On the 10th and 11th August, the Montenegro Dolphin Team completed a 2-day survey in Herceg Novi, a picturesque town that lies on the border of Montenegro and Croatia. Being the newest member of the team, this was my first taste of proper fieldwork and it was a great experience! We arrived at our survey site around 4pm in the afternoon and went straight into three hours of surveys with half the team scanning the area with binoculars and the other half collecting data using the theodolite (Theo). We spent the majority of the evening collecting data on the marine traffic present in the Bay of Kotor. This is important data because it allows us to quantify the different types of vessels that dolphins encounter in the bay and try to understand how their presence may affect dolphins in the area.
The following day our team was split into two groups that would alternate three hour shifts. Over the course of the day, we surveyed the bay for thirteen hours. The visibility throughout the day was not ideal as the sky was very hazy and prevented us from seeing the horizon. Furthermore, many forest fires were burning during our surveys, providing vast amounts of smoke that further disrupted our view of the water.
We gathered quite a lot of attention from the local community who were keen to understand the project and what we were trying to achieve. During our survey, we were approached by the owner of a local oyster farm who showed us a video on his phone of a curious common bottlenose that had found its way to his farm the previous day. This spurred us on to find the dolphin he spoke of although we were unsuccessful. Unfortunately, we did not manage to see any dolphins during our time in Herceg Novi, only beautiful views of the bay.
This lack of dolphins is of course disappointing, however our team managed to collect lots of data about marine traffic in the bay which will prove highly useful for our research. In addition, we managed to practice our survey techniques which will hopefully lead to us see dolphins during future surveys. As with many other types of ecological surveys, the key is patience and we will not be disheartened by this one survey!