Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Dolphins chasing fish

This morning we went out on the ocean and had some nice encounters with our resident common dolphins. In one of our encounters we got to see the dolphins feeding. They were chasing fish at the surface and we could clearly see the small thin fish (Atlantic saury) leaping through the air as the dolphins chased them out of the water. The feeding frenzy was difficult to keep up with, let alone capture on camera, but we did manage to get a few shots that show both the dolphins and the fish mid-air.

Photos from today:

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Fin whale scent!

Our first encounter of today’s morning was with a solitairy adult Risso's dolphin. We were able to identify that he was adult because of the colour of his skin, that was extremely white, as well as the presence of lots of marks . We continued our trip and we spotted some common dolphins but since they were feeding, the dolphins were spread out and it was not easy to see them. Suddenly our lookout spotted a blow and we went to the area where he spotted it. We turned off the engines and out of nowhere a fin whale appeared at the surface, just a few meters from our boat. She took a 360-degree turn around our boat and continued to travel with another fin whale. The weather was windy and in one of their blows we could smell the breath. An intense smell of krill (mia mi!). It was a very well-spent morning in the company of two very calm fin whales.

Fin whale
Fin whale blowholes
Dorsal of fin whale

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Fin whales in the morning, sperm whales in the afternoon

We are off to a great start for whale and dolphin watching this year. We have only had a few tours so far and all of them have been really good. Today we encountered 4 different species throughout the day, 2 whale species and 2 dolphin species. First we encountered a small group of bottlenose dolphins, then we had two fin whales to see in the morning. They were diving a lot in an area where there were also feeding common dolphins and a fishing boat, so they were probably feeding. It was a nice surprise to have fin whales in January, the only month we did not see them in 2016. So now we have seen fin whales every month for 12 months straight! In the afternoon it was our resident sperm whales that made an appearance. To complete the afternoon tour we also encountered common dolphins again and bottlenose dolphins.

Photos from the morning:

 Bottlenose dolphins

 Common dolphins

Fin whale

Dorsal fin of one of the two fin whales

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A male sperm whale off Mosteiros

Today we travelled far from Ponta Delgada, going along the coastline to the western point of the island, off Mosteiros. However the ride was well worth it as we had nice views of the island along the way, and in the end we were rewarded with a big male sperm whale. This whale was travelling steadily, heading towards the north. He was only going on short shallow dives while he was travelling, so we was not showing his tail. As we didn't get a tail ID photo we don't know who this whale was, but we know he was not our familiar "Mr Liable" as we can see from the lack a of white spot that Mr Liable has on his back. Whoever this male sperm whale was, we are really happy to have met him this afternoon.

Photos of the sperm whale:

Friday, January 6, 2017

King's Day

Today is King's day and we began our journey with a really nice group of common dolphins. They were a bit scattered since they were looking for food, but we still managed to see quite a few baby dolphins. The State of the sea started to get worse and that is why we had to do a trip closer to shore. But we didn't stay around here... even before we got back to land our lookout spotted a really fun group of bottlenose dolphins, which were socializing, doing great jumps and playing in the waves.

                                              Tursiops truncatus | Bottlenose dolphin jumping

First tail of the year

Today was our second day this year going out on the ocean, and our second day of having sperm whales to see, although today we were much more lucky in seeing them than the last time. We encountered three different individuals, first and adult female with a calf and then a juvenile. The adult showed us a nice tail, the first of the year and also a new individual for our catalogue, so the first new whale of 2017! We also enjoyed the company of common dolphins during the day, as well as a few striped dolphins mixed in with a group of common dolphins in the morning, giving us a total of 3 species for the day.

Photos from today:

Adult sperm whale resting at the surface

Sperm whale blow

The tail of the adult

Juvenile sperm whale

Common dolphins

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

First whale watch tour of 2017

Today was day 1 of whale watching in the Azores, off São Miguel Island where we operate tours year-round. The morning started with rain, but we were all prepared with our wet weather gear so we set out aboard our catamaran to enjoy a morning out on the ocean. We had three of our resident species out there; common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and a male sperm whale. We started with a group of common dolphins, followed by two different groups of bottlenose dolphins not far from Ponta Delgada. Next we followed directions from our lookout to an area a bit further where he had seen a male sperm whale go on a deep dive. After a bit of waiting the crew spotted the whale's distinct angled blow. We saw the blow two more times, but unfortunately we didn't see anything else after that, despite waiting for him to resurface. We do know that the whale was big, so it was a male, perhaps the famous "Mr Liable" who we saw during 19 different tours in 2016! We had a great start to 2017 and look forward to getting out there again for more dolphin and whale sightings.

Photos of the dolphins this morning:

Common dolphin

Common dolphin

Bottlenose dolphin

Bottlenose dolphin

Monday, January 2, 2017

2016 whale and dolphin highlights

2016 has been another great year for whale and dolphin watching off São Miguel island in the Azores. In total this year we encountered 18 different species (10 whale species and 8 dolphin species). The most encountered species were two of our resident dolphin species, the common dolphin and bottlenose dolphin, followed by the sperm whale which is also resident in the Azores. It's been a really good year for sperm whales, with more sightings than in previous years, often close to our base in Ponta Delgada. The next most encountered species was the fin whale, again with significantly more sightings than in previous years. In fact we saw fin whales all months of the year except in January. We now know that baleen whales, especially fin whales are around the Azores all year, even if we don't always encounter them. This is also the case with other species such as beaked whales, striped dolphins and pilot whales that are most likely always present in offshore waters. It's been a privelege going out for another year of whale and dolphin watching in such a species-diverse area. We never know what we will see so we can expect a surprise at any time of the year from any species. As well as whales and dolphins we have also registered many sightings of turtles (mostly loggerhead turtles but also leatherback turtles), ocean sunfish, manta rays, sharks, tuna, swordfish and marlin, flying fish, jellyfish and several species of seabirds. Our graphs below summarise our cetacean (whale and dolphins) sighting frequencies for the whole year, followed by a breakdown by month of some of the more common species and a graph of encounter locations. We hope you can join us in 2017 and we wish you all a happy new year!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

December 2016 sightings statistics

December has been a pretty quiet month for us in terms of whale watching. However we did have several tours out on the ocean and we managed to encounter 6 different cetacean species throughout the month. During two days we had two different large groups of sperm whales passing the island so we hope they stay nearby so we can see them again during January. We also encountered at least 4 or 5 fin whales one day, raising our statistics of fin whale sightings to all months of the year except for January. All our other sightings of the month were of dolphins: 3 of our resident species (common dolphin, bottlenose dolphin and Risso's dolphin) and also some striped dolphins. Now we are gearing up for another month and another year of whale watching off São Miguel Island in the Azores. 

Common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) - 83%
Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) - 33%
Striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba) - 17%
Risso's dolphin (Grampus griseus) - 33%
Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) -17%
Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) - 8%

Thursday, December 22, 2016

An early Christmas surprise...Fin whales!

Today we had a whale watching tour in the afternoon with a nice early Christmas surprise waiting out to the east of the island for us...fin whales! We started with one whale that became very curious towards us and kept approaching our boat, then to our surprise a second one surfaced right on the other side of our boat! The two whales showed themselves very well and they even showed us what they had been feeding on recently - krill, as we could see from their bright orange-coloured poo. Towards the end of this amazing encounter the whales started travelling to the south, joining up with at least two other fin whales so that we got to see 4 or perhaps 5 in total. Before the whales we also saw dolphins on this tour, in fact two different species. First we encountered a small group of common dolphins that came to check us out and play in the waves from our boat, and just after in the same area we had a couple of Risso's dolphins to give us a total of 3 different cetacean species for this tour.

Photos from today:

Common dolphin surfacing

This common dolphin had a distinct dorsal fin that we can recognise in the future

Two Risso's dolphins

Risso's dolphin ID photo (we identify individuals from the natural marks on the dorsal fin)

Fin whale along the east of São Miguel island

Fin whale blow

Fin whale surfacing with Santa Maria island in the background

Two of the fin whales together

Our last look at the fin whale in the beautiful light at the end of a calm winter day

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Sperm whales... everywhere!

What a nice welcoming the winter has given us! Today we spent the whole day in company of a very big family of Sperm whales! In the morning they were relatively closet o the shore but in the afternoon trip we did a very long trip!
The whales were very active in the surface, so we were able to see heads, tails, lob tailing and even a very small breaching of a baby!
The see was calm and animals very active; we also saw many different groups of common dolphins and turtles!

Here you can see some photos of this amazing day:

Here we were able to photograph the end of a small breaching of a baby

 Whales were very calm making the most of such nice and sunny day

We also saw some tails when the whales went for a deep dive

More whales traveling togheter

Adult with a small baby

We also saw a lobtailing behaviour, that is hiting with the tail the surface of the water, a sort of communication

This whale was alone

One of the loggerhead turtles we saw during our trip
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