Tuesday, April 24, 2012

False killer whales and more unusual blue whale behaviour in the Azores

This morning we encountered false killer whales (also known as false orcas) for the first time since May 2010! This species visits the Azores only occasionally, so we felt very lucky. False killer whales are named because like the more commonly known killer whales (orcas) they also feed on other dolphins, as well as large fish and squid. But these large predators were very friendly towards us, and they spent quite some time swimming close alongside our boat and even came to bowride in front (looking like bullets shooting out of the water). At times we were able to hear the whistles from the animals as they were all around us. We also had a really special encounter with two blue whales. When we were about to leave the area they suddenly changed their behaviour to something we have not seen before. They began to travel very rapidly at the surface, coming out of the water almost like dolphins. At times it looked as if one was chasing the other. It was really amazing to see such large animals moving at such great speed. It was also interesting to see how flexible these large animals are. Just take a look at our photos taken from aboard our catamaran:

Watching false killer whales swimming alongside us

They look a bit like large bullets shooting out of the water

False killer whales swimming in front of our catamaran

Blue whale huge blow

One of the blue whales we saw behaving unusually. Here is came up very fast with both its head and tail out of the water at the same time (surprising us with the flexibility of its back)

The blue whales were repeatedly coming up really fast, first creating a huge blow, the bringing their heads really high out of the water

Blue whale tail!

The tip of the tail

The blue whales were travelling inshore, quickly getting closer to the island

During the morning we also had a brief encounter with bottlenose dolphins, a loggerhead turtle among the false killer whales, and those on our other boats also saw common dolphins and a large sperm whale! Our group from the afternoon has just returned and reported that they saw the blue whales again, this time even closer to the coastline, not far from one of our beaches! Another great day of whale watching with Futurismo in São Miguel!!

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