Thursday, October 20, 2016

Sperm whales don't let us down!

This morning we started the tour heading west. The first species that we saw in our morning tour was a group of common dolphins. This group was friendly with our catamaran; we could see them bow riding the boat several times. After this group, we kept going to the west finding more common dolphins (the group was spread out in a big area).  This species of dolphin was not the only one we saw in the morning tour, we were lucky enough to find a playful group of bottlenose dolphins; they jumped several times in front of our catamaran Cetus… what a show!

When we were starting our way back, after the amazing encounters with the dolphins, we had a call from one of our lookouts… sperm whales in the area! From our catamaran Cetus we could see two sperm whales from a family that we know very well. The two sperm whales were at the surface for a while and then they went for a deep dive, allowing us to recognize them: Diamond and Bear Paw! Two animals that we usually see together, they belong to the most encountered family of sperm whales for us.

We started the afternoon tour hoping to see the sperm whales again… Nature is not always easy, it took us more than one hour to find them but we manage to see them very well. This time we could not see their tails as they were doing swallow dives and not deep dives but we saw at least 5 individuals including a calf surfacing for a while.
The dolphins were more shy in the afternoon tour… but we cannot complain, today was an incredible day at the sea!

Photos from today:

Dolphin watching

"Bear paw" going on a deep dive

The tail of "Bear paw"

"Diamond" surfacing


Two adults from the afternoon

Beautiful landscape of São Miguel

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Wonderful autumn!

It is not summer time anymore in the Azores, but we are really happy with the sightings that we have had in autumn so far.

In the morning our lookout gave us the indications to find a friendly group of bottlenose dolphins. We found a group that we know very well…"bubblemaker's" group! It is always a pleasure to see them; they are usually calm and friendly towards the boat, allowing our clients to take beautiful pictures of them. These pictures are also really important for our research as we are doing photo identification.

After the dolphins, we headed further away from the coast (about 8 miles) to find a fin whale. The fin whale from today had the same behavior as the fin whales we encountered yesterday: coming to the surface just for one or two blows and going down, surfacing in a different place every time.It was difficult to see the whale but our clients could see the blow several times and even its dorsal fin.

In the afternoon we found a nice group of about 30 to 40 false killer whales. In the Azores false killer whales are sighted occasionally, this year we have seen them eight times so far.We are always really excited about seeing this species as they are not shy towards boats and are frequently seen riding bow waves. Today we had the opportunity to see these animals feeding on tuna. Like the orcas (also known as killer whales), false killer whales can feed on dolphins and whales, but they feed more commonly on large fish and squid. Our whale watching boat found a group of bottlenose dolphins and the swimming with dolphins boat also found common dolphins to end the afternoon tour.

Photos from the morning:

Fin whale seen directly from behind

Photos from the afternoon:

Clients aboard our catamaran watching the false killer whales

Baby false killer whale surfacing alongside its mother

Eye to eye with a false killer whale

False killer whale hunting tuna (you can see the yellow fin of the tuna and the pink meat in the water)

False killer whale with a piece of tuna meat in its mouth (the pink part on the right side of the photo)

Plenty of seabirds came to take pieces of the tuna the false killer whales were hunting

Bottlenose dolphin face

This bottlenose dolphin was very curious...

and acrobatic

A well-known member from the bottlenose dolphin group

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Baleen and toothed whales

Today we had a very lucky whale watching tour as we encountered two different great whale species from the two existing cetacean groups. 

First we encountered at least two fin whales, who belong to the group of the baleen whales. These filter feeding whales have baleen plates in their mouth which they use to filter small food like plankton and small schooling fish out of the water. Next we encountered a family group of sperm whales, who belong to the group of the toothed whales. As the name suggests the toothed whales have teeth in their mouth, in the case of the sperm whale they are only in the lower jaw and they feed on squid and octopus. 

The fin whales we encountered this morning were travelling fairly fast, heading to the south, which is expected as these migratory whales spend the winter months in warmer waters for reproduction. It's nice to see them here this time of the year, as we mostly see them during their north-bound migration during the spring months. 

Sperm whales are resident to the Azores, so we have family groups of females with their young that are staying here year-round. The group we encountered this morning was actually our most encountered sperm whale group here in São Miguel. From the photograph we take from our research we could identify a whale we call "Diamond" (encountered from one of our zodiac boats) as well as "Left tip" and "Marble" (encountered from our catamaran. 

Our dolphin swimming clients spent the morning in the company of our resident bottlenose dolphins. Although we didn't see the dolphins from our whale watching boats, we were all very happy with our two different whale species.

Photos from today:

Fin whale

Fin whale

The first tail seen from the catamaran upon arriving to the sperm whales

The second tail - a sperm whale we call "Left tip"

A sperm whale we call "Marble"

Marble going on a deep dive

Monday, October 17, 2016

Long trip today

Today we saw two of our resident species, a nice pod of common dolphins and a family of sperm whales. Here in the Azores the animals aren’t in certain areas were we keep them, so every trip our lookouts from land have to look for them with their binoculars. Today sperm whales were a bit far away around 10 miles from the coast so it was a long trip, but it was worth it!
Check the photos of the whale with ‘white’ face! ;)

Two Sperm whales traveling together

We can see clearly the white face of the whale

Adult sperm whale with a very small calf


Common dolphins surfacing

One of our zodiac seeing dolphins

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Dolphins in a choppy sea

Today we had a bit more wind, meaning the ocean was choppy. But luckily for us we had dolphins to see close to shore, and dolphins love waves to surf and play in. We encountered two of our resident species: bottlenose dolphins and common dolphins. The bottlenose dolphins were diving occasionally, but every time they came up they were close to our boats and they were surfacing high so we could see their smiling faces well as they looked back at us. The common dolphins were more active, possibly chasing some fish at the surface as we saw plenty of seabirds diving around them. Photography was not easy today, but the dolphins sure left a memory for today's passengers to take home with them.

Photos from today:

Common dolphin slicing through the waves

Common dolphin behind a wave

Bottlenose dolphin surfacing high

Bottlenose dolphin

A part of the group of bottlenose dolphins

Friday, October 14, 2016

Awesome pilot whales

Today in the morning we encountered a big group of pilot whales. They were spread out in a large area. At first we saw a group of females with their newborn babies and it was lovely to see the little ones close to their mothers' side. We know how social pilot whales are, so it was beautiful to see it first hand. We didn't stay long with them as just a little bit inshore there was a group of males, some females and one or two bigger calves. They stayed at the surface logging for a long time. Seeing pilot whales logging almost becomes magical as they stay as dark shadows so still at the surface. Next we saw a group of bottlenose dolphins, once again a large group but very active, jumping, mating and bowriding. It truly was an awesome morning. In the afternoon we were not lucky with the pilot whales, but we enjoyed with the encounters of bottlenose dolphins and common dolphins.

Photos from today:

Pilot whale

Logging pilot whales

Pilot whales

Pilot whales

High jumping bottlenose dolphin

Bowriding bottlenose dolphin

Bottlenose dolphin
Bottlenose dolphins having a great time

Bottlenose dolphins

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