Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Feeding frenzy

It was an overcast morning on the sea with a few large waves, but not enough to put us off seeing cetaceans! About ten minutes outside of Ponta Delgada we came across a mass feeding frenzy. There were several fishing boats using their small nets to catch mackerel which were surrounded by common dolphins from below and Yellow-legged gulls and Cory's shearwaters from above. There were four species all interconnecting with each other - fishermen, dolphins, birds and the fish! It was a great spectacle to watch and we also got involved when the fishermen threw some small mackerels into one of the zodiacs. We were able to see up close the type of fish that is favoured here by the dolphins.

After watching the dolphins and the fishing boats for a long time, we eventually headed off in pursuit of a pod of bottlenose dolphins which were seen by one of our vigias. There were more than 50 individuals in this group of dolphins and they were all travelling together. The zodiacs followed them for a long time which the dolphins thoroughly enjoyed. They were swimming alongside the boats, bowriding, tail slapping and jumping. We recognised one of the dolphins which we were glad to see, a dolphin that was missing the top half of its beak. We are not sure how this injury occurred but the dolphin seemed happy, fat and healthy. There were also a few calves in the pod, no older than a few weeks! We travelled with the bottlenose dolphins for a long while, enjoying their company until a radio call from the vigia told us that he had seen something big further out to sea.We sailed out to look for this mysterious cetacean, certain it was a whale but nobody knew the species as the vigia had only seen it briefly before it dove. We spent some time scanning the sea for any signs of a whale blow or fin. Unfortunately nothing showed up, so we slowly made our way back to the coastline, still searching as we travelled. 

Finally, just before we entered the marina again, one of our biologists noticed movement one one side of us. It turned out to be another small group of common dolphins, who were head banging. This is a hunting technique to scare the fish into a tight ball making them easier to catch. All-in-all, it was a good tour with lots of beautiful and interacting dolphins.

Photos from today:

Common dolphins lined up herding the mackerel

Fishing boat

Common dolphin looking for mackerel around a fishing boat

There were so many moon jellyfish swimming in the water- these photos were taken using an underwater camera

Bottlenose dolphin surfacing/bowriding one of our zodiacs

The bottlenose dolphin without the top jaw. You can see right into its eye in this photo.
Such beauty and awareness. 

 Bottlenose dolphins close to our boat João Vigia

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