was an unusual time to set up a dolphin survey, we called Tilen at the field station, and we told him to hurry up and get to that place with the boat right away, while Silvia and I were trying try to keep track of the dolphin. Our five volunteers were cooking and showering by then, not expecting such a sudden change in the programme, but they reacted promptly and in a minute they were ready to go. It didn't take long to see the inflatable appear from behind a rocky cape and find the dolphin following the directions we gave from land.

In the meantime the dolphin had left the fish farm and approached the place were we had parked, eventually entering a narrow fjord where he started feeding quietly under our amazed eyes, only a few metres from the coast. Tilen approached very carefully and the dolphin did not react or change his behaviour at all. This was one of the rare occasions when one could tell whether our work causes any behavioural disruption. In this particular case, it was obvious that the dolphin couldn't care less about our inflatable, as confirmed by the respiration intervals that Silvia was recording with her digital watch throughout the observation.

The dolphin went on feeding in the narrow bay for about an hour, moving in circles and performing short dives of about 1.5 min. Then he probably decided that dinner was over (it was around 8 PM) and he moved to the other side of the bay, spending the next hour resting about 10 m from the rocky coast.

At 9 PM the light was rapidly fading and we decided to stop the observation so that the team on board could get back to the port before darkness. The dolphin, however, looked like he was going to spend the whole night at Narrow Bay Hotel.

Giovanni Bearzi

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